10 Awesome Free Tools To Make Infographics put together a nice compilation of free tools for making infographics. Is anyone doing this with their students? It seems like it would meet many benchmarks/standards of visual literacy, understandings of data, metrics, and more. A combined math art science project is stirring in my mind.

My talking points/lesson plan for 7th and 8th graders on

Our 7/8th grade Dean asked me to meet with students today to discuss the website We wanted to respond to student and parent concerns about how our students were using the website. If you're not familiar with it, here is how it works: a person sets up an account with a name of their choice, say "Alison Q." People can then go to Alison Q's Formspring page and ask her a question. The tricky part is they can ask the question "anonymously" if they want to. I put that in quotes because Internet anonymity is more of a myth than are reality. Then, Alison can answer the question if she wants, or delete it. All of this takes place in the very public location of Alison's Formspring page. Formspring can also be embedded onto a Facebook profile page.

Students use the site in a variety of ways including: to say things they normally wouldn't, to bully anonymously or not, to make false claims about themselves, to be silly, or just to ask age-appropriate questions.

I led a discussion on the following points:
  1. defining Formsping
  2. looking at how it technically works - Formspring server exchanges data with your computer
  3. how there is a search right on the front page where anyone can look for your Formspring page (see image)
  4. how sites like Google and are indexing websites like Formspring - talking about how "deleting" is more of a myth than a reality
  5. how data posted online becomes part of students online reputation - similar to offline reputation, but indexed by Google and around "forever"
  6. how to delete Formspring data - looked at FAQ page on deleting which has been looked at by many thousands of users (see image). Then looked at how page can never be deleted, only disabled. Also looked at fact that any questions asked by you can never be deleted. Bad decisions in that regard cannot be rectified via the website.
  7. Talk about in-school expectations - reviewed middle school handbook, acceptable use policy - and how we expect our students to use the Internet in school for school purposed. We expect our students to treat each other with respect and use appropriate language.
Some observations:
  • being honest about how a site technically works is important
  • students want to believe they can be anonymous online - they argue to suggest that they are
  • discussing transparency of the Internet is essential
  • online reputation is a construct that students can relate to - they want to have a positive reputation
  • 7th and 8th grade is an appropriate time to be grappling with this - don't ban the technology, help them understand the implications of their decision
  • not making it disciplinary, but making it explanatory helps them recognize and make their own decisions
I'd love to hear back on suggestions or on how you are helping your students understand this new social tool.

On a side note: we thought it might be entertaining to set up teacher Formspring accounts where students could ask us questions about their work/area of study. So questions like "What is the different between aerobic and anaerobic respiration?"

Posted via email from arvind's posterous

How can we evaluate curricula for bias and inclusivity?

I've recently been engaged in fascinating conversations about evaluating curricular resources for bias and inclusivity. These came out of a conversation on whether To Kill a Mockingbird was an appropriate text for 7th grade students. The books uses the 'n word' many times and portrays black characters are uneducated and poor (yes, I realize I'm being somewhat simplistic in my summary). The book is also a "classic" of "American" literature - I put both of those words in quotation marks because there are real questions as to whose classic and whose America.

I've been looking at a number of resources to try and get at this question of whether this book should be read, and if so, how it should be read. I wanted to share those resources publicly as well as ask you all for help.
  • should schools read this book and books like it?
  • if so, how do we prepare students for the words used in the book?
  • how do we discuss the history surrounding the book?
  • how do we balance the inherent bias displayed in the book?
  • what other questions do we need to ask ourselves?
Here are some resources I've been using:
Here are some relevant book recommendations from Teaching Tolerance:

Posted via email from arvind's posterous

THATCamp 2010: the humanities and technology camp

THATCamp is a humanities and technology "unconference" at George Mason University near Washington, DC. It seems like a great opportunity to involve history and English teachers in. The applications, however, are due today, March 15, 2010. Even if you can't make this year's conference, keep it on your calendar for next year.

On a side note, have any of you attended before? Do you recommend it?

Posted via web from arvind's posterous

Wide Web of diversions gets laptops evicted from lecture halls

Wide Web of diversions gets laptops evicted from lecture halls

In an unsurprising article an old media institution which is slowly withering away (the newspaper) discusses how a law school has to ban laptops in their classrooms because students aren't listening to the lectures.

"This is like putting on every student's desk, when you walk into class, five different magazines, several television shows, some shopping opportunities and a phone, and saying, 'Look, if your mind wanders, feel free to pick any of these up and go with it,' " [Professor] Cole said."

I can't see how this is any different than these future-lawyers desks are going to be. They'll be in their offices, having to do work, with a computer, Internet access, cell phones, desk phones, e-mail, instant messenger, Skype, etc, all available for their perusal.

Shouldn't law schools being teaching future lawyers how to minimize distraction, use modern tools to be better lawyers (like writing a collaborative brief via Google Docs), and embrace what modern technology has done for the legal field? Or perhaps the bigger problem is the modern legal field isn't moving to take advantage of the opportunities. My sense is that the field is, but the educational institutions training the new lawyers aren't.

I can't believe how unwilling educators are to change their practice. You've got to get to where your kids are, or you'll be irrelevant.

My rant for the day.

Posted via web from arvind's posterous