I tried out a new tool today called ToonDoo that lets you create comic strips. I have to say I really like this one and hope to see some teachers use it. However this brings up the issue of how to prepare for a good technology project. I can remember the first time I brought a class into the lab to do a photostory project. I was actually naive enough to think that I could just sit them down at the computer and start working, without them doing any prep beforehand. As you can imagine, it went very bad and yes, I learned quickly.
Whether it is a PowerPoint, Photostory, or a new Web 2.0 tool like Animoto or ToonDoo, there are a few points of preparation that will help out a lot when you enter the lab.
If you are going to create any kind of a project with visual media such as pictures or video, storyboarding is critical. Your time in the actual lab is usually going to be very limited. Personally I find the greatest advantage of storyboarding to be that the creative process is primarily managed within the classroom. A storyboard allows students to create a visual representation of what each slide or picture will look like. It gives teachers and/or students the chance to proofread any text that might be included in the project. If students are spending their lab time trying to figure out what to write or what sort of picture they should be looking for, they will quickly run out of time.
Creating a Gallery
I find this tip especially useful when working with younger students. Rather than sending them on a wild goose chase through the internet for images, make a collection of relevant images or clipart in a central location that the students can easily browse and access. In the ToonDoo website it is possible to create your own characters, so you can create multiple characters that the students can then manipulate and move about within their comic strips. Different websites and applications have different options for making a gallery, so partner with a technology specialist (like me!) if you are unsure of how to make a gallery for your specific project.
Make sure students know when to be completed with EACH STAGE of the project. For example, on day 1 you may have them select images. On day 2 you plan to have them add text. Establish reasonable deadlines beforehand and hold to them! It is very easy for students to get lost in the process of changing and re-changing things, especially when they are doing something creative. If they have a clear time table going in, they have a better chance of completing their project in time.
Well, there's a few tips from me. These probably sound like common sense and they are! However I know how easy it can be to lose sight of details such as these when you are on a tight schedule to plan things out. Please feel free to comment with any additional tips of your own or contact me if you want help in setting up a project of your own. Get creative!