It has been said that “a picture is worth a thousand words.”That may be so, but it is unlikely that many would feel that this description applies to clip art. For the most part, clip art is used to add color, emphasis, humor and/or interest to Power Point slides. It rarely expands on or enhances the meaning of the text on the slides.
On the other hand, cartoons- whether one panel or several panels in a comic strip format- can serve to crystallize meaning or comment on a topic in a way that enables the learner to: see things from a different, deeper, and humorous perspective; interact with and analyze the idea presented; focus in and think on a higher level; and, as a result, better retain the concept.
“A cartoonist is a writer and artist, philosopher and punster, cynic and community conscience. He (She) seldom tells a joke, and often tells the truth, which is funnier. In addition, the cartoonist is more than a social critic who tries to amuse, infuriate, or educate. He (She) is also, unconsciously, a reporter and historian. Cartoons of the past leave records of their times that reveal how people lived, what they thought, how they dressed and acted, what their amusements and prejudices were, and what the issues of the day were.” ( Ruff, Thomas P., and Jennifer T. Nelson. Classroom Ready Activities for Teaching History and Geography in Grades 7-12. Needham, MA: Allyn and Bacon, 1999.)
There are many cartoonists whose philosophical truths resonate with deeper insight and meaning. My favorite comic strip cartoonists include: Charles Schulz (Peanuts); Bill Watterson (Calvin & Hobbes); Scott Adams (Dilbert); Bill Amend (Foxtrot); and Cathy Guisewite (Cathy). My favorite one-panel cartoonist is Randy Glasbergen.
Yes, a great deal of clip art is free, while cartoons are generally not. However, individual cartoons and compilations of cartoons can often be purchased for very reasonable rates. The bottom line is that cartoons are a much more effective educational visual than clip art.