Promoting Effective Communications
Students and teachers now have spent much time developing skills in using technology tools, however an equal amount of time needs to be spent in promoting effective communications using these tools. In many cases, students are simply copying information from one source to another rather than analyzing and synthesizing information. In addition, without skills in layout and design, student communications can be lost in unreadable fonts and distracting colors. This design focus needs to include text, original drawings, scanners, digital cameras, video cameras and videos, audio tools and clips, navigation, credits, and other areas of project development.
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Communication Design
The design of effective communications depends on both text and visual literacy.
Text. Students need to shift from an emphasis on data and information to building knowledge and wisdom. This change in thinking is dependent on both teaching and learning. If the assignment doesn't ask for high level thinking, students are unlikely to show creativity. In addition to the content of the text, students need to learn the effective expression both in words, but also in fonts, font size, color, and other visual aspects. Also encourage students to interact with readers including asking questions and stimulating thinking.
Original Drawing. Like writing, some students have more skill than others. Start with projects that require few skills. For example, line drawing are easier than paintings. Or, use a specialty software package to help students product charts and graphs. Rather than focusing on the visual itself, consider the message of the visual and the best tool for conveying that message.
Scanned Images. We tend to focus on scanning paper and photographs, however remember that other things can be scanned including fabric, book and CD covers, natural objects, historical artifacts, and even body parts. Again, emphasis the message of the visual rather than the activity of using the scanner. What purpose will the image serve?
Digital Camera Pictures. A digital camera can do many of the same things as a scanner. Portability is the major advantage. Consider photographing people, objects, processes, and even emotions. For example a blown tire may convey an emotion. Look for action and movement that can be captured in a still picture. For instance the toy project shows step by step instructions to creating a toy.
Audio & Video Recordings. There are many opportunities to integrate audio and video recordings into projects. As you design an assignment, ask yourself: is it relevant and high quality? Does it contribute to an understanding of the message? Consider all the ways that students can communicate including sound and visual effects. Students could read orally, conduct a skit, demonstrate an activity, or narrate a process.
Navigation. In nonlinear projects, the design of navigation is critical. Consider a table of contents, visual maps, and indexes at can help users become oriented. Tools such as buttons, arrows, and menus help a student move within the project.
Interactivity. Get your audience involved in your project. This interaction might include practicing a skills, gaining additional information, making a decision, or exploring an idea.
Other Elements. In addition to the elements above, many projects contain specialty design elements. For example, all project to provide an area for credits, references, and information about the authors.
Cactus Exploration
What skills do your students need to successfully design effective communications? Do your students currently have these skills? How can these be embedded in your activities?

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Created by Annette Lamb, 02/01.