Malta Comic Con 2013 guest: Tim Perkins – Comics as an Educational Tool

[ 0 ] 25/11/2013 |

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The sequential art form of comics and graphic novels – a combination of words and pictures are a vastly underused teaching aid. Complex ideas can be put forward in an interesting and simple way, without causing the subject matter to be trivialised, or simplistic in the implementation of these ideas. There are an increasing amount of comic creators and educationalists that are adopting the use of the comic book narrative form in the classroom.

Here in the UK I have actually been hired by the local borough to teach children using the format of comic books and storyboards to both stimulate the pupils and their creativity and to help them with their literacy skills covering all aspects of the curriculum. More and more UK comic writers and artists are being called upon in the classrooms of primary and secondary schools, colleges and universities to give instruction not just on how to create comic stories and art, but to put over quite complex ideas to the students in a more direct and easily understood format.

Pupils and students retain more information when the information is contained within a structure, which is memorable. It has been proven that for the purposes of memory using a diagrammatically constructed format to memorise a large amount of information increases the retention of such information. I have seen this in practise when using comics to impart this kind of information. The pivotal part of the information may have a humorous, or “wow factor” image along with the information and this will help to sustain the amount of information within the memory. In comic book language we call this an anchor point.

Websites such as the Cartoon Classroom have been created to partly fill the gaps here in the UK and create a bridge between comic creators and educational institutions. This is a very successful organisation and continues to make inroads with educationalists and libraries. Another UK comic creator, David Lloyd has been very proactive with this organisation; helping with promotion and lots of behind the scenes administration.

I, myself, run courses on both the production of the creative side of comic making and also teaching educators to use comics and their unique language of production to achieve a level of understanding of what they are and how they work. Teachers can then utilise these skills and put forward complex ideas in their classes in the form of comics.

Organisations such as the Sheffield run Stan Lee Excelsior Awards introduce children to comics and reading, helping with literacy skills. Libraries are taking a much more active role promoting the reading of and use of comic books, both within the school libraries and local public libraries. Comics on such reading lists contain many titles outside of the usual humour and super-heroic comic books and characters, which is also very encouraging. This fact also expands the age range of such material.

More and more comic creators are being called upon to teach within educational institutions and more and more comic creators are finding it part of their work schedule taking part in such events. Schools are also becoming increasingly receptive to the idea of using comics as a teaching aid and of course students of all ages find them both entertaining and also very useful for the retention of the subject matter.

We all learn in different ways; some learn visually, some by reading enormous amounts of text and memorising such verbiage, others diagrammatically, etc. With this in mind it is no wonder that comics can fill in the gaps with all the above methods of learning.

With literacy and numeracy skills having taken a downward turn over recent years comics are now being looked at in a totally different light. No longer are they purely the fair of younger readers. No longer are they looked on as just entertainment for those of lesser reading skills, but rather a very literate and artistic medium with the means to impart vital information. It is important to continue to push the ideology with both educational institutions and parents alike to make them a fully acceptable tool for teachers to use in classes of all ages of pupils and students.


Tim Perkins
Wizards Keep Limited

Category: Past events

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