I teach an IT ethics course at Stony Brook University for the Department of Computer Science twice a year. When researching how ethics is taught at the university level, I discovered role playing invites students to imagine how different actors might think about and react to varying scenarios. I was intrigued by the prospect of having an activity where students have to imagine the perspectives of others when confronted with an ethical dilemma. Furthermore, I was eager to have an activity where students could visualize the outcomes of a sequence of choices, much like a decision tree.
Comic-BEE was just the application I was looking for. For the midterm my students research an ethical dilemma, identify stakeholders, policy options, and trade-offs; and prepare a report. Based on their research, they develop a lesson plan in Comic-BEE as an addendum to the research report. The Comic-BEE lesson plan forms the basis for a branching story comic the students develop in teams of two. Typically one student assumes the role of writer, and the other the role of designer/artist.
It is gratifying to see how user-friendly the application is and how each step in the process seamlessly integrated with subsequent steps. From the lesson plan to the script, from the storyboard to the final comic/branching story, both reflection and interactive storytelling was facilitated. My engineering students are not artists any more than they are actors, but they really enjoyed the assets and design tools in Comic-BEE. In student course evaluations, the Comic-BEE assignment was regularly cited as the most enjoyable and rewarding. The software proved to be reliable and error-free across multiple platforms, which has allowed us to create a showcase of student work we can leverage in future semesters.
The use of comics to affect social change is well documented. Thanks to Comic-BEE my ethics students are able to explore this powerful narrative medium as they engage with the many sides of ethical dilemmas.