3/28/2012

Space for learning

One of the great things about word processors is the ability to manipulate documents in any way you see fit. Whichever program you use, you should be aware of the importance of blank space. Emptiness is not the same thing as "nothing". If you're purposeful about the way you use emptiness, it will work to promote learning in your students. Here are several ways blank space can help your students in the learning process.

1) Chunking information-
Emptiness takes up real estate which means less information can fit on a single page. You’ll be forced to put only the most important items there.  A handout ought to contain all the relevant material for a lesson and leave out all the fluff. This way, students can focus more easily on what matters.

2) Focus-
Blank space will guide students’ eyes to the right spot. Too many items on a sheet of paper confuses the reader. Grouping pictures and text boxes to one side not only makes your handout visually appealing, but also provides space for students to write in.

3) Note space-
As I just mentioned, kids need a place to write down important information. As you know, actively engaging with a handout is going to lead to greater understanding and retention than passively reading it. Emptiness also provides the space to jot down clarifications and questions they may have.

4) Interest-
Beauty isn’t your first aim. However, if something is more appealing, it becomes more interesting which in turn makes material more memorable. That in turn improves learning. Consider using white space to add asymmetry, depth and perspective to your materials.

The old adage that “less is more” still holds true. Try to include a bit more white space in your handouts and see what the results are. Please let me know if you see any improvements!