Wide-ranging Ways to Design With Words

These days multiple word cloud options are available for students and teachers, and designing with words is an easy way for learners to create report illustrations or create graphics with spelling or vocabulary lists.

Created with Festisite

Created with Festisite

Word design sites offer users a range of opportunities. Some create conversation bubbles, others form shapes and images, and other word cloud sites evaluate short passages taken from reading material. While word designing is not, strictly speaking, an important 21st Century digital world skill, these websites encourage kids to organize information and create in clever and stylistic ways — activities that were not easily accomplished before web 2.0 arrived on the scene.

Many people are familiar with Wordle – the original word cloud site — that is especially clean, easy-to-use, and without advertising. Yet, as with everything else in the digital world word cloud sites are increasing. Sites building off Wordle’s success offer various options for saving, sharing, copying, and embedding, but no one word cloud site offers everything. Most of the sites below allow users to format with colors, fonts, and typeface sizes.

Check Out These Sites                                                       Continue reading

Calculate Your Digital Footprints: Then Curate Them

I’ve written before about the need for all of us — 21st Century kids and parents — to understand just how many digital footprints we create during a single day — from email and texts to social media entries to credit card purchases to travel to smart phones and smart cards of all sorts, and much more. Each year, when my fifth graders keep a family diary on paper, just for a day, they watch in amazement as the digital footprints add up.

It’s fun to use an old-fashioned paper diary, but a few other online resources are available to help individuals and families learn more and get a sense of just how fast our digital footprints accumulate. Check them out, and you, too, will be amazed.

EMC offers a digital footprint estimate and offers a calculator to keep counting.

EMC offers a digital footprint estimate and offers a calculator to keep counting.

– EMC, a company that builds network infrastructures for businesses, offers a digital footprint calculator, downloadable for Mac or PC. The calculator is a mini-program. After it’s installed it asks a user a series of questions — the answers are not saved — and then it begins to speedily calculate that person’s footprints. Once an individual fills in all of the blanks, the program calculates how many megabytes of digital footprints accumulate, and it offers a small calculator that keeps track over a period of time. You can watch the number increase moment-by-moment.

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Wikipedia as a Trusted Source for Ebola? Yes!

Several weeks ago I wrote Why Wikipedia: The Questions that Parents Keep Asking, published over at the Platform for Good blog. I wrote about the challenges that adults face when children use the giant online encyclopedia, the activities that are occurring to make Wikipedia better, and the concerns that adults have with sourcing. Now I share a situation that illustrates Wikipedia at its best — an example that the parents of digital kids may want to point out to their children.

Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 8.06.16 PMThe New York Time recently  published Wikipedia Emerges as Trusted Internet Source for Ebola Information, an October 26, 2014 article which describes the steps that medical professional are taking to edit and vet Ebola information on Wikipedia. Written by Noam Cohen, the Times’s piece says that Wikipedia’s Ebola article had more than 17 millions views last month and profiles some of the medical professionals who are writing and editing the information about this terrible epidemic.

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Good Writing Online? Fifth Graders Give Advice

Last year, after a lesson comparing formal and informal online writing, I asked GDS fifth graders to reflect on what they had learned. We also discussed the effect writing can have on a reading audience and the conclusions a reader just might form about a writer. To learn a bit about the what we did, you can read my lesson overview, Writing Online — What to Think About.keyboard

Below are some student contributions to the conversation, written in response to my post on their fifth grade blog. These 21st Century learners understand the differences between various types of writing – but they need adult help when it comes to applying what they know as much as possible and adult commendation when they get it right.  Parents of digital kids — take note.

A Few Student Reflections on Writing                          Continue reading

Learning How to Code: Relearning How to Learn – Report #1

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Check out Scratch!

I am learning how to code, and right now it’s hard. With all of the talk about teaching children to code — I agree, but sometimes the world of education goes overboard on our newly recognized philosophies — I decided to organize a small before-school activity using MIT’s Scratch coding site. There was only one problem with my program idea. I only knew a little bit about Scratch.

So I started the morning activity during the second week of school and by day two, a few of the 10-15 attendees (children in grades 3-5) were ahead of me. “What’s a variable?” one of them asked. “Do you know how to make a game where the sprite (the little person on the screen who carries out the coding commands) bumps into a ball?” asked another. My answer in both cases was no. Sure I knew how to do many beginning tasks in Scratch, but not what these children wanted to know.

Now those of you readers who are educators and parents know that kids often take care of things like this by figuring out things for themselves — and my students did just that, experimenting and trying things out  — but I wondered, “If these questions were coming up on the second day, what would the second week be like?” I needed to master some new Scratch skills and fast.                                Continue reading