Visualization Resources

Copyright © 2005–09 Joe Lencioni used under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License

In our push to adapt teaching to match the needs of 21st century learners, we often look for new ways to present information for our students. Often lost in more antiquated methodology is the visual learner. Luckily, there are many options for presenting information visually all over the internet.

Check out Mashable’s infographic on “The Staggering Size of the Internet.” The vast amount of information being processed and exchanged is incredible, especially when expressed so well in a tidy infographic. If anything, this data represents the direction of our society and how people get and exchange information.

Although it’s great to learn so much about the Internet, there is many other kinds of data that can be represented visually. IBM brings us Many Eyes which attempts to demonstrate a near-infinite amount of information in graphic form. There are visual aids for Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech; a complex graph representing the timing of flower blooms and ripened fruit; there’s an enormous collection of crimecensus, and economic data to name just a few categories. One could get lost in Many Eyes, but it is sure to reveal the “look” of data to our more visual learners.

For more encyclopedic, even wikipedic, information, visit Qwiki. Qwiki is like Wikipedia except that the articles are visual narratives with voiceovers that bring the information on many, many topics to life for students. Watch the engaging presentation on the Great Barrier Reef or watch the biography of George Orwell during a unit on 1984 or Animal Farm.

Still haven’t found what you’re looking for? I suggest subscribing to the amazing Information Aesthetics, a blog dedicated to the latest and greatest visualazations from around the internet. Just this morning, IA shared the enhanced video of the State of the Union address given last night by President Obama, complete with statistics and graphs to explain the President’s claims. There’s a video explaining the “Space Fence”: a network of ground-based radars that detect, track, measure and catalog thousands of objects in low-Earth orbit. Another post explains how to best tell a story with data. This blog really is a great resource that should be in your RSS feed.

If you’re looking for a tool that can allow students to create their own visual presentations of their research, try Middlespot. Middlespot allows users to “mash-up” various forms of media and information around the web into one place. The tools are easy to use and feature many drag-and-drop options.

Hopefully, these tools and resources will provide new ways for you to visualize your teaching. What are some ways in which you improve the visualization of your lessons?

Top 5 Tips

Here are five top tips from around the Web to get your 2011 off to a great start.

  1. Larry Ferlazzo has updated his list of great temporary email services with Why do you need temporary email addresses? If your school doesn’t provide email to students and you want to use an online tool which requires an email address, you’ll need some temporary email addresses. is just the latest in a long line of such services. Larry’s complete list is here.
  2. Looking for a large data set for teaching students statistics, graphing, and various other math concepts? Or are you looking for geographic and demographic-centric lessons for you students’ social studies education? Check out the US census data for all your data needs. In the New York Times’ Learning Network Blog, there’s an easily adaptable lesson on utilizing this data in a social studies setting. At the very least, the lesson gives some great ideas for using census data with your students.
  3. Also from the New York Times’ Learning Network Blog, a reader of the blog submitted a fantastic lesson idea using a Nicholas Kristof piece on Guinea worms. There are plenty of resources and activities in this rather engaging unit.
  4. Looking for ways to use Skype in the classroom? How about assessment of learning? Silvia Tolisano at Langwitches Blog does a great job of sharing many ideas and resources for using Skype in formative assessment. Don’t take my word for it, check out her post here and begin downloading Skype for free ASAP! (H/T Carmen Marty, eIS)
  5. Finally, from the tech/online tools side of things, Mashable offers up a list of tools that can be used to help you and your students make sense of the enormous amount of data available on the web. The hot new practice of Web 2.0 is the curation of information. The tools identified in this post are perfect for organizing and collecting all the data under a given subject. Check the post out and choose the one that best suits your needs.

I hope these tips provide some inspiration for a new year and new semester. What tips do you have that might help your fellow teachers out in 2011? If you have a tip that requires an in depth look, submit your idea to our eMINTS’s blog submission form and join the conversation at Networked Teaching & Learning.

Blogs to Read

This post originally appeared at Networked Teaching & Learning, another blog you should be reading.

Networked Teaching & Learning does not have a blogroll, but we do read our fair share of blogs. The following is a list of blogs you need to check out and add to your RSS reader…

Weblogg-ed is written by Will Richardson, one of the foremost experts in 21st Century teaching and learning.

eMINTS instructional specialist Brooke Higgins provides some great tips and hints in her blog, Higgins Help.

Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day (for Teaching ELL, ESL, and EFL) is one of the most comprehensive resource blogs for almost any topic. That and Larry updates his posts regularly.

For those looking for a higher level take on the real world applications of high school math, check out dy/dan. High school Math teacher Dan Meyer breaks down some real world applications of several mathematical ideas that’s above my head some days, but a great read anyway.

Teach Paperless, brainchild of Shelly Blake-Plock, carries on the discussion of how we can teach students while integrating technology and social networks without killing too many trees.

Of course, there are many more great blogs written by educators like you. What are some of your favorite blogs? What are you reading right now? Please share in the comments.

Have you heard about eThemes?

eThemes is a collaboration of the eMINTS National Center and the University of Missouri which provides teachers with a “source for content-rich, kid-safe online resources that will help enhance […] teaching and save […] time.”

Some new eThemes are listed below, courtesy of weekly eThemes updates:

Author Study: Rick Riordan
These sites are about the author Rick Riordan and “The Percy Jackson” series. The “39 Clues” series and “The Kane Chronicles” series are also presented. Includes games, author interviews, and interactive maps with numerous links to search.

Chemistry: Chemical Reactions
These sites demonstrate the different types of chemical reactions. Students can see videos of more dangerous or complex reactions, and laboratory experiments are included. Also included are eThemes resources on Chemical Equations and Oxidation-Reduction Reactions.

Here are some old favorites that were recently updated eThemes:

Animals: Vertebrates and Invertebrates
These sites explain how vertebrates and invertebrates are classified in the animal kingdom. There is information about the five groups of vertebrates (fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals) and the seven phylum of invertebrates (sponges, coelenterates, echinoderms, worms, mollusks, and arthropods). Includes games that have students guess a type of animal based upon clues about its characteristics. For more information about specific animal species, browse our alphabetical listing of eThemes animal topics.

Author Study: Jan Brett
Find out about children’s author and illustrator Jan Brett. Read interviews and biographies to find out what books she has written and illustrated. Includes online activities, classroom activities, and lesson plans.

Colonial America
These websites are about life in colonial North America, particularly the English colonies. Learn how colonists lived, explore original documents, and find out who lived in these regions before the English settled there. There are interactives, games, quizzes, videos, and more. Included are eThemes resources on the thirteen colonies as well as “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving.

Literature: “Esperanza Rising” by Pam Munoz Ryan
Find summaries and reviews of the book “Esperanza Rising” by Pam Munoz Ryan. Read the biography and an interview with the author. Learn about Mexico, the Mexican Revolution, the Great Depression, migrant workers, and labor camps. The following sites include photographs, maps, video files, a lesson plan, and a quiz.

Literature: “The Mouse and the Motorcycle” by Beverly Cleary
These sites are about “The Mouse and the Motorcycle” by Beverly Cleary. There are lesson plans, activity ideas, teacher guides, a webquest, and online quizzes specifically for the book “The Mouse and the Motorcycle.” There are links to eThemes Resources on author Beverly Cleary, “Ralph S. Mouse”, and mice.

Missouri: Juvenile Justice System
These websites are about Missouri’s Juvenile Justice System. There is information about the history of the system, how Missouri’s system compares to other states, lesson plans, and information about real cases that went through the system.

Reading Skills: Inference for Middle School Students
These websites are about using inference while reading. Find out why inference skills are important and how to infer while reading. Includes lessons, activities, and graphic organizers. There is a link to an eTheme on inference skills for elementary school students.

World War II for Elementary Students
These websites are about World War II. Learn why the war started and what life was like for children during the war. Includes games, quizzes, videos, and audio interviews with World War II veterans. There are links to eThemes resources on the Holocaust and the 1930s.

Writing: Biographies
These sites offer tips for writing biographies. There are lesson plans, helpful handouts, rubrics, an online tutorial, and examples of biographies written by elementary students. Also include a video on writing process.

If you have not checked out eThemes, do so now. There are all kinds of great resources ready for your perusal. No need to waste precious time searching for just the right resources, appropriate for your students. The community of teachers and contributors at eThemes have done the work for you!

Alternatives to the Typical Classroom Website

School districts are cutting back on server space and software purchasing. This makes it hard to create and maintain usable classroom websites. Luckily, the Web is loaded with plenty of free alternatives.

You say your school is unable to purchase Dreamweaver? Try Nvu. For those who like to have more control than templates offer and no funds to purchase expensive software, NVU is a good alternative to the popular Dreamweaver.

Server space for websites is being drastically cut? If you’re okay with templates, Google Sites and Weebly both offer some great hosting options. With the right know-how, one does not have to be limited to templates, but both services offer a nice variety of templates with many features that will improve the interactivity of your site. Google’s sites offer seamless integration of the many Google tools also available for free. Weebly is a slick online web editor and host that also offers many interactive components to take your site to the next level.

Sometimes districts offer a small amount of space for a “templated” web page, but there are limits to resources. Simply tap into the many web-based tools that are free to users with an email address in order to enhance your students’ experience.

As mentioned above, Google offers many tools that can be easily converted to educational purposes. Google calendars provide both a self-standing website option and an embed-able element so that you can add this feature to your own site. Google Groups can provide a password protected space for discussion and file sharing. Google Docs give you the opportunity to produce collaborative documents, spreadsheets, images, surveys and quizzes, and presentations. Many of the tools on Google Docs can easily be “hacked” to fit teacher and student needs involving sharing and privacy as well as web publication possibilities. These free tools only skim the surface of what Google has to offer and did I mention it was all free? 😉

For lists of resources, teachers can utilize any number of social bookmarking sites. There’s Delicious which uses tags and clouds to create user-friendly interfaces and organizational systems. Diigo has many great collaborative possibilities. EverNote even takes the collaboration a step further and offers a desktop version for easy syncing. All of these tools can be used to provide students their own Internet-based libraries specific for their needs.

Communication is an important component of any teacher’s responsibilities. What better online tool for communication is there than the blog? Google has Blogger. WordPress is another great blogging tool and is utilized over at Edublogs. Blogs are free to set up and provide many opportunities for interaction with your students, parents, and colleagues.

This is just the tip of the ice berg when it comes to free tools that can provide an alternative to the traditional classroom website. Almost any online tool has a practical classroom application. What are some of the tools you use for your classroom website?

Originally posted at Networked Teaching & Learning.

This is what we do.

Sometimes I need some proof or theoretical support for what I do as an eMINTS Instructional Specialist. The following video fills this need…

RSA Animate – Changing Education Paradigms

Picture 3

Aside from your political leanings, Sir Ken Robinson has some excellent points.

Robinson points out that education is undergoing a massive reform effort. The reform is geared to prepare our students for the economy of the 21st century while maintaining cultural identities in a time of globalization. However, we’re using an approach to learning and instruction that originated in the 18th and 19th centuries. What we need is a system that encourages collaboration and creativity, not traditional academic abilities. This is Robinson’s contention and it matches what we are doing with the eMINTS Instructional model.

Robinson’s assertions support the information and training I am brining to my teachers. And how do we do this at eMINTS? We provide training and support in community-building, cooperative learning, critical thinking, creativity, inquiry, and collaboration all through the use of technology. You can’t get anymore 21st century than that.

The Right Foot


It’s August and that means teachers everywhere will be preparing for the new school year. The edtech and edublogger communities are doing the same as they do their “back to school” blog posts with ideas and resources galore. I’ve collect a few for you to peruse as you prepare your classroom for the new school year.

Always ready with a plethora of resources is Larry Ferlazzo posted some great first day ideas as suggested by his commenters. Larry provides you with a rundown of the kinds of things he does with his students on the first day. Then, he adds suggestions from his readers in order to provide additional perspectives. The greatest asset of Larry’s blog is that he posts regularly and updates older posts constantly. Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day is a definite addition for anyone’s blogroll.

Pernille Ripp over at Blogging through the Fourth Dimension takes a different approach to the first day of school. Instead of listing all the things she (or her readers) will do, she prefers to list what she won’t do. What you’ll find is a surprising and insightful list. Luckily for us, Ripp provides an explanation for why she’ll leave certain first day traditions out. Here’s an example:

Give you a list of my rules; we will make expectations together.

For those of my readers who are currently in eMINTS training or have completed their two-year commitment, you’ll remember how students can take so much more ownership of their classroom when they can make the class expectations with you. Be sure to check out Ripp’s other suggestions as their are just as valuable to creating a cohesive classroom community.

A new year means trying new things, right? Richard Byrne lists “11 Techie Things for Teachers to Try this Year” on his blog, Free Technology for Teachers. A couple of the suggestions are components of your eMINTS training (social bookmarking, creating a website) and some are newer, exciting ideas to try (creating a class wiki, using maps to tell a story, etc.). Even if you don’t use all of Byrne’s suggestions, you should certainly use the post as inspiration to extend your eMINTS training this year and try something new with all the great online tools that are out there.

Sometimes we are rusty on our teaching practices and pedagogy thanks to a long summer of rest and relaxation. For a little refresher on Bloom’s Taxonomy, check out this video explaining the levels of the taxonomy using scenes from Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl[1]

Bloom\’s Taxonomy According to Pirates of the Caribbean

Before I sign off, I have two other things for you to ponder as the school year begins. First, read this post by Will Richardson. It will make you think and question how we teach, kids learn, and for why we send children to school. It’s a short post, but thought-provoking nonetheless. Second, on a lighter note, be on the lookout for students using Sharpie pencils. They’re basically like erasable pens. However, after 24 hours, the ink becomes permanent. Check out the new Sharpie pencil here.

I hope this post gets you geared up for a great school year. Let me know what you plan to do for your first day of school in order to get the year off on the right foot.

Image Source:

1I’m sorry if you can’t see the video. This might be a good reason to get your schools block on YouTube lifted. It is a wonderful resource with many great videos with fantastic educational value.
2The way I understand it, the packaging claims that the ink becomes permanent after 24 hours, but the Sharpie company is saying three days.

Hump Day Links (HD_Links)

So, in order to jump start this blog once again, I’ve decided to start a regular feature with some links. No blog post is as easy as one that simply shares interesting links. The links below don’t all fall under any one topic or theme, but I think you will find them useful and/or insightful.

First, an explanation of the kinds of links I’ll provide. The link to use is a link to an online tool that has very practical uses for teachers. The second link is a tool or site just for teachers to use as inspiration or to improve productivity. The resourceful link is simply a teaching resource to improve teaching practices. The fourth link is to another website or blog that’s listed some useful resources for teachers. The final link is something more intellectual or meta.

I hope you’ll find something you can use in my list. Look for the Hump Day Links every Wednesday*.

A Link to Use: Similar Sites
Looking for an alternative to that great Web 2.0 tool that’s a little to public or “adult” for your classroom? Similar sites allows you to search for those online tools that are an alternative to popular websites that may be questionable for school use. Just type in the URL for a popular site and the results are based on user submissions of sites with kindred purposes and content.

A Link Just for You: Classroom Architect
When I was teaching in the classroom, I would spend hours trying to configure the perfect learning environment. What I needed was the Classroom Architect. Using this website, a teacher (or even students) can plan the layout for any classroom. Use the pre-designed avatars or draw your own shapes to represent the furniture and equipment in your classroom in order to design your ideal learning environment.

A Resourceful Link: Dr. Christie’s Using Spreadsheets in K-12 Classrooms
Dr. Christie shares many good links for using spreadsheets in the classroom. Some of the links are data resources, examples of spreadsheets in action, and other resources with ideas for using Excel (or even a Google Spreadsheet here and there) in your classroom.

A Link to Links: Top 10 Sites for Creating Timelines
David Kapuler shares an excellent list of the best timeline creators on the web. There are many out there, but I have had a hard time sorting them out. David does the work for me. One could use timelines for any subject area, not just history. Consider the sequence of a story or a process. Timelines can be a great alternative way for students to share work.

A Link to Make You Think: Hey Teachers: This is How I Learn.
TeachPaperless is a great blog, loaded with ideas for navigating the 21st century classroom…paperless, of course. Today’s post shares the thoughts of students on learning. It’s really insightful and separates personalities from actual student needs. Take note and consider how you will adjust your teaching next fall.

Be sure to check my running list of Hump Day Links (HD_Links) over at my Delicious page.

*Now that it’s in print, I have to do it.


So, I haven’t very good at posting here lately. I post elsewhere on other topics, but this blog hasn’t been the best tool for training teachers. To be honest, this is my own fault. I really just need to post more.

Now, eMINTS has to refocus its efforts as the state is desperately cutting budgets, but I won’t bore with that stuff. We have work and for this I am thankful. We are looking at ways to expand eMINTS and diversify what we do in order to both stay alive and relevant. It should be interesting.

So, I too will have to refocus my energies. Some of that work will happen here. I considered dropping the blog, but there are just too many great conversations going on out there that I have to join.

So, look for a few changes and a more purposeful outlook here at Suppl_eMINTS. I promise not to disappoint.

[Image: Public Domain]