Smart Syllabus, Smart Student: A Practical Technology Intervention to Improve Document Design and Clarify Pedagogical Goals in the Classroom

Proposal Title: 
Smart Syllabus, Smart Student: A Practical Technology Intervention to Improve Document Design and Clarify Pedagogical Goals in the Classroom
Presenter(s): 
Abstract: 

In an increasingly image and text-saturated world, how can the humble class syllabus and assignment sheet compete to draw student attention and focus? How does a busy instructor become a stand-out graphic designer and bring renewed purpose to classroom documents, turning them toward pedagogical ends? By analyzing and deploying often overlooked features of Microsoft Word instructors can become better designers, putting their syllabus and classroom documents to work through strategic focus, emphasis, and repetition of design elements. This intervention will offer practical solutions to instructors who might be hesitant to think of themselves as designers.

Proposal: 

In an increasingly image and text-saturated world, how can the humble class syllabus and assignment sheet compete to draw student attention and focus? How does a busy instructor become a stand-out graphic designer and bring renewed purpose to classroom documents, turning them toward pedagogical ends?

In this intervention, Megan O’Connor, Academic Technology Specialist for Stanford’s Program in Writing and Rhetoric, explores how even the most regular users of Microsoft Word overlook or underestimate simple rhetorical/design features of Word that improve readability, accessibility, and design of documents by prioritizing information and directing the eye using color, font, font size, and negative space. She demonstrates how instructors, by drawing on rhetorical principles, can use Microsoft Word “Styles” to easily and quickly reconstruct a syllabus and assignment sheet that actively teach students through carefully considered visual hierarchies, taking advantage of Word’s style options for titles, headings, emphasis styles, and themes. In addition, she demonstrates the usefulness of “Publishing Layout View” for adding and arranging images while keeping basic design principles in mind.

By analyzing and deploying these often overlooked features of Microsoft Word in relation to the rhetorical situation of classroom materials, instructors can become better designers, putting their syllabus and classroom documents to work through strategic focus, emphasis, and repetition of design elements; this approach can make assignments and learning objectives clearer to students while simultaneously making documents more coherent and appealing.  

This session will be of interest to instructors with or without design experience; the lessons apply to Google Documents in addition to Microsoft Word.

Context: 
This session is an intervention aimed at helping hesitant or skeptical instructors apply rhetorical and design principles to their classroom documents to make them more pedagogically effective using Microsoft Word, a tool they are already familiar with but may not be fully using. This workshop addresses technical literacy, is a professional development opportunity, and highlights how we may not be taking full advantage of the affordances of a technology that is all around us.
Proposal Type: 
individual