Month: August 2007

Total 42 Posts

Make It Better pt. two

What We Did Last Time

Last issue, we imposed some order on Jeffrey’s slidedeck, turning the first set into the second.

In the process, we improved readability but, almost more importantly, by placing design elements consistently from slide to slide, we made it easier for the audience to concentrate on what matters (the numbers and text) and ignore what doesn’t (where the numbers and text are located).

Does This Matter To Teaching?

I suspect a lot of teacher-readers are hopping past these design posts. This isn’t necessarily a mistake. There isn’t enough time in the day to chase all our interests and design might not ping loudly enough off your radar.

But, friend, design had better ping somewhere. Because these days, How Good Your Ideas Are has yielded some ground to How Good Your Ideas Look.

These moments break my heart at conferences: a speaker whose ideas are head, shoulders, knees, and toes above the rest but whose dress code, timid vocals, or sloppy PowerPoint put people off.


The Sloshing Pail

For the internal lexicon of this blog, a term which will certainly crop up again, one which describes a frequent scenario with scary accuracy for me:

The Sloshing Pail

Our students store their attention, energy, and perseverance in a sloshing pail. We’ve gotta help them steady that pail as we move on a path toward classroom activities. We steady the pail in small ways, almost always by eliminating distraction.

We steady the pail by:

  • keeping our transitions between activities organized and short.
  • speaking clearly.
  • maintaining clear expectations for behavior.
  • etc.

We slosh the pail by:

  • keeping a messy classroom.
  • designing unclear worksheets.
  • maintaining a tense classroom environment.
  • stocking insufficient supplies
  • etc.

It is very easy to let attention, energy, and perseverance slosh out of the pail. It is very difficult to get it back in.

Candy Blows My Mind

I have no idea wtf business any of this design nonsense has anywhere in my life. I know the pursuit makes my math classes just a little clearer to kids unused to clear math. But I don’t know how to make my kids (or my readership) excited about design like I am.

To the point, I don’t know why Candy Collective’s freebie design periodical just thrills me. As a math teacher, I have a serious aversion to the incalculable. The sensation crawling across my entire body as I process:

  1. someone’s unique perspective on something familiar to me,
  2. her unique ability to describe that perspective in
  3. an artistic medium I’ll never touch,

is therefore equal parts exhilarating and really really frustrating.

The first hit of this crack is free. So are the second and third and four hundredth. The harmful effects are minimal. But if you’ve never taken that first hit, I can’t possibly describe the addiction.

Here’s a taste of the second issue. Oliver Jeffers trying to make art and science play nice, in the process sweating bullets and bleeding out bloody brilliant stuff like this piece here:


  1. Defasten uses special effects as a canvas to work out his/her personal philosophical issues.

Make It Better pt. one

One challenge, in particular, stood between our contestants and good design. Guesses?

The most sophisticated (and highest ranking) designs used a single large image on each slide. Whether that image was a photo or even a lot of empty space (an image of nothingness) didn’t matter. A good image triggers reactions which profit the designer.

The problem then is how to fuse text to the images.

You all had plenty of solutions, some more successful than others: