Thursday, December 31, 2015

The GIFT Box - Help Unwrap Human Trafficking In 2016

Source: London Olympics 2012 - UN
With each passing year, we see a growth in awareness of the plight of the less fortunate, particularly those suffering at the hands of human traffickers. We’ve written posts about the topic of slavery and Human Rights, but recently we came across the GIFT box project that is currently on view at The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine in New York City.

Source: UN GIFT
The United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking and STOP THE TRAFFIK worked together to create the GIFT box to raise awareness of the more than 21 million people forced into labor. The GIFT box project was launched during the London 2012 Olympics.

Since that time, STOP THE TRAFFIK partnered with other organizations and governments to build more GIFT boxes around the globe. To date, its journey has introduced over 55,000 people in approximately 100 locations across 6 countries to the issue of human trafficking.

At this time of year when gift giving is so much a part of the holiday spirit, it seemed fitting to write about it as we close out the year of 2015 to help this effort. The beautifully wrapped GIFT box on the outside reveals the horrors that plague the victims of human trafficking on the inside. The exterior promises a better life, an education, a good job, and a loving relationship, but the interior presents a very different reality.

Source: UN GIFT

Build human rights into the curricula at your school. The Youth for Human Rights website makes it easy to take any of the 30 principles all individuals are entitled to under The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and incorporate them into a learning environment. It offers teachers a wealth of resources that can be easily downloaded to use in the classroom. It also provides short video clips for each of the rights. If your school is has a 1:1 program, we encourage educators to use its free app with students.

Let’s make 2016 the year we all help to unwrap the dreadful truth about human trafficking.

For other resources, please see:

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The 5 Best STEM Animations For 2016

Source: scenes., WWF Brazil - Marine Program

2015 was a banner year for animations to engage students. These dynamic explainer videos proved definitively that print textbooks cannot keep up with educational, up-to-date motion graphics, especially in the sciences.

The sphere of subjects that fall into STEM's orbit keeps expanding. For better or for worse, K-12 courses are now binarly split into either "STEM" or "Humanities" categories. We would argue that this bifurcation is harmful, erasing the natural overlaps between the sciences and the liberal arts.

The effect, however, is that more and more designers and educators are creating brilliant interactive companions to traditional learning. Here are five favorite animations from the past year that will allow science and math teachers (as well as those in the Humanities) to kick off 2016 with a bang:

1. Math

This lively explainer video from Vox offers a primer in chart theory, as well as a caveat for undiscerning viewers of graphs. Entitled "Shut Up About The Y-Axis. It Shouldn't Always Start At Zero," the clip reminds math students that context is key in both reading and creating data graphics.

2. Environmental & Marine Science

WWF Brazil - Marine Program from scenes. on Vimeo.

This beautiful stop-motion animation offers a moving case study about the effects of urbanization on pollution. The "WWF Brazil - Marine Program" video, made in collaboration between scenes. and Wildgroeiers, highlights critical issues of conservation and biodiversity for any age group.

3. Astronomy

BBC Earth has designed a clear and compelling motion graphic to emphasize the size of the universe and the speed of earth's galactic travels. The 3D visualization employs time and scale to bring astrophysics to life.

4. Oceanography & Earth Science

Source: Cameron Beccario

Software engineer Cameron Beccario (@cambecc) has programmed a stunning representation of the earth's weather conditions. With regularly updated ocean currents, waves, temperatures, and anomalies, this interactive globe allows students to zoom in and rotate a la Google Earth. The educational opportunities range from oceanographers analyzing climate change to historians studying ancient trade routes.

5. Medicine

Source: The Washington Post

The recent Ebola panic prompted The Washington Post to create this precise simulation that compares the disease's spread to other historical pandemics. Although the original interactive graphic pre-dates 2015, the updates are important to medical students and social scientists who are trying to track contraction, infection, transmission, and vaccination.

Honorable Mention: Ecology & Forestry

This seemingly simple motion graphic by Nature Video brings into startling relief the rate of global deforestation. Researchers made 421,529 separate measurements around the world to produce an irrefutable data-driven image of the changing planet.

For more resources, take a look at last year's five best animations, or some of our other posts about animations in the classroom:

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Social Media Is An Opportunity - Not A Problem In The Classroom

Source: ASIDE 2015

The resolute attitude of many schools to resist the “Social Age” by blocking websites within their walls strikes at the core of what it means to collectively share ideas. The system seems stuck in the notion that kids will do bad things if they have access to social media. Hello! They have access to it anyway, just not in school. We shake our heads every time we hear educators who want to share digital projects but can’t because of a school’s firewall. Some educators depend on the very students they teach to share when the leave the building in order to promote their work.

Source: ASIDE 2015
We value the opportunities at our disposal for creating digital portfolios with our students, running Tumblr pages for the humanities, maps, and classwork, using Twitter (@BCDS_History_56, @BCDS_History_78>)and Kidblog, and sharing through Padlet to engage in the open practice of real-life skills.

Social media is not the culprit. In this day and age, digital environments are not separate from physical environments. If we want our students to understand the importance of building a healthy, digital footprint for prospective college applications and employment, then practice is imperative. It can’t be taught from a book.

Source: ASIDE 2015
Like other educators, we see the value in using social media. We are fortunate to work in a school that believes students learn by actively and responsibly participating in an online community of practice. We firmly believe that learning communities that allow students to use social media in their education build stronger digital citizens. They also encourage parents to be more proactive in the online behavior of their children by participating as digital partners.

We made a passionate plea to educators in our presentation, entitled “Tear Down This Firewall: Using Social Media To Engage Students And Parents,” at the annual NYSCATE conference. We showed multiple ways that we have incorporated social media in the elementary and middle school classrooms, as well as demonstrated how the skills learned from social media include context, framing, information, perspective, questioning, and problem-solving. We hope the solid foundation in instruction behind our students’ work will provide motivation for others to approach their administrations to unblock valuable web resources for learning. We included our SlideShare presentation here.

Tear Down This Firewall: Using Social Media To Engage Students & Parents from The American Society For Innovation Design In Education

The value of modeling, practicing, and incorporating social media into the curricula to better educate learners for a world that exists now is vital to their development. It builds the collectiveness of the community and a trusted bond between all participants, including administrators, faculty, students, and parents. Most importantly, it takes the fear out of the equation.

 In 2010, Rachel Botsam coined the term “collaborative consumption” in her critically acclaimed book, What’s Mine is Yours: How Collaborative Consumption is Changing the Way We Live. The theory of “collaborative consumption” is the reinvention of traditional market behaviors that are taking place at a rate not seen before as a result of technology. These changes affect more than just the economy; they influence and disrupt traditional learning environments as well. It shouldn’t be a “Them vs. Us” mentality; instead, it should build a collaborative network of making, sharing, and responding.

Source: ASIDE 2015
Yet despite this social revolution in an on-demand, real-time world, schools are still resistant to change, even though educators try desperately to show the value of collaborative work by using social networking.

As for the students, the firewalls may not be crumbling yet inside the bricks and mortar, but outside, learning takes on a life of its own, unfiltered without restrictions. They hunt and gather wherever they can, and technology has opened that door.

Students need to construct their social capital through shared networks, and schools need to participate in building it, not restricting it.

For other resources please see:

Monday, November 23, 2015

Student Video Projects In Vine: The Six-Second Constraint Encourages Creativity

Source: Vine
Poets have long considered the sonnet and the quatrain as the highest forms of poetry. The strict meters, the rigid rhyme schemes, and the unbreakable line limits force poets to create elegant verse within exacting structures. In other words, if writers can craft soaring language under such restrictive rules, then they have true talent.

Making Vine videos with students falls into a similar category. Vine is a social network owned by Twitter that allows users to record or upload clips no more than 6.5 seconds in length. With over 200 million users and 1.5 billion daily loops, Vine has created overnight celebrities and has changed the way kids watch, generate, and share content.

The ease of publishing makes Vine a terrific tool for the classroom. The strict time limit of the videos forces students to maximize the pithiness of their messages. In other words, the short videos demand:
  1. Efficiency of narration
  2. Effectiveness of visuals
  3. Concision of message
Students cannot be wasteful in language or vague in communication. They must get their points across succinctly and above all creatively. They are compelled to invent novel ways to pack a lot of meaning into a tight space.

For example, our eighth-graders have been studying how technology and inventions transformed society in the late 1800s. We, therefore, invited them to conduct a mini-research project about modern inventions in the contemporary era that have similarly revolutionized daily life. Our instructions, storyboards, and rubrics are included in this post. We have also included several examples of the innovative approaches that students took to produce these brief films. For other ideas about incorporating Vine in the classroom, check out 20 Ways To Use Twitter's Vine In Education.

As with all social media, there is plenty of content on Vine that would not be appropriate for all ages. That is why digital citizenship needs to be a crucial partner with digital publishing. As with all online activities, educators need to encourage students to be their own filters, to use their own good judgment in engaging with social media.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

How To Comment In Social Media - An Infographic Of Tips For High Quality Feedback

Students are writing more than ever before. They are tapping out rapid-fire fingerstrokes across multiple platforms. From text messages to social media, children and adults of all ages are engaging like never before with the written word. This type of transliteracy emphasizes more than ever the need for thoughtful conversations and clear instructions that guide students in how best to express high quality feedback.

Most remarks in the comment sections of Instagram and YouTube are useless. They are either crass or curt, sprinkled with emoji that do more to satisfy the ego of the commenter than to further the richness of the page.

Instead, high quality comments on blogs and social media should create a dialogue that furthers the colloquy and deepens the learning. Replies on Twitter, for example, should offer suggestions or make interpersonal connections. Thoughtful comments in social media should add information, incorporate links, or most importantly, ask questions.

Susan Sedro offers a terrific post about "Teaching Children To Comment On Blogs" on her site, "Adventures In Educational Blogging." She includes a presentation, a document, and a rubric to help teachers incorporate successful commenting into their lessons. Similarly, Danielle Degelman recently shared on Twitter (@deedegs) a photo of her whiteboard with excellent tips on helping students comment successfully.

We learned a lot from both Sedro's and Degelman's suggestions. For our own learners, we combined these two teachers' ideas with a few of our own to make a handy one-sheet for our students. For example, our seventh-graders used it to exchange feedback via Twitter (#BCDSHist7) on their Thirteen Colonies research projects.

Here is the infographic we made to promote positive engagement through social media:

Thursday, October 1, 2015

A Philosophy Of Education: Energy, Inspiration, And Understanding

Source: ASIDE 2015

This week we were asked to share our philosophies of education. It was a worthy question and a worthwhile endeavor. Even though like most teachers we’ve gone through many versions of these philosophies over the years, it was thought-provoking to reframe our tenets as both learning and we have evolved. We thought we might publish our current thoughts, to see what other educators think and to invite feedback about other philosophies of teaching in today’s learning climate:


If students were given a choice about which classes to attend each day, would they choose our classes? Is there something about the tone, the environment, the practice, or the design of information that makes our time seem worthwhile to learners?

One of our mantras with learners has been to “Look at more stuff; think about it harder.” We seek to inspire learners to use creative thinking to come up with innovative ideas; likewise, we hope to do the same with our approach to teaching. In their schooling, students hope to experience moments of wonder. An instance of surprise or curiosity, even if brief, can make all the different in motivating learners to explore and delve deeply. Insight leads to ownership, which makes meaningful the internalization of skills or concepts. One "ah ha" moment is worth one hundred perfect test scores.

To inspire others is, after all, why we teach. We rely on inspiration as the fuel for engagement. We want to encourage an environment that fosters creativity, inquiry, ownership, and independence. Learners need a stimulating environment that fuels inspiration and a hunger for knowledge. This atmosphere refers to both the physical space and the personality of the teacher. Is the room stimulating and engaging? Is the layout flexible and complementary to the learning? Furthermore, is the temperament of the teacher encouraging, with an authentic sense of optimism about the journey the learner and the educator are about to take together?

It is not about efficiency and compliance; instead, it is about things like mindset, mood, mechanisms, measurement, and momentum that push the critical thinking process in order to extract new ideas. What is the tone of the instructor's language? What is the tenor of the student-teacher relationship? A bit of humor, for example, can be key to keeping the mood light and productive. A sincere repartee can make the minutes tick by with less tedium and maybe even some anticipation.

Source: ASIDE 2015

The more interdisciplinary, collaborative, and challenging approaches we use, the greater the chance to develop individuals that are confident to take risks. In this vein, teaching and learning is a partnership. A conversational style or technological savvy can help validate students’ daily experiences and show an effort to connect to their worlds – to what is important to them. This connection stems from mutual trust. Students want to trust that their teachers are laying out clear expectations, that their grades are based on fair assessments, that their learning is in the hands of an expert. If students don't trust that we as teachers are going to keep our word, treat them with decency, and give them the benefit of the doubt, then they will tune out everything else we try to communicate.

Today, learning is no longer limited to the teacher as keeper of the knowledge, nor to the moment with little connection to the future. It has to be deeper; it is about understanding. We want students to be more like hunter-gatherers, who constantly search for anything that interests them and who share it with the world. Life-long learning is far more like the migrating hunter-gatherer, and technology has opened that door. 

We hope to harness that energy, that inspiration, and that understanding of the power of connections to explore ideas. Our hope is to tap a learner’s inspiration and creativity so that they develop as innovative thinkers and knowledge seekers.

As teachers, we want to engage students:
  • To think like designers to transform the way they learn and look at the world
  • To develop flexibility in their thinking about ways to learn, and to tap their curiosity
  • To grow to be open-minded individuals who are knowledgeable about historical events
  • To gain confidence about what they know to share their understanding and enthusiasm for history and geography with others
  • To help them develop a curiosity for learning through the creation of their own work
  • To provide a range of choices for them to visually map their ideas to realize there is more than one way of seeing
  • To design curriculum to meet the information, technology and new media literacies needs of today's learners through current best practices that incorporate digital learning, technology integration, and social media
  • To develop flexibility in their thinking about ways to learn, and to help them feel comfortable with being uncomfortable
  • To promote honest discussions about disparities in society such as race and class to promote empathy for our differences
  • To recognize, value, and assess the many diverse ways children learn and how to meet them there

Saturday, September 26, 2015

When Grammar Is Animated, Usage Sticks

Source: TED Ed
We are huge fans of TED Ed: Lessons Worthing Sharing. The short, animated videos on a variety of topics deliver the perfect dose of information to help students with content areas. Because educators write the scripts for these animations, they hit that sweet spot of just enough to make the point while engaging the eye as well. We also routinely publish some of these videos that don't necessarily fit into our curriculum on our Humanities Enrichment Tumblr. As a result, our students have become big fans as well.

This summer, TED published a host of videos about grammar that we thought were extremely helpful with our learners. Two deal with punctuation, and the others talk about word usage. Emma Bryce is the author of three of the four, and she has a real knack for simplifying tricky grammatical problems.

When To Use Apostrophes 

In the first video, entitled "When To Use Apostrophes," educator Laura McClure reviews the sometimes complicated usage. The visuals make it easy for learners to understand.

How To Use A Semicolon

Emma Bryce's's video called "How To Use A Semicolon" explains the correct way to use the semi-colon, and the animator, Mark Storer, creates a playful character that knocks out periods as if in an arcade game. She "clarifies best practices for the semi-confusing semicolon."

When To Use Me, Myself, and I

In Bryce's second video, she addresses "When To Use Me, Myself, and I." Once again, she skillfully clarifies the different role each one plays in a sentence, even though all three refer to the same thing.

How Misused Modifiers Can Hurt Your Writing

The last Bryce video, called "How Misused Modifiers Can Hurt Your Writing," follows in the same vein as the others. She uses her expertise to explain how misplaced modifiers create ambiguity. The animation makes it easy to see how words, phrases, and clauses in the wrong places create problems instead of adding helpful information.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Talk About Peace For Just One Day, Or More!

Source: Postcards For Peace
This Monday, September 21, marks the thirty-third anniversary of the United Nations International Day of Peace that invites all nations and people to cease hostilities by commemorating the day through awareness on issues related to peace. In our effort this year to bring mindfulness into our curricula, we see this day as an ideal place to connect our year-long endeavor to develop kind, empathetic, young citizens of the world.

We see taking the time to make room to recognize the importance of peaceful, non-violent solutions as imperative to learning. It’s worth every minute to talk about it, particularly in today’s world. The resource materials listed in this post provide a multitude of options for educators to integrate the International Day of Peace into classroom instruction.

Source: Peace On Day

Peace On Day, founded by Jeremy Gilley in 1999, is a good place to start for free, educational resources and curriculum guides. Check out its “Peace Projects” page for curriculum ideas that connect to subject areas with links to Postcards For Peace, Face To Faith, or Pinwheels For Peace.

Postcards For Peace’s mission is to improve the well-being of those people around the world whose lives are affected by violence or prejudice by promoting change and offering hope, support, and compassion through sending postcards of goodwill.

Its short, introductory video is just right for introducing the project to young learners, in addition to promoting writing and creativity. Download the postcard template, or make your own. Either way, it’s a wonderful opportunity to raise awareness with students through acts of kindness.

Postcards For Peace - An Introduction from Postcards For Peace on Vimeo.

Source: Kids For Peace
The last resource we’d like to bring attention to is the website called Kids For Peace. Its mission is to promote peace through youth leadership, community service, global friendships, and thoughtful acts of kindness. The Peace Pledge in this post can be easily downloaded from its website.

If you can do nothing else this Monday, try to have the students take the pledge. We are hoping to have everyone at our school take part in this. Kids For Peace also has a simple “Peace Day Challenge” to promote acts of peace. It’s perfect for any age level.

Source: Kids For Peace

Sometimes we feel crunched for time to cover course material, but sometimes the right thing to do should force us to stop for something so important as PEACE!

For other resources, please see:

Thursday, August 13, 2015

“The Understudent” — Notice The Kids Waiting In The Wings And Turn Every Child Into A Star

Source: ASIDE 2015

Every teacher knows the high-achieving students in his or her classroom. These are the trusted “high verbal” pupils who raise their hands, who answer each question, who quote the night’s reading, and who ferry the conversation. It’s a tacit trust between educator and child — the rewards are mutual. The lesson can proceed according to the teacher’s design, and the extroverts can succeed according to the traditional model.

But what about the introverts?

What about the “low verbals”?

What about the children who read the homework, who complete the worksheets, who memorize the vocabulary words, who post their projects, and who code their webpages — but who don’t speak up?

Most of a typical class is a chorus. Most of the kids who fill the seats and laugh at the jokes and fulfill their studies do not win awards. They do not give speeches at graduation. They do not take a bow with an audience on its feet.

Source: ASIDE 2015

The majority of learners will not play the leads. They will fill the background and be part of the cast. They will not see their names on the marquee, and they won’t even think to deserve it.

If school is a stage, then few actors will sing the solos or shine in soliloquies.

Most kids will be understudies — or “understudents.”

They will know their lines, they will be at every practice, they will work like heck — and yet they will receive little recognition. Because that’s how life is. And when they do step away from the ensemble and raise their hands to give a correct answer, it will be a surprise, an anomaly. 

The greatest challenge, therefore, for classroom teachers is to identify the talent waiting in the wings. Who is lurking behind the scenes? Who is quieting her voice within the chorus? Who is restraining herself within the dance?

Somewhere, a student just needs a break, some encouragement, and a teacher who believes in him to break out and become a star.

Think about the Tom Bradys and the Kurt Warners who needed a first string player to falter just so they could have a chance.

Source: ASIDE 2015

Too many times the demands of high stakes testing and rigid teacher evaluations throw educators into survival mode, where they can barely keep their own heads above water, much less look out for a glimmer of light among their docile classrooms.

But that’s the job. That’s the key. Getting to know each child on a personal level is more important than drilling rote facts into their heads. All of us can think back to the mentor who believed in us, who pulled us out of our comfort zones.

As the new school year gets underway, one of our resolutions is to seek out the understudents. We also strive to recognize the kids with underparents. They don’t make a fuss, they don't complain, and too often, therefore, we attend to the squeaky wheels.

But the modest geniuses in our midst need us more than ever. If we don’t pluck them from obscurity, then they may end up seeing themselves as members of the throng — humble nodders in the choir, content not to speak up, not to dare, not to lead, and not to share all of the insights within their quick and boisterous minds.

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Uber Generation Of Learning — Fast, Efficient, And Driven By Tech

Source: ASIDE 2015

It’s no surprise that the New York Taxi and Limousine Commission is lobbying for limits to Uber’s expansion. In fact, municipalities across the country are fretting over Uber’s intrusion.

Uber’s appeal — and its rapid, unmitigated ascent — is exactly like the edtech groundswell in contemporary learning.

Uber is a private car service currently taking the country by storm. It allows anyone with an app to instantly summon a professional ride. It takes away the guessing about street corners and hand-waving. It offers customized choices, such as a car seat or SUV. Uber provides real time, visual tracking of how far away the car is and how much the trip will cost. 

Uber takes the frustrating tasks of flagging a phantom taxi or confronting a gruff phone operator and replaces them with immediate, digital satisfaction.

This is exactly what today’s students expect from their lessons and teachers.

For better or for worse, children enter our classes with a ready affinity toward online tools and an understandable assumption of digital learning. They are used to texting in realtime, chatting in realtime, Googling in realtime, and creating in realtime. When anachronistic teachers give them paper worksheets and bubble tests, it’s no wonder they roll their eyes and feel like they’re being intentionally stranded on the side of a high-tech boulevard, while the wired world seems to be passing them by.

Kids (and adults) live on their smartphones. They demand instantaneous answers via Siri or Wikipedia to any question that might pique their curiosity. In this way, they are uber-researchers. They seek information more actively and more frequently than any prior generation. The gift of the Internet offers them answers, but they still need to know their end destination. They still need to have a conclusion in mind, to drive their scholarship in the right direction.

Source: ASIDE 2015

The greatest gift from laptops, iPads, SMARTboards, and phones is efficiency. What used to take a middle schooler an entire Saturday now takes a split second. Kids can diagram the locks of the Erie Canal or study the bricks of the Giza pyramids in the same time it takes to tie one’s shoelaces. The “Internet of things” is a powerful encyclopedia. Any school district that blocks access to YouTube or Twitter, therefore, is closing the doors to Alexandria, erecting antiquated barriers in the face of authentic learning.

We expect our Uber driver to know our name, know our route, and know our credit card number. We expect service with a smile and quiet satisfaction in skipping the crowded van to the airport or the late-night carpool quest.

This is modern education — personalized, differentiated, and affordable.

This is technological learning — satisfying, searchable, and immediate.

As a point of reference, check out this current ad for Microsoft Windows 10:

Many educators still fight against this disruption, against these invading technological hordes. They demand professional development and budget studies to delay the inevitable. Many administrators side with city districts, viewing apps as interlopers seeking to upset the status quo.

Many still resist the arrival of a learning alternative, because it’s not “the way we’ve always done it.”

But the rabid popularity of Uber speaks to a communal need. The instinctive embrace of real-time learning by students means that if educators don’t change, kids will be chauffeured off into the sunset without them.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Real Republican Debate - Students Rate The Candidates' Logos To Learn Visual Civics

Source: Official Campaign Websites

The first official debate of the 2016 presidential primary season kicks off today. The Fox News Channel has invited 10 of the 17 declared Republicans candidates to a highly anticipated primetime wrangle (relegating the other seven prospects to a second-tier warm-up act). The 9:00 p.m. (EST) showcase is sure to draw an outsized number of eyeballs, due to the impressive roster of accomplished candidates and the say-anything bullhorn of a certain golden-haired tycoon.

As teachers, to introduce students to the primary process, we like to begin with each candidate's logo. These symbols are the forward-facing emblems that emblazon every t-shirt and bumper sticker and that encapsulate the character of the next leader of the free world.

Many media outlets have submitted their verdicts on various designs, but students (and everyday Americans) often have different reactions from professional graphic artists. For example, kids often accurately pick the winners based solely on the appeal of their candidate crests:
Fortunately, many presidential hopefuls did announce their campaigns before the end of the school year. With each new entrant, therefore, we first showed his or her official logo to the students, with no context or explanation, to gauge their reaction to the icon's visual appeal and brand message. The results were unexpected.

In order of Fox News ranking (based on a selective use of national polls), but not in order of winning insignia, here are the best and worst of tonight's field:

Source: Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.

Real estate mogul Donald Trump's poster is certainly plain. In fact, there is little logo or design to speak of. Instead, his banner features clearly spaced, sans serif white lettering across a royal blue backdrop, with a thin border of lines and stars. Even without any graphic appeal, the placard is still ideal for Trump's mission. Arguably the best known candidate in the GOP, Trump and his moniker are already plastered across an array of airplanes, hotels, buses, and TV shows. To mess with a well-established brand would be foolish. Even the overly simplistic, exclamatory subtitle, "Make America Great Again!", is perfect Trumpian bombast and vaguery.

Source: Jeb 2016, Inc.

As the establishment favorite, former Florida Governor John Ellis "Jeb" Bush has charted a safe middle course toward the nomination. His unadorned, uninspiring logo is a testament to this risk-adverse strategy. The cherry red "Jeb!" does ring clearly across a range of posters and t-shirts. The use of only his first name also speaks to his national identity and his desire to separate himself from the potential negativity of his last name, just like Hillary, Newt, and others before him. The cartoonish, ridiculously emphatic exclamation point, however, detracts from any serious branding opportunity. With no genuine icon or subtitle, the only element that draws the viewer's attention is the election year, which might seem unnecessary, save for the fact that Bush is recycling the exact design from his prior gubernatorial runs.

Source: Scott Walker Inc

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is well known in the Midwest for his conservative stance against labor unions. He is just beginning, though, to introduce himself to a national audience. Walker often trumpets his everyman appeal, such as in shopping at Kohl's and not graduating from college. His campaign logo echoes this simplicity (even though his typeface is a dark Yale blue). The nicely registered kerning and leading give clarity to the banner (which is often paired with a "For America" subtitle). The attempt at symbolism, however, with the American flag "E" fails on multiple levels. The oversized blue corner and the randomly chosen three red bars warp the iconic Stars and Stripes to a distracting degree. Also, as the media immediately noticed, his device seems plagiarized directly from the trademark of America's Best Contacts & Eyeglasses

Source: Huckabee for President

Former Arkansas Governor Mick Huckabee's current logo is an improvement on his 2008 design. Huckabee's team obviously spent time crafting this upgraded image. The soft Tufts blue background allows his snow white last name to stand out above a red and white vector of lines that invoke Amtrak or the Bank of America. The viewer's eye, however, is drawn to the minor eruption of gold stars in the middle. This is an unnecessary distraction for such an insignificant embellishment. Also, the surtitle refers smartly to Huckabee's hometown of Hope, Arkansas, but it generates confusion about the precise meaning of the quasi-religious "higher ground" reference.

Source: Carson America, Inc.

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson began his campaign with the logo above, but it's no wonder he's recently drifted toward a newer banner (which does have its own unique problems). The "Carson America" slogan is clumsy and perplexing in its smooshing together of two unrelated nouns. Unless his team was aiming for a Captain America reference, or trying to remind viewers about where they live, this jarring phrasing is off-putting in its agrammatical asynchrony. Additionally, the gold color has only successfully been employed by John McCain in 2008 with his military background. Finally, the action of the capital "A," with its miniature eagle head, its diagonal of tiny stars, and its curlycue of flag ribbons, offers too much business within too compact a space.

Source: Cruz For President

Texas Senator Ted Cruz opts for a muted tone in stenciling his name and year (and sometimes the prolix tagline, “Courageous Conservatives - Reigniting the Promise of America”). This unconventional yet dull choice of gray puts all of the lopsided emphasis on the red, white, and blue flame on the left. Cruz walks a road previously trod by Herman Cain, who similarly relied on an ill-chosen torch icon. Instead of invoking the light of liberty, fire imagery tends to kindle medieval or destructive, rather than uplifting, feelings.

Source: Marco Rubio For President

Florida Senator Marco Rubio aims to create a contrast between his youthful, next-generational appeal and his more senior Republican (and possibly Democratic) opponents. To this end, Rubio's logo is superb. The casual, novel lowercase of his first and last name partners nicely with the contemporary ITC Avant Garde DemiBold typeface. The all-caps etching of his slogan, "A New American Century," is crisp in its reminder of his age (44) and outlook. The only misstep (albeit nice attempt) is the diminutive map of the United States perched daintily over the "i" in his last name. It seems like his team felt obliged to include some sort of Americana in the design. But the wee nature of this teeny nation comes across as reductive rather than celebratory.

Source: Rand Paul For President

Much like Bush, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul includes only on his first name in his mock up, presumably to distinguish himself from his father, Ron, who ran for president in 1988, 2008, and 2012. The problem is that the younger Paul does not enjoy the name recognition of Jeb or Hillary, so this graphic might as well be linked to the Rand Corporation. Also, the nearly-black, bold italics and the alarming red blaze on the top are more alarming than patriotic, more disconcerting than inspiring.

Source: Chris Christie for President, Inc.

In his logo, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie mimics Huckabee's pairing of a bold last name with a thin electoral year. Without the other uniting elements, however, such as a background shade or a fluid shape, this rendition feels off-kilter. Christie's banner puts all of its emphasis on the stretched subtitle, "Telling It Like It Is." While this slogan effectively evokes Christie's predilection for direct talk (or rudeness), it also reinforces Christie's reputation for self-centeredness. A better design would have crafted a message about America or its people, along with an inventive icon to adorn buttons.

Source: Kasich For America

Ohio Governor John Kasich is one of the most recent entrants into the Republican race, so perhaps we can charitably excuse the rushed misfortune of his logo. The absence of any message or slogan or election year puts all of the attention on the rose red kite flying over his last name. Surely the redundant "K" (much like Clinton's "H") could have been incorporated creatively into the flow of his name, without the overlong wavy lines that imitate Zener cards. Instead, Kasich's initial comes across like Jon Huntsman's "H," a floating letter in search of meaning.

Stay tuned for a logo analysis of the other seven Republican campaigns, as well as the Democratic challengers not named Hillary.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Blue Heart Campaign To End Human Trafficking

Source: UN
While we know many schools are not in session, we felt it important to write about the United Nations’ Blue Heart Campaign on the second World Day Against Trafficking of Humans. The first was on July 30, 2014.

Source: UN

With the growing problem of human trafficking, particularly of women and children, this day hopes to raise awareness of the plight of these victims and to protect their rights.

The Blue Heart Campaign seeks to educate others about the impact of this crime on society by inspiring others to take action through a show of solidarity. We spend a significant amount of time talking with our students about human rights abuses that all too often seem a regular feature on the nightly news. Since the issue of human trafficking can be a sensitive topic, we are always in search of resources that we can use with our learners. The infographics in this post provide visual tools to help.
Source: UN

Last year, we did our own push to make students aware of the International Declaration of Human Rights and what they mean for them. We used the website Youth for Human Rights and watched each of the 30 videos. Our students were surprised by the information and statistics, and in their innocence, they could not fathom these violations happening today. This made a huge difference in their understanding of historical and current issues.

Source: UN
As we get ready to start the school year, we plan to continue to integrate human rights into the conversation, and we hope others do as well.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Designing “Anti-Logos” - Using Visual Satire To Rekindle Civics Education

Source: Bored Panda

We admit that we're fanatical about the power of logos to expand student learning. A logo packs a world of meaning into a tidy visual icon. Corporate and candidate logos combine precise elements, such as color, text, strategy, replicability, malleability, recognition, branding, and loyalty. For students, if they can unpack these multiple tiers of significance, then they can truly grasp the messages stowed within each succinct icon. This is visual and cultural literacy at its best.

Source: Lawrence Yang

In our classes, we have used logos with students to develop media literacy, to explore visual civics, and to trace Olympic history. One of the ideal uses for emblems, though, lies in visual satire. Visual satire twists familiar images to convey ironic or satirical takes on society. By warping commonplace trademarks, artists (or students) can create “anti-logos.” An anti-logo turns the intended message of an insignia on its head, using the expected visual components to springboard to a higher level of parody and meaning.

Source: Visual News
Recently, anti-logos have popped up in all sorts of places:

In lessons, teachers can invite students to create their own anti-logos. Kids can choose an established symbol and then sketch a redesign – perhaps for famous novels, historical eras, scientific discoveries, or Fortune 500 businesses. 

This activity incorporates five different rungs of higher-order thinking:
  • Understanding the essential components of a company’s, country’s, or person’s identity
  • Crafting a persuasive point of view about the topic to communicate
  • Designing a new version of the logo with a clear graphic representation and visual metaphor
  • Manipulating efficient language to tweak the original wording or intent
  • Incorporating the subtle art of satire to exaggerate or caricature the original message

Source: Fast Company, Christophe Szpajdel

Especially in the world of civics and government, a student’s ability to lampoon a candidate’s logo can provide a prime avenue for research into current events and for the development of individual political opinions.

Source: Viktor Hertz

EdSurge and Flocabulary have recently partnered, in fact, to redesign the traditional logo for a “teacher.” The familiar symbol of a bespectacled adult pointing to a blackboard seems out of date for modern, student-centered classrooms. They invite anyone to submit a new graphic via Twitter (@EdSurge) to rebrand the image of today’s educator. It reminds us of earlier efforts to rebrand education and the next generation learners.

Source: Viktor Hertz
For more ideas about teaching with logos, check out:

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