Learning Through Comics

For the Publishing Placement and Professional Development module, I did my internship at Dekko Comics. These are educational comics created with an aim to make learning fun and enjoyable for children including those with learning difficulties such as dyslexia, autism, and related conditions. Honestly, before my internship, I didn’t know much about innovation in the field of education and more specifically, how educational comics are turning out to be the ultimate game-changer.

Although educational comics primarily aim to communicate information, they are also in equal measure entertaining. In most schools around the world, as regards the academic subjects like biology, history, geography, mathematics etc. information is communicated in the same format. In this scenario, learning depends on the student’s ability to read, write and listen when the teacher is explaining the concepts in the classroom. But in the case of a student facing any learning difficulty, the ability to read or write quickly is affected and he/she lags behind in schoolwork, which in the long run, can possibly lead to the child developing low self-esteem. Secondly, both exam revision and schoolwork is something, which students do not necessarily look forward to. Hence, not surprisingly enough loss of concentration is of the most common problems faced by students.

Educational comics can provide a practical solution to these age-old problems and the simple reason for that is the way in which information is presented. It certainly does not look like a lesson. The knowledge thus imparted is narrated like a story as a comic format usually does. The sequence of a beginning, middle, and end aids the understanding. The information is also divided into chunks, which helps in engaging the reader. Importantly, the text is accompanied by visuals which are the characters in the story and they give meaning to the words.

In its prototype stage, Dekko was tested on five different schools in Scotland and different age ranges and learning types were used. All unanimously appreciated it and teachers found it to be great learning resource as students were able to both understand and retain the information. But creating this comic which doubles as a learning resource was no mean feat. The ‘colours’ used were considered as important as the humour in storytelling for an interesting mix of colours made the comic eye-catching and engaging. Dekko also uses dyslexia friendly font along with colour-coding important bits of information.

It’s about that time these comics find their way into the classroom, ultimately making learning enjoyable for teachers, students, and parents alike. Educational comics can benefit the education system as a whole for they have the entertainment factor, which the traditional textbooks lag. It might soon be the next big thing in academic publishing.




The PPA Support

One of the most important reasons I chose Edinburgh Napier University’s MSc Publishing course was because of its close association with the Professional Publishers Association (PPA). Being the voice of professional publishers for decades now, PPA supports various companies from consumer magazines publishers, customer magazine publishers to smaller independent publishers within the UK’s publishing sector. They also provide the members with vital information, data and research alongside helping those who are new in the publishing industry. Most of all, PPA provides its members, industry professionals, newcomers and even students the much-needed networking opportunity which allows for the exchange of ideas and on which the publishing industry thrives. One of the biggest challenges initially faced by students and other new entrants in the publishing industry is certainly ‘Networking’ at the professional events. It does seem daunting at first but in fact, people from the industry gladly meet students and are encouraging and willing to extend support. They tell us about their jobs and experience, offer advice and answer any questions we might have. For an instance, DC Thomson’s Sally Hampton was of great help to me in my case study for the Publishing in Context module.

Events, the professional ones or semi-formal ones like a book signing event, author talk, books launches or launch parties are appropriate platforms for networking and the first event, which we publishing students attended, was the Magfest. It was organised by the PPA and Edinburgh Napier University was one of its sponsors and supporters.

Magfest is Scotland’s biggest magazine event, which attracts magazine publishers, students, enthusiasts, and publishing professionals. The theme for 2017 was Heroes and Visions and there were talks by Ian Rankin, Alex Miller, the Executive Creative Director of Vice UK, Zillah Byng-Thorne, the Chief Executive of Future Plc, Paul McNamee, the Chair of PPA Scotland and the Editor of Big Issue amongst others inspiring speakers. Also, there were workshops such as ‘Get Your Hands on Trail- Blazing Magazines’ by Neil Braidwood, ‘Sign me up: Subscriptions in an Online World’ by Luise Mulholland, ‘From Print to Live’ by Simone Baird and a panel discussion on ‘Audiences of the Future.’ Founders of new magazines like Boom Saloon, Marbles and Word-O-Mat introduced their magazines as well. The day before was the Magfest pre-event, The Fringe where Paul McNamee interviewed Lucy Cave, Editor-in-chief of Heat. Attending such an event in the very first month of the course was much beneficial as it gave us an insight into the industry of which now we are part.

More recently, in November 2017, PPA Scotland organised The Scottish Magazine Awards. A true celebration of Scotland’s magazine industry, it was hosted by BBC Scotland’s Judith Ralston and the judging panel composed of some of the biggest names in the publishing industry like Wired’s Andrew Diprose, Diane Kenwood from Time Inc, Matt Phare from Shortlist, Sally Hampton from DC Thomson and Heather McLaughlin from Pinpoint Scotland to name a few. Prices were awarded for Brand Extension, Columnist, Business and Professional Magazine Designer, Newspaper Supplement, Member Magazine, Feature Writer, Sales Performance, Social Media Campaign etc.
The PPA also helps foster and advance careers by including categories such as New Launch, Rising Star, Small Publishing Company Magazine and Young Journalist. They are not only encouraging but also paving a way for the new entrants and small-scale businesses.

The attendees of the professional yet glamorous awards nights were the hotshots of the industry. Thanks to PPA Scotland, we were given a chance to attend and the experience was truly wonderful. It was remarkable to note that although the people present were essentially competitors, yet at the same time were extremely supportive of each other.

Publishing is an industry where maintaining relationships is imperative, be it with agents, author, readers and other publishers and PPA does a brilliant job of bringing people together and works to ensure that the industry as a whole prospers. The contribution it has made so far and which the organisation will continue to make in the future is invaluable and as a student, someone who is relatively new to the industry, it is assuredly reassuring to know and see the Professional Publishers Association acting as a guardian.