The Upper School Perspectives in Literature class gave their Watchmen (the Hugo Award-winning graphic novel by DC Comics) annotations project a modern-day twist by collaborating with the STEAMWork Design Studio to create a public, interactive display.
"The assignment," said teacher Tarra Stevenson, "was for the whole class to work together to figure out how to approach the project. They annotated the entire graphic novel, specifically exploring elements of an interdisciplinary nature (science, art, and literature) within the text itself, and then they had to figure out how to blow up two of the panels from the graphic novel to create an interactive experience."
After deliberating on which format to use, the students chose Thinglink.com to create an interactive annotation display; taps on the touchscreen monitor triggered pop-ups with further explanations of the text. Stevenson challenged students to think beyond annotating for imagery, figurative language, and poetic devices, and to also identify allusions to historical events/characters, music, poetry, scientific discoveries, and comic conventions. Highlighting intertextual exploration, she said, also challenged students' expectations of what literature can look like (hint: "literature" is not limited to novels alone!), asking them to think more critically about the interaction between various genres and art forms.
The class made the display public in order to reinforce the hands-on aspect of the STEAM experience, while speaking to the themes present in Watchmen. "For the public to have control over the comic panels that discuss having control over the public is a nice subversive exercise," Stevenson noted.
Stevenson is currently the Faculty in Residence at the STEAMWork Design Studio, which has inspired her to look for opportunities to explore connections between STEAM and English. "After learning how to use more of the tools in the studio," she explained, "I see further opportunities for my classes to interact with them. It's challenging and a fun experiment to find ways to make those concepts tangible, like the concepts in the text my senior class is studying (a post-modern book that deals very specifically with graphic design and meta-fiction, or self-referencing text)."
Combining Literature and Technology with Watchmen STEAMWork Project
Watchmen (written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons) is set in 1985, in an alternate history United States that's edging closer to a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. It tells the story of a group of past and present superheroes and the vents surrounding the mysterious murder of one of their own.