Pulling It Together

Well, this week’s post is not nearly as exciting as last week’s—but, then again, neither is the moon. Here I have created a graphic introducing my unit of instruction on nonduality, part of a K-12 Comparative Religion for Children course. Before starting this assignment, I did not have a clear plan for the sequence of lessons in this unit and how the graphics I proposed in my initial outline would fit into those lessons. After following the ACE (Analyze, Create, Evaluate) design process and focusing on PAT (Principles, Actions, Tools) during the Create phase, I have a much clearer picture of how my graphic design will advance learning.

Lesson Scope & Sequence

As a high-level overview of the instructional unit, my graphic serves the purpose of organization, making “information easier to understand logically” (Lohr, 2008, p. 75). I believe that it accomplishes this by explaining in text the main ideas of each lesson under a visual illustrating that concept. Students in this course likely will not have prior background knowledge in the subject and probably won’t initially understand the visual, as it has not yet been explained in the lesson. However, they will make an association to it every subsequent time they see this graphic organizer at the start of the next lesson.

I used horizontal arrows in the graphic to indicate the lesson sequence and down arrows to show the learning progression within each lesson. One change I will make based on a user test is to actually write “Lesson 1,” “Lesson 2,” and “Lesson 3” either above each visual or above the current headers. It was unclear to the user that these were three lessons. Another change I will make is to frame the third visual because the user read that as a header. It is actually a graphic illustrating the core concept in Advaita Vedanta that the true “individual” self or soul (Atman) is actually one with the absolute reality (Brahman), which is everywhere and inside of each living being.

The arrows at the bottom are intended to show learning progression across the three lessons—progressing through the levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. As the third instructional step under each down arrow indicates, students will be asked to: (1) first demonstrate understanding of nonduality by coming up with their own examples, (2) next make interpretations about the concept by playing a game, and (3) at the end of the unit create an original project based on what they have learned. I am not sure whether this—or any of the other arrows in the graphic, for that matter—complicates or contributes to the overview.

The more I look at it now, the more I wonder if this graphic is a bad example of the overuse of organizational cues, as shown in the first boxed graphic at the bottom of page 82 of our textbook (Lohr, 2008). Honest opinions and constructive criticism are more than welcome!



Lohr, L. (2008). Creating graphics for learning and performance: Lessons in visual literacy (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Merrill/Prentice Hall.

Blood Money

It seems appropriate to be writing about shapes—and specifically circles—on a Blood Moon/Super Moon. After all, the moon is another illustration of the point I am trying to make with my money graphic—there are four quarters, or phases, of the moon, but regardless of whether you are seeing crescent, half, or full, it’s the same sphere in the sky. And “there is no dark side of the moon, really; matter of fact, it’s all dark” (Waters, 1973).

I must admit I wasted a lot of time in Fireworks trying to manifest my idea. In the end, PowerPoint proved to do a better job of imposing the quarters onto the pie chart of a silver dollar. As the text explains, “circles and ovals are used to show unity” (Lohr, 2008, p.250), and that is exactly what I wanted to demonstrate here—how four separate parts constitute a whole and are therefore inseparable from it. The quarters are encompassed by the silver dollar, implying that together they are nondifferent from it, which demonstrates my central concept of advaita, or nonduality.

I played around with other ways to present the concept, including text and numerals in circles, but no stagnant image could do as good of a job illustrating it as the Flash animation commissioned by my late Guru: http://omshantimandiram.org/Flash/quarters.swf

This animation will be used in my lesson plan to reinforce my static image. I will also suggest props be used whenever possible, including a silver dollar, in the classroom. Practically every American student should be familiar with a quarter, and the majority of school-age children will know that four quarters equal a dollar, but perhaps most have never seen a silver dollar (barring my son, who is lucky enough to get them from the Tooth Fairy). When I showed the image to my husband, he thought it was four quarters imposed on a larger quarter. This indicated to me that I should decrease the size of the quarters so the “One Dollar” written on the bottom of the silver dollar is fully visible.

bloodmoonI still think staying with the circle theme serves my purpose better than showing four quarters sitting on top of a dollar bill, as mixing shapes would negatively impact the harmony created by the circles (Lohr, 2008, p.248) and potentially show difference or imply comparison. And, although no longer red, the moon is still full (amazing how comparison can make even the brightest white moon lose its luster)—so circles it is! Good night moon; good night red balloon … until next time.


Lohr, L. (2008). Creating graphics for learning and performance: Lessons in visual literacy (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Merrill/Prentice Hall.

Waters, R. (1973). Eclipse [Recorded by Pink Floyd]. On Dark Side of the Moon. Abbey Road Studios.


On a related note (because I love this poem):

By Shel Silverstein

My dad gave me one dollar bill
’Cause I’m his smartest son,
And I swapped it for two shiny quarters
’Cause two is more than one!

And then I took the quarters
And traded them to Lou
For three dimes—I guess he don’t know
That three is more than two!

Just then, along came old blind Bates
And just ’cause he can’t see
He gave me four nickels for my three dimes,
And four is more than three!

And I took the nickels to Hiram Coombs
Down at the seed-feed store,
And the fool gave me five pennies for them,
And five is more than four!

And then I went and showed my dad,
And he got red in the cheeks
And closed his eyes and shook his head—
Too proud of me to speak!

Silverstein, S. (1974) Where the Sidewalk Ends. HarperCollins Publishers, New York.

AUM: Art, Utterances, Music


This activity was perfect to illustrate one of the central concepts of my instructional unit on nonduality. The word “OM” is actually three different letters in Sanskrit: A, U, and M. Its pronunciation is the natural opening and closing of the mouth, with “a” being the most primal sound that comes out of one’s mouth when it is opened and air is expelled. As one begins to close the lips, the primal “a” becomes more like “oo,” transliterated in Sanskrit as “u.” And finally, as one closes the mouth, there is a vibration of the lips and the sound “mmm.” Together, these three sounds constitute what is generally considered by Hindus to be the holy syllable, the vibration that permeates and encompasses the universe.

In the Bible, too, we hear of a word at the origin of the universe: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Just as the A, U, and M are inseparable when blended as the syllable OM, the “Word” (widely interpreted by Christians to mean Jesus Christ) was One with God. To Christians, AUM is “Amen,” and to Muslims it is “Amin”—with only the ending sound as a distinguishing factor. There are many interpretations and modifications of these sounds and their transcendental union.

Regardless of their age or religious background, students can appreciate the three aspects of A-U-M presented here: Art, Utterances, and Music. This was an interpretation that, as far as I know, originated with a great librarian and scholar at the University of Missouri-Columbia, Dr. Murarilal Nagar. I hope that he would be pleased with my visual representation of his idea in the four-square grid. In some ways, I merged the Web Activity and second Challenge Activity, using typography to both describe four words related to my lesson and design those words to express their meaning (Lohr, 2008, pp.244-245).

I believe my image will be useful in the context of my instruction because it demonstrates how an abstract concept of a “sacred syllable” meaning essentially everything and breaks it down into uniquely human phenomena to which everyone can relate. Art, Utterances (i.e., literature), and Music are also often considered the highest expressions or manifestations of the divine within human beings. For the word “Art,” I used a style that reminded me of a statue or work of art reflected on a glass perch at a museum. For “Utterances,” I used a speech bubble to illustrate words—spoken or written. And for “Music,” I set the letters within a musical staff in a font representing the curves you would find in notes and clefs. The “c” itself is flipped to symbolize the bass clef, even though that would be written at the left of the staff in actual sheet music. The dot of the “i” fits as a note into the “g” space, and other serifs of the font fall where they will to compose the word and convey its meaning. The “u” in this typeface reminded me of a harp.

In my graphic, I utilized “the five tools that influence learner perception: (1) type, (2) shape, (3) color, (4) depth, and (5) space” (Lohr, 2008, p. 242). Each square uses color contrast to emphasize the first letter of the word. These three letters come together in the fourth square to create the word “AUM,” with OM as a whole represented by the “m” from the “music” block turned sideways, much as it looks in the Devanagari script of Sanskrit. The two people who took part in my user test recognized this symbol immediately because of a background in Indian philosophy, but it should not be assumed that all students would. The introduction of this image in the instruction will, therefore, be preceded by an introduction to the Devanagari symbol for AUM.


Lohr, L. (2008). Creating graphics for learning and performance: Lessons in visual literacy (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Merrill/Prentice Hall.

All Is One, and One Is All

I plan to design a unit of instruction that will teach the philosophical concept of nonduality/nondifference (advaita in Sanskrit, meaning “not two”)—the idea that all is one, and there is a single universal truth or reality, manifested in many names and many forms. A word and symbol for that oneness in Hinduism and Buddhism is OM, or A-U-M in Sanskrit.


The blind men each “saw” something different when they felt part of the elephant. In reality, the parts were not separate from the whole.

This unit would be part of an ongoing comparative religion course for young people (K-12). It fits into the long-range goals of the course by explaining one of the central doctrines of Advaita Vedanta, a branch of Hinduism, which is just one of the major religions—along with Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and others—studied and compared in the course. Goals of the course as a whole are parallel to goals for this unit—to be able to discuss, interpret, write about, and create projects related to concepts within and across religions. The ultimate purpose of the course is for students to recognize and understand the fundamental similarities across different faiths from different parts of the world.

I will be creating at least eight static graphic visuals for use in this unit. Initial ideas for these graphics are as follows:

  1. Atman is Brahman/That art Thou—a visual showing the concept that the true “individual” self or soul (Atman) is actually one with the absolute reality (Brahman), which is everywhere and inside each living being.
  2. Watermelon labeled in three different languages—a visual to illustrate the story of three children who all wanted to buy the same thing (a watermelon) but argued about it because they were calling the fruit by different names and did not realize their goal was the same.
  3. The blind men and the elephant—a visual showing how blind men touching various parts of an elephant thought that the thing they were touching was all sort of different things, including a rope, a tree trunk, a horn, a snake, etc.
  4. Four quarters equal a dollar—a visual of four quarters, or something composed of four quarters, demonstrating how those four separate parts constitute a whole
  5. Hindu and Christian trinity—a visual showing how the Christian and Hindu trinities are parallel, differing only in name (Father/Brahma, Son/Vishnu, and Holy Ghost/Shiva) and appearance (how these characters are portrayed in art), and demonstrating that the three make up the whole, as a triangle is made up of three sides
  6. Three-leaved shamrock—a visual illustrating Saint Patrick’s explanation of the trinity using a three-leaved shamrock; although there are three distinct leaves, they are all the same plant
  7. Rose by any other name—a visual illustrating the meaning behind William Shakespeare’s famous line from Romeo and Juliet: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
  8. Art, Utterances, and Music—a visual breaking the Sanskrit symbol OM, composed of three sounds (A-U-M), into three concepts that are expressions of the highest reality

As always, comments are welcome! Om Shanti.

Cleanliness Is Universal

After reading about Universal Design for Learning, I brainstormed graphics that would be universally understood without words. Even though the book points out that text can be an important part of visual literacy, and often the quickest way to communicate visually (Lohr, 2008, p.4), words do no good when the user does not know the language. In my example of the steps of hand washing, captions are included to support the visual, but no clarification is necessary, as the pictures are easy to understand on their own.

hand-washing UDL graphic

When searching for graphics online, I noticed a number of images that skipped a step or two in the hand-washing process—for instance, not mentioning the step of turning on the faucet to get the water required for the suds in the scrubbing picture. Even this one could be misinterpreted if there is bar soap vs. liquid soap or if the user does not understand that rubbing your hands together is implied between steps 2 and 3. It’s the classic example of teaching someone how to make a peanut butter sandwich. Every step—from getting the peanut butter out of the cabinet, opening the jar, getting a knife, setting down the piece of bread, etc.—is necessary to the successful completion of the task. If one subtask is left out of the instructional design, the result could be a sticky mess, and it is the same with performance design.

The difference between creating performance support images and creating educational images, as described in our textbook, reminded me of the difference between training and education, as explained in Smith and Ragan’s Instructional Design: “Training is distinguished from other forms [of education] by immediacy of application” (Smith & Ragan, 2005, p.5).

This hand-washing graphic would be categorized as a just-in-time image (Lohr, 2008, p.7), which falls under the larger category of performance support images rather than educational images. The graphic is useful at the moment of need and should therefore be posted above a sink. We have all seen visuals like this before, but I had never thought about them from the perspective of universal design and visual literacy. Going to the bathroom will never be the same again!


Lohr, L. (2008). Creating graphics for learning and performance: Lessons in visual literacy (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Merrill/Prentice Hall.

Smith, P. L., & Ragan, T. J. (2005). Instructional design. Hoboken, N.J: J. Wiley & Sons.

Playing with Fire[works]

Well, a new semester is upon us, and I’m happy to be taking a course I can use in my daily life: EdTech 506, Graphic Design for Learning. This is my last elective in the MET program, and I can already tell it was a good choice.

As an editor for an educational services provider, I am used to working with words but leaving the visuals to graphic designers. My own graphic design experience dates back to laying out magazine and newspaper pages in Quark Xpress—and teaching what was once the industry design standard to high school students while launching a school paper. Now I have nothing to teach in this area and everything to learn.

I played with Adobe Fireworks once before while building websites in EdTech 502, but it wasn’t until I started to create my Personal Introduction Image for EdTech 506 that I truly began to grasp the potential of this application.


The image above (see a larger version here) is definitely personal, showing in a nutshell–or, in this case, a lotus seed–what I believe to be the most important aspects of my identity. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, so I’ll try to be brief in my explanation of it.

The name Kamalee is a Sanskrit name given to me when I was a journalism student at the University of Missouri-Columbia (aka Mizzou, as seen on my baby son’s shirt) by my employer and Guru. It is derived from my maiden name, Katherine (Ka) Marie (Ma) Lee and means “a pool of lotuses.” Although rooted in muddy water, a lotus rises above the muck to blossom clean and pure. I included the closed lotus bud with the dragonfly perched upon it to symbolize that I have not yet attained any such state of enlightenment or purity, though I have looked at the world from many perspectives, as a dragonfly does with its 30,000 eye facets (find other fun facts about dragonflies here).

In keeping with the nature theme, I merged another flower onto one of the lotus stems. While I don’t know the name of this flower, it freakishly resembles a monkey, and to me, specifically the Monkey God Hanuman, loved by Hindus for his strength and loyalty. Another symbol of loyalty, love, and friendship is the Claddagh, shown in the bottom left of the image and included to honor my parents and our Celtic heritage. I filled the ring and covered the crown with the OM symbol, which, to me, encompasses  everything–in geek speak, one symbol to rule them all.

The Ginkgo leaf symbolizes my relationship with my husband. At our first hOMe in Kansas City, we had a mature Ginkgo tree in the backyard. We brought offspring from the tree to Colorado with us and, although those trees didn’t make it, have been nurturing a young Ginkgo for about a decade.

So there you have it, a much longer explanation than I intended to write … but I suppose it’s a rather complex image. I enjoyed playing with Fireworks and can’t wait to learn more about graphic design principles for learning. I tried to balance the colors in my image and apply the rule of thirds. I welcome any and all feedback–even just a gut reaction.

Om Shanti,