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  • When I was in the fifth grade,

  • I bought an issue of "DC Comics Presents #57"

  • off of a spinner rack at my local bookstore,

  • and that comic book changed my life.

  • The combination of words and pictures did something inside my head

  • that had never been done before,

  • and I immediately fell in love with the medium of comics.

  • I became a voracious comic book reader,

  • but I never brought them to school.

  • Instinctively, I knew that comic books didn't belong in the classroom.

  • My parents definitely were not fans,

  • and I was certain that my teachers wouldn't be either.

  • After all, they never used them to teach,

  • comic books and graphic novels were never allowed during silent sustained reading,

  • and they were never sold at our annual book fair.

  • Even so, I kept reading comics,

  • and I even started making them.

  • Eventually I became a published cartoonist,

  • writing and drawing comic books for a living.

  • I also became a high school teacher.

  • This is where I taught:

  • Bishop O'Dowd High School in Oakland, California.

  • I taught a little bit of math and a little bit of art,

  • but mostly computer science,

  • and I was there for 17 years.

  • When I was a brand new teacher,

  • I tried bringing comic books into my classroom.

  • I remember telling my students on the first day of every class

  • that I was also a cartoonist.

  • It wasn't so much that I was planning to teach them with comics,

  • it was more that I was hoping comics would make them think that I was cool.

  • (Laughter)

  • I was wrong.

  • This was the '90s,

  • so comic books didn't have the cultural cachet that they do today.

  • My students didn't think I was cool. They thought I was kind of a dork.

  • And even worse, when stuff got hard in my class,

  • they would use comic books as a way of distracting me.

  • They would raise their hands and ask me questions like,

  • "Mr. Yang, who do you think would win in a fight,

  • Superman or the Hulk?"

  • (Laughter)

  • I very quickly realized I had to keep my teaching and my cartooning separate.

  • It seemed like my instincts in fifth grade were correct.

  • Comic books didn't belong in the classroom.

  • But again, I was wrong.

  • A few years into my teaching career,

  • I learned firsthand the educational potential of comics.

  • One semester, I was asked to sub for this Algebra 2 class.

  • I was asked to long-term sub it, and I said yes, but there was a problem.

  • At the time, I was also the school's educational technologist,

  • which meant every couple of weeks

  • I had to miss one or two periods of this Algebra 2 class

  • because I was in another classroom helping another teacher

  • with a computer-related activity.

  • For these Algebra 2 students, that was terrible.

  • I mean, having a long-term sub is bad enough,

  • but having a sub for your sub? That's the worst.

  • In an effort to provide some sort of consistency for my students,

  • I began videotaping myself giving lectures.

  • I'd then give these videos to my sub to play for my students.

  • I tried to make these videos as engaging as possible.

  • I even included these little special effects.

  • For instance, after I finished a problem on the board,

  • I'd clap my hands,

  • and the board would magically erase.

  • (Laughter)

  • I thought it was pretty awesome.

  • I was pretty certain that my students would love it,

  • but I was wrong.

  • (Laughter)

  • These video lectures were a disaster.

  • I had students coming up to me and saying things like,

  • "Mr. Yang, we thought you were boring in person,

  • but on video, you are just unbearable."

  • (Laughter)

  • So as a desperate second attempt, I began drawing these lectures as comics.

  • I'd do these very quickly with very little planning.

  • I'd just take a sharpie, draw one panel after the other,

  • figuring out what I wanted to say as I went.

  • These comics lectures would come out

  • to anywhere between four and six pages long,

  • I'd xerox these, give them to my sub to hand to my students.

  • And much to my surprise,

  • these comics lectures were a hit.

  • My students would ask me to make these for them

  • even when I could be there in person.

  • It was like they liked cartoon me more than actual me.

  • (Laughter)

  • This surprised me, because my students are part of a generation

  • that was raised on screens,

  • so I thought for sure they would like learning from a screen

  • better than learning from a page.

  • But when I talked to my students

  • about why they liked these comics lectures so much,

  • I began to understand the educational potential of comics.

  • First, unlike their math textbooks,

  • these comics lectures taught visually.

  • Our students grow up in a visual culture,

  • so they're used to taking in information that way.

  • But unlike other visual narratives,

  • like film or television or animation or video,

  • comics are what I call permanent.

  • In a comic, past, present and future all sit side by side on the same page.

  • This means that the rate of information flow

  • is firmly in the hands of the reader.

  • When my students didn't understand something in my comics lecture,

  • they could just reread that passage as quickly or as slowly as they needed.

  • It was like I was giving them a remote control over the information.

  • The same was not true of my video lectures,

  • and it wasn't even true of my in-person lectures.

  • When I speak, I deliver the information as quickly or slowly as I want.

  • So for certain students and certain kinds of information,

  • these two aspects of the comics medium, its visual nature and its permanence,

  • make it an incredibly powerful educational tool.

  • When I was teaching this Algebra 2 class,

  • I was also working on my master's in education at Cal State East Bay.

  • And I was so intrigued by this experience that I had with these comics lectures

  • that I decided to focus my final master's project on comics.

  • I wanted to figure out why American educators

  • have historically been so reluctant to use comic books in their classrooms.

  • Here's what I discovered.

  • Comic books first became a mass medium in the 1940s,

  • with millions of copies selling every month,

  • and educators back then took notice.

  • A lot of innovative teachers began bringing comics into their classrooms

  • to experiment.

  • In 1944, the "Journal of Educational Sociology"

  • even devoted an entire issue to this topic.

  • Things seemed to be progressing.

  • Teachers were starting to figure things out.

  • But then along comes this guy.

  • This is child psychologist Dr. Fredric Wertham,

  • and in 1954, he wrote a book called "Seduction of the Innocent,"

  • where he argues that comic books cause juvenile delinquency.

  • (Laughter)

  • He was wrong.

  • Now, Dr. Wertham was actually a pretty decent guy.

  • He spent most of his career working with juvenile delinquents,

  • and in his work he noticed that most of his clients read comic books.

  • What Dr. Wertham failed to realize was in the 1940s and '50s,

  • almost every kid in America read comic books.

  • Dr. Wertham does a pretty dubious job of proving his case,

  • but his book does inspire the Senate of the United States

  • to hold a series of hearings

  • to see if in fact comic books caused juvenile delinquency.

  • These hearings lasted for almost two months.

  • They ended inconclusively, but not before doing tremendous damage

  • to the reputation of comic books in the eyes of the American public.

  • After this, respectable American educators all backed away,

  • and they stayed away for decades.

  • It wasn't until the 1970s

  • that a few brave souls started making their way back in.

  • And it really wasn't until pretty recently,

  • maybe the last decade or so,

  • that comics have seen more widespread acceptance

  • among American educators.

  • Comic books and graphic novels are now finally making their way

  • back into American classrooms

  • and this is even happening at Bishop O'Dowd, where I used to teach.

  • Mr. Smith, one of my former colleagues,

  • uses Scott McCloud's "Understanding Comics"

  • in his literature and film class, because that book gives his students

  • the language with which to discuss the relationship between words and images.

  • Mr. Burns assigns a comics essay to his students every year.

  • By asking his students to process a prose novel using images,

  • Mr. Burns asks them to think deeply

  • not just about the story

  • but also about how that story is told.

  • And Ms. Murrock uses my own "American Born Chinese"

  • with her English 1 students.

  • For her, graphic novels

  • are a great way of fulfilling a Common Core Standard.

  • The Standard states that students ought to be able to analyze

  • how visual elements contribute to the meaning, tone and beauty of a text.

  • Over in the library, Ms. Counts has built a pretty impressive

  • graphic novel collection for Bishop O'Dowd.

  • Now, Ms. Counts and all of her librarian colleagues

  • have really been at the forefront of comics advocacy,

  • really since the early '80s, when a school library journal article

  • stated that the mere presence of graphic novels in the library

  • increased usage by about 80 percent

  • and increased the circulation of noncomics material

  • by about 30 percent.

  • Inspired by this renewed interest from American educators,

  • American cartoonists are now producing more explicitly educational content

  • for the K-12 market than ever before.

  • A lot of this is directed at language arts,

  • but more and more comics and graphic novels

  • are starting to tackle math and science topics.

  • STEM comics graphics novels really are like this uncharted territory,

  • ready to be explored.

  • America is finally waking up to the fact

  • that comic books do not cause juvenile delinquency.

  • (Laughter)

  • That they really do belong in every educator's toolkit.

  • There's no good reason to keep comic books and graphic novels

  • out of K-12 education.

  • They teach visually,

  • they give our students that remote control.

  • The educational potential is there

  • just waiting to be tapped

  • by creative people like you.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

When I was in the fifth grade,

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【TED】Gene Luen Yang: Comics belong in the classroom (Comics belong in the classroom | Gene Luen Yang)

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    林宜悉 posted on 2018/06/15
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