Seeing is believing

I’m being a rebel.

Me, the rebel, in black and white...

Me, the rebel, in black and white…

This post was meant to focus on the way I could redesign my blog/VLE.  Sprucing up my digital dwellings is something I enjoy doing (oddly, it always happens right around the time I have a massive bundle of exams to mark).

Right now I want to talk about the ways our online lives encourage us to remix our physical classrooms. 

Schools don’t always value the power of visuals.  When they do value the importance of living and breathing design, amazing things happen.  Take this stellar model via WAB:

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I visited WAB for the amazing Learning 2.0 conference a few years ago.  The conference was inspiring, and the physical space did so much to level up on that palpable passion.

When we show our students that we care about learning ‘looking nice,’ we are reminding ourselves how much school matters.

“People don’t believe what you tell them.
They rarely believe what you show them.
They often believe what their friends tell them.
They always believe what they tell themselves.”
Seth Godin

The incredible Paula Guinto is one of the all time gurus of gurus on classroom design.  Her work is featured in this post by Keri Lee Beasley.  Stop whatever you are doing and read that post.

Photo Credit: betta design via Compfight cc

Wow, right?

What can we learn about design in the online world from great design in the physical classroom?

1.  Make the effort

Students will notice when you put in the additional hour(s) to make your course’s home appealing.

2.  It needs to change

If your space looks the same month after month, year after year–what message are you sending about the characteristics of learning?

3.  Your creative leaps encourage their creative leaps

We go to our students with requests for creativity…shouldn’t we model it when and where we can?

Photo Credit: Fu Man Jew via Compfight cc

Good design anywhere can inspire good design everywhere.

I make sure to make my google slides appealing.  Does that take me an additional 30-40 minutes of planning? Absolutely.  It pays off.

It is that time of year when my 9th graders are starting up blogs.  Many of them have created  a visual space–could that have been inspired by the visual nature of my classroom and class resources? I’ll be positive and think…. maybe.  The same applies when we put the time and effort into our email correspondence with students.  They learn to be more mindful in their responses.  Good design then boils down to making the effort.

Everything we do as a school should promote the notion of making the effort.


“The idea of #coetailsketch is that we use the spirit of this course to sketchnoting. Doodling is a private process but what might happen if we start sharing our learning?

We might have our thinking around a topic clarified.

We might find that others have been pondering the same questions as we have and start to collaborate.

We might inspire others to share their learning.

We might see our ideas evolve over time.”

Read more from Stephanie Thompson here.

When we experiment, when we make that decision to experiment, we open ourselves up to a great opportunity.   I’ll that call Design Learning. Create authentic opportunities for learning by learning something yourself.  Wow, that went for a philosophical-turn.

Photo Credit: Digital Explorer via Compfight cc
Perhaps that is what I want to continue working on as a designer:  purposefully creating places where inquiry can arise.  Can design do that?

In the amazing multi-touch book by Keri-Lee Beasley, she reminds us that good design provides comfort.  Comfort produces a learning environment where risks and mistake-making is possible (like I’m doing right now in the context of our COETAIL group).

The principles of good online design are something try to embed in my classroom, as pictured below:


My IB Learner Profile is on display via Haiku Deck.  The images are Creative Commons, and I make a point of mentioning this frequently.  I believe in having plants in the classroom because they add a human element to our space.  Plants have always been an important tool in my classrooms across my career.  More on why here.


I’ve tried to add splashes of color.  We have a great deal of white space at my school, and according to this reading,  we shouldn’t. The bean bag chair is a new item, as is the green bucket stuffed with New Yorker magazines.  I’m an English teacher, if my room doesn’t encourage reading, I’ve failed.

I feel the same way about my blog.  I feel the same way about my email.  That’s why my new signature includes a Goodreads update on what I’m currently reading.  In the world of high school emails, that’s a splash of color.


Books and Batik: I update our physical classroom library constantly.  I believe in getting the books off the shelves and putting them where you absolutely MUST see them.  Call it my employment of the mud puddle principle via Vicki Davis.

My colleague, Phil Bruce uses that principle when he embeds ‘easter eggs’ in his google slides.  Avenues for inquiry are in the spaces we design.

Here’s to a new year of experimenting on and offline with new looks.


  1. Tracy Blair
    • Tricia Friedman

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