Check Out What My Kids Created with Canva

Regular Radical readers know that I’m a huge fan of Canva — the digital service designed to make visual design easier for everyone.  What makes Canva so powerful as a classroom application is that kids can create pretty darn stunning images with ease.

Need proof?  Then check out this bit whipped up by two of my sixth graders today:

Not bad, right?

The fact that with little effort, they were able to create a graphic that catches the eye and communicates a key message matters, y’all.  In a world where we are surrounded by visual content, being persuasive increasingly depends on our ability to work with still images and video content.  Kids typically struggle, however, to create clean and simple still images and video content.

A part of that is our fault:  We spend TONS of time on written persuasion in schools while visual persuasion is rarely taught outside of elective classes dedicated to multimedia content.  But a part of that is because the tools for creating influential visuals have always required a level of technical skill that even the savviest students struggle with — and when technical skill gets in the way of clean creation, students (and their teachers) quit quickly.

Canva can change all that.  It takes technical challenge out of the process, allowing kids to simply create — and the quality of the finished products that they can create will leave everyone motivated to tinker a bit more.

Give it a look.  You will dig it.


Related Radical Reads:

Blogging Tip: Use Canva to Create Images for Your Blog

Canva Makes Your iPads Even MORE Useful

Using Canva to Teach Visual Influence

Five Instagram Accounts for #scichat Nation

It was a great week to be a science geek, wasn’t it?  After all, the European Space Agency landed a probe on a comet that is 300 MILLION miles away — and we are now collecting data that may just help us to figure out where all the water on Earth came from.

That’s cool no matter how you split it.

The best part for me:  The entire landing process happened during my regularly scheduled science class periods — which meant that I was able to tune a bunch of twelve-year-olds into a historic event that I hope will leave them straight jazzed about both science AND space exploration.

As we watched the Livestream from mission control and refreshed the #cometlanding hashtag on Twitter looking for new pictures, one of my students asked whether or not the European Space Agency was posting pictures on Instagram.

While the answer to that is no — the ESA posts its mission pictures in this collection on Flickr — there are a TON of other great Instgram accounts that science geeks will completely dig.

Here are five that I’ve already shared with my kids:

@nasagoddard – The NASA Goddard Space Flight Center is a major space research center.  Their Instagram account is full of remarkable pictures of rocket launches, alien planets, stars and galaxies — and the occasional penguin.  Kids are going to love the photos.  Teachers are going to love the fact that every photo comes with a detailed caption that kids can learn from.

@marscuriosity – My favorite thing about the Curiosity Rover on Mars is that it is taking remarkable pictures OF MARS.  I don’t think students today really get how cool that is.  Not only can they see detailed pictures of other planets, they can see detailed pictures of other planets being taken TODAY by a robotic SUV that we are currently controlling.

@natgeo – There’s no real surprise that National Geographic has an Instagram account, right?  After all, they have been taking and sharing amazing pictures of the world forever.  What I love about their Instagram page is that you are just as likely to find a beautiful picture of an intriguing animal as you are to find a shot sharing the culture of people living in remote corners of the world.

@sandiegozoo – The simple truth is that the San Diego Zoo is a national treasure — and while some may question the value of keeping animals in captivity, no one can question the #cutieness of the zoo’s Instagram page.  While I’m disappointed in the educational value of the captions that the zoo adds to each image, any kid who is interested in animals is going to totally dig this Instagram stream.

@airandspacemuseum – Who’s been to Washington DC?  What was your favorite museum on the Mall?  Chances are you said the Air and Space Museum, right?  It’s hard NOT to like a place with airplanes and rocket ships hanging from the ceiling!  It’s also hard NOT to like the Air and Space Museum’s Instagram page.  Not only are curators sharing really cool shots from the museum’s collection, they are sharing really detailed captions that can serve as starting points for continued study.

My goals for introducing these streams to my students were to steal a few of their online minutes AND to spark their imaginations.  

The way I see it, most of them are poking through Instagram every day anyway.  If I can convince them that stumbling across pictures of galaxies, gannets feeding on sardines, or the uniform of one of our nation’s first flying aces is JUST as cool as the random selfies that currently fill their streams, then Instagram goes from a genuine waste of time to a place where the beauty of the natural world and the glory of ingenuity and innovation can be celebrated one stunning image at a time.



Related Radical Reads:

Five YouTube Channels for #scichat Nation

Three More YouTube Channels for #scichat Nation

For Young People, Facebook is the Newspaper

Here’s an interesting quote for you:

If that’s true, how should our teaching change?

Is it ridiculous to ignore the reality that the kids in our classrooms are just as likely turn to social spaces for news before ever consulting more “traditional sources?”  Are we failing our kids when we design research projects that DON’T require them to reflect on the kind of content that they can find in their profiles and timelines?

Has helping students to evaluate the quality of the content that they stumble across online become an even bigger priority than ever before?  Should we spend time in class talking about the ways that Facebook manipulates our timelines for their own purposes?

And if the answer to all of these questions is yes, where should these conversations take place?

Is this work the responsibility of media specialists, who are theoretically the experts in understanding how the content that we are consuming is changing?  Would lessons like these fit naturally in social studies classes where effective participation in society is often a stated goal?  Could language arts teachers tackle these kinds of tasks while teaching students about bias in online sources?

And if the answer to all of THESE questions is yes, how often is this work currently happening in YOUR school?



Related Radical Reads:

Are YOU Teaching Kids about Attentional Blink?

They Will Be Amazed.

Quick Review: Net Smart – How to Thrive Online

Tupac — Yes, THAT Tupac — on Education.

A few weeks ago, my buddy Mike Hutchinson stumbled across a pretty remarkable commentary on just what education should be from Tupac.  I’ve Tube-Chopped it down to spotlight the best parts:

 Amazing, right? 

Here’s what’s even MORE amazing:  That interview was shot in 1988.


So what’s changed in our classrooms and schools since then?  

Pretty much nothing.

We are STILL teaching algebra and German and volleyball to every kid as if they are essential to surviving in today’s world.  We are STILL ignoring more powerful topics like racism and police brutality and political doublespeak even though our students are driven to participate and passionate about changing the world around them.  And our students are STILL completely disconnected, convinced that our schools are pointless places that they are forced to go to while we are at work.

Fairyland, y’all.  



Related Radical Reads:

Problemitizing the Curriculum [SLIDE]

My Beef with the Gameification of Education

My Kids, a Cause and our Classroom Blog

Are We REALLY Trying to Engage Students?

Tool Review: Google Chrome Bookmarks Extension

In a world where anytime/anywhere access to information can be nothing short of overwhelming, tools that help us to sift and sort our way through content that matters — including the sites that we bookmark and want to return to later — are essential.

For the better part of the past five years, Diigo has been my go-to bookmarking tool for about a thousand reasons.  Perhaps most importantly, Diigo allows me to easily catalog and search my bookmark collection by tags.  That makes finding sites that I know that I’ve bookmarked as simple as searching by the terms and tags that I use the most frequently.

Diigo has become such an integral part of the way that I manage and organize information that I literally FORGOT how to bookmark sites in more traditional ways through web browsers.

That may be changing, though, with Google’s release of a new bookmarking extension for Chrome, their increasingly popular web browser. 

11-1-2014 6-39-21 AM - Google Bookmarks 1


(click to enlarge)

The extension does everything that you would expect a bookmarking tool to do.  Adding new bookmarks is a one-click process that starts from a star icon in the address bar of the site that you are visiting; bookmarks are automatically synced across computers after you sign in to Chrome; and bookmarks can be sorted into user-generated folders.

There are three things that make the extension different, though:

Folders can be shared publicly:  I’m passionate about the notion that users of digital tools should give back by creating content that is useful to others — and curated collections of weblinks on specific topics are always useful.  The challenge, however, has been that creating, managing and sharing those collections can be hard to do.

That’s not the case with Google’s new bookmarking extension.  With one click — think of the process used to make files in Google Drive public — entire folders in your bookmark collection can be made public.  Users can also add annotated summaries to individual links in their collection.  Together, this makes it possible for users of Google’s new bookmark extension to easily share what they are learning about any topic.

This functionality rivals the beautiful simplicity of — a tool that I LOVE using in class with my students (see here and here).  And it’s free.

Google automatically organizes content into folders:  One of the features that I really dig about Google’s new bookmark extension is that Google is constantly scanning my links for patterns and organizing those links into “Auto Folders.”  To test the feature, I bookmarked about 20 sites this morning about a few of my interests:  Technology, education, the Buffalo Bills and the school district that I work in.  Here’s how Google sorted them for me:

11-1-2014 6-44-05 AM - Google Bookmarks 3

Not bad for a list generated automatically, right?  Google recognized my Buffalo Bills and Education links and dropped them into folders for me without any trouble.  They also sorted links from the same domain into categories for me.  While they missed the fact that my technology bookmarks were about topics BEYOND Google, I’m guessing that as I add more links to my collection, my auto folders will become more nuanced and specific.

That’s useful, y’all.  If Google can find patterns in my bookmarks and help to sort them for me, I will have a better chance of sifting through my content efficiently, particularly links that I forget to sort accurately on my own when bookmarking.

You can search your bookmarks using Google’s search technology:  Like any tool that organizes bookmarks for users, Google’s new bookmark extension provides users with a search bar to find content in growing collections.  The difference here is that users have access to GOOGLE’s search technology — which means navigating through bookmarks is BOUND to be a breeze no matter how many links you add to your bookmark library.

While there’s nothing particularly fancy about that, it’s useful — and it makes Google and Chrome sustainable as a bookmarking option.  It means that my collection will be just as easy to navigate when it has 2,000 bookmarks in it as it is right now with only 20 bookmarks in it.

Long story short:  I’d abandoned browser-based bookmarking tools years ago because they were clunky, hard to categorize and impossible to publish.

Google has corrected all of those issues with this new bookmark extension — which means they’ve created a tool that I’m willing to take for a spin.

Now if only they’d allow me to build a bookmark collection with partners….



Related Radical Reads:

Teaching Kids to Curate Content Collections [ACTIVITY]

Curating Sources on Controversial Topics [ACTIVITY]

Managing Information in the 21st Century [SLIDE]