Know Gimmicks

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gimmick ˈɡimik/  noun

  1. a trick or device intended to attract attention, publicity, or business.
    synonyms: publicity stunt, contrivanceschemestratagemploy;

    informalshtick

 Every Marvel movie features snappy quips, and one of my favorite lines from Captain America: Civil War comes from hero Falcon, when he and Bucky first run into Spider-Man:

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Gimmicks have a long history in comic books.  Specifically, let’s look at comic book gimmick covers.  Like any good “publicity stunt,” gimmick covers draw attention to sell more comic books. Typically these specific issues celebrate milestone anniversaries, debut series, or other special events.

The good folks at Comic Book Resources (CBR) recently shared their “All-Time Greatest Comic Book Gimmick Covers,” and you can read about it right here.

In this list, you’ll learn all kinds of neat history and trivia, including what made these gimmicks special.  Behold covers with poly-bagged pop-ups, glow-in-the-dark skeletons, embossed chromium and/or foil, die-cut claw marks, bullet holes, and more.

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My favorite is the Superman “Colorform” cover, where you can create your own battle scene using the reusable plastic pieces.  (iPad got nothin’ on Coloforms.)

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Gimmicks are fun, but they can also go horribly wrong.  To wit, CBR contributors also compiled the “All-Time Worst Comic Book Gimmick Covers,” which you can read here if you dare.

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These unfortunate “shticks” include lenticular artwork, face-shaped die-cut covers, duplicate monochrome colors, Magic Eye illusions, body heat-sensitive “thermochrome,” and more bullet holes.

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Gimmick comic book covers have mostly disappeared, but new ideas (or old revivals) pop up from time to time.  The same is true for educational gimmicks.  Teachers must be vigilant in protecting their students (and themselves) from too many gimmicks, fads, and ploys.

 What are some of these educational gimmicks?  For a start, take a look at the following graphic highlighting “20 Years of Educational Fads,” put together by Te@cher Toolkit (“the most influential blog on education in the UK”).

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You can read more here about each gimmick, myth, fad, and/or hearsay, and see how much you agree.

Such new (or repackaged) educational ideas begin as noteworthy or eye-catching.  A financial boost often jumpstarts such initiatives.  But eventually the dollars dwindle away, followed by fading enthusiasm and support.  Given the effort and time spent by various stakeholders, you can imagine the subsequent feelings of resentment and distrust.

Please note that I am not poo-pooing all gimmicks.  After all, I’m the guy who forked over cash to get this hologram-highlighted wrap-around cover:

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And this foil embossed beauty:

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And even this one:

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 (Yup, that’s a special #0 issue mini-comic glued to the cover of the #1 issue regular-sized comic.)

Gimmicks can be good for a laugh.  And sometimes they are a breath of fresh air.  Used right, gimmicks can make cute mementos, quick distractions, and useful object lessons.

Nevertheless, it’s important to distinguish between a novel trick (that’s fun for a little while) and a credible research-supported practice (that stands the test of time).

What about you?  What educational gimmicks have you enjoyed, advocated, and/or suffered?

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Iconic Images

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A nifty cool comic book blog everyone should check out is “Comics Should Be Good” via the Comic Book Resources website.

 

Every once in a while, the folks at CSBG post a new entry in their “Top Five Most Iconic Covers” collection, in which they list the five most iconic covers of a particular superhero (or villain).  Neat stuff!

 

CSBG’s latest hero getting Iconic Covers treatment is Captain America, probably because of the upcoming release of a little film called Captain America: The Winter Soldier (coming to a theater near YOU on April 4th, 2014!).

 

If you’re curious, here are the top five iconic Captain America comic book covers, according to Comics Should Be Good.

 

If you’re doubly curious, here are MY top five covers of the StarSpangled Avenger, in chronological order:

Captain America, Vol. 1, #260; cover by Al Milgrom; August 1981

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Captain America, Vol. 1, #332; cover by Mike Zeck and Klaus Janson; August 1987

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These first two images may be downers, but they’re still iconic.

How about more heroic images?  Okay.

Captain America, Vol. 1, #450; cover by Ron Garney; April 1996

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Captain America, Vol. 4, #1; cover by John Cassaday; June 2002

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Captain America, Vol. 5, #1; cover by Steve Epting; January 2005

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This last cover by Steve Epting encapsulates the recent multi-year run by writer Ed Brubaker, with its Jack Ryan/Jason Bourne super-spy vibe, which the new movie seems to be following. Have you seen the latest posters?

Here’s a sample, and since the poster is celebrating the IMAX release, it’s HUGE:

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We could talk all day about iconic movie posters, but not this day.

 

Let’s talk about teaching.  Namely, what is your iconic image of a teacher? 

 

I’ve done some research* into popular teacher portrayals in the Google Images search engine.  Since my background is in science (yes, I’m that much of a geek), I did a specific analysis of science teachers.

Here’s a sampling of what I found:

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That’s right.  According to Google, science teachers are white dudes with bad hair, poor eyesight, and lame taste in fashion–until hipsters start wearing lab coats, but then that would just be ironic fashion, not iconic.

 

Putting aside any ethnographic analysis of cultural imagery and stereotypical classroom depictions, here are the questions I want to ask:

 

What is your iconic teacher image?  What is your “look?”

 

Are you this kind of teacher?

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Or maybe this one?

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Or something else?

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I hope you’re not this last one.

 

Images often depend on one’s perspective, as revealed by this stunning photo collection of famous landmarks.

 

Consider how your students perceive you. What is your “iconic image” in their eyes?

 

One terrific way to gain perspective is video recording your teaching.  Recording technology is nearly ubiquitous these days, so use your favorite gadget.

 

No one needs to watch your recording except you. That alleviates any concerns about privacy, and more importantly, you can take an honest look at yourself.  If you don’t have time to record or review an entire class period, just focus on five minutes of a lesson. I guarantee you’ll learn something about your teaching and your students, giving you ideas for enhancing instruction.

 

Make it habit to record and watch yourself from time to time.  It’s one of the best ways you can get better.

 

Who knows?  Maybe your teaching will even reach “iconic status” (in a good way).

 

*Bergman, D.J. (2013). The portrayal of science teachers found in Google Images and implications  for science teacher education. Paper presentation at the International Meeting of the Association for Science Teacher Education. Charleston, SC: January 9-12.