Saturday, July 9, 2011

Too Good to Resist, Design on a Dime

This week the American Association of School Libraries (AASL) sent out the monthly e-news called HOTlinks: Information for Indispensable Education Leaders to its members with a link to its "Top 25" websites for 2011. To make the list, websites must be free and promote innovation, creativity, active participation and collaboration. What a treasure trove of information and timely for our mission of bringing designing information, graphicacy and visualizations into the classroom. One website in particular, SpicyNodes, stood out as an excellent source for creating visual representations for content area within the curriculum.

SpicyNodes is one of those websites that comes along and makes designing information a breeze to use with younger students. It is a Web 2.0 application that lets you visualize information by using bits of text, links, photographs and other types of media. These bits of information are placed in "nodes" ready to visualize in an interactive way on the web. It connects ideas through pathways that all intersect through a central point in a hierarchical or networked way. It can easily be used to combine data, images and facts. The following example is a quick demonstration of how to transform a static concept map on global citizenship into a simple interactive visualization.



These nodes can be shared in three ways by linking directly to a URL, using HTML, or embedding the code into websites. In SpicyNodes Cookbook (FAQs), you can find "recipes" for all sorts of suggestions, including Quick start, with simple straightforward illustrations on how to create nodes, or  For teachers, with  ideas on using SpicyNodes in the classroom. Students can take complex data and information to create their own interactive visualizations. The nice part about the website is its ease of use. As a teacher, it is clear how nodes would enhance learning the content of a lesson, and as a technology tool, they would work well on interactive whiteboards.

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