Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Teaching With Cartoons - A Visual History Of Donkeys, Elephants, Parties, & Politics

Source: Politico

Our students are avid consumers of politics and history. They always ask, though, how the Democratic donkey and the Republican elephant became the icons of the respective parties. Both animals, however strong and noble, seem somewhat incongruous to the preferred imagery of political ambition.

Political cartoonists throughout the ages have captured these two creatures in brilliant colors and tart commentaries. Skilled artists have swayed society's opinions through targeted visual satires. For their part, educators have consistently embraced these editorial cartoons as terrific tools in teaching primary sources, points of view, pictorial language, and symbolic metaphors.

Source: Politico

The curators at Politico, one of the sharpest websites for up-to-the-minute political news, have gathered together a stunning gallery of historical cartoons in honor of the Republican and Democratic conventions. They trace the legacy of the donkey — from Andrew Jackson's anti-elitism, to Woodrow Wilson's internecine war, to Hillary Clinton's divided constituency. They map the evolution of the elephant — from Thomas Nast's first salvo, to William McKinley's bandwagon, to Donald Trump's hair on fire.

Source: Politico

Both compendiums of cartoons provide excellent resources for teachers in history, government, civics, social studies, English, and language arts classes. The collections include many seldom-seen images. They also offer terrific examples of illustrations to practice the skills of graphicacy and to follow the four critical steps in analyzing an image.

Source: Politico

Source: Politico

Check out the Democratic cartoon collection here and the Republican cartoon collection here.

For other ideas about teaching with political cartoons, we recommend:

Source: Politico

Source: Politico

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Visualizing The Science Of Summer Sports - STEM Animations And Motion Graphics

Source: Tim McGarvey

Both STEM and sports get a bad rap. In the corridors of learning, science is sometimes seen as esoteric or irrelevant, while sports are seen as base or quotidian. Kids are often repelled by the former and drawn by the latter, mostly due to a misunderstanding about the intersection between math and athletics, between technology and physicality.

Fortunately, the possibilities of animations and motion graphics have helped visualize sports in riveting, educational ways. On both the professional and personal levels, data-driven graphics can bring to life the genuine learning benefits of athletics in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) courses.

Source: Spov Design + Moving Image

In digitally nuanced videos, physics meets the real-world. Body kinesthesia moves from the static textbook page to vibrant video overlay. The visualizations can layer equations and statistics atop everyday pastimes. Sports heroes become humanized in analyzing the biology and chemistry that make them great. Familiar backyard games become elevated by realizing the arcs and velocities necessary to score a goal.

Furthermore, these stunning artistic creations validate the requisite addition of the "A" to STEM. A complete "STEAM" approach, including the Arts, proves the value of imagination, design, and narration in producing such compelling animations.

Source: Tim McGarvey

We've explored before the benefits of sports science in the classroom:

The following motion graphics and animations take the discussion even further, looking for fresh avenues to incorporate the personal interests of students into their science and math educations. These videos are great kick-offs to a morning's discussion, and they are valuable context-builders for putting formulas, trajectories, and graphs in their rightful, real-world contexts.

Source: Vit Zemcik

Stunt Junkies: Extreme Sports: TMBA, Inc

Stunt Junkies: Extreme Sports: TMBA, Inc from Tim McGarvey on Vimeo.

Sports Animation Sequence

Sports Animation Sequence from Spov Design + Moving Image on Vimeo.

Wimbledon: Tennis In An English Garden

Wimbledon: Tennis in an English Garden from Vít Zemčík on Vimeo.

Going Outside: The Physics Of A Curveball

Going Outside: The Physics Of A Curveball from DIY on Vimeo.

Sports Science: Calvin Johnson Edition

Sports Science: Calvin Johnson Edition from Ryan Fuller on Vimeo.

The Physics Of Surfing - Trailer

The Physics of Surfing - TRAILER [720] from K2 Communications on Vimeo.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Using Technology To Turn Historical Photographs Into Animated Wonders

Source: Alexey Zakharov

Educators have always sought to add visual interest to their lessons, to support learning modalities and to provide illustrative examples of the topics under consideration. From postcards to prints, from filmstrips to YouTube, the power of pictures and movies to aid learning is undeniable. Now, various digital tools and editing applications are enlivening "flat" images in thrilling fashion. The animation of historical photos is bringing primary sources to life in ways unimagined by teachers and students a decade ago.

"The Old New World" (Photo-based animation project) from seccovan on Vimeo.

Often called 2.5D, or "the Parallax Effect," the rendering of motion within a still photograph allows the eye to traverse the image in a more fully realized manner. The forced examination of details, as foregrounds and backgrounds snap into focus, invites viewers to explore the entire depth of field. In adding movement to static characters, the past becomes relevant as observers imagine the seconds preceding and succeeding the camera's shutter. A crescendo of action added to a familiar scene places the spectator within the historical moment. Each detail now becomes tangible and palpable. Each setting contains nuance and fluidity.

Even more interesting for educators to consider are the ways these adaptations of primary sources reinforce the critical questions about dealing with pictorial artifacts: What role does the photographer or editor play in staging a photo? What is intentionally included, removed, or modified within a scene? Is any artificial capture of a moment truly "real," and how much scholarly skepticism should students lend to every research source?

Adobe Photoshop, After Effects, and Audition are some of the most common tools to render photographs and paintings from 2D to 3D. The History Channel (and several truck commercials) use these effects regularly in their productions. Some excellent tutorials exist (where else?) on YouTube to practice creating these styles of videos (here and here).

Fukushima - Images by Rebecca Lilith Bathory from chris lavelle on Vimeo.

At their most advanced, these animations ask us to reconsider the historical and the artistic record as changeless constants. At their most basic, however, these videos are just neat. They are inviting and clever. They lure in students and others to enjoy the study of history even more.

For other ideas about creating animations, check out:

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Visualizing The 2016 Conventions - Interactive Tools To Learn About Parties & Politics

Source: 2016 DNCC, 2016 Republican National Convention

The quadrennial political conventions of the Republican and Democratic parties offer a mix of serious-minded civics and high-octane pageantry. For students, teachers, and outside observers, the 2016 extravaganzas provide important forums to dissect the details of the delegates and to hear our nation's leaders speak directly to us.

Whether for use now in July or for lessons in the fall, a host of valuable visualizations exist to explain the esoteric proceedings. These interactive infographics and animated videos touch on a range of learning standards. They also let users explore the conventions at their own paces and levels.

History And Civics

Political conventions as currently staged are relatively new phenomena on the historical landscape. The explainer video (above) from The Guardian supplies a helpful tutorial in the germination and the evolution of party gatherings.

Source: Independence Bunting

The "National Conventions 2016" infographic from Independence Bunting also does a good job of summarizing the essential facts for this year's stagings, with an emphasis on the numbers and statistics beneath the process.

Source: The Economist

The Economist goes back to the nineteenth century with a year-by-year pictorial timeline of candidates and events that marked each party choice. The Economist also delves into personal identification by visually outlining the liberal or conservative leanings of current and past voters.

Delegates And Primaries

Source: 270 To Win

The political site 270 To Win aggregates polling and election data to compile data-driven maps and charts. These are excellent tools for both social studies and mathematics education.

Source: 270 To Win

For example, the colorful U.S. map of Democratic delegates combines month-by-month coding with primary and caucus breakdowns. The Interactive Republican Delegate Calculator presents similar information in an enlightening statistical table.

Maps And Geography

Source: DiscoverPHL

On their convention pages, each political party provides engaging information about their host cities. The Democrats link to a multi-layered interactive map of downtown Philadelphia. The Republicans include similar Cleveland maps, but they also include a hoverable floor plan from inside the Quicken Loans arena.

Source: Cleveland.com

Streaming And Social Media

Source: Engage

The official websites of the Republican and Democratic Conventions will be streaming live the gavel-to-gavel coverage. Social media is also in play, with the Engage "Scorecard" tracking Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other mentions in real-time. For a comprehensive look at news and opinions, The New Yorker is posting a continuous series of cartoons, histories, and graphics about each convention.

For other teaching ideas about the 2016 election, check out:

Monday, July 18, 2016

10 Ways Pokémon Go Augments Real-World Education & Student Learning

Source: Pokemon Go iTunes

In just ten days, the cultural sensation of Pokémon Go has attracted over 20 million players. It is the most popular U.S. mobile game ever, surpassing Twitter in daily active users and crashing its Niantic host server.

For those who are over the age of 30, or who have been been in a self-imposed digital blackout, or who did not luck into an 11-year-old at a Sunday BBQ to explain the intricacies, here is a one-sentence description of Pokémon Go: the goal is to explore one's neighborhood, using virtual GPS map data, to catch as many animated creatures as possible, building up their strength to defeat other players in head-to-head duels. For a more complete (and accurate) rundown, here is a better explanation, as well as a helpful video.

Source: Pokemon Go

With little marketing or publicity, the enormous success of Pokémon Go speaks to an obvious and inherent appeal. The game combines popular culture, virtual reality, physical movement, problem-solving, and person-to-person competition. Teachers, for their part, are breathing a sigh of relief that this app debuted in July, so children (and adults) can spend the summer getting it out of their systems. But educators also appreciate the many learning opportunities that exist within the Pokémon Go app.

As with all sudden fads, a host of important caveats have emerged this past week, including safeguarding private information, respecting hallowed locations, and ensuring personal safety. Also, as with most fads, this one game will not revolutionize education. That being said, here are 10 ways that Pokémon Go can support the skills of contemporary learning:
  1. Visual Literacy - The essential premise of the game is to interpret a virtual world. Users must recognize symbols and signifiers, which are the building blocks of visual literacy. Students must decode the augmented reality (AR) by "reading" images and internalizing pictorial stimuli. This fundamental skill is known as graphicacy.

  2. Map Decoding - The only way to succeed in the game is by following a colorful map, which by definition necessitates a proficiency with direction, navigation, and geography. Much like the geocaching craze, Pokémon Go draws from the Google Maps API to turn everyday sites into Gyms and Stops.

  3. Problem Solving - This Poké-distraction employs the best of gamification. It requires critical thinking, advanced planning, strategic puzzling, and dealing with uncertainty to keep all of the animated balls in the air.

  4. STEM & Big Data - Educators have been wrestling with the world of Big Data for years. Here, the foundation resides in math and numbers; how much combat power does each creature have, how much candy and/or stardust is on hand, and how long until an incubation period ends?

  5. Collaborative Learning - The app offers a mild distraction for a single user, but the expanded components come alive when a player engages with other combatants. In face-offs and in personal conversations at community sites, the game subtly draws students into cooperative play.

  6. Financial Literacy - Perhaps one of the most under-heralded benefits of the game is the tutelage in budgeting, saving, and allocation of resources. Players accumulate Poké Coins and consider micro-transactions, as they earmark incense, lures, and other commodities. The game is already hitting the FinTech world by storm.

  7. Physical Education - It's no secret that Pokémon Go promotes activity to walk and engage. Users must progress a certain number of kilometers before they can hatch an incubated egg. The app relies on the phone's sensors to distinguish between physical and automobile movement.

  8. Social Media In The Classroom - This app furthers the benefits of social media in learning. It encourages the emerging discipline of the Digital Humanities, as it also promotes crowdsourcing, sharing, teaming, and student avatars.

  9. History & Civics - A blessing of the game is that most Poké Stops are local landmarks. The designers have placed an emphasis on points of historical interest. In order to move up in the challenge, users must acknowledge the civic value of nearby, consequential events.

  10. Language & Lexicons - The superimposition of an animated Pikachu atop a real-world venue inspires countless prompts for creative writing. Also, the Pokémon creature world embodies an encyclopedia of names, abilities, and vocabulary that together accomplishes what all good reading does: it builds a facility with language and meaning.
Full disclosure: we are Pokémon novices, and for years we have never understood what our seventh graders were talking about at the lunch table. But admittedly, we are excited by the potential. For other ideas about apps and augmented reality in learning, check out:

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Digital Media, Human Rights, And The Writing Process

Source: Right To An Education
We teach social studies, not history. We don’t want our students to think that learning about the past has little bearing on today. It is quite the opposite. Many of the major conflicts around the world stem from deeply rooted hatred from long-ago. We chronicle events to put things in context, but we see history as part of the study of human society. Social interactions determine how people-related issues affect history, government, economics, etc., both past and present. Social studies and the humanities are inextricably linked, and we want our students to make those same connections.

Source: Freedom To Marry

One important aspect of our curriculum that we keep upfront and center is human rights. We’ve long been advocates for promoting human rights awareness in our classroom. Whether it’s talking about modern slavery or having conversations about peace, we continually try to find new ways to empower students so they can make a difference.

This year all of our fifth and sixth graders entered the elementary video competition called "Everyone Has Rights," sponsored by the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights’ Speak Truth To Power program and the New York State United Teachers. For this contest, students needed to create a public service announcement (PSA) to address any aspect of human rights in videos that were under two minutes long. This eye-opening project made them painfully aware of just how many people around the world lack the basic rights that they take for granted every day.

The students started their research with the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in a modified format that was age appropriate. They also used the Youth For Human Rights website and app to read and watch short videos about each of the 30 rights in the UDHR before beginning their own PSA.

Our students' winning video on "The Freedom To Marry," which is Article 16 of the UDHR, could not have been timelier. The announcement came the day of the terror attack in Orlando, Florida. We were extremely proud of all the work of our students, but perhaps this PSA by two fifth graders hit home in celebrating diversity and tolerance on a sad day in the United States.

The writing process played a central role in constructing the PSA, including developing a question and thesis statement to home in on a point of view before the students digitally designed their media message. This key point was essential, and it needed to be targeted. They used Google Docs to write, edit, and finalize their scripts. They chose their own topics, depending on their comfort level. The practice of making digital media helped them understand social issues. It provided a context for content. Using an adaptable and flexible framework for the creation process allowed for their voices to come through, and the end result excelled beyond our expectations.

All of the PSA videos in this post were submitted to the Everyone Has Rights competition. To see others, please click here.

We fold in current events as a routine part of teaching social studies. We don’t ask students to do a weekly “current events” report. The news matters, and we tackle questions as they arise, because middle schoolers need answers.

Friday, May 27, 2016

1st Grade Entrepreneurs Master Media And Marketing Techniques

Source: ASIDE 2016
Our Nifty Notes first grade entrepreneur project is in its fifth year, and so is our push to educate the young learners about media literacy. This collaborative project brings together their study of economics, including wants and needs, supply and demand, and scarcity and abundance, with an understanding of the art of persuasion, marketing, and hype.

Source: ASIDE 2016
This year the goal to produce 1500 Nifty Notes was ambitious, but the first graders stepped up to the challenge, because they understood that they were raising money for charity.

It was extraordinary to watch them during their library classes grasp how marketing techniques help sell products. The media influence is so pervasive that they easily adapted commercial slogans and jingles to their product. They looked at contemporary media messages and discussed how phrases such as "limited editions," "one-of-a-kind," and "handmade" help persuade consumers to buy products.

Source: ASIDE 2016

Their ideas were so electric that they started generating their own teaser advertising techniques to sell Nifty Notes. One student came up with the idea just to put images around the school of the ladybug and bumblebee, the two new designs for 2016.

A few of days later, they added hot pink notes that began with, “Wanna know what the buzz is all about?” It goes to show how when educators empowered learners, they take ownership of their ideas. It also demonstrates just how much they see in the media.

Source: ASIDE 2016
Their promotion of the Nifty Notes sale did not stop there. Another first grader designed fliers advertising, “Nifty Notes Coming Soon.” We can only imagine what this Tuesday will bring to help promote the sale.

These first grade entrepreneurs got the point, big time!

Source: ASIDE 2016
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