Gene Yang: 5 Fast Facts
- Taught Algebra II math to high schoolers
- Received his Masters degree from CSU East Bay
- Compared, Secret Coders, his upcoming graphic novel to Hogwarts but with circuitry instead of sorcery
- Observed, on a trip to South Korea with his Korean American wife, the country’s fully developed market of educational graphic novels
- Fan (NOT) of any vegetable remotely related to squash
SmartyGirlLeadership Press observed coding classes that filled up within 35 minutes of a social media posting by Devoxx4Kids.org in Norcal. For two consecutive weekends, parents of youth coders filled Saturday classrooms at Texas Instruments of Santa Clara and UC Berkeley’s Engineering building at BlackGirlsCode.com event to watch S.T.E.M. students animate characters on Scratch and build Lego Wedo robotics.
What might this surge in interest for kids to teach peers coding and dad-daughter workshop teams mean? Readers wanted insight from a S.T.E.M. education and coding comics expert who can explain why kids are doodling Big Hero 6 sensors and racing their parents to wake early on a Saturday for robotics camps. While one of our indie production crews covered the second event, Gene Yang answered a 20-minute phone interview request from our Editor-in-Chief Renee Marchol as our #Predictions2015 guide. A different indie news outlet, TaiwaneseAmerican.org spoke to Gene Yang in 2013. To hear about his American experience, see the video below.
Gene Yang, the 2013 National Book Award Nominee, gives us the FAQ on the history of comics in America, its use in K-12 education, his S.T.E.M. involvement, and what’s next since Baymax has hit Sanfrantokyo.
Frederic Wertham expressed concern in his 1954 book, Seduction of the Innocent, about his belief that there was a strong correlation between juvenile delinquency and the reading of comic books. Gene Yang describes Wertham as a decent man who cared about the possible moral questions that the emerging horror and pulp fiction genre might introduce. However, Yang does not agree with Wertham’s conclusions. The examination of comic books as a social good or social evil for youth became a topic for the Supreme Court.
Even today with wearable tech and classrooms with requirements to BYOD as K-12 students, comics still suffer a stigma. Are visual narrative format books still “literature”? What makes real reading?
Gene Yang studied the use of technology and comic illustration for educating youth for his graduate studies. He observed real-life high schooler responses to his move from video lectures on Algebra II to comic panels illustrating the same math concepts. The result? His students preferred the format that allowed them to study Algebra II in graphic novel format. The advantages? Viewing the sequence, the logical progression. Self-pacing where the student could control the speed of information delivery and review.
A sure-fire way to get Yang to geek out in front of his students? In other words, his superhero weakness? Ask a question about comic illustration as an art and science.
Yang is modest and points the spotlight to his peers, the league of illustrators who have been using visual narrative to engage students in science, engineering and math for much longer. For instance, comics as teaching tools and recreational reading for youth in South Korea is commonplace.
As moms and dads in Norcal have commented, the new marketplace expects coding skills in our workforce so S.T.E.M. events and materials make our children (or Smarty Nieces/Nephews) competitive in the world.
Yang suggests Primates, and other education comic titles, as a Quickstart primer for the curious: What is a S.T.E.M. comic? In this example? Jane Goodall dropping science graphic novel-style.
This article was co-edited by Guest Media Intern SmartyFella Matt. Gene Yang’s interviewer? Renee, our Editor-in-Chief and eater of the most waffles in the Seattle office.