Visual First Aid

I feel like I need to go back and change not just one slide that I have made, but all of my slides from all of my presentations – someone please grab the visual first aid kit!

I exaggerate. I do tend to keep the amount of text on the minimal side, but I have made some basic errors such as being addicted to white backgrounds, not using animations and contrast to direct the audiences’ attention to where I want it to be. In this week’s task, I will also incorporate elements of storytelling as set out by Garr Reynolds; interestingly I have worked with a professional storyteller before – Phil Dermott – the man is a legend, and brings stories to life. Also, I will adopt almost all of the David Phillips suggestions.

Light Bulb Moment

I have been using PowerPoint, Google Slides and occasionally Keynote for years. I knew that I didn’t like the templates that come with the apps, so I would more often than not make up my own or download from third-party websites such as Slides Carnival.

I would pick the one that best suited the theme of my lesson (technology) and that was pretty much my only criteria.  The only other thing that I paid attention to was making sure the text was easy to read, and that is wasn’t Comic Sans!

Photo by Gregory Jacquet on Unsplash

Watching and reading this week’s material truly felt like a light bulb – moment, in terms of what I was’t doing!

I have decided to go with the following, truly boring and uninspiring slide, I had in a presentation on how to create a positive digital footprint. The target audience* for this was school leaders and college counsellors at an ACAMIS conference, so I felt that I could make it look like this; I promise that the other slides were much more interesting – in fact I used Petcha Kutcha for the remaining section * later I would also use the same slide with grade 11 students preparing for college applications.

What on earth was I thinking?

You can see I put little or no effort into this slide. It literally has a white background and black text. What was I thinking!? It was a hugely important slide, as it contained the instructions for the main group activity for that session.

Feedback Protocol

So I set out getting feedback from teachers and Grade 12 students, using a variation of the Equity Protocol. I spoke to the students and teachers, giving them the context of the presentation to build up a solid level of understanding. I then asked them to write down on sticky notes, answers to the questions below. Each person had 90 seconds to answer the following 3 questions (I based these on the essential questions from the unit):

  1. What did you see that would make it engaging to the audience?
  2. What do you think could be enhanced?
  3. What do you see that would hinder learning?

Afterwards, the group placed the sticky notes on the whiteboard, in the correct question category. I then read the responses. Finally I reflected to the group on what I had learned; hoping that my colleagues and students would not make the same mistakes as I!

Here are some snapshots:

1. What did you see that would make it engaging to the audience?

  • Easy to read text overall
  • The title was larger than the rest of the text

2. What do you think could be enhanced?

  • Add colour
  • Add images to enhance to presentation style
  • Give out printed version for referral during the task

3. What do you see that would hinder learning?

  • Too many instructions
  • Text is too small
  • It is not exciting – nothing there says, this sounds like a fun activity!

Based on this feedback and the design principles from this week’s resources – I will aim to do the following:

  1. I will design the slide to cater for my initial target audience – teachers.
  2. Have 1 message on the slide, instead of the 4 messages currently on it; remove the non essential.
  3. I will create an additional 3 slides, again 1 slide per message.
  4. I will summarize each sentence into a word or picture.
  5. I will use a dark background with contrasting text.
  6. I will use animations to change the colour of the text during the presentation; not shown in the screenshots.
  7. I will use a maximum of 6 pieces of information per slide.

Putting Pen to Paper

Now, onto the new slide design, on paper and with no tech! I annotated each design, which you can see below.

After the paper designs were completed, I created the digital versions using Keynote – check them out below:

Seeing the World Differently

I really enjoyed this week’s task, as I learned some basic tricks that can have a huge impact on visual aids in the class. It certainly has me rethink my use of presentations in the classroom, never again will a sentence find their way onto my slide shows. I found it quite fun to do away with my laptop when redesigning the slide, as it forced me to think more deeply about the message I was trying to convey.

Slide image attributions:

P.s. A word on my font choice. I chose something that was neither too masculine nor too feminine, something that was easy to read and powerful. So I selected the magnificent Orator Std, created by John Scheppler.

8 comments to “Visual First Aid”
8 comments to “Visual First Aid”
  1. I really enjoyed your post and I share the feeling of learning something new. I have made slides mindlessly before this, with too many confusing instructions etc. I also did not put much emphasis on contrast or images for the work that I expected students to do. However, the readings, videos etc. for this week especially by Garr Reynolds will make me pause now and do a step by step process of planning a presentation and finalizing it. It was great exposure to many glaring mistakes that I have been making.
    The readings especially with the emphasis on storytelling is a great way to angle a lesson in Social Studies or English.
    Especially like the ‘Equity Protocol’ that you used to get comments and criticism about your ‘before’ slides.

    • Thanks for your comment Saadia 🙂

      I really do need to up my skills in storytelling in the classroom, as if it is done well, it can really captivate your audience.

  2. I agree that the designing process on paper really makes you think about your audience, wording and organization of your message. It was something that I had never done before but doing it this time while redesigning slides for a summative was enlightening.
    This summative had confused students with garbled, too long instructions and the option of doing one of the two assessments. I was able to clarify the instructions and divide the assessment into blocks relevant for different students by rethinking and redesigning the slides. Unlike before they also knew where to turn in their assignment now!

    • Designing on paper is just great, as we can take a step back from the process and see how it all fits together. Long live the storyboard 🙂

  3. David, thanks for all the details of your process. I think your end product is great, the slides are simple, keep the reader/audience focused, and are engaging. Your process of taking it to paper first is a great first step. It allows you to prototype your ideas without being committed to any color, style, etc. It also, allows you to focus on message first, and tech second, always a good thing.

    I do like dark backgrounds, but I think it would also be interesting to see the layout with a lighter background and darker font. As a follow up, it might be interesting to take it back to the grade 12s and get their feedback on a light vs dark background.
    Great job overall!

  4. I had to laugh a bit at your title and at your first line because after reading this week’s reading, that’s exactly a great way to describe what needed to be done. Although mine be even more extreme like a visual CPR because mine were so terrible to start! I also found David Philip’s suggestions extremely helpful. He tips were simple and clear but very powerful. I’ve never even thought of using a third party for slides – but I’m so happy that I found Slidesgo. I’ll have to check out Slides Carnival as it’s always a good idea to have a couple of options. Even though our criteria were the same (#elementaryteacherslovecomicsansandiwanttodie), our slides were quite different.

    I like that you gave very detailed information regarding your feedback protocol. I didn’t do that and now I wish I had. I especially liked that you linked the feedback to your goal for your slides. After looking at your blog post, I realized that I didn’t need to do the entire slide presentation… haha oops oh well! It was a good learning experience. I especially liked the way you made certain words a different color or font to make it stand out, I think I might try to do the same with my slides. One recommendation I would give is that the Facebook logo and the words “anything else” is too close to the edges. My OCD-ness can’t take the alignment. Thank you for sharing the names of fonts – there are definitely times when I’m loving a font and I have no idea what it is and it drives me crazy! Your new slides definitely took the tips into consideration and it shows! Great work!

  5. I really enjoyed reading your post and connected well with how your slides used to be. I too was guilty of often using white slides, not for simplicity sake, but instead just because it was easier. I had this idea that if I spent more time on the content than the design I was actually benefiting my audience. I was so wrong!

    What caught my attention right away in your new slides was the font used. Using a font that has all caps turned out really nice with your minimalistic slides. It also went really well with the simple elements for to provide emphasis, like making the word “facts” white instead of gray or using a slightly different font for a “digital”.

    Do you share your slides out with your students? I wonder if they might value having the “details” in the slide notes to refer to now that your slides are more minimalistic.

  6. Hi David,

    Thanks for the wonderful post. You I enjoyed following your protocol for receiving feedback on your slides– I think all of the thinking routines has been one of my favorite parts of Course 3, so seeing your approach was fun 🙂

    I also have to say that your “after” slides were fantastically simple and beautiful. I could really see David JP Phillips’ ideas in slide 1 & 2 that guides the eye by using white and gray to highlight text. Very nicely done.

    I noticed that your website has a lot of black and white to it too. 🙂 🙂 🙂 I know you have just done some tweaking to your site at the beginning of Course 3… now that you’ve finished it, would you consider changing anything else to make it look streamlined and CARP-y? 🙂



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