I recently shared a new app in my teaching toolbox, Visme, as part of the ‘Appsolutely!’ series. If you haven’t been along to an ‘Absolutely!’ session, keep an eye out for the next one. They are regular, bite-sized sessions, presented by a diverse range of educators sharing what they’ve learned through their own practice and how they can be aligned with a range of pedagogical approaches.
Visme is a simple and fun online tool that converts content (such as paragraphs of text) into engaging infographics that can be animated and narrated. It offers a free plan so you can play with 3 designs and the common education discount for teachers for paid accounts. But before we get to Visme…
Our biggest challenges
In our webinar, we brainstormed some of the biggest challenges we face across our diverse teaching contexts and came up with a list of fairly similar issues: fostering cohesive and valuable conversation; building students’ confidence to share; having material that grabs their attention quickly and effectively, and; keeping students’ attention during lectures.
Personally, I find one of the big challenges is holding my students’ attention in the face of so many distractions! This applies as much in face-to-face classrooms as online, where smartphones seem attached like an extra limb. Children or pets often drop in on Zoom lessons too.
I keep wondering, “How do I transform my materials into something more visually and sensorially engaging, that get the ideas across with the minimum amount of time and while giving maximum understanding?”
“How do I connect with students better, help build their social confidence and communication skills and provide personalised delivery of content?” I’m really keen to get as close to the face-to-face experience as possible, if not more effectively, through online delivery.
Attention spans – how much do we get?
Students aren’t as captivated by text as they once were (if they ever were!); they’re used to more visual, active forms of communication now. In the information age, many are naturals at scanning information for what they need and flicking thumbs quickly bypass the boring!
There’s been some fascinating research on how our attention waxes and wanes during presentations and lectures with adult learners. Attention lapses occur:
- In the first 30 seconds;
- After about 5 minutes;
- At about 8 minutes;
- At about 10 minutes;
- And then, by the end of a lecture, every two minutes.
Researchers found that maintaining attention required learning design to be:
- Active or student-led
- Simple (clear)
Incorporating all those elements puts significant pressure on teachers! Visme is a relatively new tool to the market and it certainly has that ‘unexpected’ pull. It also helps with creating a simple to understand, visual structure, engaging students with auditory delivery and visual animations, while taking them on a sequential journey as the animation unfolds. It’s timed delivery in the digital domain.
Recognising that the first 30 seconds of a class may not hold most students’ attention, I have introduced ‘warmers’ at the start of my classes, to engage my learners in their environment before we dive into the content.
Then, I break up my lectures by regularly using Visme infographics and questions, which targets student understanding.
Why Visme over other infographic tools?
I had previously attempted making text-based content into infographics using standard word editing, but it took hours and hours to make an infographic, which still didn’t look sufficiently professional. It was also data heavy and unwieldy for platforms like Moodle.
Serendipitously, I received an email from AppSumo about an intuitive tool to make an infographic quickly and easily. Talk about timing!
I cut-and-paste my work into Visme. Within 30 minutes, it was converted into a fully animated journey with my voice overlaid narrating them through it! It’s like seeing a mini-tutorial in the space of about 2 minutes.
You can make it available in different formats too, from an animated scrollable infographic to an image or slide deck or pdf report. Whereas most infographics are just image files, with Visme you can insert videos, clickable URLs and all sorts of interactivity and animation!
I’ve transformed the text from my Moodle Book into Visme and have now incorporated more engaging and interactive content throughout all 12 weeks in my unit. We will be running analytics next term to discover further data on student engagement.
One thing I’m excited about is the potential for collaboration amongst teachers. Please let us know if you find it useful in your context; as content experts, we could use our combined ideas to engage students, save time and share the inspiration (and it could be a lot of fun!).
Below you can see an overview of one example, which students see animated, with my voice narrating them through the content: