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Katie Feather, a high school biology teacher at the UN International School in Manhattan--a private school founded by families who worked for the United Nations--faced the challenge of engaging her students as they accessed their courses on Schoology, a learning management system.
Instead of simply listing tasks in blue type--the default setting in Schoology's user interface--she decided to try something different. So she challenged herself to design an interactive infographic that would be more memorable for students--and a lot more engaging.
We had a chance to interview Katie and find out how she was able to come up with a winning design, which has received a lot of positive feedback from students and teachers.
My name is Katie Feather. I am from Durham, in the North East of England in the UK. I started my science teaching career in London at Phoenix High School, where I stayed for 6 years. During that time, I progressed to the head of the science department and completed my M.A. in Education--focused on leading innovation and change--at St. Mary’s University.
In September 2014, I moved to New York City and began teaching at the United Nations International School (UNIS). It is a 1:1 school, which means that each student has a MacBook Air laptop for their own personal use. The school uses a learning management system called Schoology to aid communication between teachers and students.
I love using this platform and quickly realized its potential in improving communication, resources and learning opportunities with my students. It also aids in sharing resources between colleagues in my department, which has made our working days more collaborative and efficient, as well as providing a source of fun!
UNIS is running an initiative called Blended Learning, which aims to blend face-to-face and online pedagogy to help our students access their education in the most up-to-date and engaging way. I was trained as a "content strategist" to coach teachers in the design of effective blended courses and to apply design principles to my own courses.
Through this training, I began focusing on the visual design of my courses and challenging myself to come up with an interactive interface that would be more memorable for students than a list of tasks written in blue type.
UNIS is dedicated to changing the way that teachers use technology, which is why it launched a Blended Learning Summer Institute in 2014. Teachers spent two weeks of their summer vacation to plan units of study that would be implemented in the next school year, with input from high school students. This took place at a "We Work" co-working space to better aid collaboration between teachers, students and technology integrators. This first summer institute was so successful that it was repeated in the summer of 2015, when I participated as a content strategist.
I heard about Visme from a colleague, Sochenda Samreth, who knew I had an interest in building an interactive front page for my course.
I used a Visme template to design an infographic that would signpost students to their learning and assessment activities. Because of its interactive capabilities, I was able to post links to the locations of the pertinent documents. Schoology allows users to embed interactive content.
I used Visme to create an interactive, visual front page for students so that they could more easily access my course and the learning activities contained within.
I have made a very brief YouTube video to show how Visme helped me create this design:
There are lots of Visme features that make it enjoyable and easy to use! For starters, having access to templates is very useful. The fact that they can become ‘clickable’ is the feature that most interests me.
I love how easy it is to play with color combinations so that you can get the exact appearance that you want. The design and appearance of online courses is so important in keeping students' attention, so the more engaging my courses look, the better!
Tricky one. Perhaps more templates that could be used as educational platforms? There are many learning management systems that could use a better interface.