Thursday, December 18, 2014

Show And Tell: Visual Vs. Linear

Source: ASIDE, 2014

If a picture is worth a thousand words, why is it that the majority of work kids do in school is buried in text? We firmly believe that transferring linear text into a visual format deepens the understanding and provides a context for the content. By engaging learners in the design process, they become skilled at navigating visual details to focus on the essential information. As part of a project-based learning unit on immigration, the students created a graphic presentation about the traditions brought to the United States from a culture group they were studying.

Source: ASIDE, 2014
To reinforce the importance of designing information, we once again had the students compare the finished visual design with their research notes.

The benefits of looking at linear vs. visual communication provide the perfect opportunity to see why the design matters. It reinforces one of our mantras, “presentation is everything,” and it neatly connects to our discussions about branding and media literacy.

Our students live in a world of Instagram, Snapchat, and emojis; it makes sense, therefore, to use the tools at their fingertips for visual communication. Providing them with opportunities to use design elements in the classroom opens up other venues for creating visual information, from historical content to statistical analysis.

Source: ASIDE, 2014
Learning to look for the right visuals trains them how to streamline the information. It builds visual literacy. Selection of text, images, and design transforms linear content into a more effective presentation. They need to make deliberate choices to relay a point of view.

While there may not be more visual learners today, there would not be an explosion of infographics, explainer videos, and interactive graphics if people were not attracted to this type of communication. Our students are no different. They learn by seeing.

Developing opportunities for students to use information they gather in conjunction with the principles and elements of design makes it easier to access and assimilate content.

Source: ASIDE, 2014
It is no surprise that using visuals with students helps them convey relationships between information, concepts, and ideas. Today, there are a host of tools available, with apps such as Canva, Easelly, and Adobe Voice, along with other web-based applications.

In our 1:1 program, we found that the apps make it easier than ever for students to apply their own visual thinking to create infographics and motion graphics about the content they are learning.

For other resources, please see:

Friday, December 12, 2014

'Tis The Season – We Give Books

Source: We Give Books

It’s that time of year, when the world… can give back. We Give Books is the perfect place to promote literacy in your own classroom and at the same time help provide reading opportunities to children everywhere. With close to 300 award-winning books in its digital library, We Give Books will donate two real books to charities working in communities around the world for every digital book you read from its collection.

Source: We Give Books

We all know that kids get distracted at this time of year; so in the spirit of giving, start a children’s holiday read-a-thon. Helping others builds empathy for children who are less fortunate and inspires them learn a powerful lesson about giving back. Book selection is by age, genre, or author, and there are a host of other educational resources for teachers, including extension activities, mentoring, craft projects, and reading guides. It's worth checking out the "Children's Literature Review Blogging Project" for older students.

Join the We Give Books “Season’s Readings” campaign to double the impact of this program. Help them read 5,000 books online so that they can give 10,000 books to children in need. We Give Books is also affiliated with First Book, an organization that provides access to new books for children in need. To date, First Book has donated 120 million new books in the United States and Canada.

Source: We Give Books
Let’s help give the gift of reading by getting our students involved in helping other kids.

’Tis the season to be reading!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Beyond Diversity - We Need Inclusion

Source: UNiTE to End Violence Against Women

We watch the news everyday only to hear the constant reporting about the violence against women on college campuses, in the military, from athletes, and by celebrities. It’s hard to believe that well into the twenty-first century this issue continues to plague our nation at such an alarming rate. Although we like to think of our society as more democratic toward the rights of women, we are not without fault. Orange Your Neighborhood (@SayNo_UNiTE) (#Orangeurworld) wants to raise awareness about this issue, not only in its 16-day campaign from November 25 to December 10, Human Rights Day, but also to make every 25th of the month "Orange Day."

Source: UNiTE Brochure
Violence, victimization, and stereotypes about women fail to make it into daily classroom discussions any more than open conversations about race. Violence against women is a global issue, and according to UN Women, it is a global pandemic.

Yet our education system, which is driven by pushing through curricula for high-stakes test results, often fails to shift, stop, and talk about current events and global issues. Learners need a forum to engage with difficult topics in a meaningful way, and we need to facilitate and not shy away from them. Global issues are not an elective.

It is not enough to say that we are a diverse nation, believe in civil rights, and promote equality for women. Title IX was passed 35 years ago, and the civil rights movement is over 50. Are we really that far ahead when we witness the daily barrage in the news? Education needs to go beyond the safe conversations under the guise of diversity. It’s not just equal pay for equal work, or the celebratory “Women’s History Month.” It’s about inclusion on multiple layers to talk about the tough topics, including violence against women. Breaking down the barriers for open and frank discussions is a necessity to educate global-minded citizens.

Source: NOT Okay

It is mind boggling that in this day and age, we still hear remarks about women dressing too revealingly and drinking too much as reasons for ending up as victims of sexual assaults. How disheartening that parental advice now includes "don’t put your glass down" when girls go off to college or go out with friends. It has nothing to do with sexy outfits and alcohol; it is about consent.

Source: Visually
Some of these topics are not age appropriate for young learners, but empowering them to recognize stereotypes in the media is. For a host of resources, look no further than car and diet commercials, or Disney princesses of today vs. yesteryear.  Children with a trained eye to spot bias in the media continue to apply their media literacy skills throughout life.

We need to do more. If we want girls and boys to grow up as respectful young women and men, we must find the time in the daily course of learning to educate them on issues. So, Orange Your Classroom. There’s still time. Then continue the conversation on the 25th of every month. Violence against women does not stop, nor should our education about it.

For other educational resources, please see:

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thank You NYSCATE 2014 - TransformED

Source: NYSCATE 2014
The annual NYSCATE 2014 conference ended just before the Thanksgiving holiday in Rochester, New York. Thanks to another excellent roster of educators assembled by The New York State Association for Computers and Technologies in Education (NYSCATE), we returned with our toolkits full, ready to share what we’d learned with our colleagues and learners.

Source: NYSCATE 2014
The theme for this year’s conference was TransformED, with a magical overlay to encourage us to wave our magic wands to engage the mind. For the first time, an EdCamp component was added to the roster of sessions, as well as 15-minute lightening sessions on a variety of topics.

We had the privilege of participating in an EdCamp round on visual thinking, and we met a host of impressive educators who emphasized the importance of the learning environment and the ability of teachers to influence it with creative ingenuity, technology know-how, and forward-thinking approaches.

The social media kiosk, a fixture at the conference, added a new twist to attract educators to grow their personal learning networks with a visual display of live tweeting and cameo photo opportunities.


The “iPad App Smackdown” session by three Apple Distinguished Educators, Mike Amante (@MAmante), Richard Colosi (@RichardColosi), and Ryan Orilio (@RyanOrilio), did not disappoint. The friendly rivalry for the session's winner and the shouts of “SLAM” allowed for an engaging banter between presenters and audience. All we could think of was how fun this would be to do with kids or at a faculty meeting.

Source: iPad App Smack Down

Click here see the 12 apps they demonstrated in the session.

Lastly, thank you to the generous crowd who attended our session on Simple Ways To Publish In A Paperless Environment. All of the resources and links highlighted in our workshop are available here.

Source: ASIDE, 2014

Finally, if you're ever at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center, stroll three blocks for a delicious, dining experience at Dinosaur BBQ, and if time permits, don’t miss Craft Company No. 6, a unique gallery housed in a Victorian Era firehouse, located in the Neighborhood of the Arts district.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Our Nominees For The 2014 Edublog Awards

Source: Edublog Awards

If you know an outstanding educator, or if you have benefited this year from the insights of your PLN, consider nominating a teacher-leader for the 2014 Edublog Awards. This 11th-annual recognition pays tribute to the voices who help inspire learning at every level.

Our 2014 nominations are below. Because so many educators make a far-reaching impact every day, be sure to make your own nominations, and tweet out your choices at #eddies14.

Best individual blog - Teach Thought
Terry Heick is a former English teacher who curates a startling array of perspectives. The write-ups range from on-the-ground suggestions for compelling apps to pie-in-the-sky wish lists for education's future.

Best group blog - MindShift
We're not sure how they do it, but the writers at MindShift always seem to be one step ahead of the pack in framing the debate over contemporary learning. Their blog is the first place we go each morning to feel energized for the day.

Source: Edublog Awards
Best ed tech / resource sharing blog - History Tech
Glenn Wiebe (@glennw98) features targeted, detailed, actionable ideas for implementing Social Studies resources in creative, layered ways. We learn a ton from his blending of history and technology.

Best library / librarian blog - The Library Voice, by Shannon McClintock Miller
Shannon Miller (@shannonmmiller) hosts the terrific #tlchat. As a teacher-librarian and tech integration specialist, she also blogs in a lively, authentic voice about literacy and media.

Most influential blog post of the year - "Dear Time Magazine..."
Nancy Chewning of Leading By Example wrote this blistering broadside in response to Time's overly simplistic cover about teachers as "rotten apples." This passionate and eloquent defense of teaching rallied nationwide educators to her cause and reminded families about true service and sacrifice.  

Best individual tweeter - Lisa Palmieri, Ph.D. (@Learn21Tech)
Lisa is a Director of Technology & Learning Innovation whose tweets embody that sweet spot of sharing, collaboration, and progressive thinking. We recommend following her on Twitter for first-class links and engaging chat banter.

Best twitter hashtag - #dtk12chat
The Design Thinking K12 chat on Wednesday at 9:00 p.m. is one of our favorites. It invites expert minds and real-life solutions to daily learning debates.

Best free web tool - Padlet
Padlet is the best publishing platform for teachers and students. This free collaborative whiteboard can be customized in both design and url to feature text, links, videos, projects, embed codes, and just about anything else kids can create.

Best educational use of audio / video / visual / podcast - EdChat Radio
EdChat Radio offers a microphone to teachers across the country to explore the latest learning debates. Podcasts in iTunes and the Bam! Radio Network use each week's #EdChat as a springboard into a more detailed colloquy about the modern classroom.

Best open PD - NYSCATE
The New York State Association for Computers and Technologies in Education hosts the most eye-opening and relaxing annual gathering for tools and concepts that push the leading edge of learning.

Best educational use of a social network - #ptchat and ParentCamp
The generous folks at #ptchat keep our Wednesday evenings hopping with their own superb chat at 9:00 p.m. They also organize "ParentCamps" to open up the unconference opportunity for parents and teachers to come together to help children most effectively.

Best mobile app - Adobe Voice
Adobe Voice is finally the app we've been waiting for. It combines text, images, icons, music, video, and motion into free, seamless videos that can be created in minutes.

Lifetime achievement - Gina Sipley
As a teacher, writer, and edupreneur, Gina Sipley (@GSipley) is doing it all. She's an educator at all levels, from K12 to college, an instructional designer, a global consultant, a Teacher Of The Future, a columnist, a coder, a mentor, a PhD candidate, and a leader among EdTechWomen.  

We wish we could acknowledge all of the kind educators who have made an impact on our teaching this year. Thank you to all of the dedicated professionals making a difference each day.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

NYSCATE 2014 - Simple Ways To Publish In A Paperless Environment

Source: ASIDE, 2014

The increasing use of technology to deliver information means the traditional bulletin board is going the way of the newspaper. While teachers still display student work in traditional venues, they can also seek alternate, virtual opportunities to share projects with peers and parents. Publishing student work motivates them to see, share, and engage in the collective consumption of ideas. Simple, free digital tools make it easier than ever to display content online. Collaborative whiteboards, digital fliers, and virtual pinboards can exhibit student creations with creative design.

Source: ASIDE, 2014

Embedding content in a paperless environment promotes active and continuous discussions about accountability and digital citizenship. Our students are growing up in a world that is always-engaged, always-on, and always-connected. We need to foster dynamic learning networks that take advantage of these tools to help them navigate, curate, and publish their work.

Source: ASIDE, 2014

The increasing move toward 1:1 and BYOD programs has also pushed the speed and availability of information to mobile environments. It is important to employ app smashing and other interactive ways to engage with student work that builds on the collective feedback of teacher to student, student to student, and student to teacher.

Free publishing platforms:

Source: ASIDE, 2014


Free publishing tools:


Adobe Voice

For examples of student creations in Adobe Voice for different grade levels, click here and here.


Source: ASIDE, 2014



To create a free teacher class in Kidblog, click here


For examples of student publishing via Padlet, check out this, this, this, and this.


For examples of student publishing via Smore, check out this and this.

Source: ASIDE, 2014

For further reading and resources, we recommend:

Friday, November 21, 2014

Thanksgiving: Supermarkets And Fair Food

Source: Food Chains Trailer

With the Thanksgiving holiday less than a week away, many schools around the country enter into conversations with their students about being grateful for what they have, showing gratitude to others, and starting food drives for the less fortunate. The heightened awareness, while noble, should be an ongoing conversation about empathy year round, and not slotted into a month where we overindulge with too much food.

Source: Food Chain$
So this year, we chose to talk to our students about who supplies their food. We did not mean which grocery store. We posed the question: What does it mean "from farm to table"? Kids have mixed messages about farm life from rosy images in picture books, nostalgic views in commercials, or pumpkin picking during October in contrived environments for entertainment. We wanted them to know more about the people who supply fresh food to markets and manufacturers.

We showed our students the movie trailer for the new film Food Chain$, produced by Eva Longoria, that premieres around the country starting today. The full length film hopes to raise awareness about the human cost in supplying food and the plight of the farmworkers who endure the backbreaking labor to get it to us. While we may not be able to see the entire movie with our students, the trailer provides enough information for teachers to open up a discussion about the role of large supermarket chains in determining the price of food.

The power supermarkets have over revenue in the agricultural system is enormous. Supermarkets earn $4 trillion globally. Their drain on the revenue from the food supply chain has left farmworkers in poverty, while retaining huge profits for the corporations. Many farmworkers endure harsh work conditions, and in extreme cases, they have been held in debt bondage, or modern day slavery.

Many schools, including ours, participate in fundraisers for charities and causes, and we applaud all that educators and students do to help, but hopefully by raising awareness about fair food programs, we can collectively help break the chain. It's a fair trade for one of life's necessities.

For more information, please see: Food Chain$: The Revolution In America's Fields.
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