Power to the lego people.

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!



Published by TriciaGpers

I blog about all things Global Perspectives!

9 replies on “Power to the lego people.”

  1. What a wonderful post. Thanks so much. This has given me so much to think about. Being a Grade 1 teacher I can see many things that I can use in my classroom. We are just beginning to introduce the student profile in my school and I was struggling to find an “in” for my students. But your amazing video has my mind racing about the possibilities that I could use in our classroom, even with 6 and 7 year olds. Thanks so much for sharing your student’s brilliant work. It was a pleasure to watch! Thanks, Joel

    1. Joel,
      Thank you so much for the positive feedback. I would LOVE to see the signs your students make, I’m sure you have loads of great resources in your classroom for something like this. It might even be a fun mentor project with older and younger students working together. Thanks again for your comment!

  2. I love this post @triciafriedman!

    Your original presentation was awesome, and I’m also super impressed by your students’ remixed work! Good for you for taking time out of the “curriculum” to do something you thought was essential and worthwhile for your students. I love the idea of giving my students more say over classroom design. Most of my classroom is currently covered with teacher-created charts.

    Just like @bevansjoel, I’m also a first grade teacher and I think I could use some of your ideas in my class. I like how you mentioned the older/younger student collaboration idea, as I’ve been looking for ideas on what we can work on this year with our Grade 6 book buddies. I’m thinking this project could be great for helping students to visualize and understand vocabulary words or character traits.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. Tricia,

    I agree with Joel. This is great. As I was reading it, I kept thinking, “Yeah. That’s what I should be doing as well.” Most teachers want to include students in the process, but I’ve noticed that I often include them at the end of the process rather than right from go. Your idea of having students create meaning from the IB Learner Profiles was also really fascinating. This is my first year teaching IB, and while I am trying to incorporate these I haven’t been that successful. What better way to take this on than by having students construct meaning, and construct it visually.

    Thanks for this and all the helpful insights from your own experience.

    1. Chelle–thank you for the positive feedback. It boils down to finding the time to involve our students in the meaningful process of developing our learning environment. I found it a good reminder of the value in slowing down, and thinking long term.

  4. Hi Tricia,
    I love reading your posts and your latest one prompted me to re reading some of your previous. I reread this one and the idea of giving signage to the students so resonated. Having just completed course 3, my mind has been on design, visuals and storytelling and so much more. I asked my grade 1 students about design in the classroom and they came up with their own spaces. Signage is now a joint venture rather than me always leading the way. We did a bit of a scrap, keep and add routine to rethink the classroom story and learning spaces and it has really helped them take ownership and to drive their own learning so much more . Next stop is to create their own story for their parents about the Learner Profile- a much needed communication for our parents who are new to this. what better way than to ask students what this looks like in their lives.
    Thanks again for the inspiring post.

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