Zen & the Art of Presentation Maintenance.

While reading through this week’s various articles and presentations, there was one idea repeated throughout – simplicity. I started thinking about my own design inclinations: jazzy, showy, colorful and busy. Basically the opposite of simple. I needed to do some serious weeding of my Google slides garden.

Looking back through my presentations, though, I decided to pick one that is actually lacking in visual aesthetics and errs on the side of basic & boring. This presentation needs some work, particularly in, as blogger Garr Reynolds refers to them, the areas of “Empathy” & “Play“. Reynolds believes that with empathy, the expert designer has “the ability to put themselves in the position of the user, the customer, or the audience member.” Being able to view my presentation through the eyes of my teenaged audience is key and will ultimately determine my efficacy as a teacher.

For the design area of Empathy, I would update the theme – make it more colorful, bold and eye-catching. I think I would alternate the use of images for whole backgrounds and include more block quotes than long lists of bullet-pointed text. (The ultimate in “Death by Power-Point“)

Garr also notes the positive effects in adding elements of “Play” into presentations. In his discussion of the power of laughter, Garr quotes the Indian Physician Madan Kataria:

“Laughing people are more creative people. They are more productive people.” 

The take-away? Laughter IS the best medicine! And when the audience is full of teenagers who want to be anywhere but in the classroom? Providing little moments of humor in a presentation can be the difference between blank stares and drooping lids to actively engaged learners. Looking back through this presentation, I can see that I need to be more purposeful in integrating those little moments of humor, whether in the form of a light-hearted slide or in my own presentation notes.

Now, back to work on weeding that garden…

Photo Credit: Deposit Photos via Creative Commons

1,000 Words

Image Credit: Miriam Morningstar
Image Credit: Miriam Morningstar

For my IB Higher Level English Literature course, we study the text In Pharaoh’s Army by Tobias Wolff. A memoir of the writer’s experiences during the Vietnam War, In Pharaoh’s Army poses the difficult question: what does it mean to be a hero? At times honest and self-deprecating, Wolff asks his readers to examine the true (often brutal) nature of war. The account is an exploration of the often blurred lines of war and the resulting ambiguities between the “winners” and “losers” of war.

The photo my teammate, Lindsay and I have selected is a Pulitzer Prize winner taken by Eddie Adams, circa 1968. The image is perhaps one of the most infamous photos from the Vietnam War and depicts the highly visceral moment before an apparent execution. The photo leaves the viewer with a profound sense of unease, as the circumstances of the photo are somewhat ambiguous and leave the viewer asking:

Who is the enemy here? Who should we be “vying” for?

Saigon Execution

Image Credit: Some Rights Reserved. Saigon Execution by Cliff 

The prompt for the discussion of this photo: “See, Think, Wonder“. First students are asked to jot down notes on what they can physically see. In other words, just the facts on the surface. Then, they are asked to jot down ideas about what they think is going on. This is their turn to speculate and make inferences based on visual evidence. Finally, they are asked to wonder, writing down any questions they have about the photo.

A picture is worth quite a few words, if not at least 1,000. In my experience, incorporating visual aids into literature-based lessons adds a new dimension to discussions and ultimately, to student understanding and engagement with the content.

Image Credit:https://flic.kr/p/7KheFz

Fun with Fonts!


We are a Moodle school and so my goal with this week’s  is to jazz up my 10th grade Moodle page, with the hopes of scoring some artistic points from my students. Based on this week’s readings, it seems that a major part of designing a webpage (or, in this case, a Moodle page) is in breaking “down that raw information into delicious little chunks of visually relevant information that are easy on the eyes, and more importantly, effective at communicating the message behind a webpage.” I love the idea of delivering what can sometimes be boring content in “delicious little chunks” and have tried to convey this very message to my students about their own blogs. In fact, I’ve decided to have my students read a couple of the articles to add to their own digital literacy, namely “Understanding Visual Hierarchy in Web Design” & “Lazy Eyes“. 

With my own Moodle page, I’ve decided to show a “Before” & “After” screen shot. The before screen shot is from a unit a couple of months ago. I do think the information is delivered in a fairly succinct format, but there are limited attempts to achieve the concepts touted in the “Visual Hierarchy” article.


Screen Shot 2016-02-14 at 10.57.23 AM


Screen Shot 2016-02-14 at 10.28.38 AM

With this lesson, I purposefully included multiple forms of media, font colors, font sizes, hyper links and succinct directions. The result? Student engagement did not appear to be affected, but perhaps my teenagers are offering subconscious affirmation for my attempts to engage them on the hierarchy of visual aids. One thing I will for sure do with my Moodle page is to continue to practice what I preach!