Sunday, January 11, 2015

Teacher Creativity Skill: Design and Convey Information Visually

I’ll never forget the first time that I saw another teacher add clip art to a handout for students. Suddenly, my purely text-based handouts seemed lame and inaccessible. There is no doubt that we have come a long way in terms of our ability to enhance our materials for all types of learners. Today, it is a simple process to add visuals to our materials (as well as audio, video, and animations). Multimedia literacy has become more and more important in life, and it is increasingly important in the classroom. And just as clip art once put my text-only handouts to shame, there are now digital tools that enable us to step up our game beyond the free clip art that we find on the web.

Also, helping students develop the skills to effectively communicate their ideas and to create compelling well-designed visuals that empower creative expression is becoming more and more important as we prepare students for a world in which these skills matter. 

When Can We Practice the Skills in the Classroom?

Visual design and communication skills are relevant in a wide range of classroom experiences. Anytime a student wants to share information visually, express themselves through images and video, or persuade others through lasting graphical images, these skills are in play. Here are just a few specific examples:
  • Designing slideshows for presentations.
  • Designing infographics for research projects.
  • Creating graphics for papers, storytelling, blogs and websites.
  • Selecting, creating, and editing images for social media and online projects.
  • Creating videos as classroom projects.
  • Designing posters, flyers, business cards, and . 
  • Designing interactive images and timelines for learning. 

Some Specific Tools of Note

Knowing which tools to use when developing these skills in the classroom is important. There are hundreds of Visualization Tools, Video Tools, Photo Tools, Drawing Tools and Presentation Tools to choose from. Here are just a few of my favorites:

Aurasma- Aurasma is a great way to share information by layering it onto existing images. You pair a trigger image with a video, picture, web address, or 3D object, and users view the object through the Aurasma program

Autodesk Homestyler- Autodesk Homestyler is a really cool tool for creating detailed graphical floor plans. Which can then be viewed in 3D. This takes the diorama and model project to an amazing new level.

Canva- Canva is an amazing graphic design tool for creating great images that stand out. Canva works in layers, offers plenty of free resources, allows for uploads, and is easy to share.

Photofunia- Photofunia is a quick and fun way to add interesting context to your photos or to convey a short message in unique or unexpected ways. 

Piktochart- Piktochart is a fantastic Infographic creation tool that has many of the same powerful features as Canva. You can select from many great free resources, you can upload your own resources, and you can easily share.

Pixlr- Another Autodesk product, Pixlr is actually a family of tools that enable some very impressive photo editing and design. The best part is that there is a tool for every skill level. 

Prezi-  Prezi is still a favorite when it comes to creating compelling visual presentations. 

Recite This- Recite This is a great tool for turning a quote into an eye-catching image. Finished images are easy to share in a variety of ways.

Smore- Smore is a useful newsletter design tool. It is easy to use and offers slick looking templates and resources. It's easy to share in multiple ways. 

ThingLink- ThingLink allow the user to create interactive images that can be filled with buttons that link to online content. ThingLinks can then be embedded in online projects, taking visuals to a whole new level.

Learning Design

Of course, having design tools and knowing how to put them to good use are two different things. It's important to also learn and teach the fundamentals of design. Here are a few resources to get you started:

Our Task

I often find with students that they are so overwhelmed with possibility, that they over-design their images, presentations, flyers, etc. They may have great content, but it gets lost in the poor quality of their design. It is no longer okay to simply teach students to write to convey messages. Because of the nature of media today, we have to teach them to design communication using multimedia. We have to show them how to effectively use the elements of design and the hyperlinked nature of the Internet to share what they know and to express themselves creatively. 

In order to do this, we have to learn these skills alongside our students. We have to model the skills and design lessons that nurture them. Our task is to take our own creativity to the next level and learn to communicate effectively in the Digital Age.


  1. Good list of resources here. Thanks for sharing. :)

  2. Pixlr is one of the favorite sites for processing photos. There are many filters, textures and frames to suit your taste. You can ad to your list Gimp, macphun and fotor editors