I was flattered when approached to put in a proposal to be one of Thames Valley’s speakers at the May 2017 Google Summit held at Saunder’s Highschool in London, Ontario. My initial “what could I possibly…” instinct was short-lived and an idea for a session on the power of visual literacy popped into my head. I did not have a specific idea of what that meant, but I typed it into the form and hit ‘send’.
Three months of consciously collecting relevant digital student samples, academic rationales and real-world samples/inspiration followed. Before I knew it I had too many ideas in my Drive folder. I also fine-tuned my own knowledge at this point. If I was going to be the ‘expert’ (haha!) I’d need to dig a bit deeper into my tools of choice – Drawings and Slides.
I think I might approach the importance of visual literacy slightly different than others. Visuals are crucial in building context, emotion, connections and inferences. So much of what we ‘read’ is covered in imagery or at least in fonts that are manipulated to look like images themselves. Consider a walk through a mall, a peek in your mailbox, or any reading you do online or on any sort of screen. Images are powerful. Readers need to consider how to make reading inferences not simply based on the text alone. Writers need to know how to create and PUBLISH media that honours the importance of the visual.
I think about my students. I think about my own kids. What do they gravitate towards? What do they enjoy creating? I know from my experiences in primary/junior that writing tasks involving the inclusion of visual media are met with much more anticipation than text-only writing. The out-of-nowhere success of the graphic novel genre speaks to this. There is as much engagement with strong writers as there is with the more reluctant writers with these publishing opportunities. Memes, blog entries, book snaps, PWIMs or image-labeling, info-graphic creation, website or slideshow work, non-fiction digital posters, photo essays (word free) and slogan-based writing of all sorts is easily tech-enhanced and fun.
Why are these visually-amplified selections of writing more fun to create? I have two theories:
- It’s real world. Aside from that rare, quiet moment when I can actually read an image-free novel, how often do you read text that isn’t connected to imagery? These students have been raised in a world of hyper-colour, fast-pitch messages. They speak the language.
- It’s powerful. It grabs audiences. The visuals demand attention from the reader and then the text becomes apparent and the deeper message is received. Think about the writing you see in hallways and malls where you actually stop and look. Examine what it was that grabbed you. Where you the target audience?
Somehow writing with tech makes my son want to write. It’s a simple as that. He watches me and his mom write. It’s not with a pencil (unless it’s chicken-scratched to-do lists on a ripped sticky note). This is his world of literacy.
So in a nutshell I shared a bunch of ways to grab audiences with the cool features in Slides and Drawings. The WHY matters the most. I hope that came through.
This is what happens at voluntary teacher gatherings: you share your energy with others – they share their energy back 10-fold. I met so many super humans at this Summit. The face-to-face introductions after months of twitter hearts are a lot of fun. Brand new faces are everywhere and you’ll likely find your digital PLN growing each day. You leave feeling like you have more expertise at your fingertips. Reaching out beyond your silo seems so much easier.
There were a couple stand-out moments for me at this event. I entered the 3-minute demo slam that is held at the end of the first day. This entailed taking the stage in between other competitors (most of whom are pros, authors or keynote speakers!) and trying to infuse some humour into a techie show-off of sorts. Fun! Nerve-wracking too. Why subject yourself to it? I figured it was a good way to put myself ‘out-there’ and make some more connections. It was really cool to read the supportive tweets. I came in second place after the voting. I’ll take it!
Another highlight was hanging with the presenters and the Edtech Team afterwards and just listening to people’s education journeys. Lines are never straight in this career. After thinking about the amazing people I was able to talk with, it appears as though the lines for successful teachers are often formed into webs. Connect, connect, connect. Opportunities arise through connection. (Laser tag with this group was a blast ~haha~, but honestly, ‘Bulbosaur’ is not a cool code name. Not cool.)
I think I have a better appreciation of what being innovative means today. There are some teachers out there really shaking things up. Inspiring. Lucky students.
The Summit met my high expectations and then some. I so need to sleep now.
Shout-out time to the Thames Valley and Edtechteam crews
for putting on such a well-run event. Kudos. See you next year.