Carlos Lopez is a Web Development and Web Design Teacher at LBJ ECHS. When not enjoying the outdoors (including patios), he is making the best of the void that is the Zoom classroom black box.
It’s been a crazy year, amirite!?! Because of that, I am trying my best to avoid sharing any long winded thoughts and reflections on the craziness that just transpired (reference last year’s post) and hopefully share something practical and useful. I am also hoping to keep it light and hopefully a little more fun (reference a couple of year’s ago post). What a difference a year can make.
That being said, aside from filling out weird spreadsheets and Google docs, I feel like creating digital content that was educationally effective and navigable is what took up most of my time this year. I really made a bunch of bad assumptions about my students’ digital wayfinding skills and was constantly having to update and redesign lessons and activities to accommodate their lack of digital learning experiences. These are some of the big takeaways creating this year that I will most definitely use to help myself wayfind while moving in and out of digital and face to face spaces (🤞).
- Normalize failure. Failure is normal, healthy, and necessary. For every 20 things I tried, I kept 2ish. Starting next year with even 2ish tried and tested designs or tools puts me ahead of the game. Also, if you think these digital learning platforms are going away when we go back to face to face, were you even paying attention during all of this? We’re all going to have to continue failing our way to mastery in this digital realm. When it gets frustrating, remember that this online learning is only a couple of years old compared to face to face. I’m not sure how many 1000’s of years we’ve been doing face to face and it’s still not perfect. Give it a chance. You will get better at it and the technology definitely will.
- Create honest feedback loops and collaborate with as many teachers in all departments. I’ve shared stuff with people and almost always had it shared back to me with significant improvements. I’ve also had moments where I thought certain things were going to work out amazingly and a collaborator or students’ feedback made me realize something I was way off. Don’t take it personal. Adapt and be responsive. Reference “Normalize Failure”.
- KISS — Keep everything as simple as possible, silly. Use way less words and way more pictures. If you have to use words, choose them wisely and keep them short. A great graphic can give a book’s worth of information. I like words and I have had to work really, really hard on avoiding this pitfall. If airport signage looked like my original Blend modules, I wouldn’t blame people for being overwhelmed, annoyed, and lost because they stopped reading or paying attention to all the pointless info noise.
- We all need to start thinking about responsive and universal design. We need to design with student screens and devices in mind. We need to be mindful of image sizes and text sizes. We also need to be mindful of students with disabilities and improve their accommodations by better understanding and utilizing the tools that Blend and HTML have built into them.
- We are all now UX/UI designers whether we like it or not. Let’s work on our campus/classroom branding, our consistency of lesson designs, our information organization, navigation, and accessibility. It will make a huge difference. We can complain about Blend/Canvas and its imperfections all we want. Or, be mindful of our designs and let our clear and consistent content fill those info gaps and guide/nudge/push our students through these virtual learning experiences on their own.
- Learn a couple of HTML elements and create with your own code or tweak existing code. I know this can scare some people but when you get comfortable with it, it’s kinda fun.
HTML pro tip: If you are reusing content in multiple pages, copy and paste the HTML code rather than highlighting and copying Rich Content. Your content design and formatting travels better this way and stays more consistent.
HTML pro tip #2: Template things that you have to reuse daily. Those physical boards and displays in our classroom that seem to validate your entire worth during admin walk throughs are perfect for this. Just create a template and update daily content and screencast them to your projectors or classroom displays as needed to check those boxes (See Details disclosure element below).
Open these links to see some sample, reusable html content and elements on repl.it. Just click the green run button to view content.
Helpful notes are in Green
If you need extra help, email or drop a comment in the chat and I’ll update.
- <details>: The Details disclosure element: I really like this element so that there can be a little bit of control on how much relevant content is viewed on the page at once. We can tend to clutter stuff up pretty fast if you’re not careful.
- Responsive buttons
- Responsive Navbars
- Sample ‘About Teacher’ Blend Page
I’m going to go ahead and stop at 6 and turn it over to y’all to share design and workflow tips that have helped y’all. Especially since I ended up going full 2 years ago post and started pushing HTML stuffs.
Please share in the message boards. I love seeing cool stuff others are doing around the district. I also wouldn’t be opposed to creating a group in MS Teams to help each other solve Blend design problems we’re all running into. Thank you for sharing and I can’t wait to awkwardly see y’all in the face to face soon.