Friday, February 5, 2016

The Power Of Visual Rhetoric - Using Kinetic Typography To Learn About Black History & Civil Rights

Source: Versa

Kinetic typography and motion graphics are bringing to life the soaring oratory of the Civil Rights Era like never before. During the 1950s and 60s, many landmark speeches stood out in their power to persuade the conscience of a generation. The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in particular, crafted brilliant language to inspire a burgeoning movement and to convince an at-time reluctant populace. During February’s African American History Month, the words of Dr. King are widely studied. Yet rarely before has the rhetoric of his writings emerged in such vivid portrayal as in the motion graphics below.

Kinetic typography is the combination of motion and text. Via animation, fonts take on lives of their own, scaffolding or cascading across canvases with the addition of music and/or narration. The zoom of calligraphy and the staccato of letters become at once mesmerizing and educational.

Dr. King’s addresses, when read quietly for homework, do feature his eloquent use of classical references and repetition. In silence, however, they do not achieve their most compelling effect. Like Shakespeare, his verses are meant to be heard, to be experienced, to be savored.

Source: Ryan Blackwell

When Dr. King’s words appear in the dynamic interplay of typefaces on the screen, the music and color and locomotion all elevate his passages to new heights. They take on an urgency, a potency of expressiveness, and a linguistic might. They crystalize the commitment of the freedom fighters pushing for fair housing, fair employment, fair public service. They honor the ardor of those who sacrificed much for so many.

The three videos in this post contain engrossing representations of Dr. King’s most moving rhetoric. In each case, he builds phrases and arguments in a powerful crescendo about human dignity and natural rights. His “I Have A Dream” speech may be his most famous, yet his final speech, “I’ve Been To The Mountaintop,” and his final sermon, “The Drum Major Instinct,” may together feature his most masterful craftsmanship with verbiage and values, rights and reason. By adding motion, the designers of these videos bring Dr. King’s messages to life.

The Drum Major Instinct (visualization by Versa)

Martin Luther King (kinetic typography) from versa on Vimeo.

I've Been To The Mountaintop (visualization by Ryan Blackwell)

I Have A Dream (visualization by Deco, EMAV 2012)

For more resources and ideas about lessons for African American History Month, check out "Let's Talk About Race."

Monday, February 1, 2016

Teaching Students About The Iowa Caucus - 8 Animated Explainer Videos

Source: Mic

After months of polls, predictions, and prognostications, the citizens of Iowa will finally render the first actual votes of the 2016 presidential campaign. The process, though, is far from simple. The Iowa caucuses are notoriously obtuse affairs, especially on the Democratic side. The details of the caucuses may be familiar to Iowans and political science junkies, but the precise steps in selecting delegates are enormously important for all citizens to know. Students especially should be aware of how a caucus works, because it is a true instance of civics-in-action and because one of the candidates will go on to become the next leader of the free world.

Source: MSNBC

The explainer videos featured below are all terrific tools in teaching students about the first-in-the-nation voting process. As animated motion graphics, they can effectively reach learners of all ages. They would be ideal for both in-class or flipped learning, as they outline the history and the methodology behind Iowa's quirky tradition of caucus-going.

How A Caucus Works, Explained With Lego - by Mic

What Is A Caucus? - by MSNBC

How The Iowa Democratic Caucus Works, Featuring Legos - by VPR

How The Iowa Caucus Works - by Vox

So What's A Caucus, Anyway? - by AJ+

Iowa Caucuses Explained - by ABC News

Why Does Iowa Go First?! History Of The Iowa Caucus Explained 2016 - by Political News Junkie

Primary Elections Explained - by CGP Grey

For more posts about the 2016 election, check out:

Using Brain Science To Study Smarter, Not Harder

Source: ASIDE 2016

Finding the optimum study technique is the holy grail for educators. Parents and teachers alike are joined in their quest to discover the most effective yet the most efficient process for helping their children learn. Countless conversations in the weekly parent-teacher Twitter chat (#ptchat), one of our favorites, have been dedicated to pinpointing the ideal strategies for evening study.

Source: Benedict Carey

Several peer-reviewed scientific studies have actually conducted real-world experiments to determine which methods are the most successful. The terrific explainer video, "How to study smarter, not harder," offers some surprising findings about what helps children retain information. This animated infographic comes from Benedict Carey's book, How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens (Random House, 2015). An award-winning science reporter, Carey explains the benefits of daydreaming and distraction to amplify learning – both of which are anathema to the conventional thinking about nighttime study.

Source: Benedict Carey

Carey clarifies that the brain is not a muscle. It doesn’t grow simply from hard work. Most educational theorists state that the more studying, the better – the more hours of focus, the deeper the memorization. Brain-based research, though, says the opposite. Consistency is often the enemy of learning. In fact, a control-based study proved that a simple change in venue can yield a measurable increase in the internalization of material.

Parents and teachers owe it to their children to take advantage of scientific findings to aid young people's development. If proven data points to more salient learning techniques, then the skill-and-drill mentality of flashcard homework deserves to be shuttered.

For more ideas about effective learning, check out:

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Born Digital, Live Digital, And Our Students' Obsession With Documenting Their Lives

Source: Spencer Brown
Does our obsession with technology and documentation go too far? This powerful, short film titled “The Boy With The Camera Face” by filmmaker Spencer Brown is a satirical fairy tale about a boy born with a camera instead of a head who cannot escape the lens. From the moment of his birth, everything about his life is recorded. Does this sound like our students, or maybe you?

The Boy with a Camera for a Face from Spencer Brown on Vimeo.

The narration by Steven Berkoff tells the story in a nursery rhyme or somewhat Seussical way. As the tale unfolds, it’s clear that the effect on people’s fixation with the daily life of the “Camera Boy” is hypnotic. They stop noticing things around them and become transfixed as if in a catatonic state -- a scenario we witness on a daily basis with our students on their devices.

Perhaps even more important is the issue of privacy in the always-on world. As educators, we want to take advantage of the liminal web while still preserving the anonymity of our learners. That task is a lot harder today then it was a decade ago.

This award-winning film is worth 14 minutes of your time. It puts modern reality into focus in a beautiful, strange, and moving way.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Great Homework Debate: Where Does Authenticity Meet Redundancy?


It may seem counterintuitive, but homework doesn’t get nearly the attention it deserves. For all the well-intentioned noise, the Great Homework Debate is still one of the least publicized (and most internalized) consternations for today's students and families.

Yes, there is a deep Lexus Nexus catalogue of articles about the pros and cons of homework in American education. And yes, Alfie Kohn has a quotable list of jeremiads against the ills of busy-work. But the real tug-of-war takes place at dinner tables each night, when school children have not yet completed their hours of worksheets.

This same push-and-pull continues in faculty meetings where educators wrestle with “how much is too much.” The rebranding of homework as “flipping the classroom” has only muddied the waters. Now instead of reading 20 pages of the textbook, kids watch 20 minutes of instructional videos. At bedtime, though, the question still lingers: where do authentic practice and independent learning meet redundant worksheets and desultory assignments?

Many institutions that have investigated the homework issue report increased learning when nightly burdens are lessened. Especially when it comes to ”studying,” the shifting of emphasis away from teacher-prescribed tasks to student-initiated review makes a world of difference in mastery and understanding.


We’ve offered ideas before about ways to teach without worksheets. This concept can hopefully apply to homework, too. Some terrific ideas come from this Jo Townsend60 Minutes” video from Australia. It addresses the decline in time spent with friends and hobbies. It also mentions that 71 percent of parents feel they aren’t spending enough quality time with their children. They are instead worrying with homework and running the household. The video ends by referencing Finland, where students have no homework at all, and which consistently outranks other nations in its literacy achievements.

60 Minutes, 'Homework' infographic. from on Vimeo.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Powerful Visualization On Gun Violence And Why We Should Show This To Our Students

Source: Washington Post
With the continual barrage of news about gun violence in America, it's important that we use all available resources to help students give context to content, and visualizations help us do that. This motion graphic titled, 2015: A Year In Mass Shooting and produced by The Washington Post, is a powerful tool to educate young people about this issue. The headline, "374 mass shooting in 365 days in one extraordinary graphic," travels across the calendar year, pausing only once for the longest period without a shooting. As you watch, the headlines from newspapers around the country appear as the timeline progresses, but it is the voices from the 911 calls that capture the enormity of the human toll.

This motion graphic could easily be tied into any media or news literacy lesson using the headlines connected with the timeline of events. It is worth the watch with middle and high school students, and it is guaranteed to invite and spur discussions about the topic.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Teaching Tolerance: America's Story Is An Immigration Story

Source: ASIDE 2016
With the continual debate in our nation's government over the immigration policy, and the political rhetoric of the current crop of presidential candidates, it is no wonder that our students have misinformation and questions about immigration. No matter how you slice it, the United States is a nation of immigrants who contributed their blood, sweat, and tears to build the country we are today. America's story is an immigration story, of people who continue to become productive citizens, defend our country, work hard, and help this country grow.

We are increasingly alarmed by the lack of understanding of just how much immigrants have contributed to who we are as a nation. The following motion graphic, entitled "Immigration and Growth," was produced by the George W. Bush Institute, and the statistical information brings to light just how much of an impact immigrants have made to the economy. The students are surprised to learn that immigrants account for one-third of new small business owners, or that 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by first or second generation immigrants.

The motion graphic called Just The Facts provides an additional, straightforward delivery of information about immigration in order to try to debunk some of the misinformation that leads people to make assumptions based on political alliances. It offers some enlightening statistics about who's here, who commits crimes, and who works.

Lastly, the recent article titled "The Secret Of Immigration Genius" by Eric Weiner in The Wall Street Journal sheds further light on the geography of genius that results from the influx of foreigners. He drives home the point that having your world turned upside down sparks creative thinking. Weiner points to recent research on the role of "schema violations" in intellectual development.

Source: The Wall Street Journal
This occurs when your world is full of turmoil, causing temporal and spacial cues to be thrown off balance. People uprooted from the familiar see the world from a different angle, giving them another perspective that enables them to surpass the merely talented, including Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, and Marie Curie to name a few.

Weiner refers to studies based on historical analysis that support how creativity is spurred by the intermingling of cultures, and perhaps "we should be wise to view the welcome mat not as charity, but, rather, as enlightened self-interest."

As we enter into a presidential year, which from the outset seems more combative that ever, we need to constantly provide our students with a variety of viewpoints and build a learning community that questions information by not accepting everything they hear as gospel truth. As a nation built on the contributions of immigrants, it is our responsibility.
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