5 Keys to Visual Literacy

When we develop digital solutions at Victory, we want the end user to experience visuals as intuitively as possible. Because space is always at a premium, visuals and text are equally important. The visuals need to immediately convey information and tell an extended story. When used well, they not only save space on the page (a picture is worth a thousand words), they also inspire confidence in the reader (or should we say “viewer”) by subtly conveying that the overall message will also be easy to understand.

Visual literacy is experiencing resurgence. It is defined many ways in different disciplines, but a good general definition is:

visual literacy: a set of skills used when a person either sees or produces images in order to interpret them, discover a fuller meaning, and make emotional connections.

From our research, there are five important things to consider about visual literacy:

5 Keys to Visual Literacy
key-flipped-small 1 Observing elements in complex images and determining how they relate
key-flipped-small 2 Developing questions to ask about the images
key-flipped-small 3 Understanding how different visual approaches convey different meanings
key-flipped-small 4 Identifying the emotional impact of different techniques on the viewer
key-flipped-small 5 Interpreting an author’s intent based on the choices made to deliver the message

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5 Keys to Assessment Literacy

At Victory, we have been developing many kinds of assessments. Whether the assessment is high-stakes summative testing, a performance-based task, or formative student self-assessment, assessment has a huge impact on classroom instruction. This means assessment literacy is a critical tool for teachers as they develop curriculum and apply classroom strategies.

What Is Assessment Literacy?

What does assessment literacy mean? It may help to consider other types of literacy. Science literacy, for example, means being prepared to understand and discuss science issues, especially as they impact social and political decisions. Visual literacy involves understanding how people use visual information, and choosing a visual approach that supports your goals. Digital literacy is the ability to use technology tools, and choose which tool is most appropriate for a given purpose. In the same way, assessment literacy is the ability to understand the purpose of each type of assessment and then use this knowledge to make better assessment decisions.

From our experience, these are 5 keys to assessment literacy:

5 Keys to Assessment Literacy
key-flipped-small 1 Understanding different kinds of assessments and their purposes
key-flipped-small 2 Recognizing the best assessment to use for a given situation
key-flipped-small 3 Knowing how to prepare students for each kind of assessment
key-flipped-small 4 Knowing how to implement each kind of assessment
key-flipped-small 5 Getting comfortable with interpreting assessment data

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5 Keys to Digital Literacy

Recently, we premiered our digital lesson on the Boston Massacre at the ISTE and ILA conferences. The lesson was a big hit. It inspired many discussions with technology coordinators and educators on what makes a lesson good for digital literacy. The table below summarizes what we learned, and the video that follows gives concrete examples of how the 5 keys to digital literacy are executed in the Boston Massacre lesson.

5 Keys to Digital Literacy
key-flipped-small 1 Make sure the lesson has a beginning, a middle, and an end.
key-flipped-small 2 Each interactive should build on the previous one so that students gain practice and automaticity in skills and strategies.
key-flipped-small 3 Processes for working through a digital lesson need to be consistent.
key-flipped-small 4 Cross-curricular activities encourage students to employ skills and strategies from other disciplines in new ways.
key-flipped-small 5 Make sure students are using data, analyzing it, and using 21st-century skills.

Are We There Yet?

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A Revolutionary Interactive Lesson

In our last blog on performance tasks, we revealed our instructional design approach to creating a social studies performance task, The Boston Massacre.

In this blog, we’ll explain why we expanded the performance task to become an interactive lesson, with embedded performance tasks. So, this is really an evolution, not a revolution.

Here is a sneak preview of the lesson:


What Was Missing in the Original Task?

Our original Boston Massacre performance task was unique in several regards:

  • It developed critical thinking through the analysis and comparison of key characters.
  • Students evaluated multiple causes and effects to rank the importance of earlier events that led up to the key event.
  • Students needed to do a close reading to find evidence to support their arguments.
But, a performance task is rarely used in isolation. It is either part of a summative assessment or used formatively in a lesson. For a lesson, providing a stand-alone performance task requires the teacher to do a lot of work before it can be effective. The teacher has to decide:
  • whether it supports the lesson objectives,
  • when to use it in a lesson,
  • how to provide support if students struggle, and
  • how to use the scores.

Even the world’s best performance task won’t help students if teachers won’t use it!

Collaborating on a Solution

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Victory’s Vendor and Partnership Processes

In our recent blog post, Instructional Design 101, we provided an overview of several popular instructional design models. One of these, the original ADDIE model, was a linear approach with some iterative features. It evolved to be more cyclical, and spawned many other models. In similar fashion, our linear workflows at Victory have evolved to keep up with rapid changes in our industry.

Watch this video for a quick look at Victory’s vendor and partnership processes. Many projects do not require a partnership process; we originally used it to develop digital products, but it has many benefits for complex print products as well.


The video also references backward design, which we first blogged about in Talking to the Test: The Learning Continuum. In backward design, the initial development focuses on assessments because they determine what evidence we will accept as proof of mastery of the associated learning objectives. Again, not every project warrants a backward-design approach. It makes the most sense for subjects with open-ended user experiences that are hard to assess and hard to teach. We have found that if most of the assessment is traditional, then a traditional development process generally will also be sufficient.

metacog Building Its Deep Learning Analytics Platform with Databricks

Victory’s spinoff metacog was just featured in a blog post by Databricks, a company founded by the team that created Apache Spark, a powerful open-source data processing engine. See the Databricks blog post below.

metacog has been hard at work releasing new capabilities of its learning analytics platform, while at the same time enhancing existing capabilities. If you offer subscription-based products, you know that your customers expect continuous improvement. With metacog, we partner with you to deliver new capabilities in deep learning analytics that you can easily integrate into your products to generate new data-driven business models and revenue streams.

Why data analytics for adaptive and competency-based learning is so challenging

You may have seen many companies offering data analytics applied to learning products. If you look closely, most of the time what is offered is “administrative-level” data and simple scoring data:

  • Time-on-task data – How long did learners use the interactive?
  • “Attendance” data – Did learners participate?
  • SCORM-compliant scores reported to a learning management system (LMS) – How well are learners doing?
  • Simple score reports – How many right, how many wrong?

It turns out that in order to improve anything, you have to be able to measure it, but so far in education we have been measuring the wrong thing – the final answer.

This explains why scoring is the key issue. In the past, most open-ended assessments had to be human-scored. And this greatly reduces the frequency with which teachers and professors assign open-ended assessments. Yet it is open-ended tasks that best assess the ability of a candidate to perform well in today’s job market.

Why metacog is different

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U.S. Education Market Snapshot: English Language Learners (ELLs)

The Early Days

In the 1960s, Victoria Porras attended Melrose High School in Massachusetts as an exchange student from Bogotá, Colombia. She was far from home. Her host family, teachers, and new schoolmates were friendly and eager to help, but the everyday English spoken in the Boston area is accented, idiomatic, and studded with acronyms.

Victoria decided then that she would find a way to help other exchange students navigate spoken English. The idea of Victory Productions grew from that experience.

When Victoria established Victory Productions in 1995, its mission was to develop educational materials to teach English as a Second Language (ESL), but she found that what the market wanted was Spanish translation. Only later did the market recognize the need for materials dedicated to English Language Learners (ELLs).

The ELL market has certainly changed since those early years. Most early programs focused on teaching English language skills so students could learn in the mainstream classroom. The products offered to the market were Spanish student editions, bilingual student editions, and supplemental programs designed to build English reading skills. Today’s market, however, is different.

Today’s Market for English Language Learners (ELLs)

The U.S. Department of Education recorded 4.85 million English language learners (ELLs) enrolled in public schools in the academic year 2012–2013. ELLs attend public schools in all 50 states, so the market is national. As shown in the map below compiled by the Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA), the greatest populations of ELLs (by percent of total enrollment) are in southwestern states. In 2012, there were six states with a 10% or higher density of ELLs: California, Texas, Nevada, Oregon, Colorado, and New Mexico. On the east coast, only three states—Florida, New York, and Virginia—ranked in the top fifteen states in ELL student density.

U.S. State Map of Highest Density of English Language Learners (ELLs)

Growth of the ELL Market

Overall, the number of ELL students in U.S. public schools is increasing steadily. According to the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), ELLs are the fastest growing segment of the student population. Growth in grades 7–12 is the highest and now comprises 10.5% of the nation’s K–12 enrollment. The number of ELL students in elementary grades is also increasing.

Although the overall percentage of ELL students in the U.S. is growing, the OELA map below clearly shows how widely the rate of growth varies across the country. In fact, there was a decrease in the ELL population in thirteen states, most importantly in California. Massachusetts was the only state in which the ELL population doubled during this time span.

U.S. State Data on Changes in Population of English Language Learners (ELLs)

Unique Characteristics of the ELL Market

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Instructional Design 101

Before we plunge into instructional design, let’s step back. What does it mean to design? Here’s the definition, according to Merriam-Webster:

Design

1. to create, fashion, execute, or construct according to plan: devise, contrive

2. a:  to conceive and plan out in the mind

b:  to have as a purpose: intend

c:  to devise for a specific function or end

Design is applied in many fields. Engineers design, construct, test, and refine solutions to problems. Fashion designers bring art to life in clothing, jewelry, and accessories. And then there’s user interface design, video and film design, marketing, and even publishing. In educational publishing, design often refers to graphic design—envisioning and creating the visual look and feel of a book or product. However, graphic design is just one small part of another field of design essential to creating educational materials—instructional design.

Instructional Design Models

Over the years, numerous instructional design models have been developed that serve as frameworks for modules or lessons, by:

  • increasing and/or enhancing the possibility of learning, and
  • encouraging the engagement of learners so that they learn faster and gain deeper levels of understanding.

Instructional design is the systemic process by which instructional materials are designed, developed, and delivered. Instructional design creates a learning environment that is focused on the learner, with an organized structure for content and activities designed to achieve specific learning objectives. This involves applying educational research and teaching practice to craft curriculum and instructional materials aligned to those objectives, thereby improving learning outcomes.

You often hear about instructional design in the context of technology—specifically, digital learning experiences. But the primary goal of instructional design is not the use of technology—it’s good instruction. Technology is just one tool that can be employed to achieve the larger goal: to improve learning outcomes.

The ADDIE Model

One of the earliest instructional design models, ADDIE, includes these five phases:
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Professional Translation and How to Avoid Flying Naked

flying-naked

Why is it important to have a professional write and translate your product?

In this era of new technology and immediacy, it is easy to get carried away with the specialized tools available to get the work done. But remember, they are only tools, which means they are only as good and effective as the person who uses them.

The same thing happens with free translation tools such as Google Translate, or even with professional tools such as Wordfast or SDL Trados. There are a number of automated tools for translation, but if used alone, they can be more harmful—or comical, for that matter—than useful. In 1977, an airline promoted leather seats in its first-class sections with the slogan “Fly in leather.” It was translated into Spanish as “Vuele en cuero” (a literal translation), which really means “Fly naked.” The biggest danger with automated tools is that they tend to translate literally and word by word. Continue reading