Bitstrips Inc. released data today showing that its popular educational comic-making tool, Bitstrips for Schools, is helping close the gender literacy gap by motivating male students to write as much as their female counterparts.
An analysis of over 400,000 students who used Bitstrips for Schools during the 2009-10 school year revealed that boys wrote as many comics on a per-student basis as girls. The analysis compared usage across grades 1-12, and showed that the number of comics made by students of both sexes was virtually identical in each grade. In total, students combined to create over 2 million comics on Bitstrips for Schools in under 10 months, most of them in Ontario, Canada, where the service is available to all of the province’s 5,000 publicly funded schools through a license from the Ministry of Education.
Featuring online tools that let any student create and share comics without having to draw, and a growing library of activities covering English, Math, Science, History and Social Studies, Bitstrips for Schools is striking a chord at a time when comics are becoming recognized as having an important role to play in the classroom. School librarians are adding graphic novels to their bookshelves in growing numbers, and in July, the Canadian Council on Learning published a report detailing the potential of comics in boys’ literacy development.
“More and more, researchers are pointing to comics as a way to engage boys in reading, but you don’t really hear about their potential to boost the other half of the literacy equation – writing,” said Bitstrips CEO, Jacob Blackstock. “The results from our first year in schools show that we’re starting to have a real impact in that respect.”
Bitstrips for Schools has experienced explosive growth since launching last September. In Ontario, over 25,000 teachers have created accounts across 85% of the province’s schools. Many more have subscribed across the rest of Canada, as well as in Australia, the United Kingdom, and the U.S., where the site is a featured partner in the National Writing Project’s Spotlight on Literacy. By the end of June, students were making 15,000 new comics every day.
“The response from the start has been incredible,” said Blackstock. “We hear from teachers almost daily that Bitstrips for Schools is helping students become much more communicative by making the process of writing more visual, interactive and fun.”
“Bitstrips for Schools is a great motivational tool for reluctant writers,” said Lindsay Porter, a Grade 3/4 teacher at Tecumseh Public School in Mississauga, Ontario. “Students who would normally shut down at the thought of a traditional writing assignment end up asking to stay in at recess to work on their comics. Knowing that I have something to help differentiate learning for those students and sustain their interest in a classroom task makes my job a little easier.”
Discussing the impact of Bitstrips for Schools on her seventh grade Language Arts students, teacher Shannon Powell at Central Montcalm Middle School in Michigan said, “Some of my most highly reluctant writers were among the first to accomplish the assignments I gave, and proved that they can write after all. With this program students don’t have to be limited by their drawing talent.”
An end-of-year survey of teachers who use Bitstrips for Schools revealed that 98% find the website easy to use, 97% plan to use it again in the coming school year, and 98% would recommend Bitstrips for Schools to their fellow teachers.
The company recently renewed its license in Ontario for the 2010-11 school year, once again making Bitstrips for Schools available to the province’s 2 million students.
“It’s thrilling to have become a valued part of the literacy toolkit for so many teachers so quickly,” said Blackstock, adding, “We’re really excited to kick off another amazing school year and take things to another level.”