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Deepening the thinking

In this blog post I will do a post reflection of the Evernote journal project with the lens of the TPACK integration model, especially since after recently being part of conversations around this with the elementary school teachers.

CC Reproduced by permission of the publisher, © 2012 by tpack.org

“Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) is a framework that identifies the knowledge teachers need to teach effectively with technology” (http://www.tpack.org/)

The model has very clearly defined roles for Content, Pedagogy and Technology, and works towards planning for perfect blend of all three, off course within a context.

For the Coetail project the content for the units was already well defined – ‘Plants’ science unit or India Week

These are the science content enduring understandings for the Plant unit – Student will understand that

  • Living things have basic needs that need to be met in order for the plant to thrive and grow.
  • All living things are systems made up of different parts that help them perform a job
  • The continuity of life is sustained through reproduction and development.
  • Living things interact with one another and their environment for existence and balance

These are India Week content understandings for the module

  • Sensitize the students to the host country’s culture and history
  • The history and beliefs related to major Indian festivals and celebrations
  • Explore traditional and contemporary literary, visual and performing arts of India
  • Understand basic systems of belief in India
  • Understand India’s contribution to the world
  • Reflect on connections between home and host country

Reading and Writing understandings:  Students will understand that –

  • Nonfiction readers read to become learn more about the world.
  • Nonfiction readers use more than just the words in the book to make sense of what they are reading.
  • Informational writers are writing to teach their readers about a topic.

The Pedagogy is a teacher’s “understanding of how students learn, general classroom management skills, lesson planning, and student assessment.” (Koehler & Mishra, 2009)

During some thinking sessions, the 2nd grade team had these insights into building the Inquiry process (an pedagogical approach) for the units. They said –

  • “Our current science content has a lot of activities, but not as much authentic inquiry.  Maybe we let go of some of those activities to help kids have some ownership around forming a question they are really interested in knowing more about.  This inquiry process opens up a whole range of tools for finding information.  Maybe we use this as a controlled release of the inquiry project:  1st = whole class, next = small group of students working on the same question (rather than managing an entire classroom of separate questions)”

For the Evernote plant journals one of the 2nd grade group had used the “Think Puzzle Explore”, a Making Thinking Visible routine, to build inquiry with the whole group using Evernote. A teacher created note (click here to access the note) with guiding questions was pushed out to the student’s plant Notebooks. Then they worked independently on the ipads to record their reflections/ thinking. Using Evernote enabled the controlled release of the inquiry.

The Technology, in this case, used was the Evernote service. The structure and nature of this tool helped with adding another dimension to the process. It helped build for independence (for both teachers and students) and connections (with content and pedagogy)

Some of the reflections from the second grade team included –

  • “Having a science journal – using Evernote – gives kids a place to keep their work.  Using Evernote this year, we found ourselves doing lessons about how to grow our ideas”
  • “Thinking about getting to a point where we can give kids choices about how they show us their thinking and learning (Paper, Evernote, Video. .. ) Still, we need to think about the standards we are going after when we give choices if we give a choice that doesn’t unpack the standard, we need to keep an eye on that”
  • “Video can be a form of publication for a written script”

Using Evernote as a journaling tool gave independence to the students. They were in control and it allowed for both enhancing and modifying classroom pedagogy.

QR codes and Soundcloud and transformation!

Thought of sharing this very interesting lesson with the ipads that the first graders worked with last week.

Aim of the lesson — Record expression for different feelings and listen to others demonstrate different expression.

This was going to be a 2-3 class period activity using the ipads. We were going to use 3 different apps –

  • Soundcloud – to capture, create and share sounds on the cloud
  • Qrafter – QR code creator app
  • Goggles – Google’s QR code scanner

We started with creating an class account on Soundcloud. The students very quickly understood the easy-and-simple-to-use controls for recording and saving on Soundcloud. It was a very rewarding experience watching these young kids record into the ipads using different expressions (happy, sad, mad, excited). They micro managed the lesson in their own way – figuring out the quiet corner in the room to record, improvise and record to perfection, helping friends, communicating with teachers in whispers or sign language. Cute!

The next step was to create the QR codes using the Qrafter app. We did a whole class instruction with copy URL (from Soundcloud) and paste in (Qrafter) to create the code. Once created, they also printed the codes. Believe it or not, the first graders were able to independently handle all this. Fun!

The final lesson was to get familiar with the Goggles scanner. Once they were adept at that, it was a sight to be seen with 7 year olds walking around the classroom with ipads and scanning the QR codes to listen to their friends audio expressions for different feelings. Cool!

Scan this code to get to a sound byte:)

The QR codes are

  • Fun and easy to use/ create
  • ‘specific’ function tool (ready referencing of online products/ services)
  • could be a great ‘research/ inquiry’ management tool
  • Stands for Quick Response code

I first noticed the codes being used at the ISTE conference in Philadelphia, where the showcase presenters were  generating a QR code for each visitor’s comment/ video interview.

They could be used to tag student work/ online portfolios/ blogs (e.g. persuasive reviews, poems), for guided inquiry with any grade level/ content area, creating treasure hunts (with science, literacy, math, getting-to-know-you, tagging artwork with audio reflections, tagging written memoirs with videos, …)

Its easy to use and create, can be applied in all content areas. The Qrafter app is easy enough for even first graders to create and print QR codes.

Go for it!

The Importance Of Creativity In The Classroom

The Importance Of Creativity In The Classroom.

This blogpost kind-of sums up the discussion around ‘Creativity’ in the Coetail class the other evening.

In my opinion Creativity can be neither described nor prescribed and its a failure if at all contrived!

The thing about “Mandates’ …

In the marketing world, the ‘Consumer’ is considered God! One can find multiple options – variety of brands manufacturing similar products, each product having variations to suit individual needs and preferences. Someone likes Chocolate flavor over Strawberry, and both options are available! Neither one of them is less or more than the other but the consumer (in my opinion) feels catered to by having all options available. More importantly, the consumer has the right to ‘choose’.

I would be very disturbed if I was ‘forced’ to choose ice cream over coffee crème brulee for dessert:-(

Since this is a tech blog so I feel the need to state my perspective from a tech standpoint. I started my career by teaching a ‘computer class’ … this is about 15 years ago. My lesson plans were done weekly and all sections of a grade level would work with the same activity. Lesson plans were ‘mandated’ by the software being used/ available. To an extent even the ‘Computer Curriculum’ (yes! that document existed) was mandated by the available software. Enhancements to the Computer Curriculum were kind-of dictated by the newest software out there! The highlight of my first ever Back-to-school-night was showcasing the newest CD-ROM (or not) ‘educational’ software. Back in those days, even the ‘computer curriculum best practices’ were commanded by software.

But, I don’t recall any aspersions that were cast about the (software) mandates imposed by the ‘computer’ leaders. My colleagues were satisfied. In hindsight I read this as not ‘satisfaction’ but ‘compliance’ for lack of choices.

It has been a long journey since then and the word ‘Computer’ has been replaced by ‘Technology’. My role is that of a ‘Facilitator’ and not limited to being a ‘Computer Teacher’. We don’t have a mandated ‘Computer Curriculum’, and technology is moving towards being more of an in-house (read in-classroom) practice. Each classroom has a flavor (reflects the nature of both teacher and students) of its own – in terms of design, structure, routines, … and there is a range of tech tools to choose from. Wow! albeit sometimes too many choices can be a bit confusing too! Now it is the homeroom teacher that creates the blue print for tech-in-the-classroom design, as she is the one who is closest to knowing the needs of her students and classroom.

I’m more in favor of having choices and respect for people’s choices. Is it possible to categorize someone’s preference of one thing over another as good or bad? Do I have the right to judge the use of one strategy over another?

Yes, there are best practices that could be followed coz’ those are backed by evidence of their success but who am I to impose the use of those best practices, that too from outside… Do we have to follow the best practices? Or is it more about analyzing the ‘suitability’ of the suggested best practice within a context? I realize the value of having organizational systems and procedures but at what level do they play a role? — macro (visioning) or micro ( classroom management)

Going back to the real world-marketing scenario, there is a very important place for advertisements too! If there is a product out there, then it must be ‘broadcasted’ so that the consumer knows that it’s available. It is the manufacturer’s responsibility to guide the consumer’s preferences but it’s not different than imposing.

Now, if the marketing campaign for ice cream was as intense as my ‘leaning’ towards coffee crème brulee, then I might be convinced to (if not change) but at least try ice cream for dessert!

It’s more about convincing… not imposing. That’s a fine line…

And convincing needs a lot of investment ($’s in the marketing world), time and energy! Phew! I need some sugar…I guess its time for a coffee crème brulee!!

Final Project

While developing this technology-integrated lesson I tried to focus on exploring the use of a Learning Theory that I wanted to explore in depth further.  I specifically avoided using other learning theories because based on my understandings I thought that they align a lot better and are a natural fit to technology integration. I wanted to try a different learning theory and work on its applicability.

The Unit Plan that I have referenced for the project is archived under Atlas Rubicon, our school’s curriculum database. I then modified appropriate sections of the unit to develop the lesson plan.

The technology integrated lesson will use at least 3 different apps to cover all the Nine events of instructions. The apps used are Nearpod (teacher and Student), Explain Everything and Tensframe.

A little about the apps –

Nearpod

1. Create: Teachers login to new.nearpod.com to create multimedia presentations with interactive features such as quizzes, videos, polls, sketching tools, and more.

2. Engage: In the classroom, teachers use the Nearpod Teacher iPad app to share content with their students and manage the flow of the lesson. Students will use the Nearpod Student app on their iOS devices to receive curricular content, participate in activities and submit responses

3. Assess: Teachers can see students’ answers in real time on the Nearpod Teacher app.To access post-session data, teachers can log in to new.nearpod.com and obtain detailed activity reports.

Tensframe

1. A tool for playing with numbers up to five and ten.

2. Provides a tens frame and ten counters, five blue and five purple.

Explain Everything –

1. A design tool that allows to annotate, animate, and narrate explanations and presentations.

2. Records on-screen drawing, annotation, object movement and captures audio via the iPad microphone.

Linked Documents —

  • The Nearpod Teacher presentation ( PIN# FKDJB )is linked here. Click here for the movie in the presentation
  • The samples of Explain Everything movies are linked here. (Sample 1, Sample 2)
  • View the Unit Plan and Lesson Plan here.

Teaching in the future

Technology and its benefits are instigating a complete re-design of not just learning spaces but also recoding the pedagogy. When I first started to teach technology (yes, it used to be called ‘computer class’!!) it was unimaginable to get any teacher to use the computer outside of computer class’ 30 min! Now what I witness is simply amazing and an antithesis to the past– students blogging independently, online reading, mind mapping, SIS systems, online grade books, collaborative planning… The inclusion of technology in classroom planning and structure has been inevitable. Did we ever have control over this change?

I feel it’s an unbridled wave that is taking us towards the unknown yet beckoning horizon.

Technology has transformed schooling and will continue to do so. In my opinion it is a foregone conclusion that technology is bringing a refurbishment in educational pedagogy, wherein learning environments are not exclusively behaviorist in nature but moving towards the constructivist setting. The article about the TPACK model clearly says (refer blog post) that there is a paradigm shift in learning practice that has been brought about by teachers who are embracing newer technologies.

I think of the education, technology and future and get ‘transported’ to the (past) Star Trek days. But imagine getting ‘transported’ to another location!! This part used to be most fascinating for me and seemed so futuristically undoable in those times. And now doesn’t Skype help do something similar…? Who knows in the near/ distant future we might be able to physically ‘transport’ an entomologist to the classroom while working on an ‘Insect ‘unit or ‘transport’ the kids to the forest to ‘experience’ the Rain forestJ This would add a ‘real’ or sci-fi dimension to the curriculum! I wonder about the nature of the curriculum-of-the-future…? Or will they change to a series of experiences made possible via technology? And what about textbooks…? The book of future as shown by Mike Matas is informative and supported by audio-visual cues. Would these books reshape the way education is attained, measured and delivered?

I very recently bought ‘Monopoly’ and was surprised to see how it had been reinvented to keep up with the times – it now did not have fake paper money but instead has credit cards and a card swiping machine! Will this change impact its inclusion in a classroom as an resource?

Will there be a collaborative online game that is designed to understand ‘Food chains and impact of their imbalance on the environment’? Or a game designed to understand ‘Community’? The paper ‘Moving Learning Games Forward’ describes how the nature of the games developed over last 15 years has changed from problem solving and logical thinking games to collaborative, open games.

Will educators-of-future be involved in game and app design? They certainly have been modifying Bingo to suit the classroom’s learning needs, is it time to move on to designing games on a wider platform?

For me it is very challenging to envision a future in the ephemeral world of technology. Technology has always been dynamic and has initiated major societal changes but the ‘pace of change’ has certainly revved up. Sometimes it feels like a roller coaster ride and don’t know what’s coming around the next bend!!!  To emphasize the short life span of any technology, I’ll share a recent instance – in one of the classrooms a couple of students needed reminders about how to drag a clipart on the laptop!! Amazing how the continued use of touch screen devices has started to make using two hands (for click and drag) a redundant skill. These kids are working within an already fading frame of reference. Is it time to say goodbye to the laptops?  The impact of touch based technology shown in the famous Corning glass video (which was first released not very long ago) is all starting to become possible.

Another example would be the little pendant device made by the MIT graduate Pranav Mistry which was showcased in The Sixth Sense TED talk. (The device “is a wearable gestural interface that augments the physical world around us with digital information and lets us use natural hand gestures to interact with that information”) Imagine the impact of this device in schools? The whole Digital Citizenship lessons will have to be re written.

Also, what about the Siri interface on the iPad? Will teachers be talking to their devices to schedule appointments with parents or search for information? Will I now hear kids ‘talking’ to their devices in the classrooms…? What happens to keyboarding skills or handwriting skills or spellings? Will the classroom beliefs now include ‘please raise your hand before you talk to your ipad’ ?:-) I don’t know but am willing to explore…

There always will be a plethora of newer possibilities on the educational technology horizon and but what can’t be minimized is the creativity and adaptability of the educators to be able to construct appropriate learning experiences.

Integration and Technology Management

With the increase in available educational technologies and the permeation of devices in school environments there is an ever-increasing need to set the stage for the effective use of technology. Irrespective of where and what technology the kids are using, it is imperative for the educators to set parameters and procedures to allow for smoother use of technology. It is important to inculcate a culture of technology-usage based on core values of citizenship – sharing, respect, responsibility and initiative. In my opinion, the setting of the stage is a two-pronged affair –

  • - One is to work on inculcating the habits of mind (within purview of technology education) which will help students to function successfully in the real world
  • - And the other would be to develop routines and processes (needless to say that these also serve the bigger purpose), which have an immediate connection with the content and student learning.

It is also important to understand the difference between controlled environments versus managing the environment. In one of the articles, the University of Denver lists some very specific Do’s and Don’ts for technology use, which I feel encourages a sort-of claustrophobic and mandated tech-use environment. I understand the need for a procedure to handle disciplinary issues but with simple issues like ‘screen time’, those are routines not policies.

I feel that the students need to be stakeholders in the management of technology. They need to feel a sense of ownership with the routines and more importantly the thinking behind those. The whole process of developing the tech management plan within the classroom needs to be similar to the ES restitution model where the classroom teachers are facilitating the students’ discussions and generating classroom beliefs. Within the technology frame of reference these would be Technology Use Beliefs, which would serve as the backbone of tech climate in the pod/ classroom.

The article by Katie Tonarely talks about a ‘Classroom Technology Contract’ which lists specific classroom usage rules. This contract would supplement the school’s RUP. I think this is just a fabulous idea!

It is vital that the classroom/ subject teachers take on the task of generating the beliefs/ routines. And this should not be looked at as an additional responsibility coz’ then that would fail the whole purpose of ‘seamless’ technology. The tech facilitators and classroom teachers should work as a team to figure out the best practices that would be suitable for individualized technology use environments.

Presently, in the ES the tech facilitators are doing the Digital Citizenship lessons while in an ideal scenario this ought to be a lesson done as a team (with classroom teacher playing a bigger role). Also, the tech use routines will vary in each classroom depending upon the learning styles of the students, and so this is something that needs to be revisited. Another thought – Does it have to be limited to a ‘package’ applicable to the whole school? Or is there a need to personalize the ‘package’ for the classroom?

The management needs differ depending on the device used, iPad or laptop, or the purpose of the lesson – collaboration or communication or sharing. The classroom needs will also vary based on the set up of the classroom – work in centers, in the amphitheater, open spaces outside the classroom. Keeping all these variables in mind, I feel the need for a classroom ‘Personalized Digital Etiquette Plan’ which is in addition to a school wide ‘Digital Citizenship Plan”. The Classroom Plan design is something that I would like to work on in the future. I envision these Classroom plans to be dynamic and designed within the ‘context’ as per TPACK model

Here are some examples of technology management plans at AES and/or ES

Technology management (customized plan according to activity) at micro level–

  • - While working on projects involving audio recording students to – find quiet areas in the classroom/ pod, Use of recording studio, Use hand signals to call for help, Take turns to record
  • - While working (Poetry writing) with the ipads outside in the open – Hug your iPads as you walk, Don’t work and walk at the same time, Sit under the shade where it is safe, Keep the iPad on your lap not on the sand/ grass, Return the stylus to the teacher at the end of the class

Technology management (School wide Plan) at macro level–

  • - Device sharing routines (include sign ups/ Google calendars, shared responsibility with maintenance of devices)
  • - Information sharing (include sharing of passwords for online subscriptions, educational apps, upcoming events, school blog as an lesson database)
  • - Staff training (whole group, small groups, 1 to 1, need based sessions e.g. printing report cards training to secretaries)
  • - Understanding scope and needs (via conversations at team meetings, 1 to 1, Tech survey)
  • - Platforms to share (Idea Alike Sessions, Teachers Train Teachers, Mini Tech conferences)
  • - Parent Education forums
  • - Cloud storage (Drop box, Evernote, Google Drive)
  • - E-documentation vehicles (Voice thread, Blogs)
  • - Research and Dialog (Forums for discussing best practices and key trends in emerging technologies (Mobile Learning –> Game Based Learning –> Gesture Based Learning) (NMC Horizon report)

And miles to go before I sleep …

~Robert Frost

Flipping the ES classroom

Technology has changed the flavor of methods of content delivery, and this is more so due to the increase in accessibility and the collaborative nature of the newer tech tools.

The article by Punya Mishra about the TPACK models says “teachers who change the technology they use naturally make changes to their pedagogical approach and the content they cover to create a new “curriculum” which is highly effective.”

The statement above refers to the evolution of a new ‘curriculum’, interesting!! I understand the above quote as the next step towards seamless technology integration. We are not just talking about ‘using technology’ (that’s a given!) but we are now also starting to talk about ‘altering/ modifying the pedagogy” by continuously adapting newer technologies. Wow! And how does this impact teaching strategies? Does the use of technology tools create more opportunities for making content delivery apposite? This also stimulates me to think that in addition to Higher Order Thinking Skills (for students) is there a need for Higher Order Teaching Skills (for educators)…? The NETs for teachers also talks about ‘digital age teaching’ Lesson planning and design process (within the technology frame of reference) involves creativity, evaluation, application and more. Designing lessons for a Flipped classroom would most naturally involve some of these skills.

The Flipped Classroom learning theory is something that is much talked about with most references and examples from middle school/ high school, and fewer from elementary school. And so this has intrigued me for sometime and this blog post has provided an opportunity to delve a bit more deeply into the application of this particular learning theory in the lower primary grade levels.

In the elementary school the application of this learning theory would be uniquely different due to –
• Age group of the students
• Concentration span levels
• Parent involvement to ensure tech setup
• Adult supervision at school and home

For the learning theory to be a success in lower ES grade levels it really needs to be in small increments and so in my opinion it has to be a ‘flipped lesson’ and not a ‘flipped classroom’. The learning theory can be a success if it is used in moderation and in context with the curriculum. The nature of the content that is intended for delivery has to be very carefully thought over. Reason being that most ES classrooms use a combination of most learning theories – behaviorism, constructivism, … and each one of them (including Flipped classroom) will be applicable to certain sections/ units of the curriculum. With the flipped lesson theory for the ES the key lies in understanding the difference between small scale application vs. large scale application Also what is important is the timing and adaptation of using the flipped lesson strategy – is it for introduction of the lesson or in the middle of the lesson or for reinforcement?

Another key concept is that a flipped lesson is not about the ‘video’ but about the student ‘learning’. The videos could be either teacher or commercially created but the focus needs to be on the constructivist learning activities following the ‘consumption’ of the video.

Some key aspects to be mindful of when doing a Flipped lesson in ES (resource blog post) –

• Model expectations in class, demonstrate how the students need to stop the video and take notes (for Gd 3-5). Note taking is very important as these will serve as the backbone of class discussions

• Link videos and related videos to teacher blogs for ease of access
• Start with using videos from commercially created websites and then make your own. Kids love to hear and see their teacher.
• Think and plan the video based on the lesson outcome
• Start small, maybe one subject area at a time

Technology integration can add a new dimension to both aspects of a Flipped lesson – ‘independent’ content consumption as well as ‘group’ discussions/ interactions/ activities. Below are listed some ways in which technology integration could be used for a Flipped lesson.

Technology Integrated activities and independent content consumption

– Use of commercially created videos e.g. Safari Montage video database. These could be viewed at school either individually or as a whole class session. These videos are extensively used as part of Grade 1 science unit on Insects
– Use of teacher created videos using devices such as iPads or flip cameras or screen casting apps such as Explain Everything. These could be uploaded to teacher blogs for use at home. E.g. First grade focuses on handwriting with correct strokes. Teacher created videos using simple screen casting apps could be linked to teacher blogs to refer to at home. These could help in serving as a bank of reinforcement videos for the kids (and parents)

– Use YouTube videos for introduction to the ‘How-to’ unit for Grade 1

– Use YouTube video for ‘How-to-zoom-in-on-the-iPad camera’ for EC kids

– The Xtramath videos for the online math program could be used for self paced introduction

– The Brain Pop video about ‘Blogs” could be viewed at home. This could be followed by a class discussion or a KWL activity about blogs/ digital journals.
– A video resource for ‘device handling and care’ as part of the Digital Etiquette unit. These videos could be created by students to demonstrate their understanding of Digital citizenship

Technology Integrated activities to be used as part of the learning activities in class

– Use shared Google docs to take notes about K/W/L
– Use mind-mapping apps in the classroom to brainstorm and record ideas e.g. Popplet, Maptini
– Use word processing (Pages) apps to create informational brochures/ newsletters
– Make charts/ graphs using Numbers app to represent understanding of data) presented in the video)
– Use the Whiteboard  app and work in pairs to make a pictorial representation of understanding of the content
– Use the Recorder app to take audio notes about reflections
– Create informational cards about the insects using the Life cards app

The examples of techintegrated activities are numerous and list will continue to grow as tech tools evolve.

Another insight to my thinking about flipped classroom – Should my group have flipped the CoeTail presentation on ‘Behaviorism – a learning theory’? We could have shared the video prior to the class and then used the allocated 10 min for hands on activities/group discussions…? Would it have brought better understandings to the group? I’d love to try it once though!

Or how about making an Elementary School ‘Flipped Lesson’ Channel (You tube) which serves as an database of videos…

Digital Story samples

Visual Literacy

An ES classroom scenario – Project work in progress, students are working in groups of 2-3’s, teacher is moving from  one group to another, lots of conversations and discussions going on, tons of constructive energy…and then the teacher calls out and  raises her hand with the peace gesture. Within 30 seconds all is quite in the room with students looking expectantly at the teacher for next set of directions!

The peace hand gesture is an example of visual communication (includes gestures, symbols, signs and objects) that the students were able to interpret and act accordingly. Another example of visual communication is this (taken from a second grade c’room) wall sign that brings out the ‘global’ message around the concept of peace.

The use of varied forms of visual communications can be witnessed in all classrooms for a variety of purposes. It is amazing how this form of communication, in the form of posters, signs, bulletin boards, worksheets, rubrics and more is so enmeshed into the content core areas. Simple things like painted signs on the staircases to use of photos on the classroom teacher blogs are in use to connect with the students and parents.

In the article Brain Rules by John Medina, he says that ‘Vision trumps all other senses’. There are five traditionally accepted methods of perception (via the sensory organs) – touch, sight, taste, vision and hearing. Of these  the maximum amount of input to the brain is via what one sees through the eyes, and so for this reason use of visual forms of communicating have always been in practice in education.

Now, literacy, in the literal sense, means interpreting and unpacking information to generate understandings. The decoding and understanding the message via visual communication is Visual Literacy. Visual literacy is another educational strand, the importance of which cannot be minimized. Erin Riesland in his article “Visual Literacy and the Classroom” stresses upon student empowerment by educating them to understand and communicate via visual modes. He also emphasizes the need to enable the students with the tools needed in the 21st century.

Using the visual forms, the interpretation of the information (via text, symbols and signs) becomes easier especially for the younger ones. For students, experiential learning has always helped make stronger connections where all the senses are in play. Graphically laid out information encourages not just passive assimilation but also sparks active synthesis. The nonlinear format of developing insights about concrete topics such as Shapes and Landforms to abstract topics such as Unity or Migration is very powerful. The decoding of the concepts via graphical representation helps with far better retention and developing personal perspectives.  These understandings stay with the student forever.

Visual literacy helps develop cognitive skills for the students. It helps reduce the barrier of language for comprehension, and this can be so very helpful for EAL students. Visual literacy provides for an emotionally engaging yet intellectually challenging learning environment.

In today’s world, students need to be not just interpreters of information but producers as well. With the technological advancements and ease of accessibility, there is a plethora of tools to choose from. And so another component to visual literacy in schools needs to be exposing and familiarizing students with the audio/ video technologies that they can use to create. The visual literacy education also needs to encompass the design elements (fonts/ styles/ layout/…) Examples could be an Kindergarten kid’s drawing to represent his perspective on Peace or a more tech savvy product like ‘Peace movies’ done by 5th graders.  Another example of a representation of understanding would be a 5th grader’s presentation on Migration. In all these examples the student is a producer of visual representation of his understanding.

Visual literacy serves the purpose of Visible Thinking, a Harvard initiative that the ES has embraced. All the thinking routines suggested by Project Zero Institute at Harvard are about developing understandings via graphics or demonstrating understandings via creating visuals. The headlines routine or the color, symbol, image routine, all are intense strategies which encourage knowledge construction and exemplification of the understandings.

Our MS art teacher had done these line drawings which represented her understandings of the Delhi traffic patterns. When these were shared with second graders, their insights were astoundingly astute. And something that stood out was how each one of them translated the different colors, length of the stroke, thickness of the stroke!, and off course these observations were within the context of ‘Delhi traffic’ that they had experienced. They had personal perspectives, e.g. honking that they had experienced at the traffic signals connected to the red strokes in the drawings.

 

 

In addition to serving the purpose of Visible Thinking, the above example also highlights the need to educate students about the impact of the design elements on the audience. The students need to be exposed to the six fundamental aptitudes – Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy,  Play,  Meaning (by Dan Pink) for not just creating but also for interpreting graphically laid out information. It could be as simple as use of appropriate fonts, colors and layout to complex skills as presentation techniques with focus on mood and tone.

As per the The Visual literacy White Paper to be visually literate a person should be able to –

  • Understand the subject matter of images
  • Analyze and interpret images to gain m eaning within the cultural context the image was created and exists
  • Analyze the syntax, synergy, interaction, innovation , affective impact and/or feel of the image
  • Evaluate the work in terms of purpose and audience

And so to conclude, here’s a quote by George Lucas, eminent filmmaker says that “When people talk to me about the digital divide, I think of it not being so much about who has access to what technology as who knows how to create and express themselves in this new language of the screen. If students aren’t taught the language of sound and images, shouldn’t they be considered as illiterate as if they left college without being able to read or write?”