Sunday, November 23, 2014

NYSCATE 2014 - Simple Ways To Publish In A Paperless Environment

Source: ASIDE, 2014

The increasing use of technology to deliver information means the traditional bulletin board is going the way of the newspaper. While teachers still display student work in traditional venues, they can also seek alternate, virtual opportunities to share projects with peers and parents. Publishing student work motivates them to see, share, and engage in the collective consumption of ideas. Simple, free digital tools make it easier than ever to display content online. Collaborative whiteboards, digital fliers, and virtual pinboards can exhibit student creations with creative design.

Source: ASIDE, 2014

Embedding content in a paperless environment promotes active and continuous discussions about accountability and digital citizenship. Our students are growing up in a world that is always-engaged, always-on, and always-connected. We need to foster dynamic learning networks that take advantage of these tools to help them navigate, curate, and publish their work.

Source: ASIDE, 2014

The increasing move toward 1:1 and BYOD programs has also pushed the speed and availability of information to mobile environments. It is important to employ app smashing and other interactive ways to engage with student work that builds on the collective feedback of teacher to student, student to student, and student to teacher.

Free publishing platforms:

Source: ASIDE, 2014


Free publishing tools:


Adobe Voice

For examples of student creations in Adobe Voice for different grade levels, click here and here.


Source: ASIDE, 2014



To create a free teacher class in Kidblog, click here


For examples of student publishing via Padlet, check out this, this, this, and this.


For examples of student publishing via Smore, check out this and this.

Source: ASIDE, 2014

For further reading and resources, we recommend:

Friday, November 21, 2014

Thanksgiving: Supermarkets And Fair Food

Source: Food Chains Trailer

With the Thanksgiving holiday less than a week away, many schools around the country enter into conversations with their students about being grateful for what they have, showing gratitude to others, and starting food drives for the less fortunate. The heightened awareness, while noble, should be an ongoing conversation about empathy year round, and not slotted into a month where we overindulge with too much food.

Source: Food Chain$
So this year, we chose to talk to our students about who supplies their food. We did not mean which grocery store. We posed the question: What does it mean "from farm to table"? Kids have mixed messages about farm life from rosy images in picture books, nostalgic views in commercials, or pumpkin picking during October in contrived environments for entertainment. We wanted them to know more about the people who supply fresh food to markets and manufacturers.

We showed our students the movie trailer for the new film Food Chain$, produced by Eva Longoria, that premieres around the country starting today. The full length film hopes to raise awareness about the human cost in supplying food and the plight of the farmworkers who endure the backbreaking labor to get it to us. While we may not be able to see the entire movie with our students, the trailer provides enough information for teachers to open up a discussion about the role of large supermarket chains in determining the price of food.

The power supermarkets have over revenue in the agricultural system is enormous. Supermarkets earn $4 trillion globally. Their drain on the revenue from the food supply chain has left farmworkers in poverty, while retaining huge profits for the corporations. Many farmworkers endure harsh work conditions, and in extreme cases, they have been held in debt bondage, or modern day slavery.

Many schools, including ours, participate in fundraisers for charities and causes, and we applaud all that educators and students do to help, but hopefully by raising awareness about fair food programs, we can collectively help break the chain. It's a fair trade for one of life's necessities.

For more information, please see: Food Chain$: The Revolution In America's Fields.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

What Role Should Blogs Play In The Life Of An Educator?

Source: ASIDE, 2014

A recent #EdChat Radio show on the Bam! Radio Network discussed the topic of teacher blogging. We were invited to participate in the broadcast with hosts Tom Whitby (@tomwhitby) and Nancy Blair (@blairteach). The conversation on "What Role Should Blogs Play In The Life Of An Educator?" broached a range of topics about online writing and publishing for both teachers and students. Check out the podcast, or download the show for free from iTunes.

A few of the insights included:
Source: Jackstreet;
Bam! Radio Network
  • Blogging levels the playing field; expressing one's opinions about education is no longer about status or access
  • Writing a blog is not just about publishing, but it is also about sharing in a community of fellow educators
  • Blogging validates the voice of each teacher and allows niche ideas to rise to the mainstream
  • Blogging is the new normal for student writing, and teachers can model this literacy
  • Commenting is an important skill for young people to master and also an avenue for all teachers to enter the conversation
  • Publishing adds a pleasant pressure to stay relevant and maintain helpful resources
For other information about teacher podcasts and online broadcasts, we recommend the full slate of educational programs on the Bam! Network. Also, take a look at the article, "Add #EdChat Radio To Your PLN."

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Veterans Day: What We Don't See

Source: American Psychiatric Association
Veterans Day infographics provide a wide range of data to help us discuss this holiday with our students, and we've written a number of posts to remember the brave men and women who served so valiantly to protect our freedoms. But perhaps the infographic above from the American Psychiatric Association is the most powerful to cross our path. It's not about the numbers of veterans from different wars, or the history of the day; instead, it represents the staggering statistics about the wounds that plague the minds of so many of our veterans.

Source: American Psychiatric Association

It is difficult to get an official count of the number of soldiers with physical injuries who were wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq. According to the website, Costs of War, there are over 970,000 disability claims on record to the Veterans Administration as of March 2014, whereas the Department of Defense official count is just over 50,000. The DoD does not make this information easily accessible, and many of the news releases don't have direct links to the data.

Source: Takepart
When we add in the information for suicide and mental health issues for the wounds we can't readily see, the numbers go off the charts. The sad truth is there are far more injuries than what meet the eye. The infographic called Combating Military and Veteran Suicide and Supporting Mental Health Care points to an alarming statistic that one veteran commits suicide every 65 minutes.

While we don't want to dwell on such depressing facts with our students, we do want to educate them to understand that the costs of war are far greater than they may think. Just because someone is not physically hurt does not mean he or she is not hurting.

Thank you to all the veterans who sacrificed so much for us.

For other resources, please see:

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Best Videos Explaining Midterm Elections

Source: Yahoo! News
Many students – and many Americans – have a difficult time understanding why off-year elections are so important. Part of this confusion originates in the muddle of yard signs and Congressional ads during non-presidential years. A larger reason for the uncertainty, however, arises from the uneasy access to helpful information. Even in today's glut of online media, it can be challenging to find simple, effective tools to explain the midterm election process. The videos we collected below are some of the best resources for helping children learn about what's at stake this November and why every election is critical.

Also, check out "Does Voting Matter? Interactive Visualizations To Learn About The Midterm Elections" to find digital tools and infographics to teach students about modern civics.

Senate Midterm Elections Explained - Yahoo! News


Why You Should Care More About Midterm Elections - TestTube


The 2014 Midterms, Explained In 8 Bits - Vox


America's Midterm Elections Explained - CCTV America

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Does Voting Matter? Interactive Visualizations To Learn About The Midterm Elections

Source: Vote Easy from Project Vote Smart
We've long admired the election resources from Project Vote Smart, but some new interactive tools are taking the 2014 midterms to mind-boggling levels. The non-partisan consortium has designed two dynamic interfaces that explore issues and candidates across the country. Students of any level will be mesmerized by the vivid graphics as they accumulate an understanding about individual politicians and their votes.

Source: Political Galaxy from Project Vote Smart
The Vote Easy site uses kid-friendly animations that allow users to choose a state and zip code to hone in on candidates in their neighborhoods. The politicians are rated on "courage" depending on whether or not they agreed to answer Vote Smart's questionnaire about key issues. Students can select areas of interest, such as "Education," "Energy," or "Environment," to align their personal viewpoints with the candidates who agree with them. Each contestant's face hops backward or forward in proportional "fit" as students indicate how important a topic is to them. This clever interaction reinforces the notion that voting is relative, since citizens care about issues in varying degrees.

Source: Share America (click for full graphic)
The Political Galaxy site drills down on every state and national figure across a spinning universe of politicians. By inputting either a name or zip code, students can navigate an impressive array of facts about each official, including votes, speeches, positions, funding, and ratings across a firmament of topics. The Political Galaxy page, by the way, works fine on mobile platforms, while Vote Easy's Flash encoding doesn't work on iOS devices.

The problem in getting students excited about non-presidential elections is the same obstacle keeping actual voters away from the polls: they need a reason to care. Most Americans do not internalize the critical importance of Congressional and local contests. To address this predicament, several high-quality infographics highlight the significance of this year's fights. The "All About The 2014 Midterm Elections" graphic from Share America offers a clean layout of compelling facts to tutor students and citizens in what's at stake this November.

Source: Bloomberg Politics
Bloomberg Politics presents a simple but effective interactive infographic that demonstrates how "A Really Small Slice Of Americans Get To Decide Who Will Rule The Senate." In this relational map, the turquoise states shift in size and location as they pinpoint a handful of voters who will determine the balance of Congressional power.

Two other infographics try to inspire younger voters from opposite directions. The "Why Young People Don't Vote" image from emphasizes the impediments keeping twenty-somethings away from the polls.

On the other hand, the "Vote With Confidence" placard from Bing's Voter Guide attempts to assuage the stress that young citizens feel over their lack of political understanding.

Source: Bing Voter Guide
Other online resources that help teachers and students appreciate the pivotal role that off-year elections play include:
Glenn Wiebe from History Tech, one of our favorite educational blogs, also introduced us to the Voting Information Project, which provides "cutting-edge technology tools that give voters access to the customized information they need to cast a ballot on or before Election Day." One of these tools is an embeddable widget that helps voters unearth essential details, such as polling locations and ballot requirements.

For other lesson ideas about elections and government, we recommend:

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Real Time Lets Students Visualize Real Life

Source: Alibaba In Real Time
We've written about data visualizations in real time in the past, including the Internet In Real Time and Breathing Earth. Our students are always amazed to watch the speed at which the data changes, and they're even more curious about how it is compiled. While the numbers are staggering for the sheer volume of data for social media and the Internet, they pale in comparison to those for the Chinese company Alibaba in real time.

Since we play The Stock Market Game in our classes, our students were well aware of Alibaba and its initial public offering (IPO) this fall. They know that it was the largest IPO in history and that it trades on the New York Stock Exchange. Now they know why.

We had the students open two screens to compare Amazon data on the Internet In Real Time with Alibaba to see just how big this global wholesale trade giant is. At the end of one class period, Amazon orders were 160,000 compared to Alibaba’s 1.7 million. That got their attention and drove them to make more comparisons with other information between the two sites. It also led to discussions about the role social media plays in financial success.

Source: The Internet In Real-Time
Real time data visualizations provide kids with real world connections to what they know and recognize. They pique their curiosity; that's their power. As with other visual content, there are a host of possibilities for using them in the classroom to demonstrate the strength numbers have on perception and success.

Aside from the fascination in watching the aggregation of data, it also is a pointed reminder that this could be done for an individual as well.

For other resources, please see:
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