Due to the nature of this post, the Department of Blogging requires that I begin with this statement:

Notice: The consumption of raw or undercooked blog posts may increase your risk of thought-borne illness.
Be aware that the ideas I’m going to share here (a) are undercooked and need some additional processing before they are complete, and (b) likely come from a variety of other sources, so if I’ve not given the proper credit for everything here, please let me know in the comments.

On my flight back from ISTE 2010 in Denver yesterday, I finished reading Presentation Zen. In it, Garr Reynolds presents, among other things, a concise explanation of the principles of visual design that one should use when creating slides for a presentation.

Being an educator, I began to think about how those principles would look if we applied them to curriculum design. Here is where my brain has gone with it so far. (And this is the undercooked part. I’m sure some of these won’t or can’t work, and I’m sure there are elements I’m missing. Chime in on the comments to help me sort it all out.) My goal is to elaborate on at least a few of these in future posts.

Signal vs. Noise Ratio. This is about sticking to the message. What is the point or the goal of the curriculum plan? If there is anything in the plan that gets in the way of that goal, eliminate it.

Picture Superiority Effect. People remember pictures better than words, so in essence, this principle means show, don’t tell. Presenters use visuals to activate emotion and connection between the audience and the content. In terms of curriculum design, I think we need to take it further. Not only should visuals be an integral part of every curriculum design, but we need to ensure that learners interact with and manipulate what they are learning.

Empty Space. A key to making visuals cleaner and more effective is to incorporate white space. Reynolds says, “empty space in a design is not ‘nothing,’ it is indeed a powerful ‘something,’ which gives the few elements on your slide their power.” We tend to treat curriculum as if we are packing for a vacation: get as much as we possibly can into the fewest number of bags. Bring extra clothes in case of unforeseen mishaps, and bring a big variety in case the weather takes an unexpected turn. Empty space in our curriculum design might give students a chance to breathe and reflect.

Contrast. Visually we use contrast to make something stand out. When was the last time you saw a curriculum where certain elements were deliberately arranged to stand out against the rest? We notice and remember what is different.

Repetition. Visual patterns help a presentation audience follow what is going on. Curriculum should be designed the same way: in predictable patterns that enhance the message without becoming trite and simplistic.

Alignment. Again quoting Reynolds, “The whole point of the alignment principle is that nothing in your slide design should look as if it were placed there randomly.” So often I have seen things dropped into the middle of a unit that seem like it’s there just because. Alignment means that everything in a curriculum design is there on purpose and with a conscious connection to other elements and other parts of the curriculum.

Proximity. Finally, clustering related items together helps cement the connection to the viewer. If the student has to expend energy trying to figure out why a unit is structured the way it is, then the structure isn’t working for the curriculum.

Okay, so help me avoid making all my readers ill by helping me cook this. What have I missed? Is this overly obvious, or is there something worth digging out more?