Nice to Meet You…

Photo Credit: Caro Wallis via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Caro Wallis via Compfight cc

Lucky me, I was one of the many COETAILers at Learning 2.014 in Bangkok last weekend! On the first morning I arrived at the HUB ready and excited for Pre-conferences. Naturally, I headed straight for the coffee to make sure that I stayed awake and alert throughout Shaun’s (@shaunyk) fully day session on Differentiation with the iPad. I lifted up the full jug of milk to pour some into my coffee cup and of course, it went all over the place! It just so happens that this was the exact moment when fate decided I would meet Jeff Utech face to face…hmmm…

His first words to me were, “Are you causing trouble already?!” With the way things looked, I figured my only response could be, “Yep, I guess so.” We got the usual small talk out out the way and then I mentioned how I had no idea how I was going to finish my COETAIL blog post for the week. His response, “Just write a reflection on the conference, we’re all here anyway!”

Two Birds with One Stone

Sure, I could easily write a reflection on the conference, but I wanted to write a reflection that also hit one of the big ideas in couse three. The two that I hadn’t written posts for yet were ‘Digital Storytelling’ and ‘Infographics and Data Visualization’. After getting to meet Nicki Hambleton (@itsallaboutart) in person and attend her extended session on Demonstrating Learning Visually, I found the perfect combo: Data Visualization through the lense of Visual Note Taking.

Let’s begin with some of my first attempts at using Adobe Ideas within Nicki’s session and during the following day’s L2L Talks. In Nicki’s extended session, we were asked to think about an idea or a word from the L2L Talks that we would then draw visually. I thought of the word ‘Risk’ from Sara Fleming’s (@sfleming36) talk, but it took me a long time to come up with an image. Eventually an image came to mind, a wine glass breaking. My first attempt wasn’t very good, it was also rushed since I drew it as Nicki counted us down through the last minute! Unfortunately I did’t think to keep that drawing. I erased it and continued to edit it through the session with more tips and tricks that Nicki taught us. Here is my first completed visual note with just a single idea from Sarah’s talk:


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Since I wasn’t great at free hand drawing, I relied heavily on the ability to search for images that you could trace within Adobe Ideas. I decided I would practice the skills I had learned from Nicki in the following morning’s L2L talks. They were short and I could pick out one idea from each to show visually. Here is my second try at visual notetaking:


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What did I learn from Nicki and my first few experiences taking visual notes?

  • The process of interpreting an idea into a visual representation is HARD!
  • It requires multitasking as you listen, summarize main ideas, interpret the ideas into a visual, then plan and problem solve as you lay it out on your page.  Don’t forget all the fine motor skills involved!!!!
  • Reading and interpreting visuals also requires a multitude of skills

This has led me to ask the same question that Nicki repeated several times in her L2L talk:

Why aren’t we teaching more visually?

It obviously draws on so many skills and so much learning!

Let’s Make it Personal

The effectiveness of visuals in learning and importance of visual literacy was undeniable after our weekend at Learning 2.014. So, how would it all fit into where I was coming from? Where was its place in my school, how could I use these skills in my teaching?

In my cohort, we spent some time thinking about how we could incorporate these skills as tech coaches and within the age groups that we worked with. One of the ideas that I thought of was to tie it in with Project Zero’s Visible Thinking Routines. Obviously, they’ve already started with the CSI (Color, Symbol, Image) routine. But, what if students had the option to respond visually to other routines like See, Think, Wonder or I used to think…Now I think… I feel like it would create more opportunity for discussion, extension and creativity.

After returning back to work, I had a couple meetings with different grade levels to plan the next series of lessons I would work on with their students. In first grade, they are moving into a reading unit on Character Study. Students need to think about characters in the books they read and reflect on what their characters would say, think and feel. This could be a perfect opportunity for the first graders to use visuals to represent their characters, then later interpret each other’s visuals and build further discussion. I will have to meet with the first grade team again to see if there will be a way we can build this into their reading unit, but the possibility of it excites me!

Thank you to Nicki for all the learning and fun! Thank you also to everyone on the Learning 2.014 team that made this wonderful conference possible. I cannot wait for next year!!!


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