Pictures to Perspective

Living in Southwestern Ontario, we do get our share of storms.  For the most part, you just hunker down and wait until it’s over.  The biggest inconvenience that I think we’ve ever had might be a power outage for a period of time.

Three years ago, a tornado hit the Leamington area.  It did some pretty terrible damage.  That’s the closest to being near such a storm that I’ve had.  Roughly a year later, a tornado tore through Huron County where I spent my childhood.  The powerful storm ripped through Goderich and Benmiller.

These were horrible storms and yet these pale in comparison to the tsunami that hit Japan in 2011.

The Atlantic, this week, posted a photo essay that really puts the damage from the tsunami in perspective.  Click here to see the imagery.  The first image that you’ll see is a combo before/after image.  The rest of the images on the page are also before/after images.

Witness the first picture after the storm.  Then, click on the image to see the image fade to a similar shot from today.

It’s such a powerful use of images and technology.  It really helps to visualize the power of a tsunami.

How else could you use this technique?

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Tweaking your Toolkit

Continuing on the Formula 1 theme, it’s racetime in Yeongam as I put together my thoughts.

The neat thing about Formula 1 racing is that there’s typically a two week gap between races.  It gives the teams the time to pack up and move all the equipment and cars from one country to the next.  Before Korea, it was Japan, and after Korea, they head to India.  The logistics of all this just boggles the mind.

However, moving from one race to the next involves more than just taking the same car.  In Canada, we get the UK feed of the race and one of the terms that they constantly use is “twisty bits”.  These are little pieces added or removed from the car to tweak things and get just a little bit more performace from the car.  Remember the graphic from yesterday?

In the race, they were reporting speeds of 324 km/h during the Korean Grand Prix.  If any team could add a piece here or take a piece away there and bump it to 325 km/h, they’d do it in a heartbeat and be geniuses.  Testing in the wind tunnel and in the practice sessions serves to tweak the car into perfection.  Some of the pieces may be discarded permanently or they might be stored and used at another track with similar needs.

The engineers constantly tweak to get the best in performance.

I liken the teacher toolkit to be the same sort of thing.

Why is it so important to bookmark and keep track of things?  Why is it so important to have three or four resources that essentially do the same thing?

I would suggest that it’s all in optimizing the learning experience.  Remember the old adage “If the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like nails?”   There may be variations on a theme and education is the beneficiary of this richness.

Take the humble word cloud.  Everyone knows about Wordle – it was probably the first word cloud you experienced and it does a terrific job.  However, when it’s used every time you wish students to create word clouds, it may lose its lustre.  Instead, I would suggest that you mix it up a bit.  I took at look at my Diigo account and found a number of word cloud utilities.

There probably are more!  Let me know if your favourite didn’t make the list.

Why do you need more than one?  There are many reasons.

  • It’s interesting to have more than one utility like this.
  • On any given day, your planned resource may be down. Do you scrap the lesson because of this?
  • While they all may appear  do the same thing, there are differences that would make one preferable to another for your task.
  • Once exposed to more than one, students can make a critical choice as to which one they would use for a particular task.

So, I would ask you…why wouldn’t you add all to your toolkit and then use them to get the most from student use.  Could you imagine how great the conversation would be when a child tells his parents that he learned a new “twisty bit” in class today?

So much information

I awoke yesterday morning to a message from my friend @aforgrave who had just seen my #FollowFriday messages about Ontario Educators.  He wanted to know if this was yet another automated thing I had going on and, if not, had I seen the new about the earthquake in Japan.

As a matter of fact, I was awake doing my Friday routine and hadn’t checked into the overnight stream of information as of yet.  I had just roused myself and was doing this before I got distracted with some early learning morning news and learning.  As we know now, the events of yesterday were horrible and the effects of the earthquake were being felt in the Pacific and on Americas side of the Pacific all day.

Once again, Twitter had served to be the perfect conduit of information as it happened.  It absolutely trumped RSS for providing the information to the world and the news channels seemed puzzled as to the importance of what was happening.  In my quest for news, I found that television news was incomplete and I was switching all over trying to find the latest details.  The traditional US cable channels were doing their best and yet the reports were intermixed with weather trivia, the price of gasoline, and an analysis of what the US response to the crisis would be.  I found that for the most considered reports, that I settled on Global’s Vancouver channel and BBC World.

and Twitter.

My saviour for the television news was the remote control.  My saviour for Twitter was the hashtags #japan and #tsunami.  As would be expected, the demand for information forced these types of searches to the top of the suggestions.

There was no shortage of resources reporting on situation.  It really was disconcerting and one of the reports I watched interviewed a professor from Simon Fraser University who was asked if we were experiencing more earthquakes given the Japan and recent Christchurch situations.  I was surprised at the response which was no, we’re not experiencing more of them – they’re just happening in populated areas where we’re equipped with the ability to cover it better.  Certainly, we experienced that yesterday and it continues this morning with the reports of damages to nuclear plants in Japan.

Classroom treatment of situations like this is important.  In this case, watching and dealing with live information may not always be age appropriate given its nature.  One resource that immediately came through was actually a recycled activity from CBCLearning.  It was designed for the disaster a few years ago in the Indian Ocean and was equally as appropriate for yesterday.

Links to this and so many other resources made this form of news aggregation so powerful.  For me, one of the most powerful moments was actually an image.  This was not necessarily an infographic but did convey a powerful message.

There was so much information.  The world will be solidly behind and hoping for a quick recovery from this disaster.  There will come a time when there will be educational reflection on the events.  There will be classrooms where teachers and resources were right on top of this as a teaching opportunity.  There will be other classrooms where access to these resources were blocked and so another opportunity is lost.  There will be incredible opportunities to turn this into lessons about media literacy and global citizenship and awareness.

If you’re an educator reading this, how did you handle it?  How will you handle the next steps as Japan recovers?

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