Sunday, February 12, 2017

Teaching Social Literacy Through Communication Design

Source: TED
As middle school advisors, we constantly deal with the trials and tribulations resulting from miscommunication. One thing we try to convey to the middle school mind is that in order to fully understand a message, they need to recognize that key factors play into how information is received.

The relationship between communication and interaction goes hand in hand with perception. The more we can develop their acuity in reading verbal and written cues, the more we can decrease the problems of misreading messages. Without a doubt, our job becomes increasingly more difficult due to electronic media pushing response times to lightning speed.

Since communication is central to design and relies heavily on how media connects with people, it stands to reason that we need to help our students identify where things can get misconstrued. We see it as “social literacy.” Like other literacies, they need to learn the skills in how to respond in order to avoid any misinterpretations that might arise.

While it isn’t always easy, we found that using the video entitled "How To Recognize Misinformation" with our advisees helps. It promotes healthy discussions as well as practical techniques for students to role-play.


The animation visually communicates how people get the wrong idea by failing to recognize their own personal responses to gestures, tone, and body language. These missed social cues can lead to confusion, animosity, and uncertainty.

We often tell students to use their words to explain their feelings, but if we don’t give them the skills to understand perceptual misunderstandings, our advice falls on deaf ears.

For this reason, the four key skills for good communication provide a great place to start.


If we can reinforce these skills with continued practice with our learners, as well as model them as adults, we can come to a common understanding of what we mean together.

Design is communication. If we dissect the word, it is after all “de + SIGN” and is the backbone of logos, icons, brands, media, and more.

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