Sunday, December 26, 2010

Little robots

Every once in a while something truely good shows up. The Scrabble Flash game is one of those addictive learning games that cimbines hands on learning with vocabulary. I instantly want multiple sets for my classroom. Student can wirk in pairs recording all the words and then finding the meanings of those that they don't know. I remember seeing the presentation of the designer of these little wonders on TED, and thinking how good they would be for education. Thanks to the toy company they are now in the mass market. It just shows that a great presentation can spark real inovation and that educational tools can come from providers outside the educational sphere. Hopefully some one will also market a math version in the future. I have a fealing we will be seeing more tiny robots in the classroom in the future.
Thank you for using Picture and Video Messaging by U.S. Cellular. See for info.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Presenting Through Historic Fiction Blog Stories

In order to teach teach blogging to my students about blogging as a digital storytelling strategy, I assigned my students to write a series of blog posts about the effects that America's great wars had on our society. They had to write a blog entry for each time period and all the posts had to be connected through family lines. The characters represented journals had to be the decedents of the characters from the earlier posts.  I wanted to make sure that I had the chance to model the strategy and the best methods of presenting  information using blogging as a presentation medium.  I decided to do the activity with my students and as I wrote my own entry I came up with the idea not to just type the story and set pictures around my text but to create a hybrid format.  With a little of creative editing and creative commons images I produced the following entry.  Once we have all the entries completed I will have my students create digital ebooks through YUDU or some similar service.

December 5, 2010 ~ 0 COMMENTS       Edit this Post
My parents came to the New World to make a new start.  My father and mother came from Scotland in 1735. My father a surveyor and trader moved my mother and older brothers and sisters to the western edge of the Carolina frontier at the foothills of the mountains.  They built a small farm and my father made a kept them well trading with the Indians and selling the maps that he made of the country. 

 I was born in the winter of 40 and grew up on the frontier.  Life was hard but the land was plentiful and my father traded fairly with both the colonists and the Indians  so we didn’t have much trouble with them.
Things change though,  over time more people arrived and began to fill up the country.  Many of them didn’t want to share the land with the Indians.  They thought that they could just take it because nobody owned it.  I remember my father trying to explain how the Indians used the land to the settlers and then having to turn around and explain the to the Indians why more people kept moving in.  Most people on both sides walked away just shaking their heads.  I was about 15 when things started getting bad.  Stories where coming into the the trading post about how Indians were attacking farms and taking people.  Folks said the French over the mountains were getting them to do it.
When the fighting broke out my father and older brothers left to fight because we lived on the edge of Indian land my father said they were going to help track the French and the Indians that where fighting with them.  It seems that some of the Indians were fighting with us and my father was helping to translate for the British commanders.
Most of the fighting took place up North and in the Ohio Country.  That is until the Cherokee War.  In 1758 things got bad again between us and the Cherokee.  They had been friends to the settlements, or at least tolerable for the most part.  But then over time things got worse.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Mock Court

Never underestimate the power of a group presentation. Mock Trials are wonderful ways for students to learn to present. Because it feels more like a conversation to them the fear of standing in front of the group is lessened considerably. Here are some things that allow students to learn more about how they did.

1. Film the trial and use more than one camera. By giving them different angles students can review or even edit the film like a documentary to review later so that they can learn from their performances. Also multiple cameras helps make sure that technical issues don't arise resulting in the loss of the footage: batteries die, tapes go bad, files get erased.

2.  Assign parts days in advance and put students into different groups to work out their roles.  Any students not assigned to specific roles can serve as press coverage for the case.  Judges must write opinions.  Lawyers must write case reviews and journalists can write up interviews and news stories for newspapers, television, or online articles such as blogs.

3. Choose big cases for students and involve multiple classes.  Supreme Court cases are great because they deal with larger issues that students can relate to.  Nine justices make for a nine chances to be the judge and require the classes to cooperate and collaborate over rules and ideas.  (If you use multiple classes you under the Supreme Court model find another teacher or administrator to serve as the Chief Justice it will help keep the arguments focused and prevent the court from making a biased decision. The Curriculum lead teacher in your school is perfect for this.  Give that person lots of notice and work with their schedule.  They may be vary busy but your CL is a teacher and most of them really miss working with students.)

4. Repeat the activity throughout the year.  There are more cases than you can cover in an entire year.  By adding complexity each time students can add more to their skill set.  Virtual reenactments, digital presentations and digital evidence can be created by the plaintiffs and defendants and presented through projectors.

You be amazed at how much your students can impress you with what they can do with the material.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

President Obama's Education Address

Presidents, like everyone else change and adapt over time.  Use the Wordles of last years speech and this years to compare the to speeches and make connections to your own life after you have viewed the speech.  

Friday, September 3, 2010

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Friday, August 13, 2010

Ignite the Doodle Revolution

This puts two of 21st century presentations most powerful tools together.  Ignite presentations and active Visual thinking.  If we could only talk Sunni Brown into writing a book for students.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Dan Roam on the History of Visual Thinking

Understanding visual thinking is important to good presentation design. Dan Roam has been championing this cause for the last several years and constructs brilliant presentations that utilize and explain why visual thinking is so fundamental to restructuring they way we teach students to present.  Visual thinking is the basis of recoded information from ancient cave paintings through hieroglyphs and written language. Visual communication and thinking in the classroom is a simple and basic tool for problem solving and cognitive thinking.

SXSW 2010: Dan Roam on Visual Thinking from Teehan+Lax on Vimeo.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Conference Notes Part 1

21st Century education cannot be accomplished by adding computers to teaching.  Classrooms filled to the breakers with IWBs, clickers and computer stations does not electro-magically become 21st century trough addition.  Students may leave secondary education with the requisite knowledge from State mandated testing, but learning leaders everywhere admit that mandatory testing is part of the industrial age of education when 80% of students were trained for factory or agricultural work.  Education needs a transformative experience that addresses three aspects of the classroom environment: 

1.The methods through which students are provided information from learning leaders.
2. The manipulation of the information, and problem solving conducted by students.
3. The presentation of student results and findings

Good presentation design begins with modeling techniques for students.  Learning leaders are teaching more than just the content of their course whenever they present to the class. The presentation style itself is a learning moment.  To often, the complaints coming from classrooms involve students poor performance through presentation, but when I look at the presentation methods of the instructor they are similar to those of the students.  If you present anything with mindless bullet points or overly complex graphics students will return the information to you in a nearly identical manner.  If the instructor reads pages upon pages of outlines from the IWB then student will present the same way.  The following slides come from my student guide to presentations.  Do not read them as rules.  This format is designed to create presentations based upon Duarte Design's and Guy Kawasaki's basic framework. If students are going to be competitive in whatever they choose to do in life they need basic tools to grow.  Their are as many ways to present as their are learning styles.  The object of 21st Century Presentation is to create engagement that makes the audience want to learn more and use the information provided.

Prezi is a great visual presentation method that enables presenters to reach outside of the constraints of PowerPoint.  Like any technique it can be over used.  Learning leaders should create a personal brand, flipping back and forth through presentation styles haphazardly is confusing to your learning team.  Prezi, PowerPoint and the software that came with you IWB are just a small set of tools.  Don't forget that anytime a learning leader is distributing information to a class he, or she, is presenting. Documents, textbooks, webpages, wikis, and blogs are all presentation media. Simply using them is not enough to be 21st century.  The how and the why are the key.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Empressr is a nice presentation tool that can be used either to create a presentation or modify an existing PowerPoint.  One of its best attributes is the embedding code that allows you to post presentations to you blog or wiki.

Use your cellphone to create presentation backgrounds

This summer I spent some time tearing down an old garage
Most of us have cell phones of on type or another (or various ipods) with cameras. If you have ever been somewhere and saw an image that you wish you could share with your class, but forgot your camera? Psst...Its in your pocket. Most camera phones carry at least a 2 mega-pixel digital camera which is perfect for creating presentation backgrounds and images. It not difficult at all.

First after you take the picture enter your email address into your phone's contact list. Then send the image as a picture message to you email.

Next download the picture edit with any photo software and then insert it into your preferred presentation platform.

Its that simple. And you get custom images to use for presentations.

Taken with my LG Chocolate 3  2mega-pixel camera with no editing.
Have you ever wanted to do a project with your students using local digital photography.  Psst...Their cameras are in their pockets.

Below is a great set of dimple ideas to improve your cellphone photography skills.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Visual thinking explained by Temple Grandin

This is one of the best explanation of visual thinking and its relation to autism spectrum disorders.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Way of the Whiteboard: Persuading with Pictures - MIX Videos

The Way of the Whiteboard: Persuading with Pictures - MIX Videos: "The Way of the Whiteboard: Persuading with Pictures"

Visual thinking is important to presentation and planing a presentation is vital to communication and persuasion. Dan Roam explains this so much better than I do.  Follow the link to see the full presentation.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

What we teach them now will stay with them forever

So I'm a big fan of Sunni Brown and the visual thinking methodology.  I was looking at the Gamestorming website and found this ignite presentation.  Ignite is a fantastic presentation style for middle and high school students because it forces them to plan out what they are going to say and how they will present their information visually.  As I watched the video I was astounded by thew teaching conventions that we use and how they will be used by our students as they continue to be life long learners.  Watch the video and see how many of your teaching techniques you can find.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Visual Presentation Takes All Forms

I am beginning to realize that Hans Hosling is more than just a genius at population his presentations constantly make me rethink the way that I present to my students.  Ikea presentation technology is absolutely brilliant.  My mind is reeling at the classroom possibilities.

See for yourself in the TED video below.

The 21st century American Scholar

I picked this up years ago in college and allowed it, both by necessity and privilege, to become the mantra for my educational life.  As we move forward toward a reinvention of education through digital technology it seems to me very important to remember that the reason we do all of this is to teach students about the world the will inherit. That world is not inside the screen in front of you.  You're staring at the cave wall.  Emerson had it right in 1837.  The computer is the new textbook, and rather than let the Whiteboard take over the class it should be used as a tool for situations when you can't put the students and into the natural world.

"Undoubtedly there is a right way of reading, so it be sternly subordinated. Man Thinking must not be subdued by his instruments. Books are for the scholar's idle times. When he can read God directly, the hour is too precious to be wasted in other men's transcripts of their readings. But when the intervals of darkness come, as come they must, — when the sun is hid, and the stars withdraw their shining, — we repair to the lamps which were kindled by their ray, to guide our steps to the East again, where the dawn is. We hear, that we may speak. The Arabian proverb says, "A fig tree, looking on a fig tree, becometh fruitful."
It is remarkable, the character of the pleasure we derive from the best books. They impress us with the conviction, that one nature wrote and the same reads. We read the verses of one of the great English poets, of Chaucer, of Marvell, of Dryden, with the most modern joy, — with a pleasure, I mean, which is in great part caused by the abstraction of all timefrom their verses. There is some awe mixed with the joy of our surprise, when this poet, who lived in some past world, two or three hundred years ago, says that which lies close to my own soul, that which I also had wellnigh thought and said. But for the evidence thence afforded to the philosophical doctrine of the identity of all minds, we should suppose some preestablished harmony, some foresight of souls that were to be, and some preparation of stores for their future wants, like the fact observed in insects, who lay up food before death for the young grub they shall never see.
I would not be hurried by any love of system, by any exaggeration of instincts, to underrate the Book. We all know, that, as the human body can be nourished on any food, though it were boiled grass and the broth of shoes, so the human mind can be fed by any knowledge. And great and heroic men have existed, who had almost no other information than by the printed page. I only would say, that it needs a strong head to bear that diet. One must be an inventor to read well. As the proverb says, "He that would bring home the wealth of the Indies, must carry out the wealth of the Indies." There is then creative reading as well as creative writing. When the mind is braced by labor and invention, the page of whatever book we read becomes luminous with manifold allusion. Every sentence is doubly significant, and the sense of our author is as broad as the world. We then see, what is always true, that, as the seer's hour of vision is short and rare among heavy days and months, so is its record, perchance, the least part of his volume. The discerning will read, in his Plato or Shakspeare, only that least part, — only the authentic utterances of the oracle; — all the rest he rejects, were it never so many times Plato's and Shakspeare's.
Of course, there is a portion of reading quite indispensable to a wise man. History and exact science he must learn by laborious reading. Colleges, in like manner, have their indispensable office, — to teach elements. But they can only highly serve us, when they aim not to drill, but to create; when they gather from far every ray of various genius to their hospitable halls, and, by the concentrated fires, set the hearts of their youth on flame. Thought and knowledge are natures in which apparatus and pretension avail nothing. Gowns, and pecuniary foundations, though of towns of gold, can never countervail the least sentence or syllable of wit. Forget this, and our American colleges will recede in their public importance, whilst they grow richer every year."

--Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, June 7, 2010

I have spent the last couple of months looking for resources to reorganize my middle school American history class along a thematic framework. Middle school students have difficulty making connections in a chronological course where we don't really get to modern history until close to the end of the year. One of my largest issues was creating inquiry based classwork for digital natives that allowed them to make connections and still use primary sources.  Google labs has created an amazing resource for any historian young or old.  Google News Timeline allows the reader to search news articles from the present day back through the American Revolution and beyond.   The search engine allows thematic keywords (separate them with commas).  Even better if you click the links in the results it opens the scanned originals sources.  This needs to be spread around we can't let this project get abandoned like others have been.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Fedflix: Man and Safety Powerpoint lessons from the 80's

This film from the Defense Department was designed to for accident prevention.  Much of what it says about communication is dead on for better presentation strategies.'s FedFlix is a wonderful resource for period films and resources dating back to the early days of TV.  The film uses almost no text.  It explains the history of man and human psychology through cartoon animation and wonderful graphics.