The issue of engaging school children with their work has been one that has plagued the education system for decades. As it stands, you would have difficulty finding someone who has gone through the education system without any issue, the most common being the monotony and boredom of revision. However, Dekko Comics was founded with the intention of providing an alternative form of learning for students. The Dekko series of educational comic books was designed to engage their audiences and aid students in their revision. I caught up with Rossie Stone, the creator of Dekko Comics, to ask him about his upcoming project.
Rossie, who is a trained animator, has experienced difficulty with the conventional style of revision. He told me that, despite his best efforts, he found it tough to read and absorb information and, as a result, was at the bottom of academic classes throughout Primary and Secondary education.
Until, that is, he coined his new idea. During his fifth year he began to experiment with using comics of his own design as a revision tool. The idea was to create a series of comic books that contained revision material. The relevant information to the subject he was studying would be colour coded to an index and an explanation sheet, but the comics were to focus on being an entertaining read first and foremost. This transformed his grades; he got an A in a subject where he was expected to get a D, and his grades were boosted considerably in all of the subjects where this technique was used.
Now he wants to raise enough money to produce study material of the same style available to students across the country. Over the past year he has focused on developing this idea into something that he can approach the public with. Writing some of the stories and characters he intends to use as well as testing his idea across five different schools: Torrance primary, Blackfriars primary, Hawick High School, The High School of Glasgow, and the High School of Glasgow Jr School.
The usefulness of the comics would be measured based on three different factors: whether the comics were engaging; whether they were digestible; and whether they were clear. The feedback from the pupils showed that they achieved all three. Students seemed to be engaged by the material and wanted to see more, as the information ingested by the pupil depended on how often they read the comic – one pupil who read it once would still remember some information but less than one who had read it four or five times.
“It’s there as a revision tool only if you want it to be and it always depends on how many times you read it.” However, the point of the material is to be engaging first. In terms of clarity, they found that pupils were remembering information from subjects above their age range. Rosse said, “They need the class background” to help put that information in context, and this requires good teaching and motivated students.
Furthermore, the parents were excited about the project and reacted well, albeit with more questions. The teachers, in particular, saw the value for some of their pupils with these techniques. “They saw themselves how well the pupils retained the information and how much they enjoyed it”. The teachers were behind the project and have said that they would buy these resources for their pupils if they were available in shops.
To fund the project, Rossie turned to crowdfunding – specifically a Kickstarter campaign to raise £10,000 in order to hire another two people and produce 24 new comics by the end of August 2016. This would allow the comics to be sold in book shops, comic shops and online stores. However, the choice to go through a crowdfunding model was itself, an interesting one.
The choice was made to ensure the creative freedom of the project; Rossie explained that going through Education Scotland could risk a lot creative freedom that allows the project to be so engaging for pupils and the worries about “what the parents might think, [and] what the pupils might think really suffocates the creativity”.
Similarly, going through larger businesses presents its own set of problems; however, it is still one of freedom. The worry from the animator is that businesses will only be concerned about the profits the project may create and that style of thinking may end up clashing with the values of what he wants to do. As he says: “Integrity doesn’t come first, money comes first and who owns the rights comes first”.
The project reached reached its goal back in April, earning over £13,000 from 252 backers in just 30 days. Since then they have been spending their time making the comics themselves; 24 comics in total. But now that they have finished the project, they will be moving onto printing and distribution. Dekko Comics plan to have the comics available in schools and on Amazon UK by August, 19th.
There are also a number of other events coming up on the horizon for the group. They have booked stalls at a number of festivals, including the Scottish Learning Festival (where they will also be giving a talk). So it seems that things are moving pretty quickly for Dekko Comics, and the next year will see them unveil some more projects. You might want to keep an eye on them.