Category Archives: Critical Thinking

EV3 Vending Machine

I just had to share this Lego/EV3 vending machine created by one of my 5th grade students.  He is in my GT class as well as our campus Robotics Club.  He owns an EV3, and spent his spare time last week making this contraption to dispense Starburst candies every time you deposit a quarter.  There are other versions on the internet, where he got the idea, but he apparently created his machine using his own design.  Super cool!

Snotes

I was reading @chucktaft’s recent blog post on Social Studies Out Loud about his recent Breakout Edu experience, and almost missed a list of new-to-me digital tools near the end of the article (click here to see my blog post explaining Breakout Edu).  Taft offers a few different ways to leave clues for fun Breakout Edu experiences that I hadn’t seen, and one of them is Snotes.*

Snotes allows you to make short hidden messages.  The only way to read them is to turn them certain ways – both horizontally and vertically – which can be done physically or digitally.  There is a Snotes app (for both iOS and Android), which allows you to digitally send Snotes secret messages, and there is a Snotes Quotes app, which is a trivia game.

After trying out Snotes, you can register for a free account, which will allow you to make more Snotes. Or, you can pay $1.99 for a bunch of extra features like an “expanded secret decoder.”  Not really sure what that means, but it might be worth two bucks to find out.

It’s quite possible that I typed “snots” instead of “Snotes” somewhere in this blog post, although SpellCheck seems to have found enough “Snotes” to make that unlikely.

There are some other great clue suggestions on Chuck Taft’s site that you might want to check out.  You could use them outside the classroom, too.  My daughter hasn’t had a Christmas or Easter, yet, when she hasn’t had to solve puzzles to find at least some of her treasure…   (She’ll probably get her revenge on me when I die by encoding an evil message on my tombstone.)

*Unfortunately, the website may be blocked in your district, but you can always create Snotes at home to use for school, or use the app.

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Cultivating Communication in the Classroom

In this recent article from Huffington Post, the writer poses the following questions to students preparing for their future careers:

  • “Are you adaptable?
  • Can you quickly learn a new skill?
  • Can you draw on different, seemingly unrelated knowledge and then connect that knowledge in a meaningful, creative and effective way?
  • Can you throw yourself into a job or career and learn quickly without needing a supervisor to hold your hand?”

In essence, employers are rarely interested in how well potential employees can memorize or fill in the right bubbles on standardized tests, but in their abilities to be flexible problem solvers who are able to leverage available resources (or create new ones) to meet unprecedented challenges.

Lisa Johnson’s new book, Cultivating Communication in the Classroom, offers teachers tools they can use to prepare secondary students so that they will thrive in the “real” world that will envelop them after high school, and be able to answer the each of the above questions with a confident, “Yes!”

Lisa Johnson is well known in the ed-tech community as TechChef4U.  As an instructional technologist, writer, presenter, and even jewelry-maker, Lisa’s creativity and massive portfolio of shared resources have already made a huge impact on innovative educational practices.  She continues to add to her legacy with her new book, a practical but fun guide to infusing curriculum with important 21st century skills.

In each of the 7 chapters in Johnson’s book, you will find great visuals, industry insights on the value of each topic, and plenty of use-it-right-now resources.  One of the unique features is the inclusion of  “Communication Catchers,” which can be printed and folded just like those fortune tellers that seem to fall in and out of fashion as often as tides ebb and flow.  The Communication Catchers, designed for student use, are great tools for reflection and review of the key topics covered in the book.

Throughout chapters on topics such as e-mail etiquette and social media involvement, Johnson is careful to remind us that educators who ignore or ban technology in the classroom will not be doing their students any favors.  Instead, we should be teaching our students how they can benefit from responsible use of unlimited information and the ability to communicate in so many ways.

Although Johnson’s book is targeted for a secondary audience of teachers and students, much of it can easily be adapted to students in higher elementary as well.  To be honest, many adults, whether or not they are educators, could benefit quite a bit from its wisdom.  I would even recommend this book to parents so they can guide their children through the complexities of our digital age.

If you want to learn more about how to prepare your students for a world that requires critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication, then I highly recommend you purchase and read Cultivating Communication in the Classroom by Lisa Johnson.

Full Disclosure: I did receive a digital copy of this book to review.  However I received no compensation, and all opinions are my own.

cultivatingcommunication
Click here to purchase.

Make a Manifesto with Canva

As our school year begins to wind down, my 5th grade gifted students are attempting to synthesize all that they have learned by determining what they “know for sure.”  While browsing the examples on Laura Moore’s TCEA Hyperdoc website (click here for my original post about her Hyperdoc presentation), I found this “Manifesto Project.”  When I showed it to my students, they were excited about designing their own manifestos. We did a lot of brainstorming and discussion before the students started working on Canva.  The examples I am showing you are just rough drafts (including mine), but I think they are off to a great start!  Knowing the personalities of these students, I am very impressed by how the students were careful to choose words and designs that really reflect their values and beliefs.

I remarked that it might be fun to make each manifesto into a t-shirt, and the students got super excited about the idea.  So, if anyone has done something like that before, please give me suggestions in the comments below!

If you are interested in more ideas for using Canva in the classroom, here is a link to their lesson suggestions.

luke-ope6s0keely-1wecfxreichholz-2eygr3sccoper-2indpwkanna-1e2r13z

Visualistan

Perhaps my interest in the infographics on “Common Mythconceptions” led me to Visualistan, which I bookmarked in my Pocket account awhile ago.  The specific infographic I thought might be useful for my students was, “How Long Did Famous Structures Take to Build?

How Long Did Famous Structures Take to Build? #infographic

Having time during this Spring Break, though, I found some others that might be of interest in educational settings. For example, if your students are doing animal research, you might want them to take a look at, “Travelling Speeds of Animals,” or “Sleep Habits of the Animal Kingdom.”

Travelling Speeds of Animals #InfographicYou can also find more infographics at Visualistan

Sleep Habits of the Animal Kingdom #InfographicYou can also find more infographics at Visualistan

Another one that I find intriguing is, “Cultural Differences in Teaching Around the World.

Cultural Differences in Teaching Around the World #infographic

Like “Common Mythconceptions,” I would not recommend the entire site of Visualistan for elementary students, but single infographics from the site could certainly be used at all levels.  There are many real-life math applications and engaging topics, from “Lego Bedrooms,” to the “Evolution of Video Games.”  You could create your own questions, have students create questions, and eventually allow students to create their own infographics!

Common Mythconceptions

Did you know the Great Wall of China is not visible from space, you can’t kill someone by dropping a penny from the Leaning Tower of Pisa (or any other building), and bananas don’t grow on trees?  These are some of the “Common Mythconceptions” you can find on Information is Beautiful.  The visualizations on this page are just a snippet of what you can get in the infographic book titled, Knowledge is Beautiful, but they are fascinating to read.  There are different colors to represent various topics, such as science and sports, and the size of the circular icon for each fact denotes the “virulence of the idea.”

You might not want to set younger student loose on this site, as it does include some sensitive topics.  As an elementary teacher I would use it as a resource for some google search challenges to give my students.  It would be fun to develop a “how certain are you” quiz a-la Russel Tarr with some of the information on the site.

In a world where tsunamis of information overwhelm us every time we turn around, one of the best things we can do for our students is to help them learn how to distinguish the facts from the “mythconceptions.”

The_Leaning_Tower_of_Pisa_SB
image from: Wikipedia

Your Logical Fallacy Is…

After jumping into a rabbit hole in the form of this article about a recent study showing positive effects related to teaching philosophy to children, I found a website that I wish I’d discovered at least 6 months ago.  Your Logical Fallacy Is… details the erroneous but persuasive arguments that many propagandists use, from politicians to advertisers.  The site makes it quite easy to “call someone out” by offering the tools to identify and share specific logical fallacies through social networks.  Just click on the icon for a particular logical fallacy on the home page, and it will take you to a page describing the fallacy along with an example.  Teachers might also be interested in the free, downloadable poster, which gives short summaries of each of the twenty-four fallacies defined on the site.

In this era of “false news” and an overabundance of information to sift through, teaching our students to think critically is vital.  It’s nice to see studies that suggest that teaching philosophy might improve student performance in areas such as reading and math, but neither of those skills are of much use to students who don’t know how to determine what is valid and what is a smokescreen.

(For more resources on using philosophy in the classroom, you can also read this post and this one.

Logical Fallacies 1
Gosh – I feel like I’ve heard this one recently… image from: Mark Klotz on Flickr