Image courtesy of my amazing grade 9 class.

When we talk about visual literacy we need to avoid the echo chamber of a ‘faculty only’ conversation.  Most teachers I talk to will agree it is important.  Most teachers I know online demonstrate their own keen awareness of how powerful visuals are.  But when and where do we make room for our students to think about the place visual literacy has in their school experience?

During the third week of Course Three, we considered the following question:

How does the ability to use, create and/or manipulate imagery foster effective communication?
I have long thought about this question in regards to my own presentation design.  I wanted to get out of the way of my students, and allow them to answer that question within their own peer groups.
One of the IBDP LP signs made by my 9th grade English class

One of the IB Learner Profile signs made by my 9th grade English class

I asked my students to select one of the following decks I had created for our classroom essential agreements:

Harkness Table Talk Expectations – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

IB Learner Profile – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires
From there, students selected their own teams, and decided on the resources they wanted to use for their remixes.  We spent about 15 minutes workshopping our editing skills with Picmonkey. We spent a quick 10 minutes thinking about the rule of thirds, and how it makes a difference in images we create. Lastly, we had a short discussion about the purpose,  and underlying themes we wanted to communicate in our images.  In order to do this, students had to think about the existing themes with the IB Learner Profile as well as our Harkness Table Talk guidelines.  In doing so, students had authentic conversations about the foundation of our classroom experiences.  As curators, students needed to unpack the nuances of our essential agreements.  As a teacher, I began to rethink the ‘real estate’ value of the signage spaces in my classroom.  Too many teachers dominate the signage ownership.  It is quick, easy, and effective to whip together another Haiku Deck for my room.  It is complicated, challenging, and a time commitment to hand this responsibility over to our students.  But it shifts the narrator of the classroom story.  No class should be told from a teacher’s first person perspective all the time.  Empowering our students to tackle the story-telling of our classroom norms means rewriting the dialogue to be open-ended.

One of the crucial understanding in this course is:

  • Audience and purpose behind your communication affect how and what you communicate.

When students make and communicate for their community, we also unpack why we value communication as a collaborative skill.

If we want to educate our school community about the power of the Creative Commons movement we need to give them ample experience as creators.  The more students construct their own signage, blogposts, music, videos–the more they understand the need for reuse, the joy of the remix, and the pride of creating something valuable to someone somewhere else.

Another creative interpretation of one of our values.

Another creative interpretation of one of our values.

I wanted to share the story of the risk I took in taking time away from ‘the curriculum,’ to get to the core of why we do the things we do in my classroom.  Scratch that, in OUR classroom.  Yes, we need students to carve out their own online learning spaces through blogging and Twitter.  We also need them to have room to communicate on our physical classroom walls.  We often become so obsessed with moving forward with our lessons, that we ignore the signs for ‘rest stops,’ along the way.  If we want our students to be effective content curators, we need to allow them the time and space to practice those skills in authentic, but low stakes situations.  Although this lesson in design, curation, and values assessment wasn’t on our unit planner–it was essential.  I wanted to share that story with other teachers.  When we prepare our students to collaborate on our needed classroom decor–wonderful things happen.  Thanks to COETAIL, I am more ‘design-minded,’ and from here on out, I hope to start with the following question the next time I need to design something:

“Would this be a more authentic experience if I helped facilitate the curation of this by students rather than all by myself?”

Shouldn’t the design of any classroom be a shared responsibility?

I hope my video invites other classes to think about creating and sharing their own version of the IB Learner Profile or other essential agreements.  Please leave me a comment on other ideas for sharing the role of classroom design among all the stakeholders. Thanks!