Sustenance or swish?

Part II of the #IBDP Language and Literature course has long held a special spot in my heart.

Just yesterday I was delighted to come across this amazing new feature via the NY Times, a monthly feature challenging our graph/media-literacy. Now, more than ever before, an awareness of the media’s power and an ability to analyze how that power is made is crucial. Mass media is bigger, faster and more omnipotent by the year.  Adults and students alike struggle to cut through the noise, to decipher sustenance from swish, and to know what is trustworthy:

When presented randomly selected photos — some real, some altered — only 60 percent of participants could pick out the manipulated photos. Of those, only 45 could pinpoint what had been altered.

Test your own abilities to navigate the news via this WaPo quiz.

Illusion flickr photo by tinou bao shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Beginning to unpack part II? Here are a few activities to get you started:

Show an awareness of the potential for educational, political or ideological influence of the media:

 Take a look at the way the NY Times covered the Holocaust below.  Have students create their own short film imagining what the next generation will say about the way they’ve reported on a major issue today.


Examine different forms of communication within the media:

“Facebook is where everyone is actually sharing and discussing that information…”


Host a follow up debate with students to look at the rise of ‘citizen journalists’ and to question whether or not it is doing more good or harm.  Check out this resource and then this one to get started on research for opening statements.

Show the way mass media use language to inform, persuade, or entertain:

“We need to get serious, very serious about making important news important.”


Can your students create a campaign which gets attention? How do they learn to ‘charm us into goodness?’


Thanks Flickr for providing the featured image

From fire hydrant to drinking fountain

Welcome to your 2017-2018 Academic Year!

I had a(nother) great chat with our Head of PSE, Louisa the other day, and it inspired this post (thanks, Louisa).

We teach and live in a world with more resources than ever before.  With all we have access to, sometimes it is difficult to know where to start, what to prioritize, and how best to access the ‘grand cru’ of educational media links.  As I write this post, I write it not to curate a definitive list, but rather to spark a conversation with you–the reader.  My list attempts to offer you my Top Ten Favorite ‘watering holes’ online–these are the ten places I go back to week after week–gathering fuel for myself and my students.  I’ve focused on resources which have felt the most relevant to me this year.  Please–like Ann Powers did in her NPR piece over the summer about the top albums by women in music—debate the list, leave me a comment and feel free to e-shout at me about the resources that I missed out on.

My Top Ten Online Watering Holes for Educators:

10. Vox’s Vox Almanac Youtube Channel

What it is: Mindblowing

Where you may want to use it: Right Across the #IBDP

One of my favorite episodes:

9. Deep Look: from KQED and PBS

What it is: A Scientist’s Delight

Where you may want to use it: In the Sciences or ESS

One of my favorite episodes:

8. Great Big Story

What it is: A great buffet of untold stories that you are going to want to hear more about.

Where you may want to use it: Everywhere and Anywhere

One of my favorite episodes:

7. Today I Found Out

What it is: Bizarre and fun.

Where you may want to use it: Great for start of class/meeting provocation

One of my favorite episodes:

6. The School Of Life

What it is: All the stuff you wish you knew when you were a teen

Where you may want to use it: Excellent for PSE, mentoring of anyone

One of my favorite episodes:

5. ASAPScience

What it is: A weekly show bound to get you hooked on Science

Where you may want to use it:  Theory of Knowledge, ESS

One of my favorite episodes:

4. The Infographics Show

What it is: Gorgeous Information

Where you may want to use it:  Any Humanities course, occasional links with Language and Literature

One of my favorite episodes:

3. The Economist’s Youtube Channel

What it is: Bound to make you strike up fabulous lunch table conversations

Where you may want to use it:  across the curriculum

One of my favorite episodes:

2. The Guardian’s VR Playlist

What it is: Youtube journalism at it’s best

Where you may want to use it:  across the curriculum

One of my favorite episodes:

1. Slate Magazine’s Youtube Channel

What it is: The stuff that will keep you awake at night with wonder

Where you may want to use it:   great for PSE, Global Perspectives

One of my favorite episodes:

What’s on your top ten list? Please tell me all about it in the comment section below!

*Featured Image via Twitter: Ten by Andrea Passoni

Show, don’t tell

The quickest way to lose an audience is to start your slides with a big block of text.  I’m amazed at how often I see this happen in meetings.  Teachers spend so much time putting together amazing presentations for students, but for some reason we often short change our colleagues.  Images engage us, make us wonder, invite us to think.  Inquiry and imagination are both invited in by the powerful images we embed into our work. Give your audience a moment to pause, and try to guess where you might be going with your visuals.

“Every now and then one paints a picture that seems to have opened a door and serves as a stepping stone to other things.”
Pablo Picasso

Relying on pictures forces the teacher to think as a storyteller.  When I am putting my slide deck together I am thinking about mapping out a journey.  What do these ideas look like?  What tone should I set? How can I visualize the learning outcomes?

The added design step pays off.  Students need to practice reading images.  Advertisements bombard us, but when and where do we take the time to help our students unpack the way they work?

Reading images is a big part of what IBDP Language and Literature teachers do.  In our course everything is a text.  We look at approaches to decoding and constructing a wide variety of text types.  We consider the ways biases, stereotypes, and prejudices are overtly spread.  We think about the relationship between words and images.  We analyze fonts.  In short, we think about everything one might have to read in a lifetime and we do our best to prepare our students with a library card for that world.

If we are going to learn to read images, we might as well use images along the way.  A few years ago I fell in love with Haiku Deck.  I loved it when it was just a mobile app.  Now Haiku Deck is everywhere.  This is a good thing.  Haiku Deck operates with Creative Commons images.  Here is the sample deck I use with my DP class when we prepare to ‘read’ an advert:

Reading – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

How can we help our students read images while using images? Can we inspire the next generation of presentations to be? Can we make room for our audience to engage with our topic with an image?

Photo Credit: Tahmid Munaz™ via Compfight cc