Research Proposal in Visual Text

I don’t know why I didn’t think of this myself, a little disappointed that I didn’t actually. I just spoke with my Masters buddy because I had to miss class today (and feeling very, very guilty about it, but it was for all the right reasons). She gave me a quick overview of the day and one topic they discussed was Wordle. The group was talking about narrative inquiry and Wordle was introduced as a method to highlight repeating words and ideas.  I’ve used Wordle in this space before, and in my teaching practice, so it’s a natural extension to use it to enhance my Masters learning.

Here’s a wordle of the research proposal I submitted last month. Click on the image for a full size version. Thirty-five pages and over 9000 words summarized neatly into one visual image!

Wordle: Inquiry Project

Based on that image, I think it’s obvious that I’m focusing on my own teaching practice (the whole point, so I’m happy to see that word is the biggest) and that learning is the next key idea. Inquiry is closely followed by students and then it gets a little more complicated.

It’s clearly my inquiry project – everything is there, all three topics: the Elementary Connected Classrooms environment, visual literacy/arts based methods and my exploration of my inherent Metis worldview.

One last thought I’ll share…the inner art teacher that’s still a part of me was very pleased to see the word arts registered larger than technology 🙂

Image above courtesy of is one of my favourite, and most used, Web 2.0 tools. I can’t emphasize enough how much I value the ability to save and access websites of note from any computer workstation. I also love the fact that I can see what others in my network are saving and tagging with a few simple clicks. I am quite sure that educators who don’t use social bookmarking have no clue what they’re missing. Here’s what my bookmarks look like visually thanks to Wordle:

delicious wordle

I borrowed the idea (from a virtual colleague) to tag links found on Twitter as ‘fromtwitter’ and it’s obvious from this image what a huge impact Twitter has had on my learning in just under one year!

If you’d like to see what links I’ve been bookmarking, or to add me to your network, my account name is emisle.  Welcome to my personal learning network!

Tech Corner – Wordle

At the start of every staff meeting I present a short (~5 minute) agenda item called Tech Corner. During Tech Corner, I introduce something related to using technology in education. My overall purpose is to advocate for the transformative integration of technology into the school. With a positive approach, I show items of  interest to colleagues to get them thinking about how they could use technology to enhance the learning in their classrooms.My Wordle

The last Tech Corner focused on Wordle.  I’ve used Wordle in my blog posts before, but after seeing it used at the local elementary school I decided to share it with colleagues.

Using the laptop and LCD projector, I started with a quick demo introducing the Wordle website. I then showed two different ways to create a Wordle: paste in a chunk of text or type in a URL for a webpage that has a RSS or Atom feed. I then shared a few examples, some from online sources (Obama’s speech to students at the start of the school year) and some from students in my own school (a colleague had used it for the first time earlier that day). Ever the art teacher, I finished off with a quick demo of how to change the design using choices of language, font, layout and colour. It was a typical Tech Corner – lots of info through visual examples, some demonstration and me talking through the whole thing.

I often wonder about how Tech Corner is received. Do staff really enjoy and learn something useful from my five minute technology blitz? Or are they tuning out and marking while I talk?

This time, I learned very quickly what the teachers at my school thought about the Wordle Tech Corner. The next day, a teacher came into my classroom because he was having difficutly using Wordle in one of the computer labs. We soon discovered that one lab has Java installed on the machines so Wordle works properly, the other lab has machines without Java and with Deep Freeze, so installation is a problem.  Although we had to solve that problem, I was thrilled that he was using the website with his students!

In the next few days, a Wordle sensation spread throughout the school. A bulletin board appeared with student Wordles all over it. The secretary called me in because she needed help creating a Wordle for a card for her brother (brilliant idea actually – she brainstormed words about her brother to create the Wordle and made it into the front of a card for him). Another teacher asked me questions about it. And students in my classes asked how to use the site and started creating their own Wordles out of curiosity!

This Tech Corner had a positive impact on the students, teachers and secretary at the school. I wonder, though, why this one was more successful than Tech Corners of the past. Was it the striking visual impact of the Wordle itself? Perhaps it was the use of elements and principles of design that only an art teacher would know about? Was it that the non-stop Tech Corners at the start of every staff meeting for the last three years have opened up people’s mindset? Was it that the staff are becoming more receptive to using technology over time?

My graduate diploma mentor said that quality learning often results in more questions than answers. Although I’m on the teaching side of Tech Corner, I’m obviously still learning, albeit with different outcomes than everyone else.

Wordle above of this blog post and courtesy of Wordle

So Many Web 2.0 Choices…

One of my professional learning goals for the first semester this year was to learn about blogging and other Web 2.0 tools that I could use with my art students. More specifically, I want to enhance their learning associated with perceiving and responding to their own and others’ artwork.

My goal for second semester is to implement the technology to start transforming the learning in the classroom. The problem is, there are so many Web 2.0 tools, I can’t decide which technology to use! So, I decided to use technology to decide on technology. Here’s my first Wordle created from this post:

I could create a blog using Edublogs. I’d probably format it similiar to Huzzah, Technology in our classroom, and Clarence Fisher’s Thinwalls blog. These blogs are designed so that each student has their own space to work within and call their own. I believe that this student ownership over the space would lead to increased student motivation and, in turn, more engagement and enhanced learning.

I could, however, use a classroom Flickr account for the same purpose. Students could upload photos and photos of art projects and use the comments section as the space for artist statements and responses. If I decide to go the blog route, a Flickr account could be part of the blog space, too. I’d like to experiment with different ways of using Flickr as a tool regardless.

Many people I’ve discussed the project with have recommended Voicethread. Of the three, this is the only tool I haven’t used and the one that I know the least about. It looks like you upload a photo, then people leave an audio comment about the image. It sounds like a good match for visual arts. Once again, if I decide on the blog, then I could embed a Voicethread into a posting.

I have to decide…soon. Any ideas? One person (thanks Marianne!) suggested that I let the students decide. I like that option. I think it’s important that students take part in the decision making in the classroom.

What do you think – blog, Flickr, Voicethread or a combination of all three? I’d love any insight you have or helpful tips you can offer. Which Web 2.0 tool would you use?