by Glen Downey, Comics in Education, www.comicsineducation.com
Course Management Software Can Provide a "Visual Narrative" for Your Course
The next time you have students get up to write something on the board, consider whether or not the board should come to them. Course management systems like Blackboard(TM) don't just have to be a repository of files and folders. They can come alive for students with just a little bit of organizing on the part of the instructor. Here are some helpful tips for getting the most out of your course management system.
1. Be Visual with Your Lesson Plan
The above schematic is very appreciated by students and doesn't require as much effort as you might think.: a basic template in word (inspired by caption boxes from comics) and a few minutes of Photoshop Elements are the sole requirements. Put these as the readable and/or clickable images of your course management system or class website and you can expect that students will actually read and appreciate them -- especially when the rest of the site is likewise visual.
2. Go Multimedia
In teaching a unit on Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air, it's a great idea to show students the kinds of things in popular culture that Everest has inspired. Being terrified of roller coasters (kind of an Everest for me which I managed to conquer last summer), I was only too happy to share with students this POV video on YouTube that's embedded right into my Blackboard site.
I like to follow that up, though, with something they find a great deal more serious (and thoroughly compelling, by the way). The trailer for Frontline's documentary, "Storm over Everest."
The ability to embed YouTube videos into Blackboard is such a valuable feature, allowing students to be inspired right on the page where the day's lesson is posted.
3. Allow Students to See Themselves on Your Class Site
Appealing to visual learners doesn't just involve teachers posting their artwork to course websites. These students also want to see their ideas come to life as well in their own writing. Here's an example of a consolidation feature that I put at the end of the day's lesson on Blackboard. Often, I do the consolidating, but in this instance a student has reflected. Here, the student shares what he learned from a TEDx Talk by J. F. Carrey, a Canadian who became the youngest at the time to climb Everest:
First the video...
Then the reflection...
So try and bring the visual into your lesson planning, especially if you have a website or course management system. It can really make your lessons come to life for 21st-century learners!
Dr. Glen Downey is an award-winning children's author, educator, and academic from Oakville, Ontario. He works as a children's writer for Rubicon Publishing, a reviewer for PW Comics World, an editor for the Sequart Organization, and serves as the Chair of English and Drama at The York School in Toronto.
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