October 16th, 2017 by Jon Becker

Hell yeah! Can’t wait!

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June 9th, 2017 by Jon Becker

As you may know, my son is a HUGE Marvel fan, particularly the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Well, today is his birthday, and Marvel happened to announce this morning that the first trailer from Black Panther would air during the NBA Finals game. And so it did…


 But, that’s not the tweet of the day. This is…

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July 8th, 2016 by Jon Becker

[Warning: I’m about to partake in the most banal form of edublogging: observe a phenomenon –> wonder how it might apply to education –> blog it out. But, it’s my blog and I’m in a bad mood. So, deal with it…]

 

I was not a big comics or superhero guy growing up. I read a few of the Archie comic books my sister bought with her allowance, and I remember watching Super Friends pretty regularly on Saturday mornings. I also watched some Batman re-runs on TV, and enjoyed Christopher Reeves as Superman in the movie theater. But, that was about it for me and comics/cartoons/superheroes.

Now, though, my (recently turned) 11 year-old son is a huge fan of all things Marvel. If you haven’t read his guest post wherein he ranks the movies from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, well, why not? (Go ahead… this post will still be here when you get back). He’s WAY ahead of me in his exploration of all things Marvel, but I’m learning as fast as I can alongside him. Lately, we’ve been catching up on episodes of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.1

As I learn and explore by his side, one thing that continues to intrigue me is the idea of a Marvel “universe” or “multiverse.”

The Marvel Universe is the fictional shared universe where the stories in most American comic book titles and other media published by Marvel Entertainment take place. Marvel superheroes such as Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four and the Avengers are from this universe.

The Marvel Universe is further depicted as existing within a “multiverse” consisting of thousands of separate universes, all of which are the creations of Marvel Comics and all of which are, in a sense, “Marvel universes”. In this context, “Marvel Universe” is taken to refer to the mainstream Marvel continuity, which is known as Earth-616 or currently as Earth Prime. (Source: Wikipedia)

If you click on that “shared universe” link, you’ll see the following sentence: “A shared universe or shared world is a set of creative works where more than one writer (or other artist) independently contributes a work that can stand alone but fits into the joint development of the storyline, characters, or world of the overall project.” A few sentences later, we get: “The term has also been used in a wider, non-literary sense to convey interdisciplinary or social commonality, often in the context of a ‘shared universe of discourse’.” A “shared universe of discourse” sounds a lot like a curriculum, which is defined both broadly and narrowly, but which typically comes to mean “a course of study” and/or “the knowledge and skills students are expected to learn” along with the learning artifacts (content, assessments, etc.) associated with that course of study and that knowledge and those skills.

The formal college curriculum, at least at the undergraduate level, is typically broken into three parts: general education (not usually much more than a checklist of courses for a student to choose from), the major, and electives. General education is, by design, usually not a shared universe of discourse. A student might take a course in the math department and a course in the English department. There’s value in that kind of liberal education, but there’s rarely, if ever, anything shared across the experience of those two courses. The major is where you might expect to see more of a shared universe of discourse, and some departments do a better job of this than others. But, my experience has been that major programs of study are not much more than a series of courses strung together; there’s not much continuity or spiraling of the curriculum2. This lack of continuity and/or coherence is particularly evident where courses are taught by TAs and/or adjuncts who are not privy to departmental program planning and development meetings and conversations. In graduate school, I would argue, this lack of continuity/spiraling is particularly prominent. Far too many graduate programs, especially online programs3 built on the back of adjuncts, are conceived of as a series of courses taught without much consideration to how they form, in combination with extracurricular activities, a rich, coherent, continuous program of study.

But, the Marvel universe as a shared universe of discourse feels much more rich and integrative than what we typically see in formal educational settings. In the Marvel universe, there are print materials (books, comic books, etc.), TV shows, movies, and an increasing array of web-based resources. That might be true for any discipline; learning resources and artifacts (the “what” of the curriculum) are available on multiple media. But, it’s how the storylines and characters and platforms intermingle in the Marvel Universe that has me thinking about how we do “curriculum” in formal educational settings. It’s how the TV shows references the movies and vice versa; it’s how the characters show up in different parts of the universe. If a shared universe is “where more than one writer (or other artist) independently contributes a work that can stand alone but fits into the joint development of the storyline, characters, or world of the overall project” then how does your curriculum or program of study hold up to that idea? I get that scholars within a discipline independently contribute works that can stand alone but that also fit into a discipline’s overall narrative, but here are some questions that come to mind:

  • How purposefully do we develop curriculum so that the storyline, the overall narrative of the program of study, can be discovered by students?
  • Is seat-time based courses divided into convenient, standard-length semesters the best way to let the students explore the shared universe of discourse within and across disciplines?
  • One of my favorite parts of watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. with my son is when we debrief after a show and he tells me about how various characters relate to other parts of the Marvel universe and how parts of the storyline relate to other things he’s read or seen. How often do we ask students to think about what they’re learning in any individual course and how that relates to other parts of their overall learning experience?
  • Another thing I love is when my son points out “Easter eggs,” intentional jokes or inside messages hidden somewhere in the story. What kinds of Easter eggs do we plant into the curriculum to trigger integrative thinking in our students?

Finally (for now), I’m continually amazed by the informal, extra-curricular resources that are developed by the “consumers,” and the web-based participatory culture that has developed around the Marvel universe. For instance, my son spends hours each day on the Marvel Cinematic Universe wiki. There are fans that are constantly adding new content to the site and new discussions emerging all of the time. When we saw Captain America: Civil War recently, and when he read commentary by fans on the wiki, and it lead to a number of long, deep conversations about the role of government and libertarianism and privatization, I knew that my son’s fascination with the Marvel universe was more than just OK. He had immersed himself in a shared universe of discourse that was deeply engaging, integrative, rich, etc.

I suppose this is where I’d point to connected learning, but that’s a sore subject for me right now. For now, I just want to think about how we can create marvel(ous) and universe(al) educational experiences for all young people. I know there are folks out there that are both smarter than me and who understand these universes better than me, and I hope they’ll comment here to expand my understanding and that of others.

  1. What a wild and crazy show! []
  2. RIP, Jerome Bruner []
  3. says the Director of the Office of Online Academic Programs []

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May 16th, 2016 by Jon Becker

[And now for something a little different… After reading a number of articles/posts ranking the (now) 13 Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movies, I thought I should bring a REAL expert to the table. Step aside, y’all, because the sheriff is in town. My 10 year-old son, Drew, is a self-proclaimed Marvel comics geek and knows more about the MCU than you can imagine. So, I invited him to write a guest post to add to the genre of MCU movie rankings. Without further ado, here’s Drew…]

Marvel_Cinematic_Universe_Logo

Hi, my name is Drew and I am a freshly crowned Marvel comics geek (since October last year). I am going to rank the MCU movies from worst to best. Keep in mind that I LOVE THEM ALL!!! I’m just ranking them by how much I love them.

13. Iron Man

I know, normally this movie is everyone’s favorite, but I don’t really like the Iron Man movies in any particular way more than the others. It could be because I don’t particularly like violence and this is definitely the most brutal of the bunch. On the bright side, this movie begins the MCU with some great characters including Tony, Pepper, and even Agent Coulson, who I like even more now that I finally started watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

12. Iron Man 2

Really underappreciated. I can’t think of a single reason why this is the worst-reviewed MCU movie, except for maybe a cliche villain. On the other hand, this movie continues the Iron Man movies trend of being incredibly violent, the main reason I don’t like them as much as the others. Oh, and this Rhodey is way better.

11. Iron Man 3

Definitely my favorite Iron Man movie. The humor is great, all the different Iron Man armors are awesome, and unlike most people, I actually like that Killian got his butt kicked by a female. My only complaint is that AGAIN WITH THE VIOLENCE!

10. Thor: The Dark World

As I write this, I suddenly realized that this is the one movie in the MCU that is a sequel not as good as the first. The beginning is good, the end is good, but the middle is kinda… mleah. Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t a bad movie. It’s just not as good as the first.

9. The Incredible Hulk

One of the most underappreciated movies of all time, right next to the new Ninja Turtles movie (Yes, I liked it). I got a much better Hulk experience than in the Avengers movies (which were still better for other reasons). I was seriously expecting this movie to be a lot worse than it actually was.

8. Thor

The gods of Norse mythology and Marvel Comics were portrayed wonderfully in this movie. I like the modern sci-fi elements, like the Bifrost being a wormhole or Yggdrasil being a cosmic nebula. And unlike most people, I think Thor and Jane make a good couple.

7. Captain America: The First Avenger

I really liked this way to introduce Captain America into the MCU. Very different from the WWII-era Timely Comics. My favorite change was making Bucky, instead of Cap’s teenage sidekick, his best friend that everyone knocks Cap over on the way to see.

6. The Avengers

Yes, I know it’s supposed to be #1 or #2, but sixth place isn’t bad. It’s very different from the origin of the Avengers in the sixties comics, which I just read. Also, Thanos’s cameo in this is perfect, setting up INFINITY WAR!

5. Ant-Man

Yes, I like this better than The Avengers. Sue Me. The humor in this was great, and I really like the effects of the shrinking and growing. And, Cassie is adorable. And the showdown between Ant-Man and Falcon was awesome.

4. Avengers: Age of Ultron

I actually liked this better than the first . The twins were awesome, Ultron was horrifying, and I only have one complaint. And, that would be that THEY KILLED QUICKSILVER IN HIS FIRST APPEARANCE THAT WASN’T A POST-CREDIT SCENE AND HE HAD SO MUCH POTENTIAL AND HE WAS HILARIOUS AND AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGHHHHH SMASH!… so, yeah.

3. Guardians of the Galaxy

I’m sure someone is gonna go and say, “Hey, I only like serious stuff, blah, blah, blah!” But, deep down inside, we’re all suckers for goofy, heartfelt movies like this. Oh, and Star-Lord was perfectly cast from my personal favorite movie of all time, The Lego Movie!

2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

This movie was my favorite until May 6. This movie sent ripples through the MCU and my brain’s awesomeness center. I don’t have a single bad thing to say about this movie.

1. Captain America: Civil War

Mission report. May 6, 2016. Mission report. AWESOMENESS! What you’ll want to hear is the newcomers. A total of eight new characters were adopted into this movie, but you’d be thinking of Spider-Man and Black Panther. They’re AWESOME. I didn’t want to put this on top just because it’s the newest, but it’s the newest and the best.

Bye, everyone!

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