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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Picture Perfect: Make Your Own Motivational Posters

Jim Moulton

Technology Integration and Project-Based Learning Consultant

OK, I admit it. I have been known to leaf through the catalogs that live in the seat pockets on airplanes. I never find anything I have to have, but I always look at the motivational posters -- in part because I see a lot of these in the schools I visit.

You know the ones I mean: These posters have an image of an eagle soaring, a team of climbers reaching a snowy mountaintop, or rowers carving through the still waters of a river at dawn. The images are above some simple text that states an eternal truth. For instance, one poster shows a tousle-headed young boy looking out at a lake as the title below reminds us all to "Do It Now." The text beneath the title states, "When you are done living, you'll be remembered for the lives you touch and not for the meetings you attend."

Click to enlarge picture

Credit: Courtesy of Jim Moulton

What I have also noticed is that these posters are not cheap. In fact, though I may be a tad on the frugal side, I have to say they are pretty costly. And one more thing -- the images may be romantic, but they are always of places I have never been, and they feature people I will never meet.

All of which is why I love BigHugeLabs.com. Imagine being able to make your own motivational posters using your own images and your own words. What if the poster intended to encourage extraordinary effort on the part of your third graders featured, rather than some anonymous mountain climber or unnamed racehorse, a candid image of your very own student Hector -- tongue stuck out, pencil gripped, brow furrowed, intensely focused on the job at hand -- with the title "Effort Makes the Difference" and the text "Come on! Try as hard as Hector!" Your student. Your words. Your motivator. Now, that is a poster.

But imagine that Hector is not a student who traditionally puts out this kind of effort. I have to believe he will be motivated if you capture an image of him working hard, put him on a poster, and use that image to inspire others. It's a reversal of the old self-fulfilling prophecy: Tell a person he's lazy and never works hard, and that's what you'll get.

Once you have created the poster, you can easily save it. If you want it made into a real poster -- big, laminated, and so on -- BigHugeLabs.com would be glad to sell that to you. But for the classroom, you can simply download your handiwork as a JPEG file and print it locally.

Plus, it is not just for motivation. What about using the site to make safety posters for the chemistry lab or advertisements for the spring play? What about sports posters or funny posters? And what about, on the personal side, using it to make a poster for someone you care about who is celebrating a significant event?

I will always remember the time -- it was in Alabama, I believe -- I showed this Web site to a group of educators. Within twenty-eight minutes, one of the teachers had gone to her room, taken a picture of her reading chair, uploaded the image to her laptop, made the poster at BigHugeLabs.com (with the title "Welcome to Mrs. Hughes's Grade Four!" and the words "We're going to have a great year!"), saved the finished poster to her laptop, uploaded the poster to her Wal-Mart account, and ordered enough 4 x 6 prints (at twelve cents apiece) to be able to mail them to her students as postcards with a personal note on the back. And, yes, she picked them up at the store on her way home that night!

This tool is only one of about thirty you will find on the site, all of them free and all highly empowering. You can make trading cards, badges, albums for pocket-sized photos, and more. All you need is a digital camera, the Internet, and some motivation. Come on! Work as hard as Hector, and let me know what you make!

And if you've already used BigHugeLabs.com or other sites like it, let me know, and share recommendations of similar online tools.

Jim Moulton

Technology Integration and Project-Based Learning Consultant
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