When teachers are first exposed to SMART Notebook and other visual presentation media, they love to explore all of the ‘bells and whistles’ of the software. They tend to go mad with crazy gradient backgrounds, spinning and flashing stars, adding fifty images to one page, and a myriad of unreadable (but fun) fonts, styles and sizes. OR they go the other way. Everything they have previously done on the OHP gets copied and pasted into a Notebook file, so you’re left with 12pt size black and white text that is unreadable from the back of the classroom.
Ultimately, the software is there for teachers to deliver great teaching and learning and the design of Notebook lessons (or any visual media) can beneficially or detrimentally impact on teaching and learning in the classroom. Like all forms of lesson preparation, consideration about HOW you present your information is just as important as WHAT you present. Try considering the following when developing your Notebook lessons:
- The best rule when selecting colours is to keep it simple
- Use bright, vibrant colours on title/ navigation pages and clear, high contrast, consistent colour for content pages
- Make sure your fonts are grade appropriate. Early years classes need fonts that replicate the way they are learning to form their letters. Century Gothic and Comic Sans tend to come closest to Australian handwriting scripts, or if you have a Foundation font installed on your computer appropriate to your state, consider using it.
- Make it easy to see. Your normal font size should be about 36pt and minimum font size should be 24pt. A font size that’s appropriate for a handout is no where near big enough for projection in a normal classroom. If you can’t fit it on, you have too much information on the one page. Consider using interactive elements to layer and selectively reveal information. Also, some fonts are easier to read than others. What may be ok for a headline or title becomes tedious and difficult to read in the body of a text. Generally, ‘sans-serif’ fonts are easier to read than ‘serif’ fonts. (Serif fonts have embellishments on the letters).
- Be consistent. Using different fonts, sizes and styles is confusing and distracting. If you are going to vary the fonts, use it for impact- sparingly.
For Notebook 10 Software:
- Is it relevant? If not, it’s distracting or confusing. Use images to illustrate ideas and develop concepts.
- Just like text, graphics need to be readable. Can they be viewed from the back of the classroom? Is it large enough? Is the quality of the image acceptable? Does it make sense? Considering the effectiveness of images is important in getting the right message across. Which one has more impact on learning?
- Model good practice don’t breach copyright and attribute. There are more and more websites that list images and media that are licensed under ‘Creative Commons’. As a first port of call, these are the sites you should be accessing. Try using the Google Images ‘Advanced’ filter to find resources that have been tagged for sharing. It’s also a good idea to get into the habit of attributing work.
Hopefully these suggestions will stimulate you to consider not just the content of your lessons but how you present them in a way that’s accessible and engaging for your students. IWBs are a visual media and learning to design resources that make the most of the media can have a really positive impact on learning.