Monday, 2 January 2012

The future of learning IS visual, Steve ...

At the beginning of 2011 I saw Steve Wheeler (@timbuckteeth) presenting his vision for the future of learning at Learning Technologies 2011.  One of the statements he made that had real resonance with me was that he predicted that “the future of learning is visual”.  I really strongly agreed with this.  I was about to embark on running a large training programme for over 200 trainers.  The programme delivery included face to face, lots of online sessions and a social learning environment that would become the hub of the programme.  I felt that I needed to respond to Steve’s call to arms to help the trainers attending really understand why it was so important to make learning visual.

I contacted a professional artist and photographer that I knew Caroline Chouler Tissier and asked her if she would be prepared to be the “artist in residence” for the training programme.  Caroline uses art as a conduit for learning for adults with learning difficulties, but also works with organisations using art projects to forge better teams and improve co-worker cooperation as well as doing community art projects and working in schools giving children the opportunity to learn about working with ceramics and improve their artistic skills. That’s when she’s not producing her own amazing ceramics of course!

Caroline agreed to give it a go and accompanied me to most of the face to face sessions.  She took hundreds of photos  and video snippets of what the learners were doing as well as lots of artistic shots of where we went and odd things that caught her eye.  She took part in the webinars, and contributed to the programme website.  She contributed massively by giving a completely different perspective on the visuals and graphics that the learners produced, blogging about her experiences of using more IT in her work (prior to the programme Caroline had not explored any of the graphic tools on the Internet as her main focus is ceramics and she had never done any online learning) and she gave her views on the visuals that I used too!

The outputs from the programme mean that not only was it enormously useful to have someone subjectively feedback on what I was doing from a visual point of view, but she had created a unique record of the programme in photos and video.  Having her as an independent adviser was valued highly by the learners as they could ask for help with design, colour, text styles etc whilst in return they were able to help her with the technology that was new to her.

Mixing my skills with Caroline’s gave a unique aspect to the programme.  Everyone (including Caroline and I) learnt new skills and gained new perspectives that we have all put into practice.  Caroline is now combining word clouds generated from the internet with her ceramics, whilst the artwork produced by the programme participants has been really inspirational and of course because they have been sharing what they have been doing online with each other, the shared experience of improving our visual designs alone has been just as worthwhile to many participants as the other formal modules of the programme. 

So as we start 2012, I wanted to say “Thanks” to Steve Wheeler.  Without knowing it Steve, you inspired me to do something different and it paid off.  Partnering with a teacher from another discipline is definitely something I'll be doing again and I’ll be building even more visuals into the way I teach from now on. The future of effective learning IS massively assisted by good use of visuals.  Caroline, I and 223 trainers are all confidently making learning visual, much more visual than we ever were before and the responses from our learners has been overwhelmingly positive!