Tag Archives: SocialStudies

What the World Should Know About________? Project

I teach a high school Social Studies class that emphasizes in developing English language development. We have started this project on creating info graphics that inform. Below is the nature of the unit and the general outline of the assignment.


The Technocratic Revolution: Science/Technology/Communications.

With the exception of communications-often coupled with transportation-this category of issues receives little attention in the earlier sources examined.  However, virtually all historical sources emphasize the role that science, technology, and communications have played in the lives of all humans.  The study of science and technology provides an ideal vehicle for social studies, as well as math and science learning.  Students will discuss both the pluses and minuses of the impact of science and technology on peoples’ lives (now and in the past) worldwide.

The communication cluster includes innovations, networking, freedom of use, the information revolution (access to, balanced flow, and censorship) and increasing speed coupled with decreasing costs.

While this unit is specifically directed at how science and technology are shaping the world, the significant study of past historical ideas and innovations can show us how change occurs in the past.


The history of human development is closely tied to ideas, technology, and the search for truth. This unit is an depth focus on the nature of those ideas and innovations that have contributed to transforming the global landscape as well as redefining human relationships. With technology and science as major agents of change, students will be asked to reflect on specific periods of scientific development in order to establish a broad perspective across regions and time.


· Students will identify key contributions to scientific thought

· Students will explain human achievements to science & technology.

· Students will differentiate between what is positive and/or negative about science & technology

· Students will analyze a period of scientific growth in depth by forming an essential question and building a document based product that supports the question.

 Task 2:  Infographic on Innovation – 

  • Choose one of the following:  glass, textiles, paper/money, energy, communication and construct an infographic with a target audience that is global. The title of the infographic is “What the world should know about___________________” (or a better title if your the creative type).
  • Read Five Things To Know About Technology and consider how changes and developments over time have been agents of change. (energy for example, with steam powering the Industrial Revolution, demographics changes accelerated.)
  • Consider how visuals may be integrated to form new ideas.
  • Use the Coffee infographic as an exemplar.
  • Weave history, statistics, and anecdotal research into the infographic; pique interest of the audience
  • Consider the power of continuity and color contrast/combinations when designing the infographic.

See examples of infographics; Tools for making infographics; Consider organization (timeline, subject, theme)


Copyright © 2012 Matthew Inman. Please don't steal.

From Complexity to Clarity, It’s a Visual World After All

“Visual literacy is the ability to interpret, use, appreciate, and create images and video using both conventional and 21st century media in ways that advance thinking,decision making, communication, and learning.” – Engauge Report on 21st Century skills

In 1826, Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, a curious sort interested in the emerging field of lithography, utilized a pewter plate, a few chemicals, and eight hours of daylight to bring the world the first photograph (or heliograph as it was called) dooming the then emerging artistic movement known as Realism. Within a few short decades, capturing life’s moments and likenesses became common place, infiltrating the lives of people everywhere by bringing news, enhancing prose, providing proof, and most importantly, affecting beliefs. We know now that the photograph is just an extension of what people have been drawn to eternally: the power of the visual.


I sincerely doubt there is anything artificial much more complex than cyberspace…


As a history and psychology teacher, I am inclined to provide significant opportunities for students hone their visual literacy skills. Here are a few ways  visual literacy may be embedded into lessons:

  • Using a practice known as SOAPSTone, students apply a number of specific critical thinking questions to charts, graphs, photos, and political cartoons (collectively known as infographics).
  • Photo essays with Voicethread, Weebly, and Clevr
  • What’s happening and why? – provide a photo or series of photos centering on an historical event and have students identify the event and how the picture is connected to the events significance.
  • How Many Really?
  • Create infographics like this one created by a student last year:


created by Adisa Narula, Ruamrudee International School

But it wasn’t until I stumbled onto this resource that I could see the proper way to approach functionality of the visual in the proper context. You see visuals often play a very specific role in the external environment.  I am inclined to see how visuals can take complex issues or situations and bring much needed clarity to the viewer. I can also see the opposite effect of the visual when considering the aesthetic value of art or the  powerful purpose of a symbol. Through history, symbols have provided meaning and ambiguity. Man’s earliest attempt to provide help and also conceal secrets have come through visuals (Dan Brown has made millions of dollars off of this concept). One of the earliest, and still one of my favorite, websites is an outstanding educational tool called the Encyclopedia of Symbols which allows users to identify symbols through their unique  visual characteristics (axis; hard/soft lines etc.) and also find symbols that have a special meaning to the individual. I highly recommend adapting this resource into a lesson for it’s appeal and visual literacy components.

So what makes humans so attune to visuals? Short answer: It’s the brain.

Cognition requires energy and focus. The brain looks for significant meaning by anchoring itself to cues. The trick is the nature of the cue and the proper level of association to the cue (that conceptually is the fundamental purpose of forging connections). Text, for example, is a symbol system and must be decoded to have meaning. That is, the brain first must compare letters and word-forms with shapes stored in memory. Then it gauges how the words fit together in the context of sentences, and so forth. All considered, reading is a lot of mental work. Granted, such effort may be perfectly justifiable while reading a novel and sipping iced tea in the back yard, but it’s not effective when listening for long periods of time. More importantly, written languages are accompanied by particular nuances that slows down processing.

Alternatively, images require relatively little processing because they fit with the message. Audiences routinely and efficiently observe visuals, analyze their meanings, and give attention to the speaker’s words, without a problem. That’s why watching television or movies is effortless. Showing people meaningful, content-based visuals, as opposed to text, lessens their cognitive exertion and improves overall experience. Most importantly, clarity is brought to complex concepts by allowing for entire pieces of a concept to be identified at the same time. The synchronic feature of images is often underscored….unless you are looking at a subway map or a complex photo.

Teachers should consider anchoring their lessons in visuals as either tools or as assessment products. According to the Engauge Report, students who are visually literate:

* Have working knowledge of visuals produced or displayed through electronic media

* Understand basic elements of visual design, technique, and media.

* Are aware of emotional, psychological, physiological, and cognitive influences in perceptions of visuals.

* Comprehend representational, explanatory, abstract, and symbolic images.

* Apply knowledge of visuals in electronic media

* Are informed viewers, critics, and consumers of visual information.

* Are knowledgeable designers, composers, and producers of visual information.

* Are effective visual communicators.

* Are expressive, innovative visual thinkers and successful problem solvers.”

It is reasonable to embed one or more of these outcomes into any unit plan and to help with that adaption, I have placed a very cool and helpful tool below called the The Periodic Table of Visualization Methods . Use this tool to complement the lessons you plan or for students to use when creating visuals (which is one of the emerging 21st century skill sets in commercial and non-commercial sectors of society).

Amazing way to think about visualizations.

I was very excited to find the video below to support the utility of visuals. Academy Award winning director Martin Scorese is a huge proponent of visual literacy initiatives and articulates what he believes to be the key power of visuals in reaching creating meaning and connecting to a wider audience.

A Conversation with Martin Scorsese: The Importance of Visual Literacy



Learning Dilemmas of the 21st century (it’s not all bad)

Teaching internationally has excellent benefits and, at times, heart-wrenching costs. There is a high degree of stress that comes with the wide-range of responsibilities shared by faculty and staff that make weekends feel short and workdays stretch. Educational historians may look back at the initial decade of the 21st century as the “dark times” prior to an even larger paradigm shift in formal secondary education. A time when collegiality was replaced with cynicism; a time when break room conversations turned vitriolic regarding the changes that all could see coming. There are those that distrust emerging tools and 21st century approaches to education, and others ready to ‘storm the barricades’ in it defense. In the international community, where reputation and professional growth are the driving factors behind successful postings, teachers have rare opportunities to be mavens in education by escaping the standardized testing climate of home. International teachers are not interested in things like tenure because they are impractical; we are interested in “what’s new?” or “what’s coming?” and how can this help me both professionally and personally.

The topics covered in Coetail #2 have really provided context in understanding the values that will likely drive formal education in the future: the importance of sharing and having empathy. With proper use of intellectual material and protocols to use materials, content will continue to proliferate and the opportunities to create shall be a visible force for change. Blogging about cyber-bullying, in the shadow of the death of young boy who took his own life as a result of bullying, hit me very hard as a teacher and father. Standardized tests didn’t help that young man and I’m sure that is what all of his teachers focused their attention upon. The situation is as much sad as it is criminal.

The Coetail 2 project our group developed is a very elaborate and engaging lesson plan for teaching proper use of intellectual property and the thinking that drives Creative Commons. Our group from Ruamrudee International School collaborated and commented one another’s contributions and tailored the lesson toward students with options for informing parents. Students will take a short assessment that will email them the results. The lesson will be useful to any program teaching digital citizenship or relying heavily on visual media.

I would like to say that the face to face time in the cohort has gone way beyond any classroom experience I’ve ever encountered as a student. The case studies and engaging opportunities are great, but the large group discussion with so many fine teachers and fine people have been excellent. We do have a great cohort with great ideas (as the blogs indicate), articulation, and visible passion for teaching.

To finally arrive at the point of the title of this entry, I do see the problems in education as something that can be fixed (in order to make room for new problems). We have awfully intelligent students who are on the average smarter now than any generation before them. They are doing things much earlier and with higher expectations of results. So what is the PROBLEM? Maybe it’s us as teachers always trying to solve something or sensationalizing the issues because at least then we have something to make a crusade about. I guess there is always something to complain about. Even in a world that’s pretty damn awesome.

My concern: my pre-school aged daughter will be a member of the Class of 2026. I am inclined to ask her teachers (many are younger than I am) what they believe the world will be like in 2026 and are they really preparing my child for that kind of environment. That should be a driving question for all educators.