Free Tools Challenge #3: Bitstrips for Schools – Comics as a learning tool

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This is the 3rd post in the “30 days to using the best of the web’s free tools for educators” series. Be sure to subscribe to the Teacher Challenge blog by RSS, like us on facebook, and follow us on twitter to keep up with future challenge posts as they are published.

In this activity you will:

  • use the comic-making website Bitstrips for Schools to assign your students a comic-based activity.
  • The goal is for them to create a comic that demonstrates their understanding of a topic or concept that you’ve taught in class.
  • Overview:

    In my day, reading comics in school was in the same category of forbidden activities as chewing gum and making paper planes. Confiscation was guaranteed. Luckily for kids today, perspectives have shifted, with more and more teachers starting to embrace comics as a tool to engage students and stimulate their interest in reading.

    An idea that’s getting less attention so far is the potential comics have to improve students’ writing. This isn’t too surprising, since relatively few kids have the combination of patience and artistic skill needed to hand-draw comic strips. That’s where Bitstrips for Schools comes in. It’s a web-based resource that enables any student to write their own great-looking, original comic strips without having to draw. Over 5,000 schools are using Bitstrips for Schools so far, making over 20,000 new comics every day!

    The site makes the process of writing visual, personal and fun. It features an avatar maker that lets students design unique, fully poseable cartoon avatars, and a comic builder that lets them create and star in their own curriculum-connected comics. There are hundreds of backgrounds, props and effects to work with, and an image-uploading tool for incorporating photos. By removing drawing from the equation, students have time to focus their attention on composition, sequencing, and most importantly, writing.

    Task:

    The first step in this challenge is to create your Bitstrips for Schools teacher account at www.bitstripsforschools.com. Just click the Sign Up Today link on the homepage and fill in the fields. You’ll notice that it’s a 30-day trial, but that’s plenty of time to complete this challenge.

    Next, you’ll create your virtual classroom and add student names to your class – again, just fill in the fields as you’re prompted. This step will take 3-4 minutes, depending on how many students you have to enter (you can enter up to 40 in one classroom).

    Once you’re done, you can design your avatar, which will greet your students when they log in for the first time.

    Challenge:

    Now for your challenge! Find an activity in the Bitstrips for Schools library that gives your students an opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of a concept or topic that you’ve taught them. You could have them write a book report about a novel they’ve read, or make a comic about energy conservation, preventing bullying or practicing science lab safety. For inspiration, check out these examples of student work.

    You can search for activities in the Activities tab in your new account – sort them by grade and subject using the drop-down menus on the left. If you don’t find something that fits, try making your own activity by clicking the New Activity button. Here you’ll be able to write student instructions for your own activity. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even create a template comic for your activity using the comic builder, which students can use as the starting point for their comic.

    activities library

    Once you’ve picked an activity, make sure you hit the Assign Activity button to assign the activity to your class. Then it’s time to invite your students to log in! Tell them to go to www.bitstripsforschools.com, click the Log In button on the top right of the homepage, and then enter the unique class code you created when you set up your classroom. Your students will then be able to find their names under the dropdown menu, create their passwords and log in.

    Now they can create their avatars and start the activity you’ve assigned them. If they run out of time during class, they can log in from home and continue their activity there. Finally, when they’re finished their comic, they can submit it to you to review and provide feedback. They can also share their comics with the class and blog them, with your permission.

    And that’s it! I hope you and your students have a lot of fun with this challenge. Let me know if you need help or have any questions in the Comments, and be sure to post your best student comics there as well!

    Help & Support:

    Start here at Bitstrips for Schools Support with any questions you may have.

    And check out this video to get an idea of what teachers and students have to say.

    - Shahan Panth, Bitstrips for Schools

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    12 thoughts on “Free Tools Challenge #3: Bitstrips for Schools – Comics as a learning tool

    1. Shahan,
      I notice this is a thirty day trial. What will it cost if I want to continue using Bitstrips for schools after the trial is over?

      Some teachers only get to use a computer once a week with their class if they’re lucky. So students will need at least one lesson getting their avatar organized and learning how to play with it.

      Doesn’t leave very long in the trial to do some fantastic work using this tool.

    2. Hi Challengers!

      I used this with my class to determine what they’ve learnt so far in our integrated studies topic – the kids absolutely LOVED it!

      Im shattered it’s only a 30 day trial :(

      Here’s the link to our class blog post!

      Cheers,
      Kirby

    3. Pingback: Komik sebagai Media Belajar | Ruang Belajarku

    4. Toondoo.com is a free and very good alternative to this. It is a powerful, full-featured and flexible tool. My class have used it to create comic strips based on scenes from novels and I used it to create a social story for a child with autism (it has a feature to create a printable book). It is also easy to embed work into a wiki or blog.

    5. I think this could be a very useful tool. It would make the children think carefully about getting their thoughts across to readers in small chunks of information. Provides the opportunity for creativity as well. Particularly for those who consider themselves to be artistically- challenged.

      Here’s my comic strip.

      • Dinah,
        You will need to embed the actual comic or image on a blog. To leave it as part of a comment, you will need to put in the URL address for the comic (starts with http://……….. etc) Readers will then click on the link and it will take them to your comic.

    6. This is great but if you don’t want a trial – check out Professor Garfield’s extreme comic lab. It allows you to add music and video too. Students can use it for presentations and upload pictures or just make a graphic novel. I think Kerpoof is great too.

      • Hi Tracy, thanks for sharing your post and for sharing what you learnt using BitStrips with your students. I dropped past your post and added some extra comments also!

    7. Pingback: The 30 day Teacher Challenge | ict4kids.ca

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