Good Design Could be a Matter of Life or Death

After the snafu at the Oscars this year, people became a little more aware of the role poor graphic design can have on people making errors. The following video highlights this, along with poorly designed voting ballots and medical pill bottles.

But what does this have to do with schools?

At our school, like the majority of schools I know, we have a number of students with serious allergies – some of them life-threatening. Knowing which students have allergies and how they need to be treated is extremely significant.

Our sharing procedure (following meetings at the start of the school year) was to have this list of students up around the staffroom and in key areas staff gather (names/photos have been blurred for privacy reasons).

On an A4 sheet of paper, each student photo is about the size of one fingernail. Pretty hard to distinguish in a hurry. The text was also tiny, so if a quick assessment of a student’s allergies was required, a teacher would have to read through a tiny font to find out the details.

I thought about what information was most important for staff to know about the students with allergies. I came up with bigger images, an icon to represent each allergy, together with the class & grade the student is in, and a description of what to do if they are having an allergic reaction.

I designed icons using Keynote and used Pages for the template.

My redesign looked like this (borrowing my son’s name/image for template purposes!):

The finished template is also an A4 piece of paper, but is much easier to recognise students and allergies due to the size of the image and icons. Names and class information are also easier to see, along with descriptions of students’ allergies and medical plans.

Graphic design could be a matter of life or death. Perhaps this is a good opportunity to see if your health and safety information is as clear as it needs to be.

I would love your feedback 🙂

The Power of a Small Idea

I was checking Twitter one day, when this tweet by Anna Davies jumped out at me, with its striking red and black colour scheme and professional-looking images.

It turns out that Anna had been inspired by my Dover colleague, Nicki Hambleton, who created posters with her Middle School students, based on the work of Designer, Graphic Artist and Photographer, Barbara Kruger.

When I see an amazing idea, like the images in Anna’s tweet, I always want to try it out. As I don’t have a class of my own, I have to pitch the idea to my colleagues and hope that it sparks an interest.

As it happened, our school was just embarking on a PSE unit around the Power of Words. Tech Mentor Mike Bowden jumped on board and took the idea to his Grade 3 team.

Students prepared for the poster by finding a quote that resonated with them about the Power of Words. They took a photo of themselves on a plain background, ensuring to leave enough space to fit the quote.

In Keynote, students added the image, then reduced the saturation to turn it black and white. They used the limited colour palette of red, black and white for the text, experimenting with placement and rotation as needed.

This was a very rich learning task for our students. There were a lot of technical and design skills that we were able to build into an authentic context that met our curricula outcomes.

Naturally, we shared examples of our finished posters on Twitter – these examples were from Mandy Whitehouse‘s class.

What happened next is what I LOVE about social media. Jose O’Donovan saw our examples on Twitter and got his students to make their own – this time, posters about Kindness.

So in case you are the sort of person who worries about sharing the learning in your classroom, take the plunge! You never know the power of your small idea and the impact it may have on others. 

iCreate, Therefore I Am

Here is an overview of what I will be exploring in my workshop today on using iPads to create rather than consume content. You might like to check out UWCSEA East’s list of apps to find other useful apps.

Newspaper Blackout Poetry

Using Brushes & any News app (such as NY Times, Stuff, BBC) on the iPad, you can easily make creative blackout poetry. I have already written about Newspaper Blackout here, but see below for my  quick tutorial video.

Newspaper Blackout Tutorial from United World College of SE Asia on Vimeo.

Storytelling with Puppets

We have 2 great storytelling apps: Sock Puppets & Puppet Pals HD. Our language teachers (e.g. Wendy Liao) use these to reinforce conversational skills, and they find that it really motivates the kids to do their best.

One of the best things about Puppet Pals HD is that you can (with the Director’s Pass) upload your own characters (either hand-drawn, or photos of the students themselves) and backgrounds, which makes the app more suitable for upper-elementary and middle school learners.

Create Soundtracks with GarageBand

GarageBand manages to make even a novice feel like an expert on the iPad. The addition of Smart music (e.g. Smart Guitar, Smart Drums) can turn every student into an accomplished composer with very little  teacher input.

GarageBand Tutorial from United World College of SE Asia on Vimeo.

Photography

With the advent of the iPad 2, the ability to create content has definitely gone up a notch. Taking your own photos, editing them and using them in cross-curricular ways is easy, fun and very creative.

By way of example, apps like Camera+ (currently only for iPhone), Adobe Photoshop Express, and ColorSplash for iPad all let you edit your photos in new and wonderful ways.

Apps such as Strip Designer or Comic Touch (currently only for iPhone) allow you to take these photos and transform them into comics or flashcards (to name but a few). Our early years teachers sent students out to find words starting with the letter M for example.

Bill Atkinson Photo Card lets you use your photos to create beautiful postcards to send to others. Some teachers have used this app for character studies, where students write a postcard in the manner of one of the characters in the novel they are studying. In our early years department, students emailed their teacher and told them about their favourite holiday, relating to their unit on celebrations.

If we have time…

I’d love to share some kinetic typography using Keynote. Also using Creative Book Builder to make ePubs straight from the iPad, however as it’s a new app, it’s a little buggy right now. It is definitely one to keep an eye on.

I’m always on the lookout for great apps that allow you to create rather than consume, so drop some suggestions in the comments!

iCreate, Therefore I Am

Here is an overview of what I will be exploring in my workshop today on using iPads to create rather than consume content. You might like to check out UWCSEA East’s list of apps to find other useful apps.

Newspaper Blackout Poetry

Using Brushes & any News app (such as NY Times, Stuff, BBC) on the iPad, you can easily make creative blackout poetry. I have already written about Newspaper Blackout here, but see below for my  quick tutorial video.

Newspaper Blackout Tutorial from United World College of SE Asia on Vimeo.

Storytelling with Puppets

We have 2 great storytelling apps: Sock Puppets & Puppet Pals HD. Our language teachers (e.g. Wendy Liao) use these to reinforce conversational skills, and they find that it really motivates the kids to do their best.

One of the best things about Puppet Pals HD is that you can (with the Director’s Pass) upload your own characters (either hand-drawn, or photos of the students themselves) and backgrounds, which makes the app more suitable for upper-elementary and middle school learners.

Create Soundtracks with GarageBand

GarageBand manages to make even a novice feel like an expert on the iPad. The addition of Smart music (e.g. Smart Guitar, Smart Drums) can turn every student into an accomplished composer with very little  teacher input.

GarageBand Tutorial from United World College of SE Asia on Vimeo.

Photography

With the advent of the iPad 2, the ability to create content has definitely gone up a notch. Taking your own photos, editing them and using them in cross-curricular ways is easy, fun and very creative.

By way of example, apps like Camera+ (currently only for iPhone), Adobe Photoshop Express, and ColorSplash for iPad all let you edit your photos in new and wonderful ways.

Apps such as Strip Designer or Comic Touch (currently only for iPhone) allow you to take these photos and transform them into comics or flashcards (to name but a few). Our early years teachers sent students out to find words starting with the letter M for example.

Bill Atkinson Photo Card lets you use your photos to create beautiful postcards to send to others. Some teachers have used this app for character studies, where students write a postcard in the manner of one of the characters in the novel they are studying. In our early years department, students emailed their teacher and told them about their favourite holiday, relating to their unit on celebrations.

If we have time…

I’d love to share some kinetic typography using Keynote. Also using Creative Book Builder to make ePubs straight from the iPad, however as it’s a new app, it’s a little buggy right now. It is definitely one to keep an eye on.

I’m always on the lookout for great apps that allow you to create rather than consume, so drop some suggestions in the comments!