Northern Illinois University

NIU Office of Public Affairs

Rhonda Robinson
Rhonda Robinson

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News Release

Contact: Mark McGowan, NIU Office of Public Affairs
(815) 753-9472

August 28, 2006

NIU professor wins ‘Inspired Teacher’ scholarship

DeKalb — Northern Illinois University's Rhonda Robinson is one of 30 recipients of the 2006 Inspired Teacher Scholarship for Visual Learning from Inspiration Software.

Robinson is a Distinguished Teaching Professor in the NIU College of Education’s Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment.

The scholarship program supports professional development activities for educators in K-12 schools, colleges and universities who champion the integration of visual learning and technology into the curriculum.

Robinson, who receives a $750 scholarship and software, will use the funds to attend the annual International Visual Literacy Conference in Dallas this October. She has been teaching and researching issues in visual literacy since the early 1980s.

“Visual literacy helps students picture what they’re learning in new ways. When you encourage students to learn and share their learning through visuals, it’s another mode of having them express what they’ve learned in addition to verbal literacy,” Robinson said.

“My visual literacy students, for instance, have had seventh- and eighth-grade science students do final reports on big weather – tornadoes, hurricanes, volcanoes – and instead of having them stand up with their little reports and say, ‘Here’s all you need to know about volcanoes,’ they made digital movies,” she added. “It’s really helpful to many kids to be able to do both kinds of learning. It really uses all of their capabilities.”

The award also includes a monthly newsletter from Inspiration Software, which includes good ideas from other scholarship winners.

“I’m hoping to actually gather data from all of the winning teachers to begin compiling the ways teachers across the country are using visual learning in their classrooms,” she said.

Robinson herself has plenty of ideas to share.

“A lot of my graduate students are teaching during the day, and they’re already having their students do exercises with digital photography and digital moviemaking. To model that, I have my students explore campus with digital cameras, taking pictures of production elements to show composition, shape, perspective, line, color and texture,” she said.

With technology racing, teachers are able to use visual learning more than ever.

Inspiration Software products allow teachers to “mind-map” classroom discussions or the contents of a textbook chapter, Robinson said, while Web sites and animated movies are only a click away for teachers with “connected” classrooms.

“Each year, we look forward to reviewing the scholarship applications because it is a chance to explore the amazing ways that educators around the world are using visual learning across the curriculum,” said Mona Westhaver, president and co-founder of Inspiration Software.

“Once again this year, the scholarship recipients demonstrated the innovative ways that they are using the power of visual learning to help students of all ages and abilities build critical thinking, writing and comprehension skills, and understand difficult concepts.”

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