Sunday, January 25, 2015

Words, Pictures, Numbers, WOW! – 2nd Grade Infographics Attract Attention

Source: ASIDE, 2014
For the past four years, we’ve been using infographics with our students at different grade levels. This year, our second graders were studying New York City to make comparisons between its historical past at the turn of the last century with today. Instead of the typical presentation poster, they made infographics using the Easelly app.

Source: ASIDE, 2014
We worked with our colleagues Stefani Rosenthal (@StefRosenthal) and Jessica Raffaele (@miss_raffaele) to help the students gather the data facts they needed. With an array of examples from other students displayed in and around the library, these young learners easily picked up the basic elements and principles of design to create the examples in this post.

The synchronicity of words, pictures, and numbers found in infographics enables students to visualize what they have learned and share it with an audience of their peers and others. Moving the content from writing journals or note-taking apps, where no one else sees it, to a place for others to interact with it changes the engagement with the information. A teacher alone does not make an audience.

Source: ASIDE, 2014
Students worked out the details of learning the simple principles of contrast, and color for the best arrangement of their facts and figures. Knowing that their work would be on view during a presentation and printed for the infographics wall in the library provided that extra incentive to make it their best.

While we digitally show our students work, there is something different about having it on view around the building. Kids notice and love to see their creations exhibited live. The content reach also expands through the visual presentation on display. We constantly see others looking and discovering. As in advertising, the visual design of information solicits the viewer’s attention.

The participation by an audience provides learners with an opportunity to demonstrate their understanding collectively to groups of spectators, whether peers, parents, or teachers. For kids, that encounter makes a difference.

Source: ASIDE, 2014
This collective consumption of content broadens the learning environment far beyond a simple grade level or subject area. The power of audience changes the dynamic from static, self-contained learning to one of organic assimilation of knowledge.

For more information, please see:

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The 5 Best Interactive Infographics For 2015

Source: Valentina D'Efilippo

Each January, the folks from Lake Superior State University (LSSU) release their (vaguely snarky) list of Words Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-Use, Over-Use, and General Uselessness. This year, the term "curated" was put on the chopping block for being, as one commenter noted, a "pretentious way of saying 'selected.'"

Even though Pinterest and One Kings Lane may have catapulted "curated" into popular jargon, we respectfully disagree with the lexicographers at LSSU. Rather than being over-used or hackneyed, far too few students today are being properly schooled in the skill of curation. Curation is a key proficiency in face of today's instantaneous access to information. Sifting through a sea of sources and aggregating the most relevant research are critical expertises in the world of big data. Alan November actually recommends that on the very first day of school, teachers should train children in proper online searching.

In this vein, we have curated five fascinating interactives to help inspire learners for the year ahead. For the humanities, these animated videos and infographics encapsulate a wide range of explorations into history, geography, sociology, and globalization. Although they may have originated in 2014 or earlier, they paint a riveting potential for the year ahead in literacy and the social studies.

1. The Infographic History Of The World

The Infographic History of the World from Valentina D'Efilippo on Vimeo.

The Infographic History Of The World reminds us of an earlier, mesmerizing Solar System video from the Kurzgesagt design team. With art by Valentina D'Efilippo, this motion graphic pops with swirling images of the globe from the Big Bang to civilization's beginnings to nation building to the modern world. It pairs well with her infographic book, co-authored with James Ball, but also serves as a tantalizing teaser to excite young learners about world evolution.

2. In Charted Waters - Mapping A Brave New World

Source: In Charted Waters

In Charted Waters - Mapping A Brave New World allows users to swipe through a riveting visual timeline of oceanic exploration. Created by MSC Cruises, this interactive website invites students to trace the history of human civilization through maps and indeed to explore the transformation of mapmaking itself.

3. Manifest Destiny - The Story Of The U.S. Told In 141 Maps

Source: Michael Porath

Michael Porath, a Data Visualization Consultant and Information Scientist, has generated a clever tool to explore the territorial expansion of the United States. His interactive page, Manifest Destiny - The Story Of The U.S. Told In 141 Maps, takes existing map data and reimagines it as a scrolling, clickable, and hoverable series of images for students to investigate at their own paces and tangents.

4. The Story Of All Of Us - The Age Of Exploration


A partnership between the History Channel and Column Five Media has produced an excellent collection of infographics around the theme of "Mankind - The Story Of All Of Us." Their graphic about The Age Of Exploration is perhaps the most detailed and instructive, with intriguing facts and clean visuals to attract students. The other teaching tools are excellent as well, such as History Of Pyramids and Rome: Ancient Supercity.

5. The Kids Aren't All Right

Produced By Healthcare Administration Degree Programs

The Kids Aren't All Right is an interactive infographic that highlights key metrics of childhood development across the globe. Sponsored by Healthcare Administration Degree Programs, this site allows students to click on factors such as infant mortality, child labor, and primary school enrollment to see the real data about which conditions put children most at risk in world countries.

For further information about teaching with interactive graphics, we recommend:

Monday, December 22, 2014

Financial Literacy, The Economy, And Holiday Shopping

Source: NBC News
We received a lot of questions from our students about "Black Friday" this fall. It seems the play up to the annual start of the holiday shopping frenzy grows earlier with each passing year. If your students are like ours, many did not understand the hype around this day, how it affects the economy, or for that matter, why it is so important to the bottom line of so many companies.

Source: NBC News
Many students are unfamiliar with the term  “being in the red,” so the concept of “Black Friday” makes little sense when it comes to the overall economy. The video from NBC entitled “How Badly Would the Economy Suffer If Holidays Were Cancelled?” illustrates just how much the holiday shopping season has an impact on the economy even though it is a small part of the total.

Sometimes we need to stop and explain the underlying lingo to help students realize the financial implications. It’s more than just shopping for gifts. It may be a small portion of the larger economy, but many people depend on the holiday shopping season to help make ends meet. The issue is not whether it is too much hype, but more importantly, how it affects others. Either way, we cannot assume our learners understand the economic impact based on the colors of red and black unless we educate them.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Show And Tell: Visual Vs. Linear

Source: ASIDE, 2014

If a picture is worth a thousand words, why is it that the majority of work kids do in school is buried in text? We firmly believe that transferring linear text into a visual format deepens the understanding and provides a context for the content. By engaging learners in the design process, they become skilled at navigating visual details to focus on the essential information. As part of a project-based learning unit on immigration, the students created a graphic presentation about the traditions brought to the United States from a culture group they were studying.

Source: ASIDE, 2014
To reinforce the importance of designing information, we once again had the students compare the finished visual design with their research notes.

The benefits of looking at linear vs. visual communication provide the perfect opportunity to see why the design matters. It reinforces one of our mantras, “presentation is everything,” and it neatly connects to our discussions about branding and media literacy.

Our students live in a world of Instagram, Snapchat, and emojis; it makes sense, therefore, to use the tools at their fingertips for visual communication. Providing them with opportunities to use design elements in the classroom opens up other venues for creating visual information, from historical content to statistical analysis.

Source: ASIDE, 2014
Learning to look for the right visuals trains them how to streamline the information. It builds visual literacy. Selection of text, images, and design transforms linear content into a more effective presentation. They need to make deliberate choices to relay a point of view.

While there may not be more visual learners today, there would not be an explosion of infographics, explainer videos, and interactive graphics if people were not attracted to this type of communication. Our students are no different. They learn by seeing.

Developing opportunities for students to use information they gather in conjunction with the principles and elements of design makes it easier to access and assimilate content.

Source: ASIDE, 2014
It is no surprise that using visuals with students helps them convey relationships between information, concepts, and ideas. Today, there are a host of tools available, with apps such as Canva, Easelly, and Adobe Voice, along with other web-based applications.

In our 1:1 program, we found that the apps make it easier than ever for students to apply their own visual thinking to create infographics and motion graphics about the content they are learning.

For other resources, please see:

Friday, December 12, 2014

'Tis The Season – We Give Books

Source: We Give Books

It’s that time of year, when the world… can give back. We Give Books is the perfect place to promote literacy in your own classroom and at the same time help provide reading opportunities to children everywhere. With close to 300 award-winning books in its digital library, We Give Books will donate two real books to charities working in communities around the world for every digital book you read from its collection.

Source: We Give Books

We all know that kids get distracted at this time of year; so in the spirit of giving, start a children’s holiday read-a-thon. Helping others builds empathy for children who are less fortunate and inspires them learn a powerful lesson about giving back. Book selection is by age, genre, or author, and there are a host of other educational resources for teachers, including extension activities, mentoring, craft projects, and reading guides. It's worth checking out the "Children's Literature Review Blogging Project" for older students.

Join the We Give Books “Season’s Readings” campaign to double the impact of this program. Help them read 5,000 books online so that they can give 10,000 books to children in need. We Give Books is also affiliated with First Book, an organization that provides access to new books for children in need. To date, First Book has donated 120 million new books in the United States and Canada.

Source: We Give Books
Let’s help give the gift of reading by getting our students involved in helping other kids.

’Tis the season to be reading!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Beyond Diversity - We Need Inclusion

Source: UNiTE to End Violence Against Women

We watch the news everyday only to hear the constant reporting about the violence against women on college campuses, in the military, from athletes, and by celebrities. It’s hard to believe that well into the twenty-first century this issue continues to plague our nation at such an alarming rate. Although we like to think of our society as more democratic toward the rights of women, we are not without fault. Orange Your Neighborhood (@SayNo_UNiTE) (#Orangeurworld) wants to raise awareness about this issue, not only in its 16-day campaign from November 25 to December 10, Human Rights Day, but also to make every 25th of the month "Orange Day."

Source: UNiTE Brochure
Violence, victimization, and stereotypes about women fail to make it into daily classroom discussions any more than open conversations about race. Violence against women is a global issue, and according to UN Women, it is a global pandemic.

Yet our education system, which is driven by pushing through curricula for high-stakes test results, often fails to shift, stop, and talk about current events and global issues. Learners need a forum to engage with difficult topics in a meaningful way, and we need to facilitate and not shy away from them. Global issues are not an elective.

It is not enough to say that we are a diverse nation, believe in civil rights, and promote equality for women. Title IX was passed 35 years ago, and the civil rights movement is over 50. Are we really that far ahead when we witness the daily barrage in the news? Education needs to go beyond the safe conversations under the guise of diversity. It’s not just equal pay for equal work, or the celebratory “Women’s History Month.” It’s about inclusion on multiple layers to talk about the tough topics, including violence against women. Breaking down the barriers for open and frank discussions is a necessity to educate global-minded citizens.

Source: NOT Okay

It is mind boggling that in this day and age, we still hear remarks about women dressing too revealingly and drinking too much as reasons for ending up as victims of sexual assaults. How disheartening that parental advice now includes "don’t put your glass down" when girls go off to college or go out with friends. It has nothing to do with sexy outfits and alcohol; it is about consent.

Source: Visually
Some of these topics are not age appropriate for young learners, but empowering them to recognize stereotypes in the media is. For a host of resources, look no further than car and diet commercials, or Disney princesses of today vs. yesteryear.  Children with a trained eye to spot bias in the media continue to apply their media literacy skills throughout life.

We need to do more. If we want girls and boys to grow up as respectful young women and men, we must find the time in the daily course of learning to educate them on issues. So, Orange Your Classroom. There’s still time. Then continue the conversation on the 25th of every month. Violence against women does not stop, nor should our education about it.

For other educational resources, please see:

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thank You NYSCATE 2014 - TransformED

Source: NYSCATE 2014
The annual NYSCATE 2014 conference ended just before the Thanksgiving holiday in Rochester, New York. Thanks to another excellent roster of educators assembled by The New York State Association for Computers and Technologies in Education (NYSCATE), we returned with our toolkits full, ready to share what we’d learned with our colleagues and learners.

Source: NYSCATE 2014
The theme for this year’s conference was TransformED, with a magical overlay to encourage us to wave our magic wands to engage the mind. For the first time, an EdCamp component was added to the roster of sessions, as well as 15-minute lightening sessions on a variety of topics.

We had the privilege of participating in an EdCamp round on visual thinking, and we met a host of impressive educators who emphasized the importance of the learning environment and the ability of teachers to influence it with creative ingenuity, technology know-how, and forward-thinking approaches.

The social media kiosk, a fixture at the conference, added a new twist to attract educators to grow their personal learning networks with a visual display of live tweeting and cameo photo opportunities.


The “iPad App Smackdown” session by three Apple Distinguished Educators, Mike Amante (@MAmante), Richard Colosi (@RichardColosi), and Ryan Orilio (@RyanOrilio), did not disappoint. The friendly rivalry for the session's winner and the shouts of “SLAM” allowed for an engaging banter between presenters and audience. All we could think of was how fun this would be to do with kids or at a faculty meeting.

Source: iPad App Smack Down

Click here see the 12 apps they demonstrated in the session.

Lastly, thank you to the generous crowd who attended our session on Simple Ways To Publish In A Paperless Environment. All of the resources and links highlighted in our workshop are available here.

Source: ASIDE, 2014

Finally, if you're ever at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center, stroll three blocks for a delicious, dining experience at Dinosaur BBQ, and if time permits, don’t miss Craft Company No. 6, a unique gallery housed in a Victorian Era firehouse, located in the Neighborhood of the Arts district.
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