Week 6: Wrapping Up Course 3 on Visual Literacy

image by Free-Photos via Pixabay

I hope you’ve enjoyed this course on the topic of visual literacy. I keep going back to one of the Understandings that threads throughout this course: Design and layout of information influence effective communication. And you’ve all shared in various blog posts how this impacts how you present information to others and how we need to work with our students in understanding and applying this concept. And I hope you can carry this message to your fellow educators as well!

Progress Check
By the end of this week you should have

  • 5 blog posts completed and listed on your grading spreadsheet
  • 5 comments completed and listed on your grading spreadsheet
    • You are encouraged to comment more, but only log one per week. Try to keep them timely, not necessarily get them all done the first week.
  • 1 final project embedded into a final blog post for the course.

The course officially closes on March 4 and I will finish assessing posts and final projects so I can post grades by March 11. And then we’ll start Course 4 March 12 and be finished with it by the end of April! Then we have a break until September when we begin the final Course 5.

Final Project

The final projects for course 3 are always a lot of fun and there are plenty of options to fit individual interests. I know some of you have been already been sharing your ideas via your blog posts. And I’ve seen a lot of learning, self-reflection and application regarding visual literacy. I know my resources around visual literacy have grown from ones you have shared!


Week 5: Infographics and Data Visualizations

image by JuralMin via Pixabay

As we continue to explore visual literacy for Course 3, this week we look at the use of infographics and data visualizations. This can be one of the more challenging aspects of visual literacy to address. If we are selecting infographics or data visualizations to share with students, how to we help them learn to decipher what they are being shown? (Critical Thinking Skills!) And if we ask them to construct an infographic or data visualization, which tools should they use and how should they present the information effectively? (for some fun, just Google “Bad Infographics” for some examples you could analyze with your students!)

A Couple Recommendations…

In this week’s readings, we share some additional resources including Nicki Hambleton’s site about Sketchnotes (aka Visual Notetaking). Nicki works with students and adults in developing ways to synthesis and organize ideas and information visually. You can find her on Twitter @itsallaboutart and check out her Learning 2.0 Talk “The Power of Visuals” here.

Another educator (and friend of Nicki’s) that also shares the power of visual notetaking is Sonya TerBorg. Just today she shared a blog post “Sketchnotes 101” with some basic strategies for visual notetaking. Sonya shares her own sketchnotes via her Twitter account @tersonya. Beyond sketchnoting, Sonya’s blog covers a wide range of topics, especially around student agency, innovation and inquiry

Progress Check for Week 5

  • 4 blog posts completed and listed on your grading spreadsheet
    • Remember as a part of your GET certification it is important to start trying to incorporate ways you are planning trainings for your colleagues and using GSuite tools in your daily work
  • 4 comment completed and listed on your grading spreadsheet
    • You are encouraged to comment more, but only log one per week. Try to keep them timely, not necessarily get them all done the first week.
  • Hopefully well into working on your final project for this course.

Note: I’ve had a few participants ask about how to know if they are on track for the GET certification. Your blog posts should evidence of how you are meeting those tasks listed in the GET tabs and/or in the assignments. Of course you can also use your blog to document any training you do. Let us know if you have additional questions about GET.


Week 4: Digital Storytelling


image by thommas68 via Pixabay

As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts for this course, the topics from this course around visual literacy really had an impact on my teaching. While teaching middle school Humanities at my previous school, I offered a digital storytelling elective and was able to integrate digital storytelling into my Humanities class as a way for students to share their learning. I also began to facilitate professional development sessions on digital storytelling in the content areas. (Here is a link to my Google Site for a workshop I did a few years ago – it does need some updating but it contains examples and many of my go-to resources for digital storytelling).

With the technology tools we have available and some preparation and planning, digital storytelling can be a powerful way to engage students in sharing their learning. There are many benefits to using digital storytelling beyond creativity and technology skills that can help students share their learning and teachers assess it. (6 Reasons You Should be Doing Digital Storytelling with Your Students; Digital Storytelling: An Efficient and Engaging Learning Activity)

Here is a story about one of my learnings from using digital storytelling…The first time I taught a digital storytelling elective was even before I started COETAIL and it was a steep learning curve for me. A couple of my students had iPhones with iMovie on them and even though I had set up a process for them to develop their story first, they said they’d have their story done by Monday. Keep in mind, I was not experienced with iMovie or how this worked on an iPhone at this time. On Monday, they shared this movie they created about spies in their apartment building including falling and exploding cars. At first I was impressed with the technology and what they were able to create visually. But once I watched it again, as a teacher assessing their work, I realized their story did not make much sense and it was mostly them improvising. Also, it was difficult to hear their dialogue and keep track of the characters. Was it impressive visually? Sure – mostly because it was a new format for me. Did they communicate their story effectively? Nope. So we as teachers we must keep in mind, that creating a digital story is more than just the software or app that is being used. Even if students are tech saavy in creating digital media, they still need guidance on creating an engaging story.


Here’s a TedEx video of iPad storyteller Joe Sabia about the evolution of technology and storytelling which relates to our essential question for this week: How does this new form of storytelling differ from forms in the past?

Looking forward to reading more about your learning and experiences with digital storytelling!

Note: For more about the power of storytelling > The magical science of storytelling By  David JP Phillips at TEDxStockholm (shared his presentation “How to avoid death by PowerPoint” in my Week 3 post.)

Week 3: Understanding Presentation Design

image by Joanne1985 via Pixabay

Essential Question: How can visual presentations effectively communicate a message?

As we continue through Course 3 focusing on Visual Literacy, we now take a look at presentation design. As I’ve mentioned before, Course 3 really helped me reflect on my own presentation design AND delivery and make adjustments (both in my perspective and how I used the digital tools). Just like with any kind of communication, audience and purpose is key and impacts how you design your presentation and how you deliver it. One of my colleagues who is very skilled and designing and delivering presentations, would ask, “If you include all the information the audience needs in the visual presentation itself, why not just print it out for them and not waste their time talking about it?”

Not only has my design and delivery of presentations evolved over the years (a constant work in progress!) but I’ve made an effort to work with students in developing more effective presentations. (At one point I even banned fancy font, rotating words and explosion animations from presentations by middle schoolers!) My question is how do we get more educators (and schools) to invest time in helping students develop these valuable communication skills?

Don McMillan’s comedy routine “Life After Death by PowerPoint” is included this in Recommended Readings this week and is very funny but it also reminds us what is ineffective in digital presentations. There are lots of useful resources regarding Presentation Zen and presentation design as well in this week’s Recommended Readings. Another video resource I found is David JP Phillips TEDxStockholSalon presentation “How to avoid death by PowerPoint”. I think PowerPoint gets a bad rap, but as Mr. Phillips points out, “Use PowerPoint as it is supposed to be used.” 

Progress Check for Week 3

  • 2 blog posts completed and listed on your grading spreadsheet
    • Remember as a part of your GET certification it is important to start trying to incorporate ways you are planning trainings for your colleagues and using GSuite tools in your daily work
  • 2 comment completed and listed on your grading spreadsheet
    • You are encouraged to comment more, but only log one per week. Try to keep them timely, not necessarily get them all done the first week.
  • Please continue to check for and approve all comments on your own blog (and of course respond to them – keep the conversation going!).
  • Hopefully you’ve started thinking about the final project for this course. Remember you can start it at anytime. 

As always, let me know if you have any questions or would like any feedback about final project ideas!

Resource to share: Check Out Slides Carnival for free PowerPoint templates and Google Slides themes!

Week 2: Visual Literacy in the Classroom

image by crushman via Pixabay

As I mentioned last week, Course 3 really helped me reflect and self-assess on how I was communicating effectively with others (or not) through visual presentation. It also got me thinking about how important it was that I also help my students develop their own visual presentations. As I reviewed the Understandings and Essential Question for Week 2, I noticed that technology is not mentioned specifically in any of them! We need to consider how design is addressed in general communication skills and in various mediums (literacy!). However, we also need to examine how technology is used in crafting visual communication (benefits and challenges). Which leads to the focus of this week’s unit…What do we (and our students) need to know about communication and design?


  • Design and layout of information influence effective communication
  • Audience and purpose behind your communication affect how and what you communicate.
  • Different information mediums require different strategies when organizing information and communicating effectively.

ESSENTIAL QUESTION: How does the ability to use, create and/or manipulate imagery foster effective communication?

Two of my Visual Literacy and Design Gurus
In addition to this week’s resources, I’d like to share two influential and amazing resources I have found in Keri-Lee Beasley and Heather Dowd. I met both of them through the ed tech community when I was working at an international school in China and Keri-Lee and Heather were in Singapore. Among many other topics they are experts in regarding the use of technology in schools, they both did workshops and developed resources related to visual literacy and design. I am incredibly grateful for the openness in sharing their resources (which I have used myself in working with students on visual literacy and design).

Keri-Lee created an iBook, Design Secrets Revealed that presents the basics on CARP (instead of CRAP) design principles and it’s intended audience is students grades 2-9 but is a great resource for adults as well. She also has a blog “Tip of the Iceberg” that includes (among many great resources) a specific section on Design Resources and resources from her workshops including “Presentation Design for Kids”.

Heather has shared resources from her Learning 2.0 workshop on Visual Literacy including a section of Graphic Design Resources. She also has a slide show, “Graphic Design Tools and Rules” she developed for middle school students that you are welcome to copy and modify for your students (or staff).  You can also find more resources from other workshops such at her HD Workshops site that include “Visual Design for Pages” and “Tell Me with a Graphic”.

If you want some practical, student-tested materials about visual literacy and design, I recommend you check out Keri-Lee and Heather’s resources.

And just a reminder…
I know it’s only Week 2, but make sure to look over the options for the Course 3 Final Project!


Course 3 Is Here Already!

Happy New Year and Welcome back to COETAIL!

image by bboellinger via Pixabay

I hope you were able to join your winter holiday and an extended break before we get back into COETAIL with Course 3 Visual Literacy: Effective Communicators and Creators.

I have to admit when I went through COETAIL this course really impacted how I visually communicated information to others (even emails!) and changed my expectations of what my students needed to learn about visual literacy (as both consumers and creators). With all the visual media out there and all the tools available for anyone to create and share their own media, this is a important topic to cover as an educator for ourselves and our students. And the focus of Week 1 is to do some learning about visual literacy and design and do some reflecting on your own design principles in relation to our main Understanding for this course “Design and layout (aesthetics) of information influence effective communication.”

Here’s a fun site to get you started for Week 1…
Bad Web Design: A Look At The Most Hilariously Terrible Websites From Around The Web

And another that provides some really useful guidance on design…
Clean Up Your Mess: A Visual Guide for Everyone

image by coffebeanworks via Pixabay

I’ll be sharing some other resources over the next few weeks from some educators advocate a real need for this topic and the related skills to become an important focus for teachers and students (not just for the tech integrator or design teacher). I’m looking forward to seeing your how your views on this topic develop 🙂

Week 6: Finishing Up Course 2 and 2017

image by rawpixel via Pixabay

We’re into the final stretch of Course 2 (already!) and I’ve been really impressed with all the reflective and engaging and informative blog posts. This course covers some heavy, complex topics and you’ve all really shown how much you’ve gotten out of it. I’ve also loved seeing the interaction between all of you via the comments and even on Twitter.  I’m thinking about setting up some Google Hangouts after the New Year so we have some chats in real time.

I know you’ve already been working with your collaborative groups on your Course 2 Final Project. Please review the Understanding the Course 2 Final Project module to make sure you are clear about the option you’ve chosen and the rubric I will use to assess it. Week 6 ends on December 10 and I will have final grades done by December 17. As always, please contact me with any questions or concerns that come up!

Final Checklist for Course 2

  • 5 blog posts completed and listed on your grading spreadsheet
    • Remember as a part of your GET certification it is important to be trying to incorporate ways you are planning trainings for your colleagues and/or using GSuite tools in your daily work
  • 5 comments completed and listed on your grading spreadsheet
  • 1 Final Project and accompanying blog post
  • Please continue to check for and approved all comments on your own blog and of course respond to them

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

I know I’m not alone in counting down the days to our Winter Break and will be heading to the US (Colorado) on December 15th for some family time. Course 3 officially starts January 22, 2018 so you’ll have an extended break from COETAIL before we finish off the school year with the majority of COETAIL courses completed! Again, thank you for all the effort and energy you put into Course 2 and best wishes for a relaxing, wonderful holiday season!


Week 5: Empowering Connections

image by geralt via Pixabay

As we move into Week 5, a reminder of what you should have done so far…

  • 4 blog posts completed and listed on your grading spreadsheet
    • Remember as a part of your GET certification it is important to start trying to incorporate ways you are planning trainings for your colleagues and/or using GSuite tools in your daily work
  • 4 comments completed and listed on your grading spreadsheet
    • You are encouraged to comment more, but only log one per week
  • Please continue to check for and approved all comments on your own blog and of course respond to them
  • Connected with another member of the cohort and making progress on your Course 2 Final Project

Social Media and the Power of Change

I think this topic is a great way to wrap up the topics we’ve been covering in Course 2. We’ve looked at copyright & plagiarism, digital footprints, online privacy, and digital citizenship. All which can be daunting especially when trying to  figure out how to address them both personally and as an educator. And it’s to find all the negative aspects of technology and the internet in this digital age and how it’s ruining all our lives – but what about all the ways it has improved and enhanced our lives and others. This week’s understanding is a provocative statement to turn all the concerns we have to remind us of how tools and resources can be used for good.

When I talk about my PLN via Twitter I sometimes get those comments about how Twitter is full of trashy celebrities and nasty trolls. I admit that you can find all sorts on Twitter but I choose not to engage in those negative aspects and build my Twitter to suit my needs and interests. And for me, my Twitter has provided an inexhaustible source of resources, ideas and support. So this week’s understanding “The communication tools that exist today are powerful mediums to help spread positive change and global awareness.” And we can easily find, and have even experienced, how social media and modern technology can have a positive impact.

The article “Social Media as a Formidable Force for Change”, explores the power of the hashtag as one medium and aptly introduces the topic with a powerful statement…

The power of social media is hard to dismiss. What once seemed like a trivial way to keep in touch with friends, sharing photos and jokes, has become a force for societal change, shining light on subjects previously unknown, deepening conversations and empowering citizens of the world to unite and effect change in a number of ways.

Here’s an article from Harvard Business Review “Creating Social Change with Social Media” that uses #GivingTuesday (which is tomorrow!) as an example to provide suggestions how social purpose organizations can use social media to promote their cause. Or this article “YouTube Creators Using The Internet For Positive Change” providing examples of how this video sharing platform has provided a space for many people “to raise funds and awareness for causes ranging from anxiety to world hunger. The success of these digital do-gooders relies on the empowerment, education, and engagement of their audiences, rather than just views.”

And these are just a handful of examples of the positive power of technology and social media. What other examples have you found or experienced yourself?

Week 4: Digital Citizenship

image by sasint via Pixabay

Week 4: Digital Citizenship

I’ve been interested in seeing how the topic of Digital Citizenship has evolved since I explored the topic when I was in COETAIL just over five years ago. Most resources and articles and lessons tended to focus on online safety (stranger danger!) for students. I appreciate Digital Citizenship Week in October to bring attention to it, but it becomes more and more obvious that we need more than a week to address this complex topic. There has been a shift over the past few years in defining and expanding digital citizenship to move beyond a week of lessons about protecting your identity and not chatting with people you don’t know (not discounting the importance of those topics but there’s so much more to consider).

In a very recent article on Mind/Shift (which I just discovered has a podcast!), “Making Media Literacy Central to Digital Citizenship”, Tanner Higgin comments,

“We need to move from a conflation of digital citizenship with internet safety and protectionism to a view of digital citizenship that’s pro-active and prioritizes media literacy and savvy.”

There is even an organization, Media Literacy Now, that is pushing the conversation about addressing media literacy in schools in the United States. In one of their articles, Linking Media Literacy and Digital Citizenship in the Public Policy Realm” (linked in the Mind/Shift article above), the sub heading states,

“To be a citizen and participate fully, one must be literate. Literacy today means media literacy, which relies on technology, which today is overwhelmingly digital.”

It’s not just about protecting ourselves, but also to be productive participants as well.

Of course, there’s the whole question of who, how, when do we incorporate this into our already full (over-flowing) plate as educators….

I look forward to reading your ideas, opinions and perspectives on digital citizenship education!

A Recommendation for Those Interested in Teens and Social Media…

An important component of delivering digital citizenship education is understanding our students’ experiences and perspectives and interactions with technology and digital spaces. One of your readings this week, Bullying Has Little Resonance With Teenagers, is by danah boyd who contributed to Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning with New Media (2009) which was developed from Living and Learning with New Media: Summary of Findings from the Digital Youth Project that you read in Course 1. If you work with teens and/or have your own teens, danah shares her findings from more than ten years research on how young people use social media as part of their everyday practices in her book It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens (2014).

And your weekly checklist:

  • 3 blog posts completed and listed on your grading spreadsheet
    *Remember as a part of your GET certification it is important to start trying to incorporate ways you are planning trainings for your colleagues and/or using GSuite tools in your daily work
  • 3 comments completed and listed on your grading spreadsheet
    *You are encouraged to comment more, but only log one per week
  • Checked and approved all comments on your own blog and hopefully responded to them. You’ll get much more from continuing the conversation.
  • Connected with another member of the cohort to get working on your Course 2 Final Project

Week 3: The Impact of Digital Footprints

Image by Robert_z_Ziemi via Pixabay

This week’s topic is Digital Footprints and Profiles and is an opportunity to do some self-assessment of your own presence out the on the interwebs and then consider how we address this with our students…and parents and even our colleagues!

I took a look back at my own COETAIL post from 2012 on this same topic in which I reflected on my experience Googling myself and my reaction to a postcard I sent from Japan that ended up on the internet. You find out more from my post Digital Footprints: Where Will They Lead?

Another Digital Footprint experience that I like to share happened a few years ago when I was deep in the search for a new job at an international school. At the end of one interview I asked if there was any additional information I could provide to the school regarding my qualifications or experience. The administrator said, “We’re good. We’ve seen you on Twitter.” At first I was surprised (I did include my Twitter handle in my digital portfolio) and then I was actually pleased because I knew that my presence on Twitter was positive and professional.

Final Project Alert

I know it’s only week 3 but it’s important you stay on top of what needs to happen for this course. The Course 2 final project requires you to collaborate with at least one other cohort member who is not in your school. The idea here is to work on a globally collaborative project. I strongly suggest that, if you haven’t already,  you start making these connections with your cohort and figure out a plan soon.

I noticed Mistral has already reached out via Twitter to find a connection. I will send an email so I can find out who is working with whom. Additionally, please review the options and their requirements and the rubric as you work on your final project for Course 2. Let me know if you need any clarification or support.

Common Sense Media

We’ve had some readings and reference to Common Sense Media and I recommend signing up as an educator if you’d like access to all their resources and research. I’ve used their Digital Citizenship lessons (with modifications for language and culture) and they’ve also got resources for parents and for working with parents. Some of their resources tend to be US-centric but I’ve heard that they are working on updating and modifying their resources.

Have a great week and keep building a positive digital footprint via your posts and your Tweets!