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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