Does the Layout Speak Louder Than the Words?

My blog is a work in progress


My first header image and blog title. Created by me using

I’m getting course one flashbacks! Hours and hours playing with the themes, the colours, the fonts, widgets etc and never quite getting it right. For the first few months my website was called “Thinking Out Loud” and I am sure my posts spent at least 24 hours living with each of the different themes. At some point during course two I settled on a theme (I like this one as I can customise the header image) and I changed my blog title to reflect my maths classroom while still allowing it to be a blog about my learning. I changed the title to “The Common Ratio” and I like to think that as my teaching improves (via my learning in COETAIL) my students learning also improves. I call that The Common Ratio.


Under Construction Line

By Αρχίδαμος at Greek Wikipedia (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Back in the first iteration of my blog I used Bannerfans to create my header image and then  sometime during the year I discovered and used it to create my current header image. My blog’s focus is the content within the posts as well as the connection to the wider COETAIL community. With this in mind I will try to avoid distractions with a wide post width and narrow right panel but I will include some blog lists on the right panel to maintain and encourage navigation to other COETAIL blogs as well as the blogs that I often reference. I want to explore the tabs (HOME and ABOUT ME) that appear above the header image, but I think I am limited to what I can do with those without changing themes.

How am I continually improving my blog?

My individual posts are slowly starting to take shape as I develop my own style but I have a few areas that need some crafting. Reading through Understanding Visual Hierarchy in Web Design I get some solid (and easy) fixes. The use of sub-headings chunks my post and makes it easier for a reader to stay with me and scan… you still with me? The occasional use of italics, bold face, ALL CAPS and different colours can also draw readers in. But:

Excessive USE sends them PACKING!

(That was awful. I’m sorry.)

How C.R.A.P are our student’s blogs?

My 9th grade students have had their blogfolios (Langwitches credits Andrea Hernandez with this term) for over a year and their blogs come in ALL shapes and sizes (via the Blogger format). I certainly think that many of them could benefit from some CRAP analysis. The biggest offender for my eager 14 year olds is the text colour vs background colour. Why are they competing so much? They should be friends!

We have growing expectations of our teachers and our students to use the blogfolios to document learning but we really aren’t spending any time teaching them how. I am definitely guilty of this and over the next few weeks I will look at setting class time for blogging workshops and I will modify my blogging rubrics to include a better design element. 

I will resist all temptations to title the rubric “How C.R.A.P is my Blog?”

Font choice can be a real a deal breaker for any reader. I’m not going to go on a comic sans rant here but I will go on a rant about “Covered By Your Grace”.

Screenshot 2014-09-24 14.36.41

This font is not OK. Screenshot from Google Docs

On a serious note I recently received an email from a teacher in our Optimal Learning Centre and she made some important points about fonts/colours with respect to students with specific learning disabilities. Students with dyslexia might have an easier time with Arial, Comic Sans, Trebuchet and Verdana and this type face was created to specifically make reading easier for dyslexic students.

My online learning spaces are changing shape too

Actually, my class websites are undergoing big transformations and I’m really finding that I need to pay closer attention to the research when figuring out what these sites should look like. I made some big changes over the summer but the transition has not been smooth for my students (which means headaches for me!)

A screenshot of my IB Maths Studies Class Google Site (May 2014)

A screenshot of my IB Maths Studies Class Google Site (May 2014)

A screenshot of my IB Maths Studies Class Google Site (Aug 2014)

A screenshot of my IB Maths Studies Class Google Site (Aug 2014)

The second screenshot is what I am currently using for all of my maths classes. It is better for me as all of my classes are on one google site but even with a lot of support my students seem to be struggling with it. They can’t find lesson information or links to the resources etc so I am thinking about ways to improve the whole setup for all of us. Clearly I’m not paying close enough attention to the Visual Hierarchy in Web Design! I need to re-think the design from a student’s view. Perhaps I’ll get them to design it for me!

2 comments to “Does the Layout Speak Louder Than the Words?”
2 comments to “Does the Layout Speak Louder Than the Words?”
  1. Hi Ange

    Thanks for the two websites to make banners. I didn’t know there were tools out there for that, but I should have realized there must be.

    I like the name of your blog, “Common Ratio”. It speaks to me of “math” but also of “relationships”. A ratio is a relationship, right?! 🙂

    I find Moodle and similar interfaces to be really frustrating but kids are resilient and eventually learn how to navigate it.

    You’re off to a great start this year and I can read the “critical thinking” wheels turning in your head as you meet the challenges that Coetail asks of you…


    • Thanks for stopping by Vivian! I am really enjoying course 3 and I am finding connections in the classroom almost every day. I’m struggling a bit to maintain the connection with the other COETAILers and that is definitely something I need to catch up on. (Oh, and I’m a blog post behind!)

      Ratio is definitely a relationship!

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