Monday, December 30, 2013

New Year’s Resolutions: Some Visuals For Inspiration, Motivation, And Data

Source: Wikipedia
With the New Year arriving in less than 48 hours, people all over the world are thinking about making resolutions for the coming year.

According to Wikipedia, a New Year’s resolution is a secular tradition, most common in the West, when a person makes a promise to change something starting on the first of the year. It does have historical connections, and it is not uncommon to reflect on self-improvement.

To that end, we gathered some information about the topic to see what types of ideas we could use with our students during the first, short week of school. From Buzzfeed, we came across the post "14 Quotes To Inspire Your New Year’s Resolutions For 2014." This clever mix of historical figures garbed in festive holiday regalia would definitely make for a good, philosophical discussion in any history or English class.

Source: BuzzFeed
One thing that was apparent from our research was that statistically, most people don’t stick to the resolutions they make. According to the Marist Poll for 2014, the data on Americans resolving to make a change for the New Year is up slightly from the previous year by 4%. Its graph tracking the changes since 1995 of those likely and unlikely to make a New Year’s resolution would be interesting for a math lesson.

Source: Marist Poll
The Marist Poll also provides comparative statistics for prior years and a PDF of the complete tables and data sets collected for its 2014 New Year's Resolution inquiry.

Of course, there are plenty of infographics on the topic. This detail from one published by Kapitall Wire is a fitting visualization supporting many of the top ten resolutions most people make.
Source: Kapitall Wire
Lastly, for those who may have trouble sticking to their New Year's resolutions, there's always someone who wants to help. For some fun, check out this promotional motion graphic called "New Year's Resolution Ideas" by Gary Ryan Blair. It is a plug for his business, but it does give a good overview about trying to keep the goals many of us set for ourselves for the New Year. It also could be incorporated into a media literacy lesson on persuasive techniques to sell a product.

Enjoy and have a Happy New Year!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Infographic Holiday Cards As Data Visualization

Source: @GSipley
We’re sure many of our readers have received the proverbial end-of-year “holiday letter” recapping events in the lives of friends and relatives. Often these densely word-processed documents, peppered with pictures, seem more like a chore to read rather than an enjoyable update. Graphically designed they are not, and a tutorial on “less is more” would surely improve the overall layout.

Recently, our friend and colleague, Gina Sipley (@GSipley), forwarded an “infographic holiday card” she received. We then did a little digging. To our surprise, it turns out that using infographics to report on the happenings of the past year have been trendy for quite sometime. Who knew that data visualization had hit the holiday card market?

Source: Nicole's Classe
Resources abound on using this idea, and there are Pinterest boards with loads of samples. We even found a “how to make your holiday infographic card” by Alma Loveland for Nicole’s Classes.

It provides step-by-step instructions in design as an infographic, with explanatory text. The tips for laying out an infographic are useful and could be used as guidelines for any newbie wanting to try his or her hand in the process of creating one.

Source: Beautiful Fight
While we are not planning on sending out our own “infographic holiday cards,” it did get us thinking about how to use this idea in our classrooms.

Source: Nicole's Classes
It would make an excellent way for learners or teachers to graphically represent the highlights of the year using data, text, and images in a simple, well-designed infographic. By flipping the content, it's a perfect way to underscore  accomplishments, field trips, projects, and more.

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Visualizing The Winter Olympics - Mapping The 2014 Torch Relay

Source: Sochi Olympic Torch Relay
The 2014 Winter Olympics is only a month and a half away, and the recent news has been disheartening. Controversies over jaw-dropping cost overruns and horribly discriminatory laws have focused a light on the United States' decision to send a snubbingly slimmed-down delegation to Sochi, Russia.

For students and teachers, however, the build-up to the Games of the 22nd Winter Olympiad should be full of exciting cultural discoveries and hands-on interactions. The ceremonial path of the Olympic torch, for example, offers a terrific chance to explore interactive visualizations and trace the geography of the largest country on the planet.

Source: Sochi Olympic Torch Relay
The official site of the torch relay features a responsive map where students can click on each point of the flame's exchange and learn more about local cities. The keenly designed page also offers a history of the Olympic torch and includes fascinating trivia about past journeys in the lead-up to Sochi's opening ceremonies on February 7, 2014.

This year's torch expedition highlights a host of historic moments, including the first space voyage, the first underwater swim, and the longest odyssey ever. The saga of the fire, however, has encountered some well-publicized mishaps along the way, including the extinguishing of the flame on numerous occasions and three people being burned by haphazard handling. For a more detailed Keystone Cops chronicle of the torch's misadventures, check out "Got A Light? Olympic Torch Relay Seems Cursed To The End Of The Earth" from the New York Times.

Source: Sochi Olympic Torch Relay
The Sochi webpage presents a day-by-day video diary of each celebratory moment along the route. It also spotlights an infographic of key nationalistic facts, as well as a media gallery of photographs and quotations. For a more objective view of the torch's narrative, the Maps Of The World page sketches a similar geographic trail.

For more information about the torch relay, check out these articles from the Bleacher Report:
For other tools and resources about using the Olympics in education, we recommend:
By the way, thanks to Cosby Hall and Eric Wilson for suggesting the idea for this post.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Visualizing Apartheid - Teaching Students About Nelson Mandela

Source: "The Life And Times Of Nelson Mandela," from the Nelson Mandela Centre Of Memory
With dignitaries and patriots converging in Johannesburg to honor Nelson Mandela, the hero's funeral has presented an intriguing educational opportunity for school children around the world. The media coverage devoted to Mandela's life as a civil rights champion and a global statesman has refocused attention on the horrors of Apartheid. This system of institutionalized racism, which gave Mandela such a bitter struggle and an enduring triumph, had previously been relegated to somewhat of an afterthought in many pages of contemporary history.

Children of the 1980s grew up with Apartheid in their daily consciousness. They heard news reports about protests and crackdowns, and they regularly reminded each other which collusive corporations to boycott. Children today, however, even at the Advanced Placement and collegiate ranks, often spend no more than a few minutes of one class period noting the sorrows of the Apartheid era before moving on to the next test topic.

It can be particularly difficult for teachers of younger learners to encapsulate these decades of discrimination and violence in an age-appropriate way. It can be equally as challenging to summarize Mandela's life, with its exuberant achievements and its occasional contradictions, in a clear manner.

Source: The Nelson Mandela Centre Of Memory
Fortunately, a few key visual resources exist to help broach this important legacy. One of the best videos is the animated series called "The Life And Times Of Nelson Mandela," from the Nelson Mandela Centre Of Memory. These brief clips offer understandable, dynamic avenues toward understanding the complicated history of the Apartheid generation. If you only have a few minutes, Part 3 documents the principle acts surrounding Mandela's imprisonment. If you can spare more time, though, be sure to watch Parts 1, 2, and 4.

Source: Know More, from The Washington Post
Source: ABS-CBN
(click for detail)
Another terrific tool from the Nelson Mandela Centre Of Memory is the Interactive Timeline tracing his life and accomplishments through text boxes and captivating photos. The smooth interface allows for quiet reflection and independent exploration of the events and culture.

For statistical data, an unambiguous graph from the Washington Post's Know More blog reveals "How Nelson Mandela Transformed South Africa In One Chart." The rise in national pride tracks closely with Mandela's own return to the citizenry.

For other educational resources in teaching about Mandela, we highly recommend:
Regarding background information about the decrees of Apartheid itself, the infographic from Anatomy Of Data lays out core facts and figures about this long span of segregation. The video "Cry Freedom - South Africa Under Apartheid, 1948 - 1991" also chronicles a rich photographic history of Apartheid through primary images and news snapshots. As a mild warning, a few of the photos could be somewhat jarring for younger viewers.

By the way, many thanks to our colleague Stefani Rosenthal (@StefRosenthal) for suggesting the idea for this post.

Source: Anatomy Of Data

Monday, December 9, 2013

Digital Citizenship: Metadata Made Simple

Source: The Guardian
Talking to our learners about digital citizenship requires us continually to revise and update our messages. We tell our students constantly that we are not cops here at school to block their access online, but rather we are here to educate them about using it.

We want them to know just how easy it is to collect everything about them on the Web with very little effort. For most learners, the concept of metadata is abstract. They don’t realize that social networks, online shopping companies, websites, and countless other places are routinely collecting it.

Source: The Guardian
Recently, The Guardian published its video animation, The NSA and Surveillance Made Simple, to help explain how massive amounts of information are collected by tapping cable lines, sifting through databases, or obtaining data straight through company servers. It simplifies the world of metadata and reinforces our constant reminders to our students about privacy.

For many in their innocence, they would never think that spies were trolling Facebook and Gmail; however, we are all being watched online. Granted, what we try to educate our learners about regarding good digital citizenship is different than what the NSA gathers. Nonetheless, this simple animation makes it clear just how much metadata is collected on who you are, when you send, and what you say.

Source: The Guardian
This balance between privacy and security could also expand into lessons on civics and the rights of individuals. It opens up opportunities for debates and essay writing to answer a host of questions, including: Does the government have a right to collect information on its citizens, or other countries? How does this affect your behavior online? Does privacy have a future online at all?

Source: IMDb
Lastly, kids love pop culture. There are plenty of television shows that deal with gathering data. For example, could individuals such as the enigmatic billionaire in Person of Interest really recruit a former CIA operative to prevent violent crimes on his own? It’s a good question, and one that would surely spark a classroom conversation.

We’ve moved beyond what Connect Safely describes as Online Safety 2.0, or “stranger danger," to Online Safety 3.0 that is designed to empower and protect youth. In the fast-paced terrain of digital technologies, "stranger danger" is the least threatening when compared to privacy and security. In their world, Web 3.0 is no longer about pushing and sharing information; it’s live. 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

A Student's Voice For Change

As educators of middle school students, we continue to be inspired by their passion to have a voice in making a difference. This week one of our sixth-grade students did just that. Jack was touched by the motion graphic Sold and the video Youth For Human Rights – No Slavery that he watched on the class blog. He went home and on his own made a Tellagami to help raise awareness about modern slavery and the plight of children. We are pleased to present it here.

Our interdisciplinary unit on immigration just finished. It recounted the full story of immigrants who came to this country, including those who came by choice and others who came by chains. It just so happened to coincide with the United Nations International Day To Abolish Slavery on December 2.

Like so many, our students had no idea of the extent of modern day human trafficking. As a result of the exposure to this issue, many of our kids want to take this on as a mission to help. Learning about this problem transformed their thinking and their drive to do something about it. We could not ask for more as educators.

For more resources on modern slavery, click here.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Teaching The "S" Word: Modern Slavery Resources

Source: Free the Slaves
It’s that time of year when we delight in the spirit of merry-making with family and friends, and when young children anticipate gifts for Hanukkah and Christmas. Like most others, we tend to get caught up in the spirit of the season.

Heading home for the holidays seems a natural part of the winter break from school, and it should be. Yet for many, this is not the case. Today, there are more slaves than in any other period in history, and many of them are children. Modern slavery is the most important human rights issue of our time.

Human trafficking is the third largest criminal industry behind illegal drugs and arms trafficking. The estimated number of modern slaves across the globe is 21 - 30 million. The following video on the Top 10 Facts About The "S" Word produced by Free the Slaves is a powerful motion graphic highlighting the key issues about slavery today.

As educators, we continually look for resources to help our learners realize that slavery is not a thing of the past. Many of the websites featured in this post provide ample material for teachers to use in their classrooms. For example, Free the Slaves also has an interactive map with statistics on slavery by regions around the world. Our students were surprised to see that there are over 14,000 incidents of modern slavery in the United States. It was a real eye-opener for them.

Source: Free the Slaves

Sold is another motion graphic produced by RockPaperInk. It's another excellent resource to use with younger students. Kids know what products are, but when this film makes the point that children are the fastest growing "product" over corn and oil, it hits home. It's hard for them to fathom that not only are these children considered products, but also that many of them are sold more than once.

Each year over 2 million children disappear; that's equivalent to the population of Chicago disappearing. Kids get that. This video is a powerful reminder of the plight of so many, but it gives us hope. This movie is the trailer for the full-length feature film, Sold, adapted from the novel of the same name by Patricia McCormick and scheduled for release in 2014. It's the story of one little girl who makes it out of bondage.

Human trafficking continues to grow at alarming rates across the globe. This brings us to our last resource on modern slavery from Youth for Human Rights, and it is perhaps the most poignant. In it a teacher walks through a museum describing the horrors of slavery in American history, but as she does, pulsating images of modern slavery flash in between as she talks. The ultimate moment is when a young student asks, "Does this still happen today?" The teacher remains speechless. The answer, unfortunately, is yes.

As difficult as it is to talk about the "S" word, it is a necessity. Slavery of Africans to the Americas is part of our history that ended with the Emancipation Proclamation. Sadly, slavery continues today. Let's not make the mistake of thinking it's over, or that it's happening someplace else in the world. As educators, we need to keep the topic of slavery on the front burner. Shining a light on the issue will empower our students to be outspoken about it. The more we develop empathy and concern, the more likely we can help prevent one more silent, invisible child from disappearing in the dark world of human trafficking.
Source: Sold
For other posts on this topic, please see:
For more resources, please see:
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