I think that being able to read and consume complex visuals is a critical literacy skill for the information age. However, don't stop there. Teachers and students should also be creating visuals. Along these lines, I'm currently working with one of our 7th grade science teachers (Ms. Johnson) to have students use the computer to create a visual model that helps them understand diffusion* (a concept with which they have struggled in the past).
Once students have done a hands on experiment (using the objects that show up in the visual) and once they have acted out the diffusion process (we'll take pictures, don't worry), they will head to the computer lab to create their visual model. I figured that PowerPoint would be a good tool to use here since it is easy to use and could be used to animate parts of the model (enhancing their understanding). I made the sample below to get an idea on how to introduce this activity to the kids and to have a working model available to share with the students.
I used text boxes to explain concepts but I'm thinking about having some students voice annotate the diffusion process.
I'm really excited about this activity. I think that if students can build this model and explain what is happening in it, they will be able to understand and remember diffusion for a long, long time. Naturally, I'll be thrilled that they will also get a chance to be creative (not to mention learning some Powerpoint skills).
I'll let you know how this project reinforces their learning... but I feel pretty confident that it will in remarkable ways. I think this project would be really easy to replicate with other science projects but I bet that if you think about it a bit you will be able to integrate this into just about any subject.
I'll make sure to share some of the student created visuals once they are finished.
*I knew little about the diffusion process before I started this project and I think I can successfully explain and diagram it now... all because I BUILT a visual model.