Thursday, August 2, 2018

The Building Learning Communities Conference More Than Lives Up To Its Name

Source: ASIDE 2018

Source: November Learning
This year’s Building Learning Communities - Education Conference 2018 more than lived up to its goal of fostering dialogues between talented, dedicated educators. Sponsored by November Learning (@NLearning), the BLC18 conference took place from Tuesday, July 24, to Friday, July 28, 2018, in the beautiful and perfectly situated Boston Park Plaza Hotel. The industry-leading keynote speakers and the expert presenters were all chosen personally by Alan November (@globalearner).

We don’t think we have ever been to an educational get-together, whether formal or informal, that created as true a sense of community as this past week's conference. The engaged, committed educators were all open and candid in sharing ideas and dilemmas, and the tone of the conference was set early by Alan November to encourage conversation among every voice in the room.

Source: Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence; Lafayette PTA

The opening keynote address by Dr. Marc A. Brackett, PhD, (@marcbrackett, @YaleEmotion) stressed the importance of emotional intelligence, as he introduced the audience to Yale’s RULER approach and mood meter. The closing keynote provided a fitting bookend to this message as Ted Dintersmith (@dintersmith) author of Most Likely To Succeed and What School Could Be, as well as the film "Most Likely To Succeed," talked passionately about how schools can reinvent themselves to better serve today's learners.

Source: Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence
As non-computer programmers, we were somewhat bewildered by Stephen Wolfram's (@stephen_wolfram) talk on Thursday afternoon. We were amazed, however, by the potential of his WolframAlpha search engine, which seems ready to upend modern information-gathering. Its “smart” algorithm coalesces data and far-flung facts on any topic (or combination of topics) to make most traditional homework assignments obsolete.

All of the presenters were clearly prepared and heartfelt in offering a good balance between practical teaching tools and theoretical learning frameworks. Some of our favorite sessions included:



We would like to thank all of the collaborative teachers and administrators who attended both of our sessions: "Where Learning Meets Design: Taking Control Of The Visual Classroom" and "Student Videos: Empower Creativity And Visual Journalism." We would also like to thank everyone for generously returning after the hotel fire alarm interrupted the first presentation. We greatly appreciate the range of questions and ideas that were shared during the talks, and we are grateful for the kind feedback we received.


We were also honored to be interviewed by Bob Greenberg (@bobgreenberg) for his Brainwaves Anthology series on YouTube. His videos celebrate teachers who make an impact, and his interviews with international thought-leaders highlight many of the progressive ideas changing traditional models of learning.


Finally, we would like to thank the tremendous conference organizers who staged such an incredibly smooth and well-run week of professional development. They fed us extremely well, with a full breakfast every morning, a welcoming dinner for presenters, drinks and snacks throughout, evening cocktail receptions, and, of course, the favorite dessert dance on Thursday.


If you are in the Back Bay area of Boston, Erbaluce is a charming little Italian restaurant two blocks from the hotel, and Lucca is an absolutely delicious extension near the Prudential Center of the popular North End establishment.

We look forward to seeing everyone at BLC19!

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Student Videos: Empowering Creativity and Video Journalism


Teacher videos are terrific learning tools, but student-created videos are even richer. Creating videos, motion graphics, and animations nudge students to blend a host of proficiencies. It involves visual design using colors and templates, just as it requires language skills of narration and storytelling.

The process of using a storyboard to stitch together a narrative enables students to combine logical reasoning, cause-and-effect, and content mastery. These compelling presentations provide opportunities for students to learn, share, and teach others. It reinforces the graphicacy skills they need to learn, design, and communicate a message as journalists.



Kids teaching kids is the purest model of learning where they become the educators of their peers. The examples below are just some the different types of videos, motion graphics, and animations made by our students.

MySimpleShow





 

Biteable






Magisto








Adobe Spark






Splice






 

iMovie & WeVideo







Stop Motion


 





PowToon

 

  

Renderforest




Vine














































Class YouTube Channels

Patricia Russac
Mercer Hall

Class Tumblr  Pages

Mercer Hall



Sunday, November 19, 2017

Student Activism, Volunteerism, And Social Engagement - Empowering Gen WE

ASIDE 2017
Rarely does a moment emerge that highlights the enormous contributions to global activism that young people make every day. The WE Day UN celebration on Wednesday, September 20, 2017, was perhaps that moment.

Rarely does a genuine opportunity emerge that promotes engagement and social justice on both micro and macro scales. The WE Movement as a whole may very well be that platform.

And rarely does an organization emerge that dedicates itself to collective movements of change. We were honored this fall to be selected to attend WE Day UN with our seventh graders.

Source: WE Day

WE Movement started over twenty years ago by brothers Craig and Marc Kielburger with the express intent to take action and make the world a better place. It includes the WE Charity, ME to WE Social Enterprise, WE Schools, and WE Day.

The WE Schools program offers classroom resources, lesson ideas, practical videos, educator packs, and step-by-step plans for leading global change. The four step program challenges students to investigate and learn, create an action plan, take action, and report and celebrate. Issues of social justice and human rights are all tackled in the spirit of young people making a difference, and it provides the tools to take action.

Source: WE Schools

The WE Day gathering is perhaps the culmination of these efforts. At various WE Day events across the country, students and educators come together to unite their voices in a multimedia festival of speakers and performers that inspire collective movements of change.


We were fortunate enough to be invited to attend the first-annual WE Day UN congress in New York City, at Madison Square Garden. Students cannot buy tickets to WE Day; they have to be invited in recognition of their volunteerism, acts of citizen service, or hours dedicated to communal justice. Our students felt lucky to be acknowledged for their work in social entrepreneurship, public service announcements, and other local actions.

Part of the ten-year anniversary of the WE Day events, this new WE Day incarnation coincided with the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) meetings in New York. As a result, world leaders past and present visited the Theater at Madison Square Garden to share their stories and motivate the thousands of students in the tri-state area about how to make the world a better, cleaner, and fairer place to live. Leading figures such as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Chelsea Clinton, former President of Ireland Mary Robison, Whoopi Goldberg, and others all shared messages of equality and change.


WE Day itself is hard to describe. It is part motivational barnburner, part TED Talk, part rock concert, part panel discussion, part global colloquy, part volunteerism jamboree, and part digital extravaganza. The speakers and guests appeared on stage in rapid fire: YouTube celebrities and Disney Channel alums who elicited shrieks from the kids, and respected authors and actors who drew applause from the adults. WE.org definitely knows how to appeal to its young audience. And to be fair, a regular parade of corporate sponsors also spoke at WE Day, to emphasize the work that responsible business partners are doing in supporting the cause and in sharing the planet.

The effect that this day had on our students was massive. They came away with an excitement to carry the movement forward, but perhaps most striking for many was the persistent commentary on the lack of rights for women and girls around the world. Their plight must be all of ours, both for women and men. It could not have been more powerfully put than when President Trudeau took the stage to emphasize we need more "HE for SHE" in the fight equal rights.


Most importantly, our students realized that WE is Everyone. Being empowered to change the world starts with them, and they don't have to wait for adults to do it.



We look forward to sustaining these themes throughout the months ahead. This event was an ideal way to jumpstart the school year, and we look forward to empowering our Gen WE students to be changemakers for the greater good.

Source: WE Day

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Visualizing The Effects Of A Nuclear War

Source: Shadow Peace
Coming off a summer of the investigation into Russia’s involvement in the election, the riots and deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the elevated nuclear threats from North Korea, it’s hard to believe that we’ve had constant turmoil since the presidential election almost one year ago. The most dangerous of all this unrest is the nuclear threat. It’s scary to think that world leaders want to spar over this. So as we return to our classrooms with our middle schoolers, we have our hands full as educators.

This summer, Neil Halloran released his sequel to The Fallen Of World War II called Shadow Peace. This new interactive documentary combines data-visualization and cinematic storytelling to explore the driving factors of war and peace. It is a web series intended to take a data-driven look at peacekeeping efforts since WWII. Part one of Shadow Peace deals with the nuclear threat.



It is a powerful portrayal of the human cost of a nuclear war and the catastrophic impact it would have on the world population and environment. Like its counterpart on WWII, the film can be paused to explore areas in more depth. The didactic possibilities are endless, and the rewards of enlightening others toward peaceful solutions immense.


Source: Shadow Peace

We plan on showing our students this documentary, just as we watched The Fallen Of World War II. The more we can educate young people to be peacemakers, peacebuilders, and peacekeepers, the greater their vision of humanity. That is in the interest of all of us; fire and fury is not.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

5th Graders Take Entrepreneurship To Another Level Through Empathy And Action

ASIDE 2017
We started teaching entrepreneurship as part of the fifth-grade math and history curriculum over five years ago. As part of the program, several entrepreneurs visited as guest speakers to share their ideas about starting a business, creating a brand, and developing a marketing strategy. The success of our entrepreneur curriculum did not go unrecognized. We were thrilled when well-known entrepreneur Leonard C. Green wrote about it in his book, entitled The Entrepreneur’s Playbook.

Source: Amazon
This year, we changed the focus to social entrepreneurship as a way to inspire our students to empathize with an issue in need of attention, whether locally, nationally, or globally. Working closely with our colleague Natasha Chadha (@MsChadha92), we retooled the project to center on identifying and exploring social issues. The main objectives included equipping students to take action for change, to seek meaningful ways to help others, and to develop leadership skills that effect real change.

Source: Social Entrepreneurs
We used a host of materials to educate the students about social entrepreneurship, and we built a website to compile everything in one place. They blogged about their ideas and experiences designed around lessons and activities. In addition to the digital resources, we relied on a wide selection of picture books from the library that emphasize the power of personal initiative to bring about change and, importantly, to give back to others. The stories highlight that even the smallest initiative can bring about change.

ASIDE 2017
The students researched how they could help real people through microfinancing using the social entrepreneur website Kiva.org. This eye-opening experience showed them that the simple things we take for granted are not necessarily common around the world. They learned that a small loan of just $25.00 could make a huge difference in the lives of many.

ASIDE 2017

Once these young social entrepreneurs realized that they could make a difference in raising awareness and funds to help actual people, they never looked back. They worked tirelessly to develop presentations for the Social Entrepreneur Expo to explain the plight of others, as well as to seek donations for their causes. They were empowered to be change-makers in every sense of the term. Most of all, they understood that kids can make a difference. They owned it.

ASIDE 2017
Creating opportunities for student agency and empowerment mirrors real-life. The students transferred their understanding of what it meant to be a social entrepreneur inside the classroom to help ease the needs of others outside the classroom. Now that's a true life lesson.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Data Fluency Follow-Up - Beware of Content Manipulation

Source: TED Ed
In light of our recent post, we thought it worth sharing one of the latest TED Ed videos released this summer. It is entitled “How To Stop A Misleading Graph,” by Lea Gaslowitz. We haven’t used this with our students yet, but we plan to this fall. Graphs can aid us in grasping complex data; that does not mean they always tell the correct story. With the so many visible software resources available today, it’s easy to design graphs, charts and tables for all types of media.


This video makes for a perfect mini-lesson to reinforce visual literacy, one of the core skills of graphicacy. Just because a graph looks good doesn’t mean it’s accurate. We want our students to look beyond the sleekness of design and not be swayed by colors, shapes, lines, and curves. Instead, they should question the labels, numbers, scale, and content. In other words, ask what the graph is trying to convey and not take it at face value.

Source: TED Ed
Graphs should represent data, not an opinion. By distorting the scale on either axis, they can be intentionally manipulated. The video provides straightforward examples of “cherry picking” the data points to skew the scale for the purposes of persuasion or bias. As we’ve stated in our previous post, our students are growing up in a data-rich world that increasing relies on the design of information. It’s for this reason that they need to be more discerning about misleading content. Visually literacy is a necessity now more than ever.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Building Data Fluency - Visually And Literally

ASIDE 2017
In this data-rich world, our students face growing amounts of statistical content. That's why we believe  teaching graphicacy is vital to the modern classroom. We develop ways to incorporate visual literacy and visual thinking in some capacity in most assignments and consistently look for ways that students can transfer content from a linear to visual format. This process enables them to connect more deeply with the material. The graphs in this post represent statistics on immigration that our students used to build graphs for a project-based learning unit on immigration.

ASIDE 2017
Each student studied a particular immigrant group for the project. For the graph assignment, they gathered the data for their group’s country of origin, as well as immigration data for two other countries. They recorded the information in a table format for five consecutive decades. While the organization of the data gave them a quick overview, the disparity in size of immigration over the course of 50 years was not immediately evident.

ASIDE 2017
Giving the students the opportunity to literally construct the graphs allowed them to experience visual data firsthand. Using the decades along the horizontal axis was easy; however, the vertical axis required a bit more intellectual work to determine the coordinates for plotting the data. Some had to revise their decisions several times by reexamining the numbers to adjust the coordinate values.

ASIDE 2017
The process of using statistics to construct meaning regarding immigration to the United States as visual data reinforced their understanding from both a historical and mathematical perspective. The students could visually see the highs and lows by group over time in addition to the places where immigration intersected or overlapped.

ASIDE 2017

Using statistics is an effective tool for learning. Since we know that our students will encounter numbers on a daily basis, the more we can do to build in data analysis, the better they will be able to make choices based on evidence and authenticity. Visual data is used in everything from household products to political campaigns. Without the proper skills, learners, like any other consumer, can be misled. Interpreting the pictorial representation of information is an essential skill of graphicacy; all students must master this proficiency.
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