“Because your message is only as good as your ability to share it.”
The quotation above comes from the video The Value of Data Visualization. The video ends with the above image and statement, which had an impact on me. Part of living in 2019 with the massive volume of content creators produce, there is an absolute bar that has been raised– a certain expectation of quality of content. It reminds me of Marshall McLuhan’s notion that “the medium is the message.”
He was arguing the platform we use to share information is more important than the content. For example, Facebook and its ability to influence thinking on a global scale). But to take that idea a step further, how we share information matters just as much as where we share it. In other words, there are millions of excellent views out there. However, if they are not presented well and shared with the right communities, the message might fall on deaf ears. That word “share” in the title gets at the essence of it. We have to be able to share our messages adequately if we want to be heard with so many competing voices.
Purpose, Content, and Audience
While considering how important the medium is while presenting information, I thought about what information I need to share in the upcoming days. One of the biggest things I have been working on is creating a coaching culture at my new school. It seems that the staff and I have different definitions of the term “coaching,” which has led to some questions.
In the upcoming weeks, I will be presenting to the staff about what is on offer with me. Presenting to the team is incredibly important to do because there has never been a secondary integrationist or tech coach. In previous years, the school integrated Design/Design Thinking and with it tech. This year, there has been a shift toward a different practice which is stand-alone tech integration. My particular approach has been to use three different support functions: coaching, consulting, or collaborating. I think of those three Cs in that specific order too. I always default to coaching. Let’s look at how I define each of those words.
- Tech Coaching: this means that I will start by making a positive presupposition that the teacher has the knowledge and the skills to answer her or his questions around technology. Coaching also means that I will start by listening, and my job will be to clarify what the person is thinking. Coaching is NOT telling the person my judgments, telling them what to do, or talking about myself. In short: coaching is empowering the other person through the right questions.
- Tech Consulting: This is when another person (e.g., teacher or student) signals to me that they do not know the answer. When they are looking for guidance, I will offer my suggestions and point them in the direction of resources. Consulting is NOT me doing it for them. But the assumption I make is that she or he is smart enough and capable enough to do it. In short, consulting is pointing people in a specific direction and offering suggestions.
- Tech Collaboration: this is the idea that my peer and I both have experience and knowledge that we can draw upon to co-construct a plan, unit, exercise, or material together. Collaboration is a balance between listening and speaking and is like taking coaching and consulting together. Collaboration is NOT me doing lessons for the teacher, but rather doing lessons with the teacher. In short, collaboration is sharing and working together.
All three of these support functions are ways that I can help the teachers to achieve excellence in their craft as well as to become self-managing learners as well. By encouraging and modeling these sorts of protocols, I can promote a culture that values independence, empowerment, listening, and that makes positive assumptions. It’s all about believing in one another.
Creating the Infographic
With those notions in mind, I set out to create an infographic that can help me share how I can support teachers. Furthermore, I kept the mnemonic CARP in mind to help me effectively communicate my message.
Without repeating the content which I wrote above, I’d like to touch on some of the design decisions I made instead. After sitting down and working on it for 2 hours, I came up with this. I’m sure after leaving it and coming back I’m going to see loads of things I’d change, but for now, here’s V1.0.
I think it turned out pretty well. I made some decisions about visual hierarchy to help guide the eye as the reader with font size and the scrolling nature of the infographic. Second, I tried to align everything based on two margins (a far-left and a far-right). Third, I decided to use bullet points to guide the reader’s eye for the different chunks of text on the page. But I wanted to use meaningful icons that represented the fundamental concepts of each point. Finally, I used colors that were pleasant together and were high contrast to make it easier to read. I used red intentionally to show something was “negative.” I did this because I have heard people mention that they think a coach might be someone who will tell them how to teach. So this was a big point I wanted to emphasize! 🙂
The whole idea of starting with someone else’s template was unusual for me, as I’m more accustomed to starting with an idea and building outward– very additive. This process was more subtractive. I could visualize the final product in my head when I started because I had written out everything I wanted to include at the top of this post. The issue that I had was that I couldn’t quite find a template that was like what I wanted. So I picked one and used it as inspiration. Then, I worked with it to fit the content that I had. It started with four boxes, but I felt like the boxes split up my content and didn’t do them justice. So I opted to remove them and make the main content one long block. I kept working with it from there by adding background images and other content. Slowly, step-by-step, it stopped looking like the template and seemed to be a purpose-built infographic.
Considering that I want to share this with my colleagues who are very busy professionals, I felt like I wanted to keep it short and to the point. I also felt that since there was some slight anxiety around the word “coach,” I would use a color template that’s calming. Blue has a soothing effect as Keri-Lee Beasley tells us in her book on design.
I have yet to show this to my colleagues. The goal is to get feedback on it from a smaller group like my department and my principals first. They can be my test group to see how clear it is. 🙂 I’ll come back and update this after I’ve given it a go!
Update: Version 1.4
I had this great conversation with my department head yesterday, who said that student portfolios are best when they show progression & growth, not just “best work.” So with that in mind, you can see where I started up above with version 1.1, and where I took it in today’s current version (1.4).
For the last few weeks I’ve been working with teachers and administrators and showing this list of definitions to them. Printing it out really helped for others to read it over during my presentation. I noticed on paper that there were a few items I could tweak like font size and alignment/justification of text.
I also was able to get some feedback from my COETAIL instructor, Tanya LeClair which I found extremely valuable in that it helped to have another’s eyes on the document with an eye for design. Two helpful pieces of feedback included line-height (I didn’t realize Piktochart.com could edit that!) and blocks of color to break up the different definitions.
With all that feedback, here is the second version!
You can download a printable version of this document (version 1.4) from Google Drive [ LINK ].