Archive for the ‘Course 3’ Category


If you are wondering how I make my visual notes, I have made a series of 4 step by step demonstrations using Adobe Ideas on the iPad, Airplay and Quicktime player to record and iMovie to pull it all together.

I hope you find them useful as well as find out a little more about visual notetaking.

Do let me know what you think and how I can be of help to you trying out this skill for yourself.


It is argued that the first Infographic was way back in 1626, when Christoph Scheiner published the Rosa Ursina sive Sol, a book in which the Infographics were illustrations demonstrating the Sun’s rotational patterns.

Nowadays graphics that share information are a normal part of our daily lives and visuals help inform us wherever we turn. produces an Infographic everyday and some books are almost entirely made up of information graphics, such as David Macaulay‘s The Way Things Work.

Thinking Visually

As a visual learner and advocate of the power of visuals, Infographics help us to sort and bring order to complex information and I can see how they can form a major part in educating our students in a wide variety of contexts.

Growing up at school my first love was always Art but coming a very close second, surprisingly was Mathematics. Ever since I was 12 I knew I wanted to be a Graphic Designer, yet one of my strongest subjects at school was Maths. I still love to problem solve, so understanding visual data seems the perfect combination of my passions. I sometimes describe myself as a mathematical artist, as many of my drawing methods are concerned with proportions, measuring or designing with regard to symmetry, emphasis or balance. One of my idols in the Art world, who successfully combined these 2 disciplines was MC Escher and, as a teenager I marvelled at his fantastical and surreal compositions with perspective and his tessellation designs. I have been teaching students about the fundamentals of design theory for over 20 years and in the application of the elements and principles to drawing, photography and composition as well as in the basics of good Graphic Design. My current visual notes graphically document my learning and communicate information in a similar way that Infographics and Data Visualisation work, yet I had not made that connection until just recently. I simply use visuals combined with text, as that is the most effective way for me to learn, recall and remember.

Back in 2008, I was teaching an eager group of IB Visual Art students in Ghana, who were keen to involve their home culture more into their personal works. We talked about the current issues faced in Africa and globally that might inspire meaningful work and eventually discussions and research centred on the corresponding statistics. Each student found an authentic statistic on their home country to communicate through visual means. Whilst a Swiss student looked into the amount of chocolate eaten in one year per person another student was astounded at the numbers of HIV deaths in certain areas of Africa and set out to visualise this data.


Seeing the Numbers of HIV in Africa, Eloi LCS student

Was this my first taste of working with information and graphics in an educational context? As a Graphic designer years ago, I saw companies represent their annual statistics or data in simple graphs or tables with just colours or pie charts but not much more creatively than that. Today we see data represented in the most beautiful and weird ways. From how much sleep we should have to the contents of your poop! Designers have never been so creatively challenged to find the best and aesthetic way to interpret numbers and facts.

I first came across Infographics, the image dominant designs we know them now as, when Noah Katz introduced the concept of visualising data to my Art Department back in 2010 and the concept struck a strong chord. Maybe it was then that the idea to bring together my Graphics background and the education of others began to take seed. I loved the idea of using facts and figures together with Design to help others to understand more abstract numbers or complex concepts.

But data itself is a complex thing and often a rather boring concept to some youngsters, so how can we make it more palatable and more engaging?

The Problem with Plastic

I talked about Chris Jordan’s complex data driven photography in a previous post (The Power of Visuals) and I was first inspired by his work back in 2009 in Ghana when researching for a GIN (Global Issues Network) conference in Qatar that I was taking my students to. Mike Johnston, now MS Principal UWCSEA, introduced us to the power a visual, and in this case a video, can have in grabbing attention and hitting a message home, hard. He showed the shocking, yet painfully simple video that sends its message, and the accompanying data plainly – recycle.

Chris Jordan’s photographic installations show us graphically the effects of consumerism, albeit focused on the US market, yet applicable to us all worldwide. Moving forward to 2010 at UWCSEA, I taught predominantly Middle School Art, yet I was also teaching Grade 3 Art. I decided to take a chance and show these youngsters Chris Jordan’s Midway video in the run up to the Junior School exhibition focussing on Plastic and recycling.
They were as shocked as I was about the amount of baby Albatross deaths all because of human plastic consumption. So we set about a task to show visually the amount of plastic that we were throwing away in our society and its direct effect on the birds in Midway. They decided to collect as many coloured bottle tops as they could to help make a collage and we soon found that most plastic bottle tops we used were blue or white, perfect for a bird in flight or on the water! So the collage developed……

Albatross birds from bottle caps by Grade 3 UWCSEA

The students were able to communicate the issue visually yet also the message clearly in their explanations and even now, many years on they remember the message well.
The environment and man’s impact on it has long been a passion of mine and in particular the problem with plastic pollution. Chris Jordan’s series Running the Numbers is still a fundamental part of my inspiration as I search for meaningful as well as achievable ways to change thinking in Singapore, a society with a huge throw-away culture. I would love to create a similar large scale mural of waves or the oceans made from thrown away plastic.

It would be great to pull the community together to complete the mural over time, each contributing to this collection of everyday plastic, and in turn to see what a terrible effect plastic is having on our waters, much of which give forth to the Asian diet rich in fish. Could the Art department help save our world or at least change thinking and affect action? 

Where does data feature in the MS curriculum?

food and data

Food for Thought, Grade 8 UWCSEA

Food for Thought, Grade 8 UWCSEA











Last year my Grade 8 students were looking at issues with food to inspire their ceramic sculptures and found statistics that linked to this unit Food for Thought installation at the end of year exhibition. Although the point was visually communicated, I feel now that I missed an opportunity to bring in Infographics to the unit or at least link up with another department to develop these to support the sculptural work. Art collaborating with Maths? Whatever next?!

What about this year? What ideas do I have? As part of my Global Concerns group PAW (Promoting Animal Welfare) we will be looking initially at endangered species and the decline of certain animals in our region and searching for effective ways in which to communicate this to the community to raise awareness. Perhaps Infographics would be a cool visual way to start this off?

CRAP design

Just over a year ago I was privileged to attend Kelly Grogan‘s Extended session at Learning 2 Singapore, “Visual Literacy and Big Data Infographics”. Through her 3-hour session Kelly helped us to think of how we could infuse Infographics into our classrooms and how to make our own. She cross-referenced Noah Katz’s Visual Literacy session and the importance of understanding layout and the use of colour. It is clear in the examples that follow that Visual Literacy and the principles behind CRAP design are crucial in understanding the information presented.

The Infographic to the left about the Global killer Cancer, shows careful, balanced use of symbols and data to communicate the message effectively but using a limited palette of colour to emphasise key points. So too does the graphic on the right about the impact of a toxic office on workers clearly using contrasting values and simple iconography to capture the points also in a linear format.


Other Infographics may use more of a timeline design working from left to right to track information logically showing the main message or more creatively in the example of American Presidents.

But sometimes less information results in a clearer message, as in Gemma Bussel’s interpretation of the Creative Process. I know I couldn’t agree with it more!

David McCandless talks about how “Information is Beautiful” in his book and website of the same name and, in his TED talk he calls information overload “Info Glut”. He explains how Infographics help us to ‘see” through the information and help us to sort and understand it more easily. Examples these days range from simple data represented logically using symbols and icons to complex and visually explicit examples such as Langwitches Visible Thinking Routines.

Story telling with Data

In her informative post, Silvia Tolisano (Langwitches) describes Inforgraphics as “Telling a story with data” and it is with this in mind that we should be careful to consider the types of layout that can be used when designing an Infographic. From symmetrical comparisons to timeline designs, each help the viewer to track through the content, just as a story takes you from introduction to conclusion. In order to start you on your own Infographic, Kelly asks us these 3 questions:

What story is it telling? What pattern should I use? What data do we need?

DIY Infographics – getting it right

There are many websites these days that can help you to make your own Infographic (and links galore at Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything). But you don’t really need a dedicated app or website to make one yourself as everything is available on software such as Pages, you just need some creative thinking, a simple approach and the data itself.

Information can be overwhelming but occasionally data can also be inaccurate or just plain wrong and it is crucial that we know first that the data is correct and that the source it came from is reliable. Once we establish this and have filtered and sorted it, we can look at the best way to use it and create something visually understandable and clearly communicable. Start small, think context, then design – what is the big message?
Often when I am creating my Visual notes I have to sift through much information before deciding the main message to get across and then decide what the main points are that I want to communicate. It is in this same process that an Infographic can be developed. What is the message? What do you want to say? How can this be shown more visually? How might you sort the data or information? How can colour and layout help or hinder this process?

Creating and Collecting Data

Start with something you know to be true. For example: How many cups of tea (or coffee or even water consumption) you have in a week, month, year or what percentage of your food is sugar or how much exercise you take in a week. Convert this big message into a visual by taking your own photograph to form the backdrop, much like the Poop or cups examples above. You could use simple symbols from flaticon or the noun project to visualise the individual points, add in some text or data and hey presto an Infographic is born. Try it with your students – what do they know about or what interests them? Get them to create the data and there you have authentically sourced Infographics. Then share them online so others can benefit from your visuals too. Flickr has a wonderful range of Inforgraphics here if you are not sick of them yet!
Think how can you interpret other information more visually – the minutes of a meeting, the steps in a unit plan or the details or characters in a book?
It may take you or your students more time to create in this way, but if you keep the concept (and the drawings or images) simple, and the structure clear, it will prove invaluable for retaining and recalling the information over time.
Trust me, I know! My talk in Bangkok a few weeks ago depended on this statement and all 92 slides helped me to remember what I needed to say to the audience at Learning 2 without the need for notes or a script.

And, if you’re interested and have just over 5 minutes to spare you can see a version of it for my final assignment in the final blog post for Course 3.

Ink - Learning 2 Talk by Paula Guinto at Learning 2 Singapore 2013, visual note by Nicki Hambleton

Ink – Learning 2 Talk by Paula Guinto at Learning 2 Singapore 2013, visual note by Nicki Hambleton

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin….

As a child I remember being told stories, reading stories and hearing stories on the TV. I loved the stories my dad told me about his days in the Film industry and his meetings with famous people. When I was very small there a was a fantastic programme called Jackanory, the title taken from an old English nursery rhyme. Each day a celebrity would read from the week’s chosen story, sitting in a big armchair. Some of my favourites were Bernard Cribbins and Rik Mayall for their sheer brilliance in creating funny voices and captivating any viewer, young or old.

Photo Credit: Rickydavid via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Rickydavid via Compfight cc

As a parent, my two boys were brought up on stories and would love to choose a book to be read to them. I have vivid memories or reading and rereading Owl Babies by Martin Waddell night after night in between Bob the Builder and other such childhood classics! Nowadays they read themselves but I occasionally sneak a moment of reading David Walliams books as I am certain they are written as much for adults as they are for children! (If you have young boys do read Billionaire Boy – the school dinner menus are pure genius writing!)

As a teacher, the room goes quiet, even with HS students, when you ask them if they want to hear something personal that happened to you or you say those magic words, “Let me tell you a story about..” The conversations stop, their eyes turn towards you and hey presto you have a captive audience. That is the power of words and the impact a story can have. I expect you too can remember a book you read that kept you gripped and you can recall how you felt when it ended.

As an educator I learn so much from English teachers about engaging others through stories. About a year ago, at Learning 2 Singapore, a colleague of mine Paula Guinto spoke of how she came to be telling her own story and how she had begun her storytelling from journals as a child to blogging as an adult. She encouraged us all to find our own voice and to believe that we all have a story.

As adults we still love the idea of a story and apparently the cable TV channel Dave continued the success of Jackanory but this time for an adult audience calling it Crackanory. I can’t wait to look that one up on Youtube!

Twitter is a form of mini blogging and a great way to start, but blogging takes many forms. By scrolling the internet we can connect with others of similar interests and learn new things through their posts. Jabiz Raisdana uses blogging to share the stories from his Grade 8 class and there are many examples on this blog that show the power students have and the standard they can reach through this media.

Photo Credit: Danny Montemayor via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Danny Montemayor via Compfight cc

Once upon a Time

What is it about stories that draws us in? How can we incorporate stories into our teaching and how can we use technology to bring these stories to life and engage our students in their learning?

Most recently a post was doing the rounds on Facebook about The Book with No Pictures by B J Novak. Now as an art teacher, this intrigued me. How could a book with no images engage an audience? and that is where the twist came. Watch this video to understand more….

This aside, every image tells a story and none more so than photographs. As I mentioned in a previous post, photographs are a powerful way to connect with the audience but also to help them to interpret or understand. I showed this following video to my Grade 8s last year as they started a photography unit and the conversations that flowed were indeed powerful.

We all love to hear a story, it helps us drift back to our childhood, step out of our stress filled lives and into another. Stories help us to connect with the person and find out more about them, to discover connections or differences and to understand who they are and where they are from.

The idea of storytelling goes back to early man documenting their conquests on the walls of their caves through pictures. Storytelling recounts events or incidents, can be a form of entertainment or cultural preservation.

Storytelling is a huge part of all cultures from The Dreaming stories of the indigenous people of Australia to the engaging stories from Ghana. We find out more about the culture by listening to the stories continued for hundreds of years and can preserve a piece of history in doing so. When I was living in Ghana we used a local puppeteer to tell traditional stories, one memorable one being of Anansi, a trickster and West African God who takes the form of a spider.

We all love to watch movies and these too follow traditional and non-traditional forms to recount or share a story. Walt Disney was one of the most prolific storytellers and his animations almost always had a strong message or moral behind them.

The Scriptlab shares the Top 10 central themes common in films from Revenge to Love Conquers all and you can learn more from Alan Levine (@cogdog) who teaches Digital Storytelling and film studies through DS106. When he came to Singapore a few years ago he talked about the way effective documentaries use specific shots to capture the story. Through his blog and website there is a wonderful expansive source of ideas and inspiration including this link to 50 ways to tell a story. It is sure to give you many ideas for incorporating storytelling.

But what is our story and how can we use stories in our teaching?

Photo Credit: CJS*64 via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: CJS*64 via Compfight cc

What’s in a story?

There are many gurus that we can learn from who have a strong focus on storytelling including Alan Levine. Jane Ross, Digital Literacy coach at JIS, has had much success over the years with her young students publishing their stories using Book Creator. You can read more and see examples of student created books on her blog.

Books are now far more interactive and engaging through technology and there are many examples to choose from.

One such gorgeous example and following my family fascination with Alice in Wonderland is Alice for the iPad and you can see others on this article.

Ex-Pixar designer, William Joyce has used his incredible skills to create The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore and this demonstrates the versatility of how ebooks are heading.

Rob Appino, MS Technology learning facilitator at South Saigon International School, recently ran a fabulous pre-conference at Learning 2 on Immersive storytelling and Game design and you can see his resources from the course here. One of the most intriguing parts to me is the use of multi-modal learning.

Telling the story helps students to document a process, recount an experience or a trip and helps them to develop good habits and strategies in essay writing – tempting the reader/audience: introduction, content and ending


As an artist, my ambition throughout most of my adult life has been to follow in the daunting footsteps of my father who illustrated  a book by Fay McGregor called Alice in Starland. I am worried that the process may affect me in the same way it did him, as I inherited his perfectionism and tough self criticism, but I am determined to pursue it. One day.

With the inclusion of technology anything is possible and the idea to do this more in my sights. But the story? I am no writer and I certainly do not know what I would write about, maybe there is a writer out there who would be interested in my style, digital or traditional? Maybe then I can help my ambition to come to life……..

One of the most engaging and inspirational use of stories with technology I have seen is documented on this TED talk. I urge you to watch this gorgeous video and fail to be impressed and inthralled.


More than just a story

Photo Credit: Cian Ginty via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Cian Ginty via Compfight cc

I cannot help but reflect back on the past week and Learning 2 in Bangkok. I will not bore you anymore with my Keynote (although for those suckers you will see a version of it on my final Blog post for Course 3!) as I have lamented it for many months and several blog posts! But I cannot help but look back on the process of these talks and the affects on the audience. For a Keynote to be effective, one must connect with the audience, right? In comes storytelling, recounting a situation, retelling an event or telling a funny situation. But to me, it is much more than that. I need to take something away, a message, a strategy or something I can ponder and apply to my own teaching or life.

Did we do this?

Reflecting hard is a tough thing to do and, as a Brit, I am naturally self critical, but recounting the talks this year there was a strong emphasis on storytelling. But was the message clearly communicated too? In order for us to grow as educators we need to learn, rethink or change our thinking and a strong or subtle message can do this. Sam Sherratt made me rethink and reminded me of where I started from in capturing ideas as a child, at university and even in recent years. I have a multitude of Bubble catchers (sketchbooks) from my years as a designer and thinker and it is lovely to see my youngest son has a similar affliction with notebooks. In these bubble catchers he remembers counties of England (!), plans potential menus and of course captures types of cars and names for his youtube channels of the future! So too did John Rinker take me back to time past and helped me to refocus my thoughts on getting out into the open more and making the world big again – how often do we do that?

The future of Learning 2 talks must incorporate this element if it is to be successful in engaging educators into action and helping them too to find their direction and passion. Who knows, like me they may end up on stage next year.

Photo Credit: Untitled blue via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Untitled blue via Compfight cc

What’s next?

I love Storify and how it can document the development of or reflect back on an online story on Twitter and I can see a real use for this in our learning. Currently on their website you can find out about Malala Yousafzai and embedding Getty images in your story. Has anyone used Storify in the classroom?

Whilst drawing the Learning 2 Talks last year I found real learning myself in capturing the main message and integrating visual metaphors to communicate the idea. Following on from this, I would like to reflect on my takeaways this year by revisiting the talks when they come out on youtube and to capture them through simple visual notes like last years cogs. I am hoping that through this it will reconnect me and others to the message and the story being told and to help us to take our own ideas and interpretations forward into practice. Watch this space…..

But how can we use digital storytelling in our classrooms?

For me, my next unit with Grade 8 is Documentary Photography and, in previous years I have set the task to take photos to tell a mundane task or a simple story. This year I would like to include more technology, starting with simple slides and images, and incorporating voice and visual??

At this stage I do not have the expertise or the time to implement a unit on ebooks or animated illustrations but I do have many ideas to incorporate animated gifs and augmented reality to extend the image beyond and incorporate movement to track the story.

As usual I have too many ideas and must leave some in the depths of my planning to fester and rise up in the future. I am lucky to be in a department where I can devise my own curriculum and involve these kinds of new direction and , it is only October and I have the whole year ahead of me.

You may not be a great storyteller yourself or you may think you do not have a story to tell, but perhaps your students do. Maybe they don’t know it yet, but it is up to us to draw this out of them and help them to document their learning in a different way, using storytelling as a start. Perhaps this will be  the start of something new for some of them.

As the day of reckoning draws close I am living, breathing and positively obsessing about my presentation for Learning 2 in Bangkok.

Photo Credit: CODYody via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: CODYody via Compfight cc

As I mentioned last week in The Power of Visuals, I am preparing to present a 5 minute Keynote at Learning 2.014 and it is taking every waking hour to tweak and change each aspect of the presentation; from twiddling with animations and transitions to reworking the beginning and ending. I wonder if some people may be asleep during the middle part having enjoyed far too good a night before, so I must ensure I wake them up at the end to hear my closing words of wisdom!

I will make this post short, or at least shorter than normal, and without visual note for the first time in this course, to allow me to put all my thoughts and hours into preparing for not only the presentation but the conference sessions as well.

As I was preparing my self mentally, I think back to when I have had to present publicly in the past and how nerve wracking it is. How does one calm themselves so the nerves dissipate? How do we remember what we have to say without it appearing too scripted? And how on earth do I sleep the night before?!

Photo Credit: mattyeo via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: mattyeo via Compfight cc

I do not recall speaking on stage as a child, apart from the random appearance as an Oompalumpa or the dormouse in Alice in Wonderland, but certainly never a major part – I just could never remember lines. As a dancer I was more than happy performing on stage and nerves as a teenager seemed less in this role. Now, as a teacher, we “perform” daily to our classes, but with prompts and interactions and in a friendly relaxed situation.

I would dread interviews despite hours of planning and preparing, and more often than not I survived, sometimes even feeling proud of my “performance”. So why does this feel so BIG?!

I wonder if it is that for the past 3 years I have watched and marvelled at the calm demeanour and inspirational approaches by the likes of Patrick Green (The Relevant Teacher) and Paula Guinto (Ink) at the Learning 2 Talks. I remember the first L2 conference I attended back in 2011 in Shanghai and the naturalness that oozed from Kim Cofino, and Jabiz Raisdana, from whom I learnt so much and who helped to shape my ideas and direction following that very first conference. George and Alec Couros seemed to revel in their time on stage, dare I say loving it, a thought so far removed from me right now I am intrigued to know how to develop it! The bar is set so high that I dread letting myself down, yet I know I have an important message to share and something that I believe in.

The first major presentation I made in recent years was for my application to the Apple Distinguished Educator programme back in 2012, and I remember spending hours trying to work on incorporating and demonstrating the way I used technology in art. I look back now and see the clumsiness in places and the music not CC, but at the time it showed my style and my developing style as an educator fusing traditional with the new. I know it packs far too much in and whizzes far too fast in places but I wanted to show the breadth of my work. For a presentation that had to be under 2 minutes I spent way too much time on it, but I guess I will never learn!

The last time I had to present to a panel was last April at an interview in my school for Head of Grade. We had to prepare a presentation on “How would you reassure parents that we meet the needs of our Middle School students?” with the audience being the parent body. As always I prepared scrupulously to determine my own take on the content and how to put it across. I wanted to use a zen technique and Haiku Deck fitted the bill. The slides that took the most time were the slides showing the child/parent and Head of Grade where I used existing a teacher who was a parent of a daughter in Grade 7 and the existing (soon to retire) Head of Grade. I asked them to pose for me so that I could blur out each one in turn on an app called Adjust Focus to emphasise the subject. All the images were my own, school taken or Creative Commons. Here is the finished presentation that I presented live in the interview (this is a recorded version):


I liken the experience of presenting to karaoke.

Photo Credit: apdk via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: apdk via Compfight cc

I am not the world’s best or worst singer but when you see others enjoying it you want to join in too! When it comes to the crunch, you take the mic and start tentatively, finding your way through your nerves and before you know it you are singing. Before the song ends you have forgotten how bad you thought you were and just enjoyed the moment.

Could the talk be similar to this? I will definitely not sing, that is for sure, but I hope that I will at least enjoy it, having taken that step to share my story. The proof, as they say, will be in the pudding!

I leave the judgement of this unit therefore, up to you, the viewers.

Wish me luck!

Photo Credit: sarahluv via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: sarahluv via Compfight cc

The Power of Visuals visual note by Nicki Hambleton using Adobe Ideas on iPad

The Power of Visuals visual note by Nicki Hambleton using Adobe Ideas on iPad

Once upon a time……

Ever since I was a youngster I have been fascinated by images. My father worked in the design business long before I was born and was a descendant of Sir John Tenniel, who created the original illustrations for Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. He was approached many many years ago by an author to illustrate her book, entitled Alice in Starland. So I guess you could say Art was in my blood!

Alice in Starland by Fay McGregor, illustrated by Adrian John Tenniel Lovegrove

Alice in Starland by Fay McGregor, illustrated by Adrian John Tenniel Lovegrove

Before I became a Teacher of Art, I worked as a Graphic Designer following my degree in Design for Communication Media at Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK. At the tender age of 13 I knew I wanted to study Graphic Design and my passion has led me inevitably to what I do today.

I cannot imagine a world without images and my daily life is populated by the icons on my phone, emojis on messages, logos, adverts and so on. Our lives are literally flooded by images and we translate and interpret emotions and ideas and knowledge through them.

Writing this week’s blog post about how I will use an image in class is slightly ironic, as I do it all the time.  Images are the bread and butter of my day, my teaching and my inspiration. Just a flick over Pinterest or google images and i am lost in the wonder of the web and where it takes me. A few hours later and i have gone down many journeys of visual discovery yet have I found the image I set out to find? Often not, but I will have stumbled on many alternatives instead! Images are incredibly powerful in evoking emotion, assisting understanding or communicating emotion or an idea. The article last week about eyes darting over a page confirmed my feeling that we scan and scroll pages of text until we see something recognisable or interesting to us.

Learning 2 Spoiler Alert

The Power of Visuals

The Power of Visuals

I am preparing for the hardest task of my current career, a dreaded 5 minute Keynote at Learning 2 in Bangkok, in less than 2 weeks time presented in front of 300+ leading educators from the region. It is on The Power of the Visual and I am desperate to connect to all delegates, from the hardened visual note takers to the sceptical art-phobics. It is during these preparations that I question my reasons for using visuals and why anyone should listen to my laments. But it is through dissecting my passion that I whittle it down to a singular indisputable concept – that visuals are fundamental in helping us remember. It’s that cognitive process that occurs when we commit an idea to paper through words and images. I recall the image of the Vietnamese girl that encapsulating the consequences on the innocent during the war and how powerful a feeling it can evoke. Do we use these triggers in our classroom to start intellegent conversation or tease out ideas and opinions? and do I do this effectively, with meaning?

Does it make a difference or change thinking?

Visible Thinking- using images to inspire thinking

Visible Thinking with Emma Freedman at UWCSEA

Visible Thinking with Emma Freedman at UWCSEA

Some years ago I was introduced to Project Zero from Harvard University and in particular to Visible Thinking. Thinking is difficult to track and even harder to see. The Visible Thinking project helps us to visualise thoughts and ideas and my favourite of the Thinking Routines is “See Think Wonder”. In Art we use images every day to inspire ideas or learn about techniques and skills, but images can go further in helping us to understand the world around, emotions, interactions or to trigger questions. It is this aspect that the Thinking routine comes into its own. Whether using students images to reflect on practice and to interpret intentions or famous and contemporary art works to develop thinking and questioning skills there is no doubt that there is a wealth of resources out there.The problem is to select the best ones for the job, and this can take time. I often find that searching for what I think I need leads me down a path of new discovery and occasionally to a gem of a find.

Recently Grade 6 were looking at ephemeral art to inspire them before their trip to the Malaysian island of Pulau Tioman and a week in pristine rainforest, living on the beach. Andy Goldsworthy captures his land sculptures using beautiful black and white photography and it was through the See Think Wonder routine that we were able to tease out their questions about his sculptures, what he might have been thinking and why he did what he did. This in turn helped them to think through what they might create using the Elements of Art to inspire direction.  For our students living in a predominantly urban environment it was crucial we helped students transfer their experience to something tangible when they returned and it is through the work of others that we can inspire and transform their own thinking and inspiration for meaningful ideas.

Stats, Sticks and Stones

A particular gem of discovery that encompasses both my passions of art and environmental issues is the work of Chris Jordan. Chris Jordan uses the power of visuals to change thinking and inspire action. He uses mathematical data and statistics in a powerful way that goes beyond an Infographic – it can truly shock or surprise us. His series Running the Numbers is not just an average Infographic of statistics and graphs, he uses repetitive photography to capture an image viewed by zooming in that connects thinking directly to American consumerism. For example the number of disposable plastic cups used every day on airline flights or the number of breast implant surgery procedures using 32,000 Barbie dolls. I urge you to click the link and see this phenomenal work and not be impressed, shocked and inspired. I intend to use this project and to connect statistics to inspire work with our young Grade 7s, following my attempts last year to integrate environmental and global issues into their studies. As in the previous year, where we tackled the problem of food sources and sustainability through sculpture and video, so too will this year’s students look at using Photography, Photoshop and augmented reality to share their findings.

Each line, One breath

I cannot finish without returning to my favourite passion: Drawing. When we draw we focus on the mark, the feeling of connecting to the paper and the wish for it to represent what is in our minds eye.
Just last week my students were learning about line variation and looked at the work of John Franzen. In his Each line One Breath series, he uses simple repeated lines to focus his mind on the present almost in a mediative state. As the students took their breath and breathed out, they took their pencil on a downward journey on the paper surface, just as John Franzen did, to disconnect all their worries, their troubles, thoughts and focused just on the tip of the pen. In our busy lives when do we live in the moment? I am very into mindfulness yet find it tough to switch off. Yet when I draw, time is lost, I look up and hours may have passed without my noticing. I am hooked into its process. Did the students get it? On average yes. Some said it was one of the weirdest things they had done but they acknowledged the time out from thinking, from their heads in their laptops and the constant banter of talk.
…….and so in the run up to Learning 2, I too must breathe and clear my mind.

Images and Memory


Returning to my stresses over the preparation for the L2 talk, I centre on how images trigger memory and I start to build a Keynote of some 65 images to help me to remember what I want to say. It may seem excessive, even a little insane for a 5 minute talk but it feels like it may be my only way to survive. Images are my comfort blanket, the link to my brain’s recesses and hopefully will prevent me from dying on stage.

Being a fan of the British cult series Sherlock, I dabbled with the thought of memorising my “speech” through the techniques of a Mind or Memory Palace. This technique uses strong visuals travelling and connected to a journey through a Mind Palace in order to solidify memory. In this video, Maddie Moat shows us how she visualises in order to remember the wives of Henry 8th!

Has anyone tried this technique before? Is it difficult to create?

Well if it’s good enough for Benedict Cumberbatch then it’s worth a try!

Design Matters

Posted: September 14, 2014 in Course 3
Tags: , , , , , , ,
Design Matters Visual Note by Nicki Hambleton

Design Matters Visual Note by Nicki Hambleton

Photo Credit: hugovk via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: hugovk via Compfight cc

Confession Number 1: I have not looked at the actual layout and design of my blog since Course 1.

Confession Number 2: I tried 7 different themes out before I settled on this one.

Confession Number 3: I will never be happy with its design.




This is how a designer thinks. As a perfectionist I am likely to alter, change and tweak a design multiple times and still not be happy.

When I was at school I would worry over a drawing or a painting, always seeing the faults and the mistakes. As a Graphic Designer I worked on multiple designs to please the client – a design based on their idea, one based on my idea and a combination of the two. More often than not the client would pick the combined one. That’s how design works. We are hard to please. WordPress templates are akin to being in a sweetshop to a designer – so many gorgeous themes and designs to choose, but which one? As a homeowner you would think that, with an Art and Design background, my walls would be awash with colour, rich with pattern and texture, right? Yet, online, I love the clean, uncluttered look: simple and elegant and easy to view. The design should complement not distract from the content – that to me is crucial, no sparkly bits or flashing fonts, sans serif all the way.

Front page of

Front page of

My class blog I launched last year has taken a back seat since starting COETAIL online, but it was a place I could play with and express my art side and share work and visual information for the students. Even though there is no fish tank, hamster on a ball or virtual dog to pet, it served its purpose well – to share ideas and update students on the arty goings on in my classroom. The theme was bright and cheery (to match my sunny nature!) with swirls to express my creative side. I did not design it but I still like it now. I spent many hours messing with the widgets and embedding my Youtube playlists and recent Pinterest pins – all useful to the students and only a click away. At the time, Google Reader meant that all the students blogs could be added to the side bar for quick access but since that finished, there has been no alternative to embed in a group at the side. This is a shame as it was such a cool feature.

I digress, so back to the COETAIL blog design.

CRAP design

Having trained in Graphic Design, and with a natural eye for layout, I was not surprised to read the original book “The Non Designer’s Design Book: Design and Typographic Principles for the Visual Novice” by Robin Williams first published back in 1995. Our eye understands design even if we are not a designer. We feel comfortable with order and balance, yet thrive on change and variety.

I teach this everyday, whether looking at the beauty in Carravagio’s compositions or in awe at the landscapes of photographer Ansel Adams. We discuss arrangement and choices when planning a still life painting – the point of focus, the lines that draw the viewer into the artwork. Currently I am working through a complex list with Grade 6 so that they can understand the vocabulary and practical application of the Elements and Principles of Art and Design. They are using photography to capture their natural and manmade environment to illustrate examples of the words: Line, Pattern, Emphasis or Balance. These are to be used as posters in the classroom to visually assist them in considering this fundamental backbone in the teaching of Art.

Grade 6 Photography to capture the Elements and Principles of Art and Design

Grade 6 Photography to capture the Elements and Principles of Art and Design

So too are the ideas behind CRAP Design focussing on the 4 Elements of Design: Contrast, Repetition, Alignment and Proximity. Keri-Lee Beasley changed the acronym to CARP to make it more kid-friendly and her Digital Literacy team over on our sister campus have designed some minimalistic posters to help all curricular areas to become better designers and to use these principles when working with text and image.

CARP: Design Principles by Keri-Lee Beasley

CARP: Design Principles by Keri-Lee Beasley

You can download them for free from her website.

She also has a phenomenally intuitive and delicious ibook available entitled Design Secrets Revealed that expands these ideas seamlessly and beautifully.

Design Secrets Revealed by Keri-Lee Beasley

Design Secrets Revealed by Keri-Lee Beasley

Screen Shot 2014-09-12 at 21.17.50

All change

As I look over my blog space with a critical eye, there are several things that I can change, and many that I would like to change but cannot.

The first is the most easiest yet the most difficult – the banner. I know the shapes currently do not express me or my concept and certainly not the fusion of traditional and technology. Early during Course 1, I dabbled with some drawings – an infinity shaped symbol linking the 2 words together or perhaps a double helix interlocking the 2 words Traditional and Digital, spinning off from a drawing I made for Jeff Plaman’s iBook on Coaching and then a more simpler piece of typography. I am still not convinced either will work so I am working on other elements.

pencil drawn image for Coaching ebook

pencil drawn image for Coaching ebook


Tradigital logo idea

Tradigital logo idea

It would be cool to add a slideshow of images to the banner, as I have seen on many websites, but I am not sure of that possibility with the limited themes available to us. Keri-lee explains how to makeover google sites in this informative post and there are ideas there that many of us can take note of when redesigning our own spaces online.

So I am working just on the banner image currently, to capture the fusion of traditional and digital. Recently, I found a clean looking theme available with a birds-eye view of a desk and started to experiment with similar photos of my own. There was a similar image on looking down at hands working on a laptop that could also work to show my “hands on” approach and use of digital and traditional media side by side.

Navigating the blog is important to me for my readers so there are several things I would like to work on: clearer and easy search, and viewing previous posts. If you compare Joe’s or Melissa’s designs, the posts and categories are easily viewed down the right hand side. I would ideally like them viewable on the side bar, with a thumbnail of the accompanying visual note to attract interest and for easy understanding, clarification and choice. I would like a tag list or popular subjects and for it to be generally more visual but not cluttered. Melissa uses the Graphene theme but on inspection in the appearance tab it doesn’t seem to be available, nor one called Inkhive that Pana uses. In fact several that others are using do not seem to be listed within the 16 themes I see when clicking Appearance. My frustration is mounting so I eventually resort to designing a fake front page on Pages so that at least I can show what I mean.


Here is the blog as it currently looks:

current blog page

current blog page

and how it could look with a new banner, thumbnails in side bar and easily clickable tag list:

Blog Design makeover

Blog Design makeover

I would love your advice and suggestions if you are able to take the time to add a comment.

Wish List

What if you could roll over the banner image and it took you to other relevant places, eg, the iPad took you to my visual notes on Flickr, the eye drawing to my Twitter feed, the books to my Goodreads etc? I saw a fun app Thinglink that makes images interactive that could do a similar effect, so maybe it is not that impossible, but currently with the COETAIL templates it is, which is a shame.

On my wish list would be a subtle transparent backdrop but still leaving enough white space around the body of the text. White space is important.

And the heading, sub headings? Don’t get me started on fonts……….