This week, as I was browsing through my fellow classmates’ blogs, I stumbled across two articles (Maxime’s and Charle-Antoine’s) which discuss the ups and downs of two different cartoon creating websites, respectively ToonDoo and Make Beliefs Comix. As both sites seemed very interesting, I decided to look at them myself so as to determine which one might be best used in an educational context. But before presenting my conclusions, here is a little overview of the general benefits a teacher can draw from such resources.
First of all, teachers can use cartoons to make their presentations more lively; including an original comic strip in a Powerpoint or Prezi, or even adding a bit of playfulness to handouts can be effective ways to maintain students’ attention in class. As Med Kharbach points out in his article on Educational Technology and Mobile Learning (which also presents various cartoon creation websites), “you can see the excitement in [the students’] eyes the moment they know [cartoons] are included in their lesson.”
As pointed out by Maxime on his blog, comic strips can also help young students understand difficult or abstract concepts.
Some people think that this is where the use of comic strips should stop. However, I think that teacher use is not the only way that cartoons can be beneficial in classrooms. Although, as expressed by José Picardo in his article, “pupils are likely to get carried away”, creating specific cartoon projects in language classes can be very efficient. In Quebec, because the reform program focusses a lot on social interaction, comic strips can be useful because they employ a lot of “social” vocabulary and gambits. If a language teacher is able to maintain a certain discipline in his group, getting them to create cartoons can thus be a very entertaining and enriching project.
Of the various websites available, the choice is hard to make and depends on your own preferences. I personally looked at ToonDoo and Make Beliefs Comix, and here is a quick comparison between the two. Although they are both fairly simple to use, I found ToonDoo a bit more clearly organized, and so maybe better for young students. Moreover, ToonDoo offers the possibility of taking pictures from you computer and adding them to your cartoon, which did not seem as simple with Make Beliefs Comix. One downside of ToonDoo is that it contains some speech bubbles and actions that are inappropriate for schools, so I would not use it with young students.
Whether you choose to use one of these two sites or a different one, it should be easy to use for your students and offer as many possibilities as can be found!