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TED Talk Tuesday: Tom Wujec Build a Tower, Build a Team

The group that consistently fails at the marshmallow task: recent graduates of business school. Business students are trained to find the single right plan and then execute it. The problem with this strategy is that they wait for the last minute to add their marshmallow to the top of the structure and when their plan fails, it is a crisis. The group that consistently succeeds at the marshmallow task: recent graduates of kindergarten. Kindergarten students start with a model and they build successive prototypes of their structure. They always keep their marshmallow on top. They have multiple opportunities to refine their structure until it is working. With each version of the prototype, students are getting instant feedback about what works and what doesn’t and they can adjust accordingly. Kids don’t spend time trying to be CEO of Spaghetti Inc. They aren’t jockeying for power, they are working together creatively and having fun. What stands out to me about the data that Tom Wujec shares, is not that architects and engineers build the best towers (as he says, we would expect that), but that kindergartners are not very far behind. This makes me wonder about what important things we are deprogramming kids to do as we send them through the education system. If the education system was really working, I would expect that adults would be able to construct the best, highest towers. I would expect that those with the most education would build the best towers. But as we see, this isn’t the case. In school we teach students that everything has a correct answer. Sometimes that answer means filling in the “c” on a bubble test, and sometimes it means getting your teacher to nod and say “that’s right”. School has become a game of “guess what the teacher is thinking”.  As a result, we have students who can come up with one correct solution to any problem. In the real world, we often need more than one right solution. Many times we need several solutions and creative thinking applied to the problem. Our most recent example of this is the BP oil spill. I can’t help but wonder what great solutions kindergartners would come up with that adults aren’t even considering because we have been deprogrammed to think that way. What does this mean for schools? It means that we need more opportunities for students to explore multiple solutions to a problem, it means that we offer kids the chance to discuss and stop asking the one answer questions all the time. Sometimes there is one correct answer, but in life that isn’t always the case. Students need to be given the chance to explore both options. (As a side note, it is interesting to me that when the incentive of a prize was offered, not one team had a standing structure. I am working my way through Daniel Pink’s book Drive right now and it mirrors what he says in the book.)

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Piktochart: Create your own infographics

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Art, Create, Evaluate, Geography, Government, History, Math, Middle/High School, Science, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Technology, web tools, Websites | Posted on 09-10-2012

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What it is:  Piktochart is a great web app that makes it easy to create your own infographics.  Piktochart has free and premium options.  With the free version, there are a handful of themes to choose from.  Premium themes are also available, if you are so inclined.  After you choose a theme, the next job is to change the mood and edit the information on the chart.  Students can add shapes, graphics (uploaded), theme graphics, and text to the infographic.  Students can add a chart where they manually input data or upload a cvc file.  This is especially helpful if they have been data collecting in another program.   There are some features that are only available to pro users.  Not to worry, there are enough available for free that you can make a pretty rockin’ infographic that gets the point (or data) across.

How to integrate Piktochart into the classroom: Piktochart is a superb way for students to work on those statistics/probability standards.  Being a visual learner myself, I love the way that infographics seem to make data easier to digest.  Piktochart can be used to display any type of statistical or mathematical data in new ways.  Students can show what they are learning in history, about the world population (miniature earth), science, in the book they are reading, geography statistics, etc.

The way that infographics allow students to blend learning across the subject areas is fantastic.  It isn’t just math; it is math, and art, and science/social studies/history/geography/technology.  Any time we can help students recognize the overlaps that exist in learning and subject area, it is a win!

A few weeks ago, students at Anastasis discovered that America’s biggest export is trash. They started digging and found statistics about the amount of trash Americans throw away each day (7lbs/person) and how much was recycled vs. what ended up in a landfill.  They also looked at statistics of what receiving countries like China and India did with the waste being imported.  It was fascinating!  Students created infographics showing what they had discovered in their research.  It was eye-opening when they translated that trash per person into a year’s worth of trash and figured out how many football stadiums that it would fill.  When they could see it graphically, it had an impact on their thinking.  The result was: “it is up to us to change this…”

Pretty amazing when the conclusion to learning is transformation…change.

Tips: In the free version:  Basic themes, 5 image uploads, Piktochart’s watermark. Pro version ($29.00/mo): 80 themes (and growing), additional customization, more image uploads, no watermark.

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using  Piktochart in your classroom.

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