The Cube Game

IMG_0218 - Version 2 Last weekend, I tagged along with my colleagues and their two grade 11 IB art classes to Malacca (Melaka), Malaysia (Flickr set here). Students went to gather material for their investigative workbooks. I’m not going to go into the details of the trip, but instead tell you about an activity that they adapted from the book ‘The Cube: Keep the Secret.”  It is a simple game by asking a person to imagine and describe a set of objects. As art teachers, my co-workers got the students to draw instead. Think of it as dream analysis meeting visual literacy.

It goes like this:

Draw 1: Imagine a desert landscape. It is utterly simple. A horizon line. Sand. Sky.

Draw 2: In this desert landscape, there is a cube. See it. Describe it. What size is it? Where is it? What is it made of? (There are no rules, no right or wrong answers. Describe the cube you see.)

Draw 3: Now, in this landscape, as well as the cube, there is also a ladder. Draw its size, position and what it is made of.

Draw 4: In this desert there is also a horse. Draw it. What kind of horse is it? What size? What colour? Where is it relative to the cube and ladder? What is it doing?

Draw 5: Somewhere in this landscape, there is a storm. Draw it. Where is it? What kind of storm is it? How does it affect – or not affect – the cube, the ladder and the horse?

Draw 6: Finally, in this desert are flowers. Draw them. How many are there? What kind? What colour? Where are they in relation to the cube, the ladder, the horse, the storm?

Next students interpret their work, as each element psychologically represents something. This is where it can get funny or really analytical. Allow Freud to step in. My colleagues used this activity to illustrate how the placement of objects in a composition can enhance or contribute to meaning. Unfortunately, I can’t give you the details of this step, as it will spoil the game. If interested, check out the book or refine your google search skills. Sorry for the cliffhanger.

student example:

The Cube student example



Learning 2.012 – Deconstructing to Construct: Visual Literacy

It’s been a whirlwind 2 weeks for me. I’ve just returned from a 5 day trip with about 50 grade 7 students from the Kamikochi area (Flickr set) near Nagano. Prior to that, I attended the Learning 2.012 conference in Beijing. Overall, the conference was great and I’ll make another post about that in the near future. Whilst there, I gave a presentation entitled “Deconstructing to Construct: Visual Literacy through Image and Media Analysis.” Daily we are bombarded by visual and media messages with students and teachers increasingly becoming creators of content on the web. Basically, everyone is now a designer.

My presentation focused on the theory of how to analyse media, which in turn can strengthen your own content or message, be it for design or manipulative purposes. The outcomes of my presentation were to:

  • Explore criteria to analyse images and media.
  • Identify strategies for how this can be introduced to students.
  • Identify techniques for planning and implementing this practice in lessons.
You can view my slides below or directly through slideshare here. The next step would be to implement these design principles and elements into your own content, which I’ll consider adding to the presentation if I offer it again. (I’ve also embedded two useful videos below.)

The Value of Visualization from Column Five on Vimeo.

The Key to Media’s Hidden Codes

Here is a good resource I stumbled across today if you teach advertising or visual/media literacy.
The Key to Media’s Hidden Codes: Colors, camera angles and logos in the media can all prompt immediate associations with emotions, activities and memories. Learn to decode the intricate system of symbols that are a part of everyday life — from media messages to traffic signs. (via TEDed)


Presentation Ping-Pong Lesson Idea

Today in our final COETAIL face-to-face workshop for module three on visual literacy, we (Kim Cofino and I) assigned a task to teachers.

First, teachers were to individually find a Creative Commons image that inspired them. They did this by searching through Creative CommonsColor Lab, or through Google Advanced Image Search. Next, in groups of 5, they were to upload their images to a shared presentation. Google Presentations were used for this. Groups were asked to arrange the pictures in an order to create a shared story, which they then presented. After each group presented, groups were also asked to add one slide each to a whole-class shared presentation, which “risk-takers” volunteered to tell for a made-on-the-spot “Presentation Ping-Pong” story.

I’ve done variations of this activity from kindergarten to high school, from being a classroom teacher, to being an art and drama teacher. It’s light-hearted and fun. Some ideas to use/alter it for, could be as…

  • an alternative way to introduce creative commons
  • a way to introduce shared presentations
  • a story writing prompt (be it on paper or digitally)
  • as a way to introduce presenting without text (or at least to present without reading)
  • as a way to show the power of visualisation
  • as a way to show how pictures with and without text can be interpreted differently
  • to use it backwards (what pictures could match your text?)
  • to build creative/critical thinking
An interesting aspect that came out of the teacher discussion was how it could be used as a good ice-breaker activity for students/teachers to use at the beginning of the school year to get to know each other well. This kind of surprised me, but it does make sense. You can learn a bit about someone by the pictures they choose. If you haven’t tried this sort of activity, give it a try with your students, or your colleagues. If you have other ideas for the potential of this idea, drop them in the comments section as I’d love to hear from you!

Media Literacy: Deconstruct to Learn How to Construct

Yes, not much “news” or real “blogging” from me in a while. I’ve simply been posting as I’ve been swept off with regular teaching stuff, revamping & revising curriculum, managing a baby and various other school activities. Currently I’m also co-teaching a COETAIL module here at YIS with Kim Cofino, which I am enjoying. I meant to make several posts about this in the past month as the module has been progressing. The current module we’re working on is Visual & Media Literacy.

To start off our first face-to-face session, we looked at how to deconstruct images. I prepared this resource for it (pictured above), which has been developed from the IBO, as well as other resources I have gathered over the years. I’m sure I left something out, so bear with me. Next, we transferred some of those ideas and concepts to various forms of other media (pictured below – resource here). These sheets are questions for the viewer to consider to help understand what they are viewing. The first is strictly image related and the second incorporates film, web, design etc. They are simple prompts to get you thinking. Feel free to download them and use with your students if you find it useful. Deconstructing images will often help students (and teachers) construct their own.


Nancy Duarte just posted a blog entry on Sunni Brown showcasing her new book, Gamestorming. This book includes more than 80 games to help you break down barriers, communicate better, and generate new ideas, insights, and strategies. I am writing this though for the five month old video she embedded. The video is described as: “Sunni Brown is the leader of The Doodle Revolution – a growing effort to debunk the myth that doodling is a distraction. Using common sense, experience, and neuroscience, Sunni proves that doodling is a way to ignite your whole mind.”

Sunni Brown at Duarte from Duarte Design on Vimeo.

Curiosities & Roadside Attractions

I have added a few videos under my ICT Theories and Info tab above recently that you may find interesting. One has taken inspiration from the CommonCraft team and created a video on Digital Storytelling in Plain English. Another is from Alan November (Myths and Opportunities: Technology in the Classroom) and finally, the lengthy Teaching Search in the Classroom from Google.

Other interesting reads from the web:

Michelle Obama tells International audience why the Arts Matter (from Los Angeles Times)

Schools Adopt Art as Building Block of Education (from The New York Times)

From Text on Paper to Media Collage – Art becomes the next R (from Jason Ohler via The Committed Sardine)

What’s new? 21st Century Skills (by Jamie McKenzie)

Media literacy skills have been important for decades as the news media transitioned into entertainment and a few international corporations consolidated control over information. While media literacy was important in the 1960s, it was sorely neglected. It may be even more crucial today but remains unattended by many school programs.

Digital Images for Education is “an unrivalled online image library, comprising over 500 hours of film and 56,000 photos, will be available free of charge for at least 25 years to UK higher and further education institutions from Summer 2010.”

Pattern Recognition (Knowledge)

“The challenge is no longer finding information but making it meaningful.”

A great article from 2020 Forecast:

An extremely visible world demands new sensemaking

Information proliferation will continue, exacerbating the burden on families, learners, educators, and decision-makers to make sense of vast amounts of data. New tools for visualizing data will require new skills in discerning meaningful patterns. Social media and collaborative tools will leave “data trails” of people’s online interactions — including contributions to group activities, inquiries and searches, skills, digital resources, and preferences (such as playlists, buddy lists, and topics tracked) — and social networks. At the same time, sensors and global positioning systems in devices such as cell phones and car navigation systems will be able to capture location-based information along with health and environmental data. Together these tools will provide a robust, visible “data picture” of our lives as citizens, workers, and learners. Families, learners, educators, and decision-makers will need to become sophisticated at pattern recognition in order to create effective and differentiated learning experiences and environments. Furthermore, new skills in collective sensemaking will redefine forms of knowledge, knowing, and assessment.

  • How do ubiquitous, visible data impact teaching, learning, and the assessment of learning experiences?
  • How can we use data to enhance human decisions rather than automate them?

How will we aggregate data and make sense of it all? “Educators and learners will need to learn how to participate effectively in an abundant data world.  New ways of seeing, knowing, and communicating will redefine learning environments, roles, and even forms of knowledge, knowing, and assessment. “

Full story here.

Also look at the Explore Visual Literacy area located under Related Topics > Trends.

Interesting Reads & Resources

Forget iTunes U: Students Now Getting College Credit via YouTube

A computer science professor at an Australian University is doing something revolutionary with YouTube – he’s offering students who can’t attend his classes college credit for watching his videos.

50 Online Reference Sites for Teachers

and if interested…

Visual Literacy Resources by Frank Baker

Literacy 2.0

The Carrot Revolution blog featured this article from the magazine, Educational Leadership. I’m glad M. Anderson did. Luckily, my school subscribes to it and as soon as I read it, I forwarded it onto our staff bulletin board. I’ll agree, it’s an excellent read. More and more we read and hear how creativity, design, story and collaboration are vital for success in the 21st Century. I guess many have read Dan Pink and others these days and are taking note. (I will be touching upon this at a presentation I am making in April)

Now, how many of your schools are ready to crumble the academic hierarchy?

Highlighted summary (the article goes in depth with each number):
Eight Guidelines for Teachers
1. Shift from text centrism to media collage.
2. Value writing and reading now more than ever.
3. Adopt art as the next R.
4. Blend traditional and emerging literacies.
5. Harness report and story.
6. Practice private and participatory social literacy.
7. Develop literacy with digital tools and about digital tools.
8. Pursue fluency.

UPDATE: I just noticed this is my 100th post!