Monday, April 30, 2012

Connected. Instructed. Created. - TEDxNYED 2012

Source: TEDxNYED
It's hard to imagine a better professional Saturday than the invigorating time we spent at the third annual TEDxNYED conference. Hosted by the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens, on April 28, 2012, this independently organized TED event was dedicated to teaching and learning. Fourteen rousing speakers shared their unique passions about educational "Ideas Worth Spreading."

Source: TEDxNYED
With a theme of "Connected. Instructed. Created.," the event featured an illuminating array of topics. Some common threads, however, ran through each talk, including:
  • Welcoming failure as an iteration on the path toward learning
  • Making and creating rather than listening and receiving
  • Reinventing the school system to collaborate toward global entrepreneurship
If you were unable to attend, here's a small rundown. These blurbs are by no means summative. They are just take-aways from the experts themselves that we found particularly enlightening :

Juliette LaMontagne, TEDxNYED, April 28, 2012 - Source: ASIDE


Jenny Buccos (@goodglobalcitz) - "Global Citizenship In The Classroom"
Most schools today incorporate global education only through international cuisine and world holidays. You can't opt out of humanity. The world can't afford to wait. We don't need more research and more studies. Cross-cultural conversation and open questioning end when students are worried about getting the "right answer."

Jose Luis Vilson (@TheJLV) - "Redefining Teacher Voice"
A teacher's luminescence glows through his or her voice. Never let anyone take your voice away from you, and always recognize that the students' voices come first. Rather than getting jaded by teacher evaluations and test scores, get active. Work harder for the kids, because the conditions for teaching are the same as the conditions for learning. We need to light up now.

Juliette LaMontagne (@jlamontagne) - "Project Breaker"
The design process and the entrepreneurial mindset can combine to solve problems and change the world. The real desire for learning lies in the marginal spaces of traditional schools, in the after-school programs and the one-on-one interactions that incubate future innovators. Kids need to be part of the solutions and not just learn about the problems. Most of all they need "permission to fail."

Jim Groom (@jimgroom) - "The Educational aPOPcalypse"
Teachers are being vilified by a shock doctrine and a doom narrative of the current education system in order to manufacture emergencies and usher in privatization by corporations. We need to get away from the crisis mantra and start investing in what it means for kids to create and produce their own learning.

Source: Sree Sreenivasan


Sree Sreenivasan (@sree) - "Connecting The Physical And The Digital: A Key To Getting Anything Done"
With social media, always be listening, not just broadcasting. We need to marry the virtual and the real-life to make things happen. The formula for success using social media should include one or more of the following attributes for every tweet or post: "helpful, useful, informative, relevant, practical, actionable, timely, generous, credible, brief, entertaining, fun, and occasionally funny."

Jaimie Cloud (@cloudinstitute) - "Educating For The Future We Want With The Brain In Mind - or It Takes A Child To Raise A Village"
Things change. Will we? How many new schools look exactly like the old ones, but in miniature? We cannot educate for sustainability if we are stuck in our thinking. Mindlessness is not stupidity; it is just the brain stuck in the past and ignoring the feedback. Mindfulness and learning how to learn are the cures to avoid having to rewire kids year after year.

Christopher Emdin (@chrisemdin) - "Hip-Hop Education"
Hip-hop education seeks to reach the marginalized population that does not have what it is expected to have. It's not just about listening to rhymes on headphones. Kids need places to write, space to move, and freedom to manipulate technology their way. It's not just about rap pedagogy, but instead it incorporates a robust culture: 
Heart, Inspiration, Power. Heal Oppressive Pedagogy.

Adam Bellow (@adambellow) - "Learning To Question The Rules Of Our System"
We have to stop talking about "fixing" education. What era exactly do we want to return to? We used to teach students to make stuff; now we just stuff them full of teaching. Real learning is the difference between eating and cooking. "College- and career-ready" is McEducation - you get what's in the box. The homework for teachers, in addition to passion and dedication, is "BE INFECTIOUS!"

Sophie Altcheck - "Concussion Awareness And Contact Sports"
Two concussions in 24 hours as a high-school soccer player can give a leader crucial perspective on the importance of brain trauma and education. Concussion awareness is to the student athlete as sex education is to the average teenager.
Patrick Honner, TEDxNYED, April 28, 2012 - Source: ASIDE


Tony Wagner (@drtonywagner) - "Creating Innovators: The Making Of Young People Who Will Change The World"
Knowledge is a commodity. The world cares not about what you know, but about what you can do with what you know. America has always been an innovative nation, but is that because of or in spite of our educational system? Innovating is interdisciplinary. Play + passion + purpose = innovation.

Bre Pettis (@bre) - "Making, Learning, And Power"
You cannot teach to a test and still teach creativity very well. When you make or fix things, you gain measurable skills and experience, resulting in tangible pride in your work. How many tools and machines go unused in schools, because the teacher is not allowed to mess with them?

Patrick Honner (@mrhonner) - "Let's Make Math"
Mathematics is a highly creative endeavor. Interactions are valuable to explore all the facets of math education. Sphere dressing, weaving, photography, and even writing can all exercise power over analytical ideas.

Frank Noschese (@fnoschese) - "Learning Science By Doing Science"
Teaching is not explaining. It's a way of creating meaning. What we see scientists do and what we see students do are currently not the same. We can build curiosity through hands-on connections and model-testing. Kids need to play with a purpose and high-five each other more in science class.

Jaymes Dec (@jaymesdec) - "Making @ School: What Did You Make Today?"
Every school should have a "maker space." Making is inherently pleasurable. If you let kids build, they'll be intrinsically motivated and won't disappoint. Creating a design is the ultimate interdisciplinary exercise. There is no failure, only perseverance and growth. Kids should be asked, "What did you 'make' in school today?" Then you will know what they learned.

Thanks to all of the speakers who put their time and charisma into planning their talks. Congratulations also to host Homa Tavangar (@growingupglobal), co-curator Karen Blumberg (@SpecialKRB), and the team of organizers who good-naturedly trouble-shot the technical difficulties. Livestream broadcast the event online, and each talk is now being posted in its entirety. Many attendees also added personal insights via Twitter, making the #TEDxNYED archive worth exploring. Finally, if you find yourself in the area, we recommend Studio Square around the corner for a relaxing post-inspiration conversation.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

D-LIT: Publishing With Kids Using Bookemon

Source: If You Give a Tiger a Taco
In the library curriculum every year, the students create original works of fiction in the first and second grades. They write and illustrate stories based on author studies or individual books. While the objectives for publishing the different projects remain the same, how we publish the books has changed. Using Web 2.0 technology such as Bookemon makes creating a digital book a snap, easy to share and digitally permanent. The kids love seeing their work published, especially because it can be read over and over again.

One of our favorite publishing projects is the first grade cooperative book. This past year, they based their stories on the If You Give a… series by Laura Numeroff. They analyzed the books for cause-and-effect situations, and they developed a keen sense of the pattern created by the author to bring each story full circle back to where it began. The two books in this post, If You Give a Tiger a Taco and If You Give a Dalmatian a Donut, mimic that pattern and were published using Bookemon.

Source: If You Give a Dalmatian a Donut
The original books the students wrote and illustrated were published traditionally on paper, using standard word processing software for the text and a scanner for the images. The document was printed, bound and cataloged as part of the permanent collection of the school library. This same document was uploaded directly to the Bookemon website to make the digital books in this post. It’s that simple. In fact, it takes more time to fill out the publishing information and to create a cover design than it actually does to publish the final copy on the web.

Bookemon offers many other features. You can publish directly from scratch with complete functionality for adding images, using templates, and selecting pictures from its clipart files. It also offers the opportunity to upload your own photos, use different page layouts, or select from different themes.

Source: Islamic Calligraphy
Teachers can use it to create their own publications, too. The sample below, called Where Do People Live? Urban, Suburban and Rural Communities, was produced using Bookemon. This book was written and designed to better meet the curriculum needs for the second grade study of communities. The Islamic Calligraphy book celebrates the workshop our students participated in as part of their study of the art of calligraphy during the Islamic Empire in the Middle Ages. This publication features all of the students' names in Arabic.

Best of all, with Bookemon educators can create secure and private environments, called edCenters, for their students to create and share books. This type of account allows teachers to control access only to members, to receive discounts on purchased books, and to add student accounts that provide privacy and oversight of their work.

Check out our other D-LIT posts on design, literacy, information and technology.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Who Am I? The 10 Types of Twitter Chat Participants

Source: ASIDE, iconspedia
It took us a while to feel comfortable in a Twitter chat. Freewheeling and at times imposing, the chats feature quick ticks of smart blurbs. Experts with 1,000+ followers definitely made us hesitate to offer our own two cents. After a few months of experimentation, though, we plunged in. Our experiences have been almost universally positive. We’ve met passionate educators who’ve offered lesson tips, curriculum theories, and project proposals to enrich our classes in unforeseen ways.

Source: Jakob Nielsen, Useit
If you haven't yet checked out a Twitter chat, we enthusiastically recommend it. The more voices who add to the conversation, the richer the dialog will be. In fact, experts estimate that roughly 90% of interactions, from blogs to chats to social networks, are contributed by only 10% of the online population. Usability engineer Jakob Nielsen points to this imbalance in his article, "Participation Inequality: Encouraging More Users To Contribute." In the quest to inspire more educators to experiment with Twitter chats, we here offer a list of the many generous teachers who've helped us build our PLN.

Some chats feature a series of guiding questions. Some have moderators to shepherd the discussions. Most, though, welcome a free exchange of ideas united by a unique hashtag. The best colloquies feature testimonies from personal experiences and include relevant links to blog posts or web resources. They all thrive on a respectful collegiality that gives each tweet its due weight. Some of our favorites are #edchat, #sschat, and #isedchat.

Based on a few months of enjoyment in Twitter sessions, here is our take on the 10 types of engaged professionals who might appear in a one-hour chat. Among these participants, the typical Tweeter is a sincere, collaborative user who holds fellow educators in the highest esteem.
Source: ASIDE
1. The Sharer has a wealth of bookmarks and a rich Google Alert catalog. Often well experienced, the Sharer includes links to helpful tools and resources that offer hands-on practicality in implementing the concepts under discussion.

2. The Sage is the marquee name or the highly regarded authority whose tweets are given a special reverence, thanks to years of practice or number of followers. The Sage often helps by reframing issues and adding welcome perspective. A reply or retweet from the Sage is much coveted.

3. The Observer
reads and contemplates, often spectating rather than responding. Grateful for the intriguing ideas, the Observer usually prefers just to absorb, like the thoughtful student in the lecture hall.

4. The Validator will make you feel good. He or she offers supportive agreement on a range of perspectives. Eager and forthright, the Validator recognizes multiple viewpoints and sees both sides of an issue. These tweets emerge in a sunny series of positive reinforcements.

5. The Sidebar often finds himself or herself in a corner conversation. Sometimes after a few mass messages, the Sidebar checks his or her interactions and spends the rest of the hour engaged in an enjoyable, illuminating exchange with two or three other people.

6. The Overwhelmed happily sends out periodic “Ack!” statements regarding the giddy deluge of ideas. In appreciation of the non-stop stream of suggestions, the Overwhelmed is agreeably un-shy about fessing up to his or her trouble in keeping up. Almost every chatter has at one point been pleasantly overwhelmed.

7. The Planner wisely checks the chat theme in advance. Polls are often taken ahead of time to determine a topic and allow participants to prepare meaningful responses. The Planner considers the many dynamics of a subject and offers well-written, intelligent contributions. This smart strategy can help an Overwhelmed feel more sure-footed.

8. The Reformer recognizes the changes evolving in the educational world and looks ahead rather than backward. Instead of sharing past lessons, the Reformer speaks of future revamps to curriculum and testing, often including the @ of a reform-minded government figure or celebrity.

9. The Promoter is usually a blogger, looking for ways to publicize his or her posts. The Promoter is a genuine practitioner with insight and integrity, but his or her links often direct back to a blog in the name of building overall hits.

10. The Jester is witty and playful with a relaxed jocularity and a skill with Twitter wordplay. He or she often knows other “regulars” personally and adds personality and humor to the educational exchanges. These tweets bring grins and liveliness to the repartee.

Source: ASIDE, PhireDesign
The Twitter chat stands out as an emerging discourse, a new dialogue of open-ended, mass instant messaging with real-time feedback. It is a sort-of book marginalia with immediate reception by the reader. Each comment takes on an unrestrained life in the Twitter ether, bandied about in a potential meme. A tweet becomes a guileless share, assuming an ever-changing meaning in signification with its accompanied replies and retweets.

Be careful, though, because some insular chats do follow their own directives. Last month, for example, we were sternly rebuked in an evening’s #libchat because we didn’t follow an indiscernible (and arcane) protocol in labeling our tweets with the appropriate question marker. We were chided as a “spammer” for not adhering to a dusty, pedantic fiat.

For the best list of weekly chats about teaching and education, we recommend:

Friday, April 20, 2012

D-LIT: Comics, Superheroes, and the Arts

Source: ASIDE, 6th Grader
It's been a while since we wrote about D-LIT. Essentially, it is design, literacy, information, and technology used together to create a product that reflects the learning. We have used D-LIT with Storybird, Voicethread, and Voki in our classrooms with lots of success. The projects range in duration and complexity, but sometimes it is the simple integration of technology that adds to the fabric of a lesson. One of our favorite D-LIT assignments is the collaborative project between the LibTech and performing arts classes.

In the project, students design visualizations of superpowers using the Marvel comics website to produce superheroes based on characters they create in their drama classes.

Source: Marvel
Marvel allows kids to create their own superheroes with its avatar creator. Students can choose from three body types, mix and match costumes, and customize faces, hair and other features. Of course, this website could be fun just to play around with, and many of our students continue to use it on their own.

Source: ASIDE, 6th Grader
The drama teacher clearly works with the students to fully develop their characters and their special powers through acting. From this point, their charge is to imagine what their superhero would look like and to create a visual representation. Connecting it to curricular learning changes the dynamic, and the outcome for each student is different.

The freedom given to our students to use their creativity and think carefully about how they wanted to portray their superhero was striking. It never ceased to surprise us how selective the students were in making images of their ideas. When they were given the opportunity to design the look and feel of their superheroes based on their ideas, it was amazing how their personal qualities seemed to penetrate the final design. The lack of restrictions enabled them to let their interpretation grow.

Source: ASIDE, 6th Grader
Free choice and decision-making let the students engage in the assignment with a sense of openness to create likenesses for their characters that they would not necessarily otherwise portray.

Kids identify with superheroes in much the same way we did when we were their age. While it is not necessarily "academic," the creativity, imagination, and choice benefit each student's learning.

Other resources for students and teachers: Superhero Mathematics 101 from Visual News; UGO Entertainment

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Design Is A Method Of Problem Solving

Source: Wells Riley
One of the challenges we run into again and again in our teaching is the "forest for the trees" pitfall. In our middle school classes, we stress both core facts and larger themes. This seemingly dual focus can sometimes puzzle our students as they try to internalize one notion or the other. Ideally, we try to show how the details and the ideas are actually the same thing. Or to borrow the words of the furniture savant Charles Eames, "The details are not the details. They make the design."

One of the touchstones of the design world is the unity of form and function. This "big picture / small picture" harmony is an equally crucial lesson for learners of all ages. In essence, as Wells Riley reminds us, "design is a method of problem solving." Figuring out how best to fashion a product or invent a logo combines all of the top-tier thinking skills, such as creativity and ingenuity. In his detailed web feature, titled "Startups, This Is How Design Works," Riley offers a riveting tutorial in the fundamentals of design thinking.

As an interactive designer and founder of Bionic Hippo, Riley aims to acclimate entrepreneurs to the essential role of design in packaging and presentation. He also, however, assembles a masterful primer for school children in how to visualize information. Not only does he give young business leaders tips for marketing their ideas, but he also ends up offering advice to students in creating Prezis or PowerPoints. For example, he highlights German industrial designer Dieter Rams' "Ten Principles of 'Good Design,'" noting that the best design " unobtrusive" and " as little design as possible." This echoes our favorite maxim of "content first, pretty second."

Source: WSJ and Aaron Koblin
Another engaging write-up for teachers trying to tackle the two sides of understanding is "Balancing the Visual and Verbal Minds," by Sharon Ede at Cruxcatalyst. Rather than exploring how to present information, this post explores about how the brain receives it. Ede investigates how the mind processes ideas through the power of visual communication. Even The Wall Street Journal recently published a feature by Holly Finn spotlighting how "the most inspiring new art is visualized information."

Source: Smore
When we talk about visual thinking in the classroom, we make sure to differentiate it from visual learning. A recent piece on "Visual Thinking" from The Multidisciplinarian makes this distinction clear by tracing the evolution of perception from classical art to engineering schematics to modern business ideation. If anyone doubts the power and profit of pictures, rebuts with the infographic, "Visuals Are Valuable." Shared by Duarte Design (and Diagrammer), the infographic chronicles how images have changed history and have made fortunes for visually innovative companies and individuals.

One new online tool for making cool, custom graphics is Smore. Having just started private beta testing, Smore advertises the opportunity to "design beautiful online flyers and publish instantly." When they say "flyers," we think "infographics." After playing around for a while, we've found the resulting graphics to be easy to create and extremely professional looking. We recommend you give it a taste.

Source: Karl Gude
Other valuable resources for students and teachers:

    Saturday, April 14, 2012

    Is It Okay To Use Humor In The Classroom?

    Source: Someecards
    We admit it. We like to joke around with our students. Sometimes it's the only way to grab their attention or to get through a trying Friday afternoon. The nameless philosopher who warned against using sarcasm in the classroom obviously never taught middle school.

    Source: Someecards
    Recently our Pinterest boards have been blowing up with nearly identical, witty graphics all styled from the same pattern. They feature early 20th-century advertising icons paired with ultra-contemporary, snarky comments. Pop culture blogs and Facebook timelines have been full of these semi-naughty visuals. The trendy images play off the 1950s "Mad Men" ethos by updating the classic calling card with a modern cynicism.

    Source: Someecards
    Someecards is the source of these popular gags. Originally intended as e-greetings for birthdays or anniversaries, Someecards' open-source, write-anything capability quickly lured clever pranksters to mix anachronistic illustrations with ribald sneers. The retro kitsch gives a nod to the buttoned-up morals of yesteryear, but the techno-savvy, off-color captions bring delightful modern mockery.

    Source: Someecards
    There may be a way to use a scaled-down, less-racy version of these images in the classroom. The unexpected juxtapositions offer good lessons for students in word play and language choices. Please note that we would never send kids to the actual Someecards website, because many of the designs are inappropriate. The adult humor is too lewd for most ages.

    Source: Someecards
    The free functionality, though, could be great to make graphics for class Prezis or visual aids. Teachers could create trading cards for interactive exercises, or they could brand their own projects with customized logos. The ironic messaging could also be helpful for media literacy discussions. If you must use a worksheet (which we strongly urge against), some silly panels could perk up the handouts. Or they would make lively tools to teach humor and puns to straight-laced kids. Finally, like in the New Yorker cartoon caption contest, students could size up a picture and invent their own punch lines. Teachers could then go online and produce the actual print.

    Remember, you should definitely check out the Someecards site yourself, to screen for vulgar content.

    Wednesday, April 11, 2012

    A New Typography Of Language

    Source: PBS Arts
    Over the past few weeks, we've watched our eighth-graders give in-class research presentations. We kept making notes about the readability of their Prezis, which frequently and frustratingly paired neon colors with squinched text or dark lettering with dark backgrounds. We realized we should be doing more to teach our students about making crisp visual choices. The role of typography in education can take many worthwhile forms. For students, the crucial message is that a font must complement the information on display. The visualization must accompany the meaning.

    Source: Colour Lovers
    Graphic illustrators and digital artists obviously take seriously the role of visual language. Students of any age, though, are intrigued by the value of clever fonts. They hate Times New Roman and rush to change the typeface when they open MS Word. They love playing with WordArt, and they were giddy when Prezi recently expanded its font options. Typography, like any linguistic tool, can be coached to enhance rather than detract from student endeavors. We can steer them away from the dreaded Comic Sans and toward more supportive lettering choices.

    Designer Steve Schoeffel argues the same point in his post, "Typography Must Honor Content," from the design blog Inspire. Schoeffel quotes Robert Bringhurst's book, The Elements of Typographic Style, noting that, "The typographer's one essential task is to interpret and communicate the text." (20)

    Source: Codrops
    Media specialist Carrie Cousins extends a similarly key message in her post, "Establish a Mood With Typography.' "The typefaces you select for a project," she says, "can impact what people think as much as the actual message you convey." Her engaging article would make a rich teaching guide to share with students. Typeface choices should be organized like good curriculum design, starting from the desired end and working backward to select the appropriate visual lettering.

    Typography, in essence, is the pictorial incarnation of language, the visible medium by which today's kids absorb significance. We've already seen how a precisely chosen font can embody an entire political message of hope and change. Creative typography is the epitome of information design. The short, animated infographic below presents an arresting lesson about typography. Directors Boca and Ryan Uhrich from the Vancouver Film School make it clear that "typography is what language looks like."

    Source: webdesign tuts+
    Other terrific educational resources include "A Beginner's Guide To Pairing Fonts" by Ian Yates and "Best Practices Of Combining Typefaces" by Douglas Bonneville. Yates offers the equivalent of a graduate-level master's course in visual thinking, as he lays out a systematic, approachable list of typeface do's and don'ts. Erudite without being condescending, Yates answers common questions, such as how many fonts to include and how to balance concord with contrast. Bonneville, writing in Smashing Magazine, gives similar recommendations about keeping things simple, differentiating font weights, and assigning distinct roles to each line. Bonneville also includes a classic .pdf grid to hand out to students about which font choices are acceptable in mixing typefaces.

    Source: Smashing Magazine
    If students get excited about exploring fonts, PBS Arts features a seven-minute "Typography" mini-documentary from its Off Book series (recently highlighted by An Xiao Mina at Core77). The film includes great analysis from famous designers, such as Jonathan Hoefler and Tobias Frere-Jones. The clip also dissects the role of fonts in infographics and includes a one-minute tutorial at the end, called "How To Talk About Type Like You Know What You're Talking About." For example, we finally learned the actual difference between a "font" and a "typeface."

    Source: Wookmark

    Other valuable links to use when teaching typography include:

    Sunday, April 8, 2012

    Logo Design and Branding a Class Project

    ASIDE-Immigration Project
    We teach kids today who are overly influenced by brands, products, and labels. They proudly display their wares on everything from clothes to electronics. In other words, they are walking examples of product identity. Well, why not use it to our advantage? Brand identification can work for us as teachers, too. Sprinkled throughout this post are some of the project logos that we have created to use for our projects.

    ASIDE: Question It Project
    Designing logos and acronyms are simple and effective ways to create a look that immediately identifies everything for a particular unit of learning. Just like we see and use acronyms today, many of our students simply refer to projects by their acronyms. For example, our students commonly refer to the eighth-grade independent research project as their IRP. It is as natural to them as it is for broadcasters using acronyms in the news.

    ASIDE: Independent Research Project
    We have branded many of our research assignments and project-based learning (PBL) work. Our students love it. You’ll often hear kids say, "bring your 'HTC' (History Trading Card) folder to class." More importantly, all paperwork for each of these projects, from readings to templates, is branded with that image for full product recognition.

    ASIDE: History Trading Cards Project
    With the availability of clipart, WordArt, and Web 2.0 photo editing tools such as ImageChef or iPiccy, it’s easy to design an identity for specific units in the classroom. For quick logo designs, try using Supalogo or Cool Text. Both of these are simple tools to make instant creations without signing up for an account.

    ASIDE: Entrepreneurship
    Project identity appeals to the students. Not only does it connect all the tasks, but it also helps the less organized keep everything for the assignment together. The benefits are multifold. Whether creating a new investigation or using an existing project, try adding a visual identity through branding. It’s also a perfect segue toward integrating media literacy into the discussion, too.

    ASIDE: Mammal Project

    Thursday, April 5, 2012

    Entrepreneurship: Creativity & Ingenuity Now

    Source: ASIDE, 2012
    Building on our earlier posts about entrepreneurship in the elementary classroom and whether it is possible to raise entrepreneurs, we believe when kids are given the opportunity to be creative in their thinking and to actually take their idea to fruition, they begin to picture themselves as entrepreneurs. We can see the results this year with our current 6th graders who went through the entrepreneur project last year. We introduced the concept of social entrepreneurship with them, and they now are putting together their ideas to raise money for a cause, such as the school’s Pencils for Peace program, or are making a loan through the Kiva organization to help others around the world. What we noticed was that the 6th graders went straight to work on coming up with a concept for a project and could see the benefit from the work they went through the year before, because they knew exactly what to do.

    Source: Kid Entrepreneurs
    The process of trial and error to figure out problems with regard to construction, cost, and time makes kids think on their feet. It builds essential life skills that they need to know. It helps develop their ability to be creative problem solvers, work independently, and deal with the possibility of failure. Above all, it lets them think creatively, which is at the top of Bloom’s taxonomy. It is also at the top of the list for what Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) think, too. The IBM 2010 Global CEO Study surveyed 1500 CEOs in 60 countries and 33 industries from around the world. They ranked creativity as the most important factor for future success. Without this skill, it will be difficult to adapt to changes in a fast-paced, growing, complex world.

    While many of the ideas that our students come up with are not totally new, it is the process of trying to develop a business from its first inkling to its final execution that’s important. Not everything needs to be new and original. Sometimes a simple improvement can change the way people think. In a recent Wall Street Journal Classroom Edition newspaper article, “Re-inventing Inventing,” Andy Jordan described how a new company called Quirky uses the power of the community to select new ideas to take from design to market.

    It astonished our kids that the simple concept of changing an electrical power strip from rigid to flexible generated 22-year-old Jake Zien approximately $30,000 a month since his invention, Pivot Power, went on sale. It is stories like these that play a role in making real-world connections and inspiring kids to think differently. Sometimes a small change can make a huge difference. Best-selling author Peter Sims makes this point throughout his book, Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge From Small Discoveries.

    Quirky is just one of a handful of online businesses that seek to make the invention process more open to amateurs with bright ideas. “Our job is to act as sort of shepherds of our inventions,” says Quirky’s 24-year-old founder, Ben Kaufman. “People will submit ideas to the site in various forms." For him, "Invention is just sort of ingrained in us as human beings. If you look at kids playing, they’re inventing,” says Kaufman. “And for some reason, just society or whatever it is just scrapes it all away from you, and makes you feel like you can’t do it.” (WSJ Classroom)

    We want our students to be inventive with their approaches to learning new things, playing with ideas, and creating ways of seeing differently. We shepherd them daily through lessons, and so why not shepherd them as entrepreneurs?

    Our goal is to carry entrepreneurship in some facet through our entire middle school to keep kids thinking that their ideas matter and could very well be the next big thing. We can't guarantee we can raise entrepreneurs, but we can definitely get them to think like ones.

    Monday, April 2, 2012

    Everyone Loves Peeps, Easter Infographics & More

    Source: DegreeSearch
    Sometimes as we approach spring break we can barely keep our students engaged, because they know a vacation is just around the corner. That's why we've tried to keep a line of infographics in our toolkits for just that reason. Our holiday infographics have proven to be a great way to distract kids from checking out of learning. In fact, they now look forward to these visualizations, with their colorful presentations of data, images and facts. Infographics and creative ways to view Peeps, bunnies, and chocolate candy all add to the enjoyment.

    Source: DegreeSearch
    The Ten Fun Facts About Peeps and Easter by the Numbers infographics from DegreeSearch easily connect to math lessons, but could just as well make great writing prompts in a language arts class. Students could take their own surveys or polls, too. Another good infographic to use is Easter Facts, designed by Yang Li at Chillisauce, Ltd., with its clear arrangement of data, graphs, and charts. For other interesting tidbits with a lot of math ideas built in, take a look at Easter Fun Facts: 700 Million Peeps to Be Eaten on Easter. Use this information to have students predict what they think might be the outcome.

    We would be remiss if we did not include the Washington Post's annual "Peeps Show." To talk about ingenuity in designing information is an understatement when you look at how Peeps are used to create content. This annual event uses marshmallow treats to interpret politics, pop culture and more.

    Source: Washington Post
    Guaranteed to be a hit with kids, these amazing dioramas are vignettes into history and current events with a sense of humor. Take a look at the 2012 finalists from Occupeep DC to Creating a Masterpeeps. These incredibly creative dioramas will not disappoint. They even have one for the latest hit movie Hunger Games called Hunger Peeps. Just think of the possibilities in the classroom. It might be a good idea to add an inventive Peeps show of your own next year by having kids use historical events or their favorite books to make instructional dioramas. If you have a little extra time, have the students read Peep Fun Facts from NPR and then take the Test Your Peeps Knowledge quiz from the Washington Post.

    Lastly, we could not resist including the following video animations Project Peepway (Project Runway) and Peep Wars (Star Wars). Enjoy!

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