V is for Visuals #EdublogsClub

This is my response to the this week’s prompt as a part of the Edublogs Club challenge: write a post that includes an image.

Picture This
“Picture This” by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Robert Schuetz posted about the power of images for blogging. He argued that,

Readers are more likely to view and remember blog posts that include visual content.

Schuetz provides a range of evidence to support this.

I like to include visuals in my posts. They involve a quote from the village, with a corresponding Lego graphic. I often use the pictures created by JustLego101. Although I used to use Google Drawings, more lately I have turned to Google Slides as I can then have a master template and it works on mobile. I have elaborated on this here.

Some might say this is branding, however I prefer to see it as just another form of expression. I don’t think everyone goes to the same length for images, happy enough to post whatever comes up in Compfight or making quick quotes with Quozio. Here then are a collection of bloggers whose visual choices have inspired me over time:

#3ofme via Amy Burvall

Amy Burvall: You know it when you see them, Burvall’s black and pink sketches made with Paper53 are unique. Whether it be a quote or an icon, she uses her distinct style to communicate her thinking.

Image via Austin Kleon

Austin Kleon: Known for blackout poetry and graphical sketches, similar to Burvall Kleon has a carefree style (although I am sure it takes plenty of effort). He often summarises his thinking in a concise manner. Beyond his blog, Kleon’s images usually find their way into his books and weekly newsletter.

Image drawn by Bryan Mathers

Bryan Mathers: Like Kleon and Burvall, Mathers has a distinct style, often representing metaphors visually. Also using a range of apps, including Paper53, he captures ideas in a complex and concise manner. He is also the man behind artistic updates at both Reclaim Hosting and Hack Education.

Sylvia Duckworth: You would be hard pressed to find a teacher who hasn’t been to a professional development session somewhere along the way that has incorporated one of Duckworth’s sketchnotes. These are not only engaging, but always informative. Although there are sketchnotes still available via Flickr, the majority are now available through her book.

Image by Silvia Tolisano and used with permission

Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano: In response to Robert Schuetz’ post, Rosenthal Tolisano described how she thinks through her blog posts by creating a visual. Her sketchnotes are a great example of how visuals can unite a range of ideas to support further elaborations.

Image via Jackie Gerstein

Jackie Gerstein: Similar to Tolisano, Gerstein often creates sketches that collect together all her thoughts on an idea. These are often incorporated into her presentations, many of which she shares on SlideShare.

Image via Richard Wells

Richard Wells: Wells has a knack of telling a whole story within an infographic. Although often linked to a post, they can very well act as provocations in themselves. He creates his images using Apple Keynote.

Bill Ferriter: With a mixture of sketches and digital creations, Ferriter has an eye and an ear for  poignant messages. Along with Burvall, Ferriter’s images (and sharing through Flickr) were one of my original inspirations for creating graphics.

Alan Levine: It might seem counterintuitive to include Levine in this list as most of his images are simply photographs, but what stands out are that so many of the images he uses are his own. So often when I read his work I am amazed at the ability to find an image that matches. A great proponent of Creative Commons, because it is not just about digging in, but also sharing back.


So there are people whose choice of images has inspired me. What about you? Who are the visual bloggers that inspire you? As always, comments welcome.


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Leading by Learning – Building a Hut


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

I’ve spent the last few days on Year 4 Camp at Camp Sunnystones. It was a fantastic opportunity to connect with students while completing a range of unfamiliar activities. With this, exploring what it is they care about. Having spent so long focusing on feedback and growth, it was great to explore the human element in it all. Instead of dwelling on progression points and achievement standards, the focus was on mastering the particular task at hand and how we could support each other to get it done.

Although there was some focus on the environment and sustainability, the current learning focus at the moment, many of the conversation came back to the school’s four core values:

Support

Teamwork

Achievement

Respect

Another significant opportunity that arose though was the opportunity to be a meddler in the middle. Although we may not consider ourselves as ‘sages on the stage’, the structure of curriculum, instruction and learning spaces means that there is a tendency to manage the learning more than allowing it to happen. Camp provided a space for this as there are not many teachers with a background in archery or orienteering. A particular example of leading by learning was during the hut building exercise.

The activity involved working in teams to build huts with the materials lying around. The only requirement was that everyone had to be in sight of the camp fire. This meant that the camp guide always had an eye on where groups were at. It would have been easy to spend the few hours wandering between groups, discussing how the huts were going and providing advice. Instead, we decided as a group to place ourselves in the learner’s shoes and build our own.

We started with an idea, to find three trees with forks that we could somehow connect in order to make a roof. Although we could have spent time debating which idea was best, it was important to get behind one idea early and adapt from there.

As with many ideals though, we soon had to compromise. Either the good spots had already been taken or such a space did not exist. We did find two trees which we felt offered some potential. So we found a fallen limb and put in place our first support.


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

The problem was that we could barely reach the beam and decided quickly that it just was not going to work. So we went back to looking.

We finally found a new space with a set of trees which seemed to offer some prospect. Although not ideal, we all felt it had some potential. So we all split up and set off to gather materials for our hut.


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

Beginning with two strong limbs, we proceeded to assemble our humble abode. This process involved taking different roles, sharing reflections and providing suggestions. Although we had a clear purpose, the hut was a constant negotiation, cycling through the iterative process.


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

What was interesting was the inspiration that it had on the students. Some visited to see what we were doing, others took it as a challenge to better what we were doing. One student told us that we were too noisy and weren’t very good at keeping secrets. While many adapted some of the aspects of our final pitch when they presented their huts. What was fantastic though was that, in the end, everyone benefited. That is the power of the room, or in our case, the bush.

For me, this activity represented what Jackie Gerstein describes as a model learner, where not only do educators share the process, but are open and conscious about the steps involved.  This is coupled with a willingness to fail in order to succeed. I was also reminded of the measurement for collaborative problem solving.

What about you? What experiences have you had where you have modelled the learning? Flipped the learning by leading the way? As always, I would love to know.


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Ten Step Program to Being Connected; or Getting Connected for Dummies


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

I recently presented a session at DigiCon15 about Becoming a More Connected Educator. To provide a voice for those listening, I created a Google Form asking a few questions of those in attendance, such as how they are connected, what are the biggest challenges and any questions they may have. There were a few that I addressed at the end of the session, including moving beyond sound bites and giving back. However, one question that alluded me was a ‘get connected’ for dummies. So here goes, my 10 step process to becoming connected or as requested, a getting connected for dummies:

Work Out Why

Too often people are told, sign up to Twitter and get connected. Not only does being connected not simply equal signing up to a platform, but it misses why we might do it in the first place. In part, my initial reason was wondering what impact sharing and being open might have for learning. Although being open is still at the heart of my reason why, I would argue that now it is less about wonder and more about action, that is, how might we use the possibilities enabled through networked learning to build ‘smart rooms’ that consciously make possible new ideas and beginnings.

Grow a PLN

There are too many posts out there that discuss personalised or professional learning networks as something that can magically be done. Follow these people and hey presto you are connected. As I have discussed before, PLN’s are better thought of organically, a rhizome, with no central root system and no central belief system. Instead, there is one connection leading to another. This being said, the strength of a PLN is often deemed by how we nurture and grow it. Andrew Marcinek and Lyn Hilt reflect upon our role in regards to the health of our PLN and the need to continually reinvent it. One of the challenges is where you choose to spend your time and further your connections. For many it seems to be Twitter, others it is Google+, for some it is in spaces like Edmodo, while there are those whose connections are fostered between blogs. At the end of the day, the choice is yours. Some possible starting points are to participate in a Twitter chat, join a community on Google+, join in a blogging challenge like #youredustory or go to a teachmeet or an edcamp.

Find Your Tribe

One of the keys to connecting online is finding your communit(ies). So many of my early connections were based on a sort of convenient hypocrisy. My room was made up of people I had grown up with, went to school with or worked with. Often such connections become about sharing stories about this or that, but not necessarily common interests and passions. What can be hard is that there is not necessarily a directory of tribes, rather it is something relational and discovered by listening and engaging online. It needs to be noted though, that sometimes finding your tribe might actually mean standing up, leading and connecting people around a cause.

Surround Yourself with People who Scare You

On the TER Podcast, Cameron Paterson spoke about finding someone who scares you to be a mentor. I suggest taking this a step further, I suggest surrounding yourself with people who scare you. Often we start out meeting people at conferences or following people who seem to have similar interests. The next step is actively seeking out new connections. This does not mean that you need to automatically openly engage with these people, but instead tuning in and critically evaluating the various ideas and arguments. David White describes this as elegant lurking, where the purpose is to assess credibility of those involved within the discourse.

Support Others and Give Back to the Community

Although it is fine to observe from a distance, at some point communities thrive on participation. As David Weinberger points out, “Even if the smartest person in the room is the room itself, the room does not magically make all who enter it smarter.” Too often people get caught up in the ‘original’ trap, feeling that they themselves have nothing new to say or add. However, being in the room can mean different things to different people. I think that Steve Brophy puts it best when he made the call to “be the connection that gives others a voice.” To me, giving back is about participating, being someone’s +1, paying it forward, attributing ideas where possible. Putting his spin on this, Seth Godin says in Tribes that the challenge is, “to help your tribe sing, whatever form that song takes.”

Create a Place For People to Find You

Online, it is important to own your identify before someone else does. Anne Mirtschin talks about creating a digital badge, incorporating three key ingredients: a consistent image, clear username and detailed profile. In addition to this, it can be useful to guide people to a splash page, such as About.me, which brings together all our different spaces online. Some alternatives to this include pointing to a personal blog or a Linkedin account. Although trust within online spaces can be a difficult, by at least being open about who we are and what we might stand for at least helps build trust and deeper connections.

Have More Meaningful Conversations

In a recent post, Dean Shareski lamented on the lack of depth to many of the conversations he finds online. He reminisced on the ‘raw and natural tone’ that was prevalent when he was drawn to blogging ten years ago. Although idle chatter may be the glue which unites us, Shareski suggests that our challenge is to use this social capital to ‘provoke deeper, more interesting ideas’. For some this has meant moving conversations to more private mediums as Voxer and Slack. While others have taken to creating podcasts and web shows as a space for deeper conversations. Although Peter Skillen maybe right in saying that no wisdom can come be found in one-line, however it can be the stimulus for further thought.

Curate the Chaos

Heather Bailie suggests that in regards to digital literacies our focus has moved from the traditional idea of read, write and react, to a focus on being able to create, curate and contemplate. For me, creation is the means that we use to collect information. Many find all their resources via various social media platforms, however, there are other means of engaging with ideas, such as Nuzzel, Flipboard, Zite, Paper.Li, Feedly and Tagboard. Such platforms offer their own means of aggregating information. The next step is making sense of it all. In regards to social bookmarking, there are many different possibilities, whether it be Evernote, Delicious, Scoop.it, Pinterest or Diigo. For a more extensive list curation tools, see Christopher Pappas’ post.

Make Stuff Worth Stealing

I think that Doug Belshaw puts it best when he says, “Remixing, re-appropriation and riffing off other people’s work just seems to be part of what we do as human beings.” A step beyond engaging online, whether it be providing your perspective or adding a comment, is making stuff worth stealing. Instead of worrying about how much money could be made or how people might use ideas, Austin Kleon suggests we need to, “do good work and share it with people.” In his book Open, David Price touches on four key values which he sees as being integral to the 21st century: sharing, being open, giving things away for free and trusting others. A great example of such communities of sharing, riffing and giving away are cMOOCs like the CLMOOC, Connected Courses and Rhizomatic Learning.

Be a Lead Learner

How can we really say that students and learning at the heart of the classroom if we ourselves are not learners ourselves? Jackie Gerstein argues that we should not only be leaders when it comes to learning, but actively modelling the process by continually articulating our understandings and experiences. Gerstein provides a model to support this iterative process, focusing on prototyping, testing, failing and tweaking. Blogs or vlogs can be a useful means for not only documenting this process, but also gaining precious feedback and perspectives to support growth and improvement.


I am sure that there is more to it than what I have touched on here and like Tom Whitby, I wonder why we still need to continue to talk about such topics as PLN’s. However, we are all at different points in our learning. So what about you, where are you at? Is there something that you would add to or elaborate? As always, comments are welcome. For it takes a village and that village includes you.

Getting Connected for Dummies (1)
flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license


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Creative Commons Starts with Making – A Reflection on Creating and Sharing


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

I was reminded again this week about the importance of Creative Commons. Firstly, my students got a bit stuck getting their heads around what was right for use while creating presentations, while secondly, Mark Anderson wrote a post sharing why he worries about teachers blogging. Beyond the initial frustration about the lack of foresight in regards to the wider audience and subsequent poor judgement, Anderson discusses his concern over the use and reference to content. From copying someone else’s image to sharing student images, he provides three suggestions:

  • Use CC Search if you are trying to find appropriate content
  • Reference ideas and content when you are borrowing
  • Always err on the side of caution when sharing student content online

Although each idea is helpful, what is seemingly left out is any discussion of how teachers can go what David Price has described as ‘SOFT‘ by openly giving back and putting back into the community?

I have written about creative commons and where to find content before. However, I have never really unpacked my steps in regards to how I create and share. Basically, unless an image has a Creative Commons license giving permission, permission isn’t given. The challenge then in not only sharing is doing so in a way that others can benefit from. Although I share different content online, here is a summary of my workflow in regards to creating visual quote from the discovery of the idea to publishing it online.

Ideas

The first step in creating a visual quote is coming upon a quote. More often than not, quotes create themselves and often come from the plethora of blogs I read via Feedly. I also use the annotation tool in Diigo to keep ideas for a later date. In addition to this, I have started reading more books via Kindle as it provides an easy way to keep notes. Tom Barrett describes this act of curation as ‘mining knowledge’, the purpose of which is to create a collection to dig through at a later time. There are many different social bookmarking tools, such as Delicious and Evernote web clipper, the challenge though is finding the right tool and method for you.

Content

In addition to finding a quote, the challenge is to match this with an image. For those like Jackie Gerstein, Dan Haesler, Sylvia Duckworth and Amy Burvall, the answer is to draw from scratch. Although I have experimented a bit with sketchnoting and doodling, I prefer to connect with pre-existing visual images. This search often begins with Flickr. I like the fact that you can trawl images based on licenses. Sometimes I favourite images which I come back to, but more often than not I simply search from scratch. This can be challenging as I often have an idea what sort of image I am after. Lately, I have also started incorporating Lego within my makes to add another layer of meaning. After working with my younger brother, I saw the potential to use Lego to portray anything. I also feel that it is one of those things that, although usually designed for children, is somewhat ageless.

Creating

There are so many different applications on the web that make the creation of images quick and easy. However, I still prefer to make from scratch. Although I sometimes use applications like Quozio, Phoster and Canva, I prefer to use Google Draw. Bill Ferriter once explained to me how he uses PowerPoint to create some of his images. After tinkering myself with this idea, I turned to Google Draw, both for its ease of use, but also the ability to share and remix.In regards to themes, I try and stick to set group of fonts:

  • Architects Daughter for thin main body text
  • Paytone One for thick key words or phrases
  • Permanent Marker for the author and title

While inspired by Amy Burvall, I have also taken to using a mixture of bold colours taken from my avatar image, as well as white for the main text. To make sure that the text stands out from the image, I often make the base image behind the image black and then move the transparency slider attached to the image to 50%.  This helps the text to stand out.

Sharing

There are so many different methods and modes to share these days. The issue though is that unless you explicitly state it, copyright is still held by the creator. Although people may consume such content, they cannot use it in a presentation or modify it. The problem is that, as Doug Belshaw asserts, “remixing, re-appropriation and riffing off other people’s work just seems to be part of what we do as human beings.” With this being the case, it is important to provide some sort of licensing to help people to share openly and freely. The most obvious method seems to be via Flickr.

When you upload to Flickr, it provides the means to easily select a license. If this seems to laborious, you can actually set a default license in settings. Another benefit of Flickr is that when I use images in blog posts I can easily attribute using Alan Levine’s Flickr Attribution Helper. An alternative to Flickr though is attributing within the image.

Like artists of old, many people have taken to signing their images as a way of resolving the attribution issue. Taking this a step further, there are those like Gerstein who not only sign their work, but also place a license created via the Creative Commons website within the image to make it as clear as possible. Doing this allows you to avoid having to share through third party sites.


So there you have it, my workflow in creating and publishing visual quotes. What about you? What content do you create? How do you share it? What steps do you take to make sure others can make use of it? As always, comments welcome.


Update

At a recent GAFESummit, I did a Demo Slam where I shared making a quote. In it I demonstrated how I have moved away from using Google Drawings and instead building with Google Slides. One of the reasons for this is that I am able to edit the master slides meaning that I do not have to adjust the fonts and colours each time. I am also able to add a small mark to the bottom of the image as something of an identifier, something someone else actually asked me to do. Beyond this, the process of adding an image, making it transparent on top of a black background and predominantly using white text remains the same.


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