EDTECH 597 Week 5: Thoughts About Digital Comics, Harry Potter, and DC Comics’ New 52 Line

The German version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

This past week, some work that I did for my other graduate course (EDTECH 501) got me to thinking about what kind of an effect that mobile apps will have on the comics industry. I was writing about DC Comics’ reboot of some of their most popular characters/ lines like Batman and the Flash (called the New 52). What’s interesting about this reboot is that not only do the characters get a make over, but the way in which the comics themselves are delivered got an overhaul. When the issues come out each week, they hit the newsstands and the cyberstands on the same day, so people who prefer reading their comics/ graphic novels on their phone or tablet can download the app for that week’s issue, which people can access by the DC Comics app.

How Far Can This Technology Take Me?

As I mentioned in my post last week, one of the questions I’m trying to ask myself as I consider the role that mobile apps will play is “How far can this possibly go?” or “What can of revolutionary effect is this going to have and can I see and foresee how far this can go?” I thought about this as I pondered the DC Comics reboot, and I was reminded of some research I did for my senior seminar class in German in my undergraduate days. I did research about the role of translation in publishing and specifically I looked at how and why Harry Potter was such a phenomenon—at least that formed the foundation for my research.

What I discovered is that several factors contributed to the explosion of the novels. Besides having the ability now to translate the books in over 67 language (and maybe counting), the other big—no huge—factor was the technology itself. The books could not have reached the dizzying heights of popularity that they did without the technology to produce them in such mass quantities.

Anticipating Change in the Publishing Industry

So, in this light, I began to wonder how mobile app development will not only continue to revolutionize popular brands like DC, but also what kind of effects will they have in general. According to Mashable, already  publishing industry experts are predicting that interactive book apps and storytelling will actually boost the publishing industry—and not kill it off as some have predicted. The reasoning is that as people become more accustomed to interactive books, they’ll actually want to buy them, leaving me to ask which series will be the next big thing. It might be one of DC’s superheroes, but it may well be something that we never saw coming—like Harry Potter.

As always, I’m posting a picture of my app for this week’s class in EDTECH 597, my version of Mole Mash.

Mole Mash…This week’s assignment. It’s not quite DC yet, but I gotta start somewhere…

RSS Feeds Assignment: How Using These Tools Can Enhance Educational Research and Put you in Touch with Digital Innovations in Comics

The Google Reader allows you to keep track of RSS feeds of interest to you, whether they concern themselves with digital education or digital comics.

I became acquainted with RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds because of my work with online publishing outlets. At that time, it was suggested to me as a writer for these sites to use them to develop an online readership base. The editors of the sites not only actively encouraged to find places that we could place our columns’ RSS feeders, but also to use social media to gain subscribers and people who would promote the feed. However, because of this assignment I am looking at the RSS feed from the other side of the table so to speak.

Classroom Uses for the RSS Feed

Using RSS feeds in the classroom and for education in general presents several advantages. The first advantage is that it has the ability to bring information to directly to you, specific to your research preferences and/ or your work/ teaching interests. You don’t have to perform a Google or Bing search each time you want to find articles of interest. Rather, you just find a few RSS feeds that are relevant to your interest and save them in your RSS reader folder.

The second factor related to using RSS as a tool in education is that subscribing to RSS feeds can help save you a tremendous amount of time and allow you to filter the results by your specific criteria—for example, for an education RSS, you may want to choose only scholarly sources. This helps you automatically weed out research sources that wouldn’t be appropriate for a college level assignment such as user-generated content sites such as Wikipedia.

Additionally, this type of search tool puts you in touch with resources on the web that you might never see otherwise because of search engine filtering. What I mean by this is that when most people search Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc., they will usually only look at the results for about the first five pages before they give up on a search term, according to Infinity Technologies. In context this means that if you’re the teacher or the student looking for good resources for your classroom, for a report or for work, you may miss some of the best information resources simply because the website or blog owner doesn’t understand about keyword optimization, which will put their pages beyond the first five. Subscribing to an RSS feed will help you see more of these pages that don’t make it to the first five pages of Google, because you’re searching by different criteria.

Long-Term Research Ideas

The other advantage that I can see to the RSS feed as it specifically relates to using it in education is that it allows you to follow a subject of interest over a long period of time. For example, one of the areas of research that I hope to delve into more deeply is using graphic novels–both the hard-bound and online kind–in the classroom and in education, and to add even more specifics to the search, I may want to follow what people are saying about something like the New 52 at DC Comics. This is not only a reboot of the most of the major characters like Batman and the Flash and their storylines, but also a change in the comics’ distribution. With the release of the New 52, digital versions of the comics will “hit the stands” on the same day as the hard-back versions. I could create a research project about this where I examine how technology has affected the distribution of comics.

To this end, I could start following some RSS feeds that give me ideas for research projects that I could do related to this theme. The RSS feeds would put the information about the reboot right at my finger tips everyday in a place that I could bookmark on my desktop and come back to each day. Additionally, I may find out through the course of my research that digital tools like iPads, Android phones, or tablet readers like Kindle are going to play a big part in the distribution of comics in general, so for a more well-rounded report, I would subscribe to a few RSS feeds that deal with digital tools in publishing or comics, mobile apps for comics and graphic novels, or other general topics that would help support my research.

Aligning with the AECT Standards

An assignment like this would adhere to several of the AECT standards. The use of the RSS feeder fall under the 4.4 AECT standard of information management. It allows for the planning, monitoring, and controlling the storage, transfer, or processing of information in order to provide resources for learning. The RSS feeder allows you to manage the information by organizing it logically into folders. It also helps you share the information, because you can share the link to your Google Reader page as we are doing for the RSS for education assignment and with the Teaching Resources Bundle that we’ve created.

Here is the link to my Teaching Resources Bundle. (Click on the red hyperlink that says “Teaching Resources Bundle” to be taken there.)

Finally, by adding graphic novels and phones/ tablets to this example, this type of assignment could also fall under AECT standard 2.1 which is defined as print technologies that provide “ways to produce or deliver materials, such as books and static visual materials, primarily through mechanical or photographic printing processes.”

Reflections on HelloPurr, App Development and DC Comics, EDTECH 597 Week 3

I have found throughout the last several weeks of being in this EDTECH 597/ mobile app design class that I have a discrepancy in my skill sets. On the one hand, because of my background in traditional design—newspapers, magazines, etc—I can see the great potential in mobile apps and how they could help revitalize and change the design industry. On the other hand, since I haven’t owned an actual phone in several years, opting to use Skype on my computer instead, I’m finding that there’s a learning curve for the new technology. My computer can’t find the drivers to recognize my computer, I don’t always know how to retrieve my messages from my phone, apps that I really love take up a lot of my phone’s resources, etc.

As frustrating as this has been for me, it also occurs to me that the experience is useful. It will help me be more compassionate with clients as I work through the design process. Technology can be scary to people. Hopefully, the experience of doing this will enable me to better help them through the process of design.

It has also allowed me to look at the design principles that I do find valuable (from other media) and carry them over to app development. One stands out in particular, and that is the ability to click on an icon and be taken back to the main page of the app. Many of my apps don’t have this feature, and it frustrates me, because at this juncture I usually just have to go back to my phone’s homepage and try again. So far the one that frustrates me the most is the DC Comics app. It usually takes me down a maze with no ability to back track if I accidentally hit a wrong button. Since I love graphic novels and love DC in particular this frustrates me to no end. It also makes me wonder how it can be that organizations/ businesses like this that are design-oriented by the nature of what they do struggle so much when it comes to usability design. I guess it just goes to show that we all have blind spots in this age of ever-changing technology.

I was speaking to a friend of mine about this issue. He happens to work in instructional design, and he assured me that  I would learn this part of the design process in the course of my studies. He spoke about it in terms of user-interface design/ user-experience (UX UI). I have been exposed to this concept of design before in another class at the undergraduate level. It was the first time that I was introduced to the idea that design should be both pretty and functional, and I’m hoping to train myself to look for that element in design. While I learned in my newspaper days that design should actually look pretty, because it makes people stop and pick up newspapers (or read websites or try mobile apps in this day and age), it also should do something more. I will be mindful of that as I move forward.

Just for a visual record, the screenshot of my HelloPurr app is below.

HelloPurr app, assignment one in EDTECH 597, mobile app development class