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.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Our Nominees For The 2014 Edublog Awards

Source: Edublog Awards

If you know an outstanding educator, or if you have benefited this year from the insights of your PLN, consider nominating a teacher-leader for the 2014 Edublog Awards. This 11th-annual recognition pays tribute to the voices who help inspire learning at every level.

Our 2014 nominations are below. Because so many educators make a far-reaching impact every day, be sure to make your own nominations, and tweet out your choices at #eddies14.

Best individual blog - Teach Thought
Terry Heick is a former English teacher who curates a startling array of perspectives. The write-ups range from on-the-ground suggestions for compelling apps to pie-in-the-sky wish lists for education's future.

Best group blog - MindShift
We're not sure how they do it, but the writers at MindShift always seem to be one step ahead of the pack in framing the debate over contemporary learning. Their blog is the first place we go each morning to feel energized for the day.

Source: Edublog Awards
Best ed tech / resource sharing blog - History Tech
Glenn Wiebe (@glennw98) features targeted, detailed, actionable ideas for implementing Social Studies resources in creative, layered ways. We learn a ton from his blending of history and technology.

Best library / librarian blog - The Library Voice, by Shannon McClintock Miller
Shannon Miller (@shannonmmiller) hosts the terrific #tlchat. As a teacher-librarian and tech integration specialist, she also blogs in a lively, authentic voice about literacy and media.

Most influential blog post of the year - "Dear Time Magazine..."
Nancy Chewning of Leading By Example wrote this blistering broadside in response to Time's overly simplistic cover about teachers as "rotten apples." This passionate and eloquent defense of teaching rallied nationwide educators to her cause and reminded families about true service and sacrifice.  

Best individual tweeter - Lisa Palmieri, Ph.D. (@Learn21Tech)
Lisa is a Director of Technology & Learning Innovation whose tweets embody that sweet spot of sharing, collaboration, and progressive thinking. We recommend following her on Twitter for first-class links and engaging chat banter.

Best twitter hashtag - #dtk12chat
The Design Thinking K12 chat on Wednesday at 9:00 p.m. is one of our favorites. It invites expert minds and real-life solutions to daily learning debates.

Best free web tool - Padlet
Padlet is the best publishing platform for teachers and students. This free collaborative whiteboard can be customized in both design and url to feature text, links, videos, projects, embed codes, and just about anything else kids can create.

Best educational use of audio / video / visual / podcast - EdChat Radio
EdChat Radio offers a microphone to teachers across the country to explore the latest learning debates. Podcasts in iTunes and the Bam! Radio Network use each week's #EdChat as a springboard into a more detailed colloquy about the modern classroom.

Best open PD - NYSCATE
The New York State Association for Computers and Technologies in Education hosts the most eye-opening and relaxing annual gathering for tools and concepts that push the leading edge of learning.

Best educational use of a social network - #ptchat and ParentCamp
The generous folks at #ptchat keep our Wednesday evenings hopping with their own superb chat at 9:00 p.m. They also organize "ParentCamps" to open up the unconference opportunity for parents and teachers to come together to help children most effectively.

Best mobile app - Adobe Voice
Adobe Voice is finally the app we've been waiting for. It combines text, images, icons, music, video, and motion into free, seamless videos that can be created in minutes.

Lifetime achievement - Gina Sipley
As a teacher, writer, and edupreneur, Gina Sipley (@GSipley) is doing it all. She's an educator at all levels, from K12 to college, an instructional designer, a global consultant, a Teacher Of The Future, a columnist, a coder, a mentor, a PhD candidate, and a leader among EdTechWomen.  

We wish we could acknowledge all of the kind educators who have made an impact on our teaching this year. Thank you to all of the dedicated professionals making a difference each day.

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:

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Halloween Safety: A Worthwhile Infographic

Source: Safe Kids
With the plethora of Halloween infographics about costumes, candy, and traditions, perhaps the most important one for this year is the Halloween Safety infographic from Safe Kids. This much anticipated holiday deserves our attention, and we should make time to talk about safety with our students. This infographic is a perfect place to start. It provides some quick tips that can be used as discussion starters. It's a worthy one to share with parents, too, especially since some of the statistics are scary.

For more resources, please see:

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Seeing Is Believing: Visual vs. Linear Content

Source: ASIDE, 2014
In order for our learners to see how designing information changes how it is viewed, the students this year placed their visual infographics side-by-side with their linear notes to see the transformation. It was the “ah ha” moment, when they could examine how the delivery of content mattered and how the deliberate choices in font hierarchy, color selection, and placement changed the way others perceived the ideas.

Source: ASIDE, 2014
Reflecting on their own work, the students saw firsthand how media could change and enhance a message. Paralleling the visual and linear content enabled them to observe the full effect of how design could give content power. It provided context for the information.

Source: ASIDE, 2014
For more than four years, we’ve been working with our students to think about the design of information and how presentation changes its perception. This newest crop of acronym infographics exceeded our expectations, in part because we worked closely to develop a stronger understanding of both the elements and principles of design. As with any other skill, students need guidance in this area. Design literacy requires the same instruction as media and financial literacies.

To help them better understand "the tools to make art" as compared to "how to use the tools to make art," we supplied them with the charts below to clearly separate the elements and principles of design.

Source: Split Complementary

The students were given other resources and guidelines to help train their eyes to think like designers. They looked at infographics created by professionals and deconstructed what they saw. The process of learning to look at visual information is a core skill of graphicacy. The ability to decode information helps students transfer these visual thinking concepts into creating their own work.

Of course, before the students started, they researched and gathered the information from various websites as notes. This included citations for the resources. We stressed that quality infographics source the information at the bottom. Our students know we stand by our mantra, “Content First, Pretty Second.” Without strong content and the evidence to support it, the message is questionable.

Seeing the shift from linear to visual helped the students teach others about their topic. It’s the same art of persuasion we refer to in media literacy. The best way for learners to understand how to manipulate information is to do it. Attraction and appeal matter, and perhaps it’s a lesson for us as educators as well. Designing information provides context for content; the more visual it is, the stronger the retention.

For other resources, please see:

Monday, October 6, 2014

The #Unclass Movement – Why Structure Is The Enemy Of Anytime, Anywhere Learning

Source: ASIDE, 2014
Many current initiatives, such as blended learning, genius hour, and flipped instruction, are all embracing the same potential of disrupted education. They all recognize the multi-latticed, pan-directional nature of contemporary learning. In essence, they are trying to make class time less like class time. We call this the "unclass."

Learning no longer begins and ends at the school bell. Students don’t switch off their devices and their senses of wonder just because the final period clocks out. Even though children have always pursued hobbies and outside interests, today they can network their school inquiries with their personal passions and continue their threads of discovery any time, any where. Learning becomes more like free time and free time more like learning.

Just like adults who juggle smartphones and information streams, kids today reach for a variety of sources to satisfy their natural curiosities. Schools that try to stifle this octopus impulse can run the risk of becoming irrelevant to contemporary learners.

Source: ASIDE, 2014
Recently, we have initiated the “unclass” philosophy to change our prevailing stencil of in-school activity. Rather than falling back on the typical model of teacher instruction and student compliance, the unclass approach imagines a classroom as neighborhoods of self-directed learning. It encourages imagination and skills through social media, backchannels, and self-publishing. Just as companies embrace flexible workspaces and educators flock to “unconferences,” teachers, too, can cultivate student dialogue and self-direction that can be continued at home at the end of the day.

The unclass approach is both a structure and a practice. It offers a strategy for running an organic environment in which children have ownership over their own time. It also still achieves the desired goals of learning and skill acquisition – such as linking the controversies of the Reconstruction Era to America’s racial climate today, or making the scientific method actionable in a digital, non-tinkering world.

The unclass philosophy also emphasizes a mindset. This outlook recognizes that students and teachers can engage in meaningful collaboration well after a 40-minute period has ended. In fact, only a few key questions can be addressed during a day's limited course time. The ramifications of these inquiries, though, can echo later into living rooms, ballparks, and backseats via social media and digital devices. Creative apps and self-directed technology mean that learning occurs via an unclass, with enlightenment an exuberant affirmation of student passion and teacher inspiration.

Source: Yong Zhao, Zhao Learning
In his terrific book, World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students (Corwin, 2012), Yong Zhao talks about the "grammar of schooling," which refers to the organization of class time and rosters into periods, sections, grades, and subjects (180). He points out the "inherent logical contradiction" in trying to instill student innovation and initiative within this type of structured, one-size-fits-all curriculum (94).

In fact, Zhao quotes Professor Kyung Hee Kim in the observation that while "teachers claim to value creativity in children," they often squelch "creative behaviors," because they are non-conformist and hard to wrangle (14). Zhao argues that transferring the responsibility to the learner emphasizes engagement, accountability, and relevance for all students (171).

Extrapolating from Zhao's thought-provoking work, teachers in an unclass find that their "primary responsibilities have shifted from instilling the prescribed content in students following well-established procedures in a structured fashion to developing an educational environment that affords children the opportunity to live a meaningful and engaging educational life" (176).

For more ideas about the unclass movement, we recommend "The EdCamp Mindset - How An 'Unconference' Can Yield An 'Unclass.'"
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