Do I Have Enough Digital Flair?

There is never enough time to make all the changes I want to make in my Digital Content.  I look with envy at my collegues school blogs and at the blogs of my fellow Coetail cohort members. It should come as no surprise. I work with talented people. I also feel the same pangs of envy when someone shows me a unit that they are working on or shares an idea that they are using with their class. A great idea often leaves me wondering “Why didn’t I think of that?”. It’s not that I don’t have good ideas, I do. I think it is natural to look at all the other amazing stuff out there and want to have it too. This is a natural drive to be better. So I was happy to see this assignment would give me the chance to analyse and evaluate my blogs and other web related content and plan (and hopefully carry out) some improvements.

 

coetailblog After reading Understanding Visual Hierarchy in Web Design and Design Better with Crap (who could resist reading an article with such a catchy headline?) I was not surprised to find that both of my blogs are not that bad. I should not be surprised afterall they are templates designed by (I would assume) professionals. The use of contrast and repetition make my blogs very easy to read. Fonts are simple and font colors also easily recognizable. In my Coetail Blog the typical blue hyperlinked text has been replaced by orange which becomes underlined when yaisrblogou hover over the text with the mouse pointer. This is the biggest design feature of the blog. Not really very dramatic. I think that my class blog also makes good use of the design principles discussed in the articles. The alignment is clean and the proximity of different related elements is clear. Font use is even clearer for this site. I have a basic three column design (which is not all that common among the templates) that I chose so that I could get my calendar widget to show up right at the top all the time. It also keeps my all important blogroll on the other side very close at hand in case my viewers need to find other important school blogs.

 

Yet as I look at both blogs I still feel as though something is missing. There is no flair.

 

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The problem with flair is that it can easily run amuk. You add design elements that you really like and then you want to add some more. It is also time consuming to create. Getting it right takes time. I believe that parents and students are not going to my blog for flair. They are going to my blog for information and for that purpose I believe my blog achieves it’s goals. I am not yet sure where the purpose in my Coetail blog lies. I think that is a development in progress. In the present my cohort friends go to read and comment on my posts. Most of them are actually not reading it on the blog they are getting it from their RSS feeds. Is a redesign really worth it? What is the cost versus benefit? At the moment I don’t feel that there is any point to spicing it up beyond what I already have. I feel that this will change over time but I am not sure when or how quite yet. For the moment, it serves it’s purpose.

 

I recently found cause to add some flair. We have been doing a lot of work with our iLearning initiative in my school and one of the workflows has involved building tutorials. I have long been a proponent of the flipped classroom and of creating YouTube content the my students could have repeat access later if they needed it. As part of some allotted “tinker time” within the training phase for the iLearning initiative I created a video on safe use of tools that involved using the Chatterpix app to make the tools talk. After showing the video (see below – start at about 4:30 to see the tools talk) to my grade five classes for my lesson they actually applauded. I was pleased not just to receive the kudos but mostly for the indication that the way I presented the content caught the interest and attention of the students. This is clear indication that adding a little more flair in my YouTube videos and Google Slides that I use for my lessons will indeed improve the way the message or teaching point is received by the student and is therefore certainly worth the time and effort to add flair to this portion of digital content. I am really excited to get some ideas and techniques in Course 3 to help me with this and to make my digital learning content much more rich and useful for my students.

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3 thoughts on “Do I Have Enough Digital Flair?

  1. Hi Andrew!

    Your post really resonated with me and I’ve often felt the same way in regards to flair (and love the Office Space clip..hahahaha!) but also consider the cost vs benefit. I want my blog to be user-friendly, but also interesting.

    I know that our kiddos do well with visuals, so I was thinking about using photoshop to create icons to use with my blog rather than text within the menu. This is a work in progress and I haven’t actually implemented this change. It’s also a little trickier because I’d have to find a WordPress theme that would fit with having icons to represent a menu. I took a quick look through the themes and think I may have found one that would work… I found this site link to premium.wpmudev.org where it explains how to add icons to WordPress blogs. This may also work for you?

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    🙂 Amy

  2. I enjoyed reading your post, Andrew. I too have some of the same thoughts regarding how much is too much on a blog. I have spent time reworking my blog for hours only to look at it and I think I made it worse! It becomes too cluttered and messy.

    I think my best bet as a classroom teacher using my blog to reach the students and parents in my class is to keep it simple and updated. I want the students to know where to find thins and the parents to understand what is happening in class. I think the ways that it can have added flair is with the links and videos I include. Tutorials that are easy to find and are focused on the content we are working on seem like a great extra flair to add. I like your idea of using Chattterpix to make the tutorial more engaging. That’s impressive! I will have to try it too, thanks!

    p.s. Loved the Office Space clip. That was perfect placement!

    1. Thanks for your feedback Allison,

      I agree with you that the best “flair” we have is in our content. Our classroom blogs are a huge learning resource for our students. We all spend a lot of time posting throughout the week to keep kids and parents informed and to give them ways to reinforce, review and extend the learning that takes place in class.

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