What's your Passion Project?

Being a Professional Development Specialist and technology coach at Five Star often means being called into situations where you could be asked to provide solutions to anything and everything related to school technology. Then, there are other times when you are asked to provide expert guidance and support on a topic you are truly passionate about outside of the classroom. 

Aside from being licensed teachers and Certified Google Trainers, each member of the Professional Development Team at Five Star has also nurtured various skills along the way. Mine happens to be graphic design, often within the realm of education. When I’m not helping teachers create awesome learning experiences, I’m more than likely designing logos, sports schedule posters, t-shirt artwork, senior banners, and more. 

I recently received a call from a high school Sports Marketing class to assist as an outside expert. First of all, the fact that there is a Sports Marketing class is amazing in and of itself. Second, their teacher (Mr. Dugan) has embraced more of a PBL mindset.  Instead of just learning about sports marketing, each student has been tasked with creating a sports team from the ground up and learning from experts about key points of the process along the way. The students in the Sports Marketing class were in the logo design aspect of their projects, so Mr. Dugan asked me to check-in with the students and see how I could help. Each student was at a different stage on their logo journey, which allowed me to engage with the class on nearly every step of the process. 

Here are some things we discussed and a few of the student’s logos: 

  • One student was stuck at the very beginning and didn’t know where to begin. We started from scratch by making a quick list of the attributes they wanted to include in the logo. This helped focus the student’s work and provide some direction. She took the three things she wanted to focus on and incorporated them into her design. 
  • One student had already created a rough draft but had an issue where there was too much information present. This was causing the viewer to “work too hard” to understand what he was trying to convey. We talked about simplifying to the most important part, and he trimmed it down to make it easier to understand.  
  • One student was trying to decide between using the design tools of Google Drawings or Canva to transition their hand-drawn sketch into a digital format. We verbally compared each of these to determine which would better suit their needs. 
  • One student’s logo design was pretty much done, but there were some lines and text that were not aligned properly. We looked at changing some of the lines in his logo so they were equal on both sides and more legible to the viewer.

No matter the issue, it usually boils down to effective communication.
In this instance, that means visual communication. For example, how hard does the viewer have to work to understand the message you are trying to send? In this age of limited attention spans, it seems that most people’s brains have a couple of seconds to grasp what you’re trying to tell them before they tune out. Is the main thing, the main thing? Is there clarity? Does the image lead them to action? 

Without their teacher’s direction, some of the students began working together, evaluating each other’s work, and providing feedback. I could tell the students were okay with putting their work out there for others to critique, as it seemed like peer feedback was something they do often. They were open, honest, and full of information. Each student was able to access feedback in real-time from both me and their peers, and then make adjustments to bring back to the group until each person had a design that communicated effectively. I was watching a live example of evaluation, collaboration, growth mindset, and feedback all in one. This wasn’t about getting a good grade; it was centered on continual improvement to produce the best logo possible. 

Being able to engage with students and speak to my passion for graphic design allowed me to see so many of the skills and practices we teach every day in action. Finding opportunities to combine my external passions with my work provides inspiration to continue finding technological solutions to everyday challenges in education. I’m so grateful to be a part of a team of educators that allows me the opportunity to work with teachers and students as they engage in awesome, meaningful learning experiences. 

Matt Miller
Professional Development Specialist 
Five Star Technology Solutions