Monthly Archives: January 2016

Learning to Look

         flickr photoshared by t_a_i_s under aCreative Commons(BY-NC-SA)license

     It’s not what you look at, it’s what you see.

by Henry David Thoreau American author, poet and                       philosopher

Many an object is not seen, though it falls within the range of our visual ray, i.e we are not looking for it. So, in the largest sense, we only find the world we look for.

Journal. 2nd July 1857

Visual literacy is about developing one’s thinking and one’s ability to see. It is not a new concept. From caveman images to today’s media rich-visuals,  we have been interpreting and constructing meaning from images. The power of images can provoke discussions that can confirm or change our understanding of something. Whether there is consensus or not, the discussions and our reflections can provide meaning and extend the learning.

flickr photosharedbyarcher10 (Dennis)(65M Views)underaCreative Commons(BY-SA)license

What do we see? Is she smiling or serious and how can we see both?

Brian Kennedy Director Toledo Museum of Art

We’ve all heard the old adage “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Learning to read those pictures gives us advantages in both work and life.


He talks about the importance of visual literacy. He outlines 5 steps in learning to look.

Look, see, describe, analyse, interpret

Students today are part of an exciting revolution in the way we see and communicate our thinking about the world. Teaching visual and media literacy is part of that exciting revolution. From the moment they are born, children are surrounded by visual and media communication and are hard at work decoding their environment , using images to make sense of their world, able to make connections with the information they see. Helping them develop those skills through visual literacy will help them become designers themselves when they create their own messages as well as becoming more media savvy consumers. The ability to create visuals digitally has speeded up the art of creating but the elements of design: form, shape, space, line and colour are just as important whether creating a masterpiece on canvas or on screen. It’s whether we look, see, describe, analyse and interpret and what we do in our thinking after seeing those images that matters. I think  George Lucas outlines the importance of visual literacy perfectly in his interview with James Daly.


We live and work in a visually sophisticated world, so we must be sophisticated in using all the forms of communication, not just the written word. We must accept the fact that learning how to communicate with graphics, with music, with cinema, is just as important as communicating with words. Understanding these rules is as important as learning how to make a sentence work.

He talks about ” parallel paths” in education and asks the question:

Is the information students now gain outside the classroom more in touch with learning the language of motion and sound and graphics?

Considering this question made me make the connection with the research made by Mimi Ito on new youth media practices in the US, called Hanging out, Messing around and Geeking out and her article on Youmedia, a digital library space for teenagers in Chicago, a space that manages to merge those “parallel paths” in education. We must move with the times.

Aesthetics and visuals have always played an important role in life and teaching. How I see and what I see helps me to understand, make connections, remember things, initiates further thought and encourages an emotional response. My responses set off a chain of events in my learning. How something looks conveys a message.  It invites me in and encourages me to want to become involved. So visual design and awareness have always been important elements in my teaching and classroom design. My classroom has to be a space that my students and I want to be in to encourage the inquiry and learning to happen . And although there will be some repetition in the design, the space changes to meet the purpose of the learning.

 This week’s reflection about design and visuals sparked a discussion with my students:

Where is your favourite space in the classroom? Nearly all said the comfy, familiar, reading area where I have taken great care to think about design, space, aesthetics, and organisation to invite the students in to read and respond to literacy . Their reasons,

It looks nice and I want to go there a lot. I love looking at all the books there.

They chose a good design space and it made me think about my blog. Does it look nice and do I want to go there a lot? Hmm, I’ve got a lot to do. I read about Web Design by Brandon Jones and Do-s and Don’t-s For Visual Use. I came across the word aesthlete, Brad Troemel writes

The long-derided notion of the “masterpiece” has reached its logical antithesis with the aesthlete: a cultural producer who trumps craft and contemplative brooding with immediacy and rapid production.

Athletic aesthetics are a by-product of art’s new mediated environment, wherein creators must compete for online attention in the midst of an overwhelming amount of information.

We are informavores writes Jakob Nielson,

On the Internet, we hunt for facts. In earlier days, when switching between sites was time-consuming, we tended to stay in one place and dig. Now we assess a site quickly, looking for an “information scent.” We move on if there doesn’t seem to be any food around.

I read about the importance of the design being able to convey the message clearly and effortlessly in Dustin Wax’s four major design elements, CRAP  . Whilst writing this blog, I am struggling to be clear and succint in my writing, sharp in the design and finding the just right visuals that really convey my thinking. So bring on Course 3. The other research I did for this post was easy. I reflected on why I am drawn to so many of the  blogs on Coetail and here are the reasons why:

  • Well thought out design, easy on the eye
  • Rich visuals and ideas –Rebecca Jardin I want to be in your Art room
  • Thought-provoking, clear writing that makes me want to know more
  • Great learning space for using new tools and discovering new sites
  • Easy to navigate
  • Something I can connect to
  • People I want to connect to

I have been unhappy with my blog for a while now. I look at other blogs and dream of being able to achieve the same clarity and design whilst remaining an individual. I keep coming back to Mark Agger’s question:

Does the design feature improve user experience?

I think not. I have changed a few things. I made a new header and muted the colours. In my messing around I managed to delete my Twitter timeline. This was in fact a good thing because I decided that I only wanted the Twitter button on my home page. The Twitter timeline may come later, or not. So here are my projects for my blog design:

Change the header from time to time, making sure the images are clear. Design  headers that say a little something about me

Change my About Me infographic- it’s unclear and badly designed

Think about colour, format and typography on my blog

Learn how to use different forms of media on my blog

Work on conveying my thoughts using less words

Add Twitter, email and my classroom blog to the side bar for ease of use

Add a gallery for my recent posts on the side bar- thank you Rebecca Jardin

Think about the footer on my blog and make it a more interesting and useful space for users

Ask for and don’t be scared of feedback

I have a lot of projects ahead. I am a visual learner and am disappointed that I find it hard to replicate many of the things I have been learning about this week. Last year I started sketch noting with my class. I was a Coetail newbie and came across a wonderful blog by a fellow coetailer Stephanie Thompson and started reading about sketch noting. Thanks to her ideas, we now doodle or sketch note during read alouds and at other times during the day. It helps and shows our thinking. Recently I read Wonder Goal by Michael Forman, a book about realising your dreams and found this in one of my students sketch books.

I want to be a Ninja Misha

Misha’s dream-to be a Ninja

So my dream is to become a WordPress Ninja to realise my project.