On cartoons for learning and knowledge management

When I was a kid at primary school, a favourite project of mine was cutting out the word balloons from cartoon strips in newspapers, pasting the cartoon strip down on white paper, then rewording the balloons with a story of my own invention. I remember that the Fred Bassett comic strips were a particular favourite.

One of the initiatives I am looking at in my knowledge management work at The Fred Hollows Foundation is the use of cartoons for knowledge discovery and for use in simple interactive games. It’s not a big focus for me at the moment, but the thinking is working away in the background.

My thoughts were triggered by a discussion last week at the Cognitive Edge course in which we talked about the displacement of personal stories into another character, thereby overcoming the potential reluctance to reveal negative experiences, in a non-threatening way. One of the exercises we did at the course was in developing a set of representational characteristics to develop an archetype. I am not necessarily looking to do the same thing, but I am interested in exploring cartoons (especially the word bubble variety) to generate story fragments for learning and knowledge discovery. 

Whether something comes of this interest in my current role remains to be seen. However, a cartoon character drawing of the iconic Fred Hollowswould be a great start (by the way, there’s a travelling information and photography display on tour through NSW public libraries about Fred – here’s the itinerary). Unfortunately, my artistic skills in caricature drawing are rather poor, to say the least!

My strong interest in the use of cartoons for knowledge discovery has an education side to it too. I remember many years ago when I worked at Australian Freedom From Hunger Campaign, we used a ventriloquist (his name was Kit, if I recall correctly) and his puppet to promote our development education message to primary school kids – a most successful and entertaining project for us. 

From puppets to cartoons and comics, how effective can they be in today’s world? How can I use cartoons in the context of developing more meaningful educational engagement with school kids and the youth market, particularly in the area of international development, blindness prevention, and the work of The Foundation?

I’d be interested in hearing if anyone out there in the big wide world has been actively developing and using comics or cartoons in international development education or youth engagement projects. Please feel free to make comments on my blog (if you’re the first, click on the no comments tag to start the ball rolling).

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5 responses to “On cartoons for learning and knowledge management

  1. I feel absolutely the same as this, it’s all about retaining the child’s interest, if they enjoy it, they are far more likely to learn from the whole experience!

  2. Hi there Brad and I totally agree about the effectiveness of using cartoons for education and for communication.
    Your primary school endeavours with fred Bassett are reminiscent of current mashup activities with things like Dilbert (see http://www.dilbert.com/mashups/).
    Denis Hancock over at the Wikinomics blog is posting a mashup of the blog with his own creation and some of them really hit the mark with tying well known archetypal Dilbert characters with his wikinomics message.
    One of the key issues that you will need to work through is the difference between the CogEdge approach of developing character archetypes that are developed through the workshops that relate stories from that particular social group, and universalising such cartoon archetypes across different social groups. I know Dave is not such a fan of universal archetypes with their Jungian overtones but people like Patrick Lambe have aggregated archetypes from multiple sensemaking workshops into some very good characters although many are tied to SE Asian cultural settings.
    Be interested to see how you go with this…

  3. Cartoons and Puppets have been my favorite too. I had been using them since my childhood and seize every opportunity to use them for knowledge sharing. I used a technique similar to your cartoon strips-balloons one during a summer camp I had conducted. I conducted this summer camp, just to try out all my ideas (people consider them to be fancy) without any administrative hassles. The following year when I enquired in the neighborhood about a suitable place to leave my daughter, they gave my address!
    Another time, I staged a puppet show with traditional palm leaf puppets along with my co-participants and my children introducing the concept of a Plant Doctor. That was an entrepreneurship programme for Agricultural graduates to enable them to start their own Agriclinics. The show was a smashing hit. I expected that it would be highlighted, a photograph of it would don the cover page etc. The expectation wasn’t too much! The show was really wonderful!!
    Senior management and people in administration somehow don’t take these things seriously. They consider them to be childish! They might have even felt that they shouldn’t have allowed such things.
    That year I had enrolled myself and my children in a summer camp focusing on puppet shows. But it didn’t takeoff, as we were almost the only participants who had opted for it, while all other routine summer camps ran full-strength.
    In our situation I think one technique works. Announcing a `competition /contest for school s’ to develop programmes on given themes and outline. These Interschool competitions bring out the hidden talent and during the process knowledge sharing occurs. What we need for this is (a) Selection of theme(s), (b) Giving Story board outline, (c) Provide Background readings and web links (d) Advertise and Find a suitable partner to sponsor the Prize and conduct the event!
    Above all, we of course need time and funding!
    However, cartoons may not require that much effort since they can be mailed and printed can be used under several situations.

  4. Cartoons and Puppets have been my favorite too. I had been using them since my childhood and seize every opportunity to use them for knowledge sharing. I used a technique similar to your cartoon strips-balloons one during a summer camp I had conducted. I conducted this summer camp, just to try out all my ideas (people consider them to be fancy) without any administrative hassles. The following year when I enquired in the neighborhood about a suitable place to leave my daughter, they gave my address!
    Another time, I staged a puppet show with traditional palm leaf puppets along with my co-participants and my children introducing the concept of a Plant Doctor. That was an entrepreneurship programme for Agricultural graduates to enable them to start their own Agriclinics. The show was a smashing hit. I expected that it would be highlighted, a photograph of it would don the cover page etc. The expectation wasn’t too much! The show was really wonderful!!
    Senior management and people in administration somehow don’t take these things seriously. They consider them to be childish! They might have even felt that they shouldn’t have allowed such things.
    That year I had enrolled myself and my children in a summer camp focusing on puppet shows. But it didn’t takeoff, as we were almost the only participants who had opted for it, while all other routine summer camps ran full-strength.
    In our situation I think one technique works. Announcing a `competition /contest for school s’ to develop programmes on given themes and outline. These Interschool competitions bring out the hidden talent and during the process knowledge sharing occurs. What we need for this is (a) Selection of theme(s), (b) Giving Story board outline, (c) Provide Background readings and web links (d) Advertise and Find a suitable partner to sponsor the Prize and conduct the event!
    Above all we of course need time and funding!
    However, cartoons may not require that much effort since they can be mailed and printed can be used under several situations.

  5. Pingback: On complexity and strategic planning « Brad Hinton - plain speaking

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