Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Five Ideas for Using Comics in Social Studies Lessons

Creating cartoons and comic strips can be a fun way for students to show their understanding of events and concepts. For the student who is intimidated (or bored) by the idea of writing yet another essay or making another PowerPoint presentation, creating a comic strip is a welcome change. Here are five ideas for using comics in social studies lessons. 

1. Create short biographies of historical figures. Have students select a key moment from a person’s life. Then ask your students to illustrate that moment. For example, students studying John F. Kennedy could use Make Beliefs Comix to illustrate a conversation between JFK and Bobby Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis. If you want students to illustrate conversations in languages other than English, Make Beliefs Comix is a great choice as it supports six languages in addition to English.

2. Illustrate a timeline of an event or series of events. Rather than simply writing summaries of key events have students create illustrations of the events. ToonyTool is a good tool for making single frame comics that your students could save and then add to a timeline.

3. How might history have been different if the communication technology we have today was available 200, 300, or 500 years ago? Ask your students to think about that question and then illustrate the outcome. Students can use some of the wireframes available in Canva or the SMS Generator from ClassTools.net to simulate text message and or email exchanges between historical characters like George Washington and Ben Franklin.

4. Diagram and explain branches of government. Creating this storyboard is a good way for students to show what they know about all of the powers and responsibilities of each branch of government. You could have students do this in Google Slides by following this model.

5. Create political cartoons. This is the obvious use for cartoons in social studies classes. Cartoons for the Classroom offers excellent, free lesson plans for using political cartoons. Single frame comic creation tools like ToonyTool are adequate for making political cartoons.

Here's an overview of how to create comics with Make Beliefs Comix. Here is an overview of how to create comics in Canva. 



A Good Model for Audio Slideshow Video Projects

This morning I was looking for some short videos about the history of Labor Day. In doing so I came across The History of Labor Day as produced by TAPintoTV. The content of the video was accurate and it provided a nice summary of origins of Labor Day. That's not what made me bookmark it. What made me stop and bookmark it was that it provides a good model to follow in formatting an audio slideshow video like those you can make with Adobe Spark

When you watch The History of Labor Day video (embedded below) you'll see that it uses regular transitions every few seconds. You'll also notice that some short video clips have been interspersed throughout the video. Finally, the video includes background music to go along with the narration. 

Frequent Transitions
Students have a tendancy to narrate over the same image for too long when creating audio slideshow videos. When the narration goes for too long the audience tunes out. To keep the audience's attention students should try to have a new image or at least a transition effect (zoom in, zoom out, pan) every few seconds.

Video Clips
Including a couple of short video clips within the audio slideshow is a good way to keep the overall video moving along. Obviously, it's also helpful in illustrating a point within the video project.

Background Music
Including some background music helps to keep the video feel like it's moving along. And it's helpful in covering up some of the "uhs" and "ums" that students sometimes make when narrating a video.

Adobe Spark Makes This Easy
Adobe Spark makes it easy to incorporate all three of the above aspects of an audio slideshow video project. Adobe Spark limits the amount of narration that students can record on each slide within their videos. Adobe Spark also includes a library of background muic that students can have inserted into their videos. Finally, students can upload short audio clips to include in their audio slideshow video projects. In this short video I demonstrate how to create a video with Adobe Spark.



An Update to Google Meet Call Quality

One of the most annoying things to start any video call is the process of resolving sound quality issues like a persistent echo. Google recently announced an update to Google Meet to address that problem. 

Google Meet will now notify you when your audio is causing an echo for others. In other words, even though you may not hear an echo others in the call may hear an echo generated by your computer. When that happens Google Meet will now display a notification on your screen. Clicking on that notification will take you to the Google Meet help center where you'll see recommended steps to resolve the echo problem (spoiler alert: it's usually due to having a microphone too close to audio output). 

Applications for Education
Students have enough trouble focusing on your online instruction without having to fight through the distraction of poor audio quality. If you're using Google Meet for classes this year, this new echo notification in Google Meet could help improve the meeting quality for your students and help them focus on your instruction.

Like almost all updates to Google Workspace tools, this update will be rolling out over the course of a few weeks.