Teaching Digital Tools: A Reflection

My final website for Teaching Digital Tools can be found here:


The purpose of this website is to supplement a reading unit on social issues in literature. It serves as a place where students can find discussion boards, tutorials for digital tools, multimedia resources and the instructions for their final project.

To make this website, I used wix.com. What I like about Wix is that it is the most user friendly site creation tool that I’ve ever used. It has hundreds of templates that can be customized for a variety of purposes. It makes incorporating multimedia, create multiple pages and design work easy. The only downside to Wix is that it often froze up on me. Because it allows you to do so much extensive work on the website, it gets overloaded and stops working. When this happened, I simply hit save, reloaded the page and it was fine. I would definitely recommend using Wix to future students, especially those who are new to using technology.

My advice to future students as they work on this project is to be creative. You can take a unit or lesson that had no technology in it at all and find I way to incorporate media and digital tools. When I revisited the social issues reading unit, I rewrote almost every lesson in a new fun and creative way. Using online learning is a way to make any classroom more exciting and engaging for students. Use everything that you learned in this class! So much of it applies to the final project as well. This is a real website that could be implemented in your educational setting, whatever it may be, long after this course is over.


Cited.org & Professional Development

I never realized that there was a resource like http://www.cited.org out there, but I am really excited to start using it. It pools a number of professional development opportunities and tools for enhancing the curriculum in one place for teachers, administrators and other professionals.

I had to laugh while reading the blog prompt because I did create my professional development toolkit based on purely selfish instinct. However, I chose to share it with my colleagues in the English Education cohort at Rutgers because we all share very similar interests. Tools like “Book Builder” and “Web Quests” can be brought into any English classroom and provide a platform for students to use technology interactively. I also added a file converter to the toolkit to make it easier for teachers to use Youtube videos and other files that may be blocked on a school server.

In addition to tools, I included links to professional development specifically for teachers interested in using technology in their classroom. Having training and background knowledge in cyber bullying before implementing collaborative technology can prevent a number of issues from arising. In addition, several of my colleagues are also pursuing their special education certifications and might be especially interested in learning more about differentiation through technology, as well as UDL principles

If I were to send this to an administrator rather than my colleagues, I would also include articles and webpages that show how to practically integrate technology into the curriculum. I would also include professional development and training on using technology safely in the classroom, so that they could then disseminate this information to teachers and possibly use it to revise the schools technology policy as needed.

If a teacher is new to technology and reluctant to use or implement it, I might add tools that help them learn how to use the technology, making it clear, easy and simple for them to begin to adjust to using it on their own. One example is the article titled “Better Web Searching”. I would also introduce them to Classroom 2.0  a social networking site for educators who are interested in educational technology, and can field any questions they may have at a moments notice . I would also consciously choose articles that highlight the benefits of technology use for students through anecdotal experience and statistics. Creating toolkits for a variety of purposes can make it easy to access  information when it is needed. It serves as a way for teachers to challenge themselves to continue learning through online professional development opportunities. Cited.org, is a great resource for this.

C and CC

In searching through the resources provided on copyright laws, I found this link to be the most helpful:


Not only does it link to further places to learn about aspects of copyright, but it also presents the information in a way that is manageable and easy to understand. The most helpful aspect of this article was its breakdown of the six different types of Creative Commons licenses. It also provides a link to source that contains the symbols for each of these types so that they are easily identifiable to those looking to use the work. I think that although Creative Commons licensing is complex, it is the best way for artists to share their work in a way that they are comfortable with because they do not have to adhere to one size fits all restrictions in order to copyright their materials. However, this places a lot more responsibility on the consumers and users of these materials to get educated on copyright laws before starting their work. Given the number of resources provided by this page alone, I would say it’s fairly easy to understand copyright regulations in their most basic sense. When it comes to commercial use, the laws become infinitely more complex. However, for us as educators, we are capable of and should be learning to discern copyright restrictions when it comes to using media in the classroom.

As a side note, one of the most helpful tools provided from the site is this creative commons mixer which allows users to mix, cut and share music that’s licensing makes it available to do so:


As I was interested in learning more about the Creative Commons, I decided to watch the following video:

It gives a brief history of copyright, explaining how originally authors had to apply for copyright restrictions on their work. Legislation in the late 1980’s changed this, so that any work is automatically copyrighted by virtue of its creation. This made it difficult for artists to give the go ahead if they wanted to allow the sharing of their work in certain contexts. Creative commons serves as a way of providing the opportunity to reserve some of their rights to the material, while turning over others to the public. The video gave a clear and succinct presentation of these differences in layman’s terms. I would use present this video in my own classroom to help students understand copyright laws better. I think that using works that are licensed with creative commons is the easiest way to avoid legal issues when using other artist’s materials, as their consent is implied directly as long as restrictions are followed. Copyrighted materials maintain all rights, and therefore permission for use is required from the creator. Creative commons gives artists and users a middle ground to work with. I hope to learn more about copyright laws moving forward so that I may use materials responsibly in the classroom.

Mini Art School #4 Multimodality and Storyboarding

For this weeks art school, I mapped out how I want my multimedia project to look using story boarding. Each new box of the story board is a page on the website. I want to use Blendspace as a homepage from which students can access different pages and links they need to work throughout the unit. Blendspace allows teachers to put all of their links in one place and make it easy for students to access them. From here, there will be five main pages linked (Introduction, Digital Tools Tutorials, Readings and Videos, Samples of Previous Student’s Work and Discussion Boards), as well as a welcome video. They will be linked through individual boxes in a circular design that goes in counter-clockwise order in terms of chronology of student need.

By spreading out information on these different pages I hope to avoid clutter and unnecessary components in my design. I hope to make use of icons and images to direct students to where they need to go. I also want to use a number of charts and boxes to keep information organized and easy to read for students. By spacing the boxes out evenly I will create symmetry in the design.  Chunking the information and minimizing the amount of text on the page will prevent students from feeling overwhelmed by the webpage. My goal was to make it as accessible as possible to them. Sorry for the poor image quality!IMG_20160226_181547030

Here is my video for demonstrating and reflecting on the concept of multimodality as an educator. I tried to have fun making it and to include examples that illustrate the ways in which information can be communicated through many forms. I had some trouble with the audio, but I still like the way it came out. I hope you enjoy it!



Mini Art School #3: Cropping and Colors

For my first lesson in mini art school this week, I practiced cropping photos to change their meaning and overall impact.  I dug through the memory card on my digital camera and pulled out pictures from Grounds for Sculpture, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and a few from my uncle’s birthday. I knew I wanted to use images from my camera because they are high resolution images and therefore less likely to get pixelated when doing very close crops, like the one below.  I experimented with making very radical changes to change the composition of the photos.



As you can see, zoomed in so that the only subject in the photo is the peacock. I cut out all of the background and eliminated the sculpture on the right hand side of the photo. As a result, the focal point of the photo becomes the bird itself, with its feathers serving as a beautiful textured background. I also played with the hues of the photo to bring out more of DSC00086the green in the bird’s feathers. Whereas the original photo was cluttered and contained a lot of unnecessary details, the edit creates a pattern for the idea to easily follow.

I also played around with photos to try to give them a different meaning. Changing the focus of an image can send a different message to the viewer. Think of an image of a bee pollinating a flower. Zoomed out, our focus is the flower and the bee, but zooming in lets the viewer know that the photographer wants them to think about the bee. I tried to achieved that effect with this next photo:

DSCN1532 DSCN1532

I hoped that the cropping would change it from simply a photo of a statue, to a more honorable and dignified portrayal or the sphinx. Since the cropping no longer allows you to see how close to the floor it is, it is up to the viewers’ imaginations. I also wanted the viewer to contemplate what he is thinking. I’m still not sure if I achieved the effect I wanted here. Let me know!


I also cleared the clutter of my niece’s head jumping into this photo. She loves to be in the middle of the action, and sometimes this means photos too. Although initially I did not think this was a good enough reason to edit the photo for the purposes of “art”, I really liked how the final product came out.

DSC00150 The cropping created a nice frame for the image, guiding the eye from my uncle, to his cake and then the flowers. Lowering the brightness of the photo also made it easier to see all the subjects in it. I think that there is a nice balance of negative space that makes it aesthetically pleasing in a way that I didn’t really expect it to. Some other examples of my cropping experiments are below. I was definitely surprised by how removing clutter from a photo can make it so much more appealing. I was also surprised by how zooming in and cutting out certain parts of photographs can create an entirely new and unrecognizable image. I used to avoid cropping photos because I thought it looked tacky if I had to change the dimensions of it. Now I see that this is not the case, and some really great images can come out of cropping.

DSCN1576 DSCN1576

DSCN1593 DSCN1593

For activity number two, I chose the color echo exercise, and inspired by the bowl of sweet lemon drops, I chose a cupcake as my digital image! In studying the basic design principles, I’ve come to realize that so many of these principles are intertwined with each other. Unity in an image can come through textures, patterns, text, or in this case colors. You can begin with a photo in mind and build an image around it, simultaneously creating the focus of your design and unifying it with the whole.

cupcake edit 1  cupcake edit 2

cupcake edit 3

I thought it would be a good idea to use the color of the cake in the middle because it’s such a small part of the cupcake and I felt like more blue or pink would overwhelm the image. I think it’s definitely my favorite color as the background. Usually I find graphic design to be tedious and difficult, but using a color palette that was already in the image made it a lot easier.


Lastly, I decided to do the painting activity in order to experiment with mixing colors. Originally I had filmed myself doing this, only to realize upon finishing that my camera died somewhere along the way. So, you get the boring text and pictures version. Sorry!

I decided that my canvas would be an old tea tray that I started as a painting project and got as far as giving it a purple background. The book suggested I go to a park to paint, but it’s thirty degrees outside, so I passed on that suggestion. I set up on the floor, pulled out all my old paints and brushes and got right to mixing. IMG_20160219_162716196

Things got messy pretty quickly. I kept the white and black paints on hand for making shades darker or lighter. This is the end result:


I found a lot of color combinations that I did not think would look good, but actually came out nicely. For example, I was hesitant to add that lime green tree in the middle, but I think it goes well with the black and blue on the left. I also really liked the shades of red and pink working together on the right side of the canvas. Although the end product is a little bit overwhelming, I think I learned a lot just from playing around with different colors and mixing paints.


Mini Art School #2: Fonts and Photos


The font activity was a fun way to find some fonts I might be interested in using as a part of my future web designs and think about what kind of message they portray. In thinking about typography, we rarely consider the voice that a font carries with it. I found myself gravitating towards novelty fonts that have a strong and unique voice to them for this activity. One font reminded me of the movies, while another resembled a graffiti tag. In searching through the options on http://www.dafont.com, I chose the ones that stood out to me the most and added them to Microsoft Word. Next came deciding what words I would pair with them. The exercise called for words that exemplified the meaning of the font, and those that contradict it. This created some interesting juxtapositions. For the carefully executed cursive font I used “Perfection” contrasted with “Vomit”. Later, the squished and slightly illegible script was consequently described as hurried instead. It is interesting have even though they are the same form of writing, they give off very different impressions and voices. The rushed Mistral font voices its urgency while neglecting clarity. The fun, happy “Maybe, Maybe not” font would not be used to send a serious message.


All of these influences are considerations that need to be taken into account in the process of information design using fonts.

For my second choice of activity, I accessed the Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Reading Room in search of some photographs that really catch my eye. The first photograph I chose came from the Carol M. Highsmith collection. SoldiersPhoto

I was drawn to it at first, admittedly because I wasn’t sure if the figures in the photo were real people or not. Upon closer inspection, they are lifelike sculptures in a memorial setting. The photographer uses principle of movement to draw the eye through sculptures almost like a funnel towards the American flag, which serves as the focal point and a contrast of color against the white and gray background. The image achieves balance through the weight of the flag’s color  with the visual weight of the nearest sculpture in the foreground.


This second image from the Kandell Sikkim Collection caught my eye because of the colors. Although the entire image seems foggy, the rainbow is very clearly the focal point against an otherwise muted background. Although there does seem to be a lot of negative space in the photo, it is divided horizontally into dark and light, with lighter tones of color toward the bottom of the frame.Having these different values hold’s the viewers interest. Although it is a very simple photograph, I think that it holds up to many of the design principles we are studying.


The last photo I chose is anything but simple. I found myself returning to the Carol M. Highsmith Collection to pick out this bright photograph, which contains a number of colors and other visual elements. The curved bright blue line over the parade float guides the viewer’s eye horizontally across the visual plane. It is hard to figure out the focal point of this image. My eye goes immediately toward the giant head on the float, then next to the paraders in their bright blue outfits. It feels like every time I look at this photo I see something new! Even so, all the elements within the photo work together in unity to create the theme of a fun Mardi Gras parade.

I think that in examining these photographs I have learned more about the principles of design that make an image visually appealing. Being able to look at photographs from a technical perspective rather than simply for enjoyment gave me a practical understanding of the visual design principles we’ve been studying.

Mini Art School #1

I found this magazine ad for the Nike 123 marathoner shoe online, and I was immediately drawn to its bright colors. As someone who loves running and buying new shoes, I decided that this would be the advertisement I would use to help me think about design principles.


Although the rules of design dictate that the use of too many colors can clutter an image and make it appear too busy, I think that in this case, Nike’s use of color creates a feeling of excitement and energy and the solid black background prevents the image from being overwhelming to the viewer.

It also combats over-stimulation by keeping the font face the same throughout the entire ad. It uses a playful bubble-lettered font that is easy to read and meshes well with the other curved lines and circular shapes throughout the shoe.

At first, it seems like the advertisement does not adhere to the principle of uneven spacing, placing the shoe directly in the middle of the frame. However, upon closer inspection, the splash of color in the bottom left corner creates an off-center balance to the piece that adds visual interest and does give a sense of creativity to the whole ad ( Krause 19).

In addition, the design uses repetition to create calm and harmony, even in a very bright and in your face image. The repeating colors of green, pink and blue guide the eye through different parts of the advertisement and make it easy on our brains. The only color that may seem out of place is the purple Nike logo. However, it is clearly meant to stand out right in the middle of the frame and remind us of who’s selling this shoe.

Furthermore, it reminds us what the product exactly is several times through subtle theme and grouping techniques. The shoe is called the 123 marathoner. We see these numbers in written and numerical form inside the shape of a shoe, and we’re reminded that it “breaks tape” in April 2011. By creating a theme of these three numbers associated with running, it reinforces the idea that if you’re a runner, this is the shoe for you. Another design principle, used primarily by websites, is that the goal or message of the site should be clear. In the case of this advertisement, the goal smacks you right in the face with a giant silhouette of a shoe that you should most definitely buy. However, the details are a bit more elusive. It is up to the viewer to determine from visual clues that this is a running shoe, and that it is meant for long distance running.

The presentation is decisive, placing the shoe in the center of a large empty space focalizes the attention towards it. It takes into account not only color but the values of color weighted up against each other, using the contrast of bright versus dark to draw attention. Overall, the advertisement implements a number of design rules and strategies to create a compelling graphic design with a strong message.

Going to School

My own pursuit of using the principles of design for the purposes of message design turned out to be a lot of fun. At first it was a little bit frustrating to work with digital tools to work my designs, but after a while I became more confident using Canva, an online graphic design tool to create my very own music festival poster. I chose this exercise because it requires a lot of work with colors. It’s a fun audience and my biggest goal was to create a visually interesting piece.

As you can see, I got more confident towards the end and decided to use an entire photo in my design. I did my best to keep the color scheme within the same grouping for each poster. However, I think my favorite piece is still the first poster I did because of it’s simplicity. I think the spacing makes it less crammed and more easy to read. It keeps the focus on the information itself, rather than the visuals surrounding it. I tried to use the Nike ad as inspiration and use a color pop for the music festival logo.

I also chose to redo a recruitment banner I designed for my fraternity, after concluding that it was just way too busy. The new design simplifies the entire banner and makes it easier to read. It also makes use of white space, a principle emphasized by Margaret Kiernan in her interview with our professor. However, it maintains visual interest by making the background a deep purple color. I think that the changes make it more accessible to the viewer and make better use of the visual space.

banner redo

The new product gets the message of the banner across more quickly and also makes it easier to read by limiting the number of fonts in the piece. A passerby would be more likely to remember the information and webpages without the overcrowding of other information and wordiness surrounding it. I think that this design could also easily function as a business card. I look forward to improving my designing skills throughout the rest of the semester. I’ve already seen a great improvement in my intuitive design skills after learning about the basic principles.


Online Communities

The community that I am most excited about joining for my Multimedia Montage Project is the Google + community “Elementary and Primary School Tech” which can be found here: https://plus.google.com/communities/108703959936590243415?gclid=CPSI24ydzsoCFQoqHwodlA0KXw

Although my focus is on middle school (6th-8th grade) language arts education, I chose this community because it is incredibly active, has over 600 members, and I’ve already found some great resources that could be used in any classroom just from scrolling through the page. Because I love bouncing ideas off of other people, the most frustrating thing about searching for a community that I could use to help me with this project was that many of the groups I looked into did not communicate or leave comments for one another. This group, however, is great! People leave many comments on each other’s posts and have conversations about digital tools they are familiar with.

As Elizabeth Daley points out, “Interactivity as a core factor in multimedia is in some ways closely related to performance and can enable the reader/viewer/user to participate directly in the construction of meaning”. In this case, I will be using interaction with my colleagues to help construct the meaning of various digital tools and how they can fit within the context of my project. I hope to inquire about other teachers’ experiences creating their own multimedia design projects and what worked best for them.

The other community that I will be actively participating is the EdTech hashtag on twitter. Although some people dismiss Twitter as a trivial social media platform, “#EdTech” is shared by major public figures, companies and education blogs such as Edutopia and MindShift. I originally discovered this hashtag after watching Jose Vilson’s keynote speech at the NJEA convention and following his twitter account. Even though users can only share 140 characters, they often share links to great articles and websites that contain the latest educational technology.twitterbirf

I also plan to share the actual design of my project periodically using this hashtag to get feedback. Rune Petterson emphasizes in a 2009 edition of TechTrend that message design is a complex discipline that involves “producing, transmitting and interpreting messages of various kinds”. Receiving feedback means that I can better understand how my message is being interpreted by the consumers of the multimedia design, and then eventually my students. Teachers on this platform may also be able to give insight into how a student might perceive certain aspects of the project. Overall, I’m really looking forward to using these communities to help me develop the Multimedia Montage Project.


Analyzing an Advertisement

After examining a Volkswagon advertisement  first with amusement and then more carefully, it is clear to see all of the work and analysis that goes into creating an advertisement. Interestingly, the field of advertisement takes into account all of the elements of information design described by Peterson, satisfying the “aesthetic, economic, ergonomic as well as subject matter requirements” (Tech Trends, 40) to effectively convey a message to its audience.

The purpose of the Ad is, of course, to sell cars. In the version of reality depicted in the commercial, we see that having a Volkswagon with it’s remote start can lead to some hilarious family hi-jinx, perhaps to convey the idea that it is the perfect family car.  It is clear that the intended audience are middle-aged parents who can enjoy the antics of little Darth Vader possibly the most because, having children of their own, they can relate to it. However, the commercial plays to Star Wars fans, or anyone who appreciates humor in advertising. A big part of information design is communication, and if people remember a brand that put a smile on their face, they may transfer those feelings to the brand itself.

We get the most of the commercial through the eyes of a child, and at first, it doesn’t seem like a car commercial at all. However, in the end, we are let in on the joke when we get the parents’ perspective. This kind of leading on definitely made me watch the entire commercial, even though I knew it would be about a car. I was rooting for the child to finally get to use the force. and when he did, I felt victorious too. I think that following the child through his struggles is a smart move because it does cause the viewer to empathize with him. I think that this specific medium is the best possible way to advertise the feature that Volkswagon highlights in this ad: the remote start button. The same effect would not come across in simply print or audio. It needs to be an audio-visual experience for the consumer to really understand what is going on. Overall, I think the commercial is extremely effective in getting the viewers attention and ultimately consider buying a Volkswagon vehicle. The ad I’m talking about (worth the watch!) can be found here: