Visual Literacy Tool – PictLits

Recently, I was contacted by Carrie Lightner from She said:

I came across your blog and I thought you might be interested in our new web site, It is a fun and new site that can be a great online teaching tool for educators. It helps get students interested in writing and serves up a fresh image and custom list of words each day.

After checking it out, I agree. I think that the site has the potential to engage visual learners. In particular, I am interested in the idea that you can have students drag and drop words on top of images, and they
could develop haiku-like poems or statements with an image to supplement it. In a sense, it is like using layers in Photoshop to add text to a picture, yet much more user friendly and easily embeddable.

I wonder what kinds of assignments we could ask our students to do using a tool like this?

Engaging in the Discussion

Well, it is a bit hypocritical of me to post these links right now, as I have not had a chance to even check email until today, let alone become a part of these conversations.

But, there are a few things going on right now that are worth checking out.

First, I got an email about this: “Britannica’s new forum on “Brave New Classroom 2.0” is live, and we welcome your comments, as we discuss whether technology is improving or hindering learning (and the teaching of writing) in schools.”

Second, K12 Online and Not K12 Online both launched. Bud discusses the idea behind Not K12 Online.

That’s about it for now. I hope to have some time for blogging here in the near future, but we all know how that goes! At least the Halloween (sugar) rush is almost over…

Smile Teacher, You’re on YouTube!

An RCWP colleague and friend, Heather Lewis, posted this message to the RCWP listserv last week:

I found this article interesting. Part of me is like: I shouldn’t do anything in my class I wouldn’t want broadcast.

But then part of me is like: Hey, they’re taking things out of context and slanting the information..

Thoughts. Ideas.

Got me thinking… and here is my response to the list:

Hi Heather,

I agree with you on both of the ideas you share, for sure. Case in point — the photos of me in this week’s RCWP newsletter. I knew that some people where taking pictures (mainly because I saw the cameras), but these look like ones snapped with a cell phone, of which I was not aware. Of course, there is nothing for me to be embarrassed about in this situation [they missed the part where I picked my nose, I suppose 😉 ], but it reminded me of how quickly and easily photos and videos can be shared now.

So, in some sense, I know that when I am teaching, I have a “filter” on. Even if it isn’t a photo or a video, I teach in a computer lab, and I know that a student could email, blog, wiki, facebook or tweet about whatever I say or do. Given CMU’s current state of contract negotiations between the faculty and the administration, I am *extra* careful whenever students ask me about anything related to that during class time. Even those times when I used to feel free to share personal writing or admit to the fact that I wasn’t quite clear about a concept or an interpretation of a text, I do take the mental pause of thinking… where and how could what I am saying and doing be shared out of context. “Oh, look at that liberal professor admitting that he doesn’t totally understand the concept of warrants in the logic of argumentation…”

Of course, this type of monitoring used to happen all the time merely through notes, gossip, and PTA meetings (whoops… did I just say that?). Now, it is just faster and the “evidence” of what you said or did is more accessible and permanent. In this case, should the band teacher or cheerleading coach be embarrased for what they did? Probably not, because we all do humorous things to get attention. Should the yellers and jabbers be embarrased? Probably. However, have we all had moments, as the article states, that are “regrettable moments of a teacher pushed to the breaking point.” I know I have. At least they haven’t been caught on tape. Not yet, at least.

So, does it scare me that these moments could now be on YouTube? Yes, a little bit.

But, they are a natural part of teaching.

I hope that the years of positive student comments can outweigh one regretable moment on YouTube, if it ever happened.

I will take the risk and keep teaching.

Thanks for sharing this article.


So, I repeat Heather’s original query: Thoughts. Ideas.

I look forward to hearing from all of you and thank you again for your kind words about the Fries Award.

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Thank You, Thank You, Thank You

My sincere thanks go out to all my colleagues in the Michigan Council of Teachers of English, the Red Cedar Writing Project and all the other professional organizations that I have been a part of in the past decade. Last Friday, I was genuinely surprised to be awarded the Charles Carpenter Fries Award, reported here by Andrea Zellner in the RCWP e-Newsletter:

From the October/November 2008 RCWP e-Newsletter

My favorite moment, though, was the look on our own Troy Hicks’s face as his name was called to receive the Fries Award, presented by Rita Maddox:

The Fries Award, first given in 1967, was named in honor of Charles Carpenter Fries, a University of Michigan Professor and an early president of MCTE. Recipients of this award have served their local communities, have provided significant service on state and/or national levels, and in general have demonstrated outstanding leadership in the field of education. Troy more than fits the bill. Congratulations, Troy! We are all so proud of you!

Of the many times in my life that words have escaped me, I wish that they would not have at the moment Rita honored me with the award.  Along with Janet’s kind letter about my work, this award means a great deal to me since it came from my peers. I thank all of you – my colleagues and friends from MCTE, MCEE, RCWP, and NWPM – for nominating me, and should have taken a moment to express my appreciation while standing there at the podium.

Moreover, as you all know, the one person that I wish could have been there to share it with me, my wife, Heather, deserved to be mentioned, too, as she supported me through my many years in the classroom and graduate school. She made much of what I was able to accomplish possible through her love and encouragement, and I feel that this award honors her memory, too.

Although the moment has passed to make these words public in front of the gathered membership of MCTE, I hope that my appreciation comes through as much by posting my sentiments here on my blog as it should have in person.

Thank you.

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A note from Jermaine Lievendag of

We have launched a website called is a website that allows visitors to view, create and compare timelines. These timelines can be illustrated with pictures, text, YouTube movies and MP3. On our website, you will find timelines about music, movies, history, politics, art et cetera. As the website is very educational, so our site is very popular among teachers and students.

Next to this portal, we offer our software as a service to companies and institutions. Our timeline application can be fully integrated in the website of that company or institution, showing its own content via the TimeRime software. Educational publishers use this software as part of their history learning methods. As a result students are using in the classroom very frequently.

If you want more information about the website or about us, please contact us at:

This appears to be a highly interactive way to make a timeline. As some of the students in my ENG 460 class consider ways that they can represent their projects through timelines, I think that TimeRime could be one way for them to develop multimedia representations of their work. I am not sure if users can collaborate on timelines, but if anyone gives it a try, please let me know.

Correction on 10/8/08: Jermaine let me know that, yes, you can invite collaborators to your timeline. Very cool!

Notes from 7 Revolutions Webcast

Notes from Seven Revolutions Webcast

by Erik Peterson, Senior Vice President, Center for Strategic and International Studies

  • Intro
    • Saint Exupery – “… your task is not to foresee the
      future, but rather to enable it.”
    • Inverse correlation between leadership responsibilities
      and the capacity to plan and lead strategically
    • William Gibson – “The future is here; it’s just not
      widely distributed.”

      • Our capacity to look at short and long range trends is
        better than it has ever been
  • What will the world look like in the year 2025?
    • What are the challenges facing humanity?
    • To what extent will we be able to deal with the
      organizational situations in front of us?
    • What are the precursors of a better world?
    • To what extent are we vulnerable more even now?
  • Seven Revolutions
    • Population
    • Strategic Resource Management
    • Technological Innovation and Diffusions
    • Information and knowledge creation/distribution
    • Economics
    • Conflict
    • Governance
  • Overarching Comments
    • Darwin – “It is not the strongest species that survive,
      nor the most intelligent… but the ones most responsive to change.”
    • Einstein – “No problem can be solved from the same
      consciousness that created it.”
    • Need to think about a new paradigm
  • 1. Population
    • Where we have been: from 150 million to 6 billion people
      in 1999

      • We are growing at a rate of millions every year: 2.4
        people per second
      • Now at about 6.7 billion people
      • 8.0 billion in 2025, 9.2 by 2050
    • Global population growth in an absolute sense has been
      going up, but the rate of growth as slowed significantly

      • We can anticipate a stabilization of 9-10 billion
        people at the end of the century
      • But… the highest growth will be in the poorest
      • Soviet Union, for instance, has de-population; China,
        in 2005, has a contracting population
    • Population expansion and contraction
      • Most populous countries in 1950 had six well developed
        economies; by 2050, only the US will be in the top ten
      • 15% of population is migrants in 50+ countries
      • Developed world could contract
      • Tensions in population with immigration, for instance
        in France
    • Global aging
      • More older people on our planet than younger ones in
        the near future
      • Life expectancy has gone from 50 years in 1950 to
        nearly 80 by 2050
    • Urbanization
      • 60% of humanity in urban areas by 2020
      • Could be good for education, health, and other social
      • But… it is bad, too. More slum dwellers in Mumbai and
        in all of Norway
    • Change in distribution of world population — move from a
      pyramid to a rectangle

      • Tremendous capacity problem for those who are younger
        to work with those who are older
      • “Age quake” in industrialized country — more older
        people in industrial world than youth; more youth in undeveloped world
  • 2. Strategic Resource Management
    • Food
      • Need to be looking at issues that have change
        agricultural horizon
      • We currently have 800 million chronically
        undernourished people — can we feed 8 billion?
      • Doubling global food production
      • No limits to growth in agricultural productivity and
        water… yet

        • But, how much more usable land it there?
        • How much more water?
        • Effects of global warming?
    • Water
      • Imagine that all the world’s water was in one gallon…
        only two drops would be accessible fresh water.
      • 2025 – 3 billion face severe water shortages
      • One flush of a western toilet – one day of use of water
        in a developing country
      • Need twice the amount of water by 2050, and then 50%
        more for each generation after that
      • Mobilizing new and old technologies
      • Climate change will negatively affect our ability to
        deal with all of these factors
    • Energy
      • Transitioning away from oil will be the most difficult
        thing we can face
      • Reliance on hydrocarbons continues to increase more and
      • By 2025, US will still rely on 65-75% of oil
      • Developing world is using more and more oil, up to US
        levels by 2030
      • Can we continue with this same infrastructure,
        environmental impact, and geopolitical forces
  • 3. Technology Innovation and Diffusion
    • Computation
      • Deep computing
        • 467 trillion calculations per second
      • Pervasive computing
        • No longer a discrete experience
        • Information security
        • Personal privacy
    • Biotechnology
      • Human genome project allows us to think about what used
        to be impossible — personalized medicine
      • 120 year life span?
      • How do we regulate human cloning and the broader
        manipulation of the body?
      • Who will get to see these technologies and who will not
    • Nanotechnology
      • Nanotech is moving down to the molecular and atomic
      • Could have need for 2 million nanotech workers in near
  • 4. Information and Knowledge Creation and Dissemination
    • Global information and knowledge flow — the death of
    • Eroding prerogatives, redefining community, shattering
      established practices
    • Children today will go through a number of career
      changes; need to retool
    • Differentiating between learning and working — are they
      becoming the same thing?
    • Shorter life span of information — need to reeducate in
      order not to become stale
    • Thomas Friedman — The World is Flat — “innovate without
      having to emigrate”
    • What is right, what is wrong, what is true, what is false?
      • We choose our truth based on where we get our
      • Reduced decision times
      • More complex issues
      • Polarized positions
    • We need to be knowledge proficient
  • 5. Economic Integration
    • National Intelligence Council, “Mapping the Global Future”
      • 80% output growth to 2020
      • 50% growth in average per capita
    • “It is now possible to produce a product anywhere to be
      sold anywhere…”
    • Global economic output of industrialized countries has
      gone down while non-industrialized countries are going up
    • China increases to 129% of US output by 2050
    • Brazil, Russia, India, and China are beginning to
      overtake the G6
    • That said, 2.8 billion people live on less than $2 a day
      • 225 richest people in the world = combined annual
        earnings of 2.7 billion other people
  • 6. Conflict
    • How will terrorist groups use the information capacity?
    • Bioterrorism — anthrax and ricin attacks
    • Even in the context of this revolution, we need to find
      ways of retrofitting a cold war mentality in the new kinds of theaters
      that are occurring today.
  • 7. Governance
    • We are now beyond nation states, but one in which
      corporations and NGOs are taking a bigger role
    • 9 of the largest corporations would be in the top 50 GDPs
      of the world
    • How are new standards for corporations, moving beyond
    • Exponential growth in NGOs around the world
    • What does this mean?
      • Atomization
      • Dispersion
      • Fragmentation
    • Henry Kissinger — challenges now are different in that
      they are global and information is readily available to all
    • Innovative, dynamic coalitions
  • Conclusions
    • Promise and fulfillment or peril and danger
    • World of higher deviations
    • Hyper-promise and hyper-peril
    • Need Hyper Leadership
      • Promise, not Peril
      • Leaders, not Managers
      • Strategy, not Tactics
    • Lincoln — thinking and acting anew
    • Challenging future leaders
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