I’ve wanted to write this post for a while now. But have been unsure about how and why I might. Finally I decided it was worthwhile when I noticed my friend and fellow Online 2 COETAILER – Nicki Hambleton had tweeted about it. If it’s good enough for Nicki – the queen of visuals in our group – it’s good enough to discuss further and definitely my teaching.
The Art of Alignment – Design School https://t.co/dJHIOIosuh
— Nicki Hambleton (@itsallaboutart) February 15, 2015
3 weeks ago I began my journey to teach my students Design with a capital D. As the semester started students were fresh, I was coming off a great experience in a Middle School Fine Arts Invitational (another post coming soon) and I had the good idea to teach my Design and Technology course in a new way. This semester I was going to explore careers in Design as the units of study. The first was Graphic Design due to the fact that I myself had recently completed a wonderful bunch of tutorials in Canva‘s Design School.
I had come across Canva last year and had played around with it finding new templates for graphic design that I was using in my class and for making our Middle School student planer cover. I was impressed with the familiar styles it offered and the relatively easy to use interface in general. What sold me was a new feature – Design School. What I love about Design School is the way it is organized. There are three main sections for any viewer to explore within Design School these include: a blog, tutorials, and teaching materials.
I was of course drawn to the teaching materials and found them to be well thought out units designed by teachers, for teachers, using Canva as a platform for teaching Design. What I really liked was the age groups it was tackling – resources geared towards elementary students made me believe I could bring similar content to my Middle School Design students. I was also very interested in the teaching materials provided in the workshop model presented. This seemed like intelligent chunking of material paired with teaching examples which would benefit any student.
I was also interested in the tutorial section of the Design School. I had experienced online tutorial format for teaching in a course I taught on HTML which used Codecademy as the learning platform. The feedback I got from students about this blended model of teaching and learning was that they appreciated specific support, and also the means to progress at their own pace. The tutorials in Design School are similarily set out with simple activities organized via main Design components such as Fonts, Layout, Color etc. Further the tutorials take on a simple Learn and then Do format where students can see an example and then act on what they see in the simple sandbox in the next cell. I also appreciate that each of the Learn and Do tutorials include a video in case students need additional independent help with the app, albeit not the actual design.
My only complaint is that I wish the content found a way to get more and more difficult as the tutorials progressed, often this was not the case. To an extent the final three tutorials ask students to showcase their skills, but at the same time I would like to see more obvious progression within a single tutorial set up.
Back in my classroom I have my students working through Canva Design School independently and at the end of each tutorial they download the Learn and Do from the module/tutorial and share this on their student google site.
Students also reflect on 3 key tips they can take away from that group of tutorials my hope being that by completing the section on Fonts they might have 3 points to remember when it comes to independent application. All of this work basically acts as their notes on learning Design and is stored on their student portfolio as evidence of their learning.
Real World Applications
My hope with using Canva to teach Design was that my students might come to better understand how to effectively communicate ideas. So I set it to them – I asked,
What would be an applicable formative and summative assessment of your knowledge?
How would I know they had learned elements of graphic design and garner a better of Design in general? For their formative learning they wanted to use an invitation to a birthday party as a means of showcasing their developing knowledge. They also asked if they could use a template from the Canva site. As it is an assessment for learning we agreed that using a template was ok in this circumstance but would not be true in a summative scenario. Somehow, like all good realeasing of ownership in teaching, the birthday party invitation became a birthday party invitation for a student in the class; and of course somehow the birthday turned into a tea party birthday for said young man who was turning 14. As this was happening I was thinking “oh no, this is losing credibility, they are not going to take it seriously etc.” but then I realized this was a perfect opportunity to explore deeper the design thinking framework which I had hoped to employ in the this class.
What was wonderful was that by making it a real class design question we could consult the student and really Understand the beginning of the design cycle. Thus came the questions from students:
I can’t wait to see a tea part invitation that incorporates Manchester City blue!
Some Concluding Points
My students decided that an applicable summative for this unit would be for them to design next year’s Middle School Student Planner covers. As they leave Middle School and move up to High School they felt it a nice way to leave their mark on being in the middle. These young graphic designers, as I hope they come to see themselves, will hopefully take away the transfer goal that good design can and should be employed in all that we do. Likewise it is something that can be learnt through practice and application, feedback and revisiting work. Working through Canva so far has been a great vehicle to learn graphic design and as they say the proof is in the pudding:
After the first round of critiques here are a sampling of works from student’s. We discovered a lot about motives for design, stylistic concerns, and what overall theme was most applicable. As a group students also came to understand the importance of careful editing (we had some grammar issues – don’t tell their LA teachers).
I was impressed with the critical eye students were able to take on others’ work and I hope the critique cycle will allow them a better understanding of what level of work is expected. I started with own designs and allowed students to explain what they thought was working and not working about each.