Get Visual

A poster created with Canva, which includes many built-in elements like the red bars and purple circle frame.

I was going to start by talking about visual literacy as a new buzzword, but the skill of representing information visually is actually a developed field. The pie chart was first developed by William Playfair in 1801, and in 1858 Florence Nightingale create the world’s first infographic to impress upon Parliament the severity of British troop mortality in the Crimea1. Most standards relate to written literacy, with good cause, but being persuasive across multiple formats can only help our students. With that in mind, two of my recent trainings addressed using digital posters, graphic design, and image editing using browser-based tools in lieu of expensive, difficult-to-manage software:

HippoBytes HB241: Intro to Image Editing

Image editing programs are an under-appreciated tool. When I wanted to join the Hilton health club in Kuwait under the married couples’ rate, I was able to use Adobe Photoshop to create a marriage certificate by altering Barack Obama’s (available online) to have my name and my fake wife’s instead, saving me hundreds of dollars. There are numerous classroom applications as well, from creating posters to propaganda to collages. In this session we learned the basic principles underlying all image-editing programs, and applied those programs using the free web app Pixlr Editor.

HippoBytes HB242: Digital Canvas

Writing is a critical skills for success. It’s also important, though, to give students the opportunity to access content and show their understanding in a variety of ways, whether to keep weak writers engaged or to work on new skills such as visual literacy. The classic poster is an assignment that can be easily updated and extended to work with digital tools.

In this session, we went through three components of creating visualizations of knowledge (my fancy word for “posters”): finding Creative Commons-licensed images, learning and applying basic graphic design principles, and using a tool appropriate to the task.

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