Thursday, July 10, 2008

Teaching Java With Comics: Duke is Our Friend

I've found that adding a few comics to my lectures helps a lot in communicating ideas with the students when I teach. The pictures break up the text on the board (if you can call what appears on the board in a computer class "text") and it helps concepts gel in the student's minds.

Duke is My Friend

When teaching Java I love to use Java's mascot Duke as one of my main characters. He's easy to draw, he's fun to look at, he's expressive, and flexible. Being quick and easy to draw is critical in the classroom. Whenever I start a Duke on the board, the students enjoy watching him "come to life." I don't have to worry about planning him out--since his arms and hands are solid black they can cover up whatever got drawn before.

You can express a lot of ideas with Duke. He seems to want to say things in a fun way, too. And putting hats on Duke is a lot of fun, too. I've had students in hysterical laughter over Duke with a well-chosen hat. Above is Guru Duke, who can see the future and who does a Karnak routine for the class sometimes.

I have also branched out to create some other Duke-like characters. In class, they're stylized versions of Duke. I'm trying out versions of them that are less Duke-like on my Beginning Programmer's Guide to Java. I'll show some of these in a later post, but they include Dr. Compiler, Pierre (he renders graphics) and Jerry, who is more or less the JRE. Jerry constructs things, takes care of all the maintenance work, and so on. There's also an Interpreter character.

Here's a quick guide to drawing Duke I've put together. Once you've drawn him a few times on a sheet of paper or a board, it'll come easy.

How to Draw Duke