What are zines

Zines for teaching and learning

For a long time I had wanted to write something about the potential of zines in an educational context. An article in the Open Pedagogy Notebook reminded me of this again. In my blog post I am referring to this article in part. Overall, I explain what zines are and why and how they can be used in an educational context.

What are zines?

"Zines" is derived from "Magazine". In short, a zine is a booklet produced individually or in small groups, which is usually only printed in small numbers and then distributed by hand-to-hand distribution. In this way, zines offer everyone the opportunity to become a ‘publisher’. With the advent of the photocopier, it has become easier and easier to distribute zines. And they persist even in today's digitized society, in which every person can potentially also distribute content via the Internet. In the past and to this day, zines pursued, among other things, the goals of articulating the interests of minorities, building counter-hegemony, offering alternatives to established media or exchanging interests (music, games, etc.). This makes them a media format that focuses on doing it yourself and was and is particularly popular in subcultural contexts.

In the educational context, zines can be used both as a source of information and designed by learners themselves.

Zines as a source of information

Zines as a source of information make it possible to look at a topic from a specific, often very personal perspective. Learners can research a specific topic in and with zines. In doing so, you learn to obtain information from less known / alternative sources and to classify / evaluate it. The inclusion of zines in learning processes is particularly recommended in the context of education for sustainable development (ESD), which relies on multiple perspectives and thematically includes, among other things, the area of ​​global learning, gender equality or anti-racism.

Probably the best place to go for German-language zines is the archive of youth cultures in Berlin. Perhaps there are also learners in a class / seminar who are active in a zine community and, against this background, can bring along and present zines. In addition, more and more zines are also being distributed digitally and can be found using a simple Internet search.

Design your own zines

In addition to using zines as a source, learners can also design zines themselves. This is widespread as a method, especially with younger learners, under the name ‘Buddy Books’. A A4 page is simply folded into a ‘pocket book’ and then individually filled with content.

Buddy books can, for example, be their own "cheat sheet" on a specific topic. Because there is only limited space, you have to concentrate on the most important things and select them specifically. In addition, you have to divide and arrange the contents sensibly into smaller portions (so that they fit on the pages of the booklet). In this way, an intensive examination of the learning content takes place.

Another possibility is to design buddy books on the part of the teaching person as a kind of ‘lapbook’. In this case, the headings / questions are entered in advance. Learners then fill out the template in the same way. This allows, for example, individual portfolios or projects such as book presentations to be carried out.

For older learners, it is exciting not to just design ‘buddy books’, but to explicitly address the concept of zines as an alternative and subcultural medium - and to consider the specifications for the design of your own zine against this background.

The design of a zine can then be an important aspect of self-empowerment. Learners can share personal experiences at a zine or write down their own interests and positions. In contrast to the Buddy Book, which is more likely to be kept in your own pocket, the designed zines can then also be used explicitly by learners for distribution.

Even if (or precisely because) a zine is basically an analog media format, its design lends itself to reflecting on the conveyance of information in a digitized society: How does the potential infinity of information available on the Internet relate to the targeted distribution of zines in analog format and only to insiders? In what context can this be helpful / desirable? How sustainable and permanent is online information versus zines? When designing online content, what can be learned from designing zines? And: How does Remix work in analogue and how digitally?

Zine creation tools

A purely analog zine is quickly folded and cut from A4 paper. The technique used for this is described in these folding instructions. If you want to design the zine digitally and then print it out, you can use this online template. Many helpful hints and suggestions for creating zines can also be found in the online community: We make Zines

The zine template on Glitch, translated and adapted in the e-education laboratory, offers an exciting combination of analog and digital. With this template, your own zine is designed on the one hand as a website (including a self-selected URL). On the other hand, the zine can be printed out from the online version. It is precisely in this way that the reflective questions raised above on the digital-analogue networked dissemination of information can be addressed well. It is also easy to use in a school context. since no registration / login is required. An explanation of the use is included in the template. In this way, the tool can be used directly.

A zine example to distribute: OER to get started

Martin Ebner and Sandra Schön designed a buddy book or zine for self-printing and distribution about OER (and as OER) some time ago. You can download it here and distribute it to anyone you want to convince of open education. And if you enjoy it, then you now also know how to create your own zine and then distribute it both online and offline.