Creativity and Collaboration: Nick Sousanis on Comics and Classrooms ☆

On Friday afternoon, comics artist and TC doctoral student, Nick Sousanis, stood in front of a room of educators, art-educators, and artists, and conducted a discussion of the aesthetic, philosophical, and pedagogical elements that go into creating his comics. His images reject simple illustration, instead searching for ways to “use visual metaphor in a narrative way” that interacts with the text. Mr. Sousanis said that by “de-privileging the verbal,” comics have a unique capacity to expose us to “other ways of seeing.”

Discussion often waxed philosophic, entertaining questions about the relation of aesthetics to rationality, modalities of evaluation, and the locus of creative inspiration. Some of the questions that were raised, and answers heard around the room:

How can comics be incorporated into classroom use and curricular requirements?

“One great benefit is the different, more expansive way these projects need to be evaluated.” It requires engagement on the part of the student and the teacher.

How can this kind of creativity be taught?

“In my experience, kids don’t need to be taught how to make comics.” Kids seem naturally fitted to expressing themselves in a mixture of words and pictures.

“There are a number of new web technologies that make it really easy to get kids creating.”

Do comics, both as read and as written, constitute a whole new sort of literacy?

This conception of comics speaks to “existing requirements of ‘visual literacy’” and helps draw subjects together across disciplines.

“I didn’t mean to become a champion of visual literacy, or whatever it is I do.” For Mr. Sousanis, the comics themselves, and the creativity and possibility they allow, are the important things.

Can the mixed media in comics provide expanded possibilities for collaboration in the classroom?

What lessons might we learn from this “dialectical” art that we can bring to other areas of education?

Can this sort of collaborative creativity address issues of student engagement and motivation?

What do you think?