Monthly Archives: March 2012

There are four photoshopped images from various ads.

Is it a lie?

So I actually taught a 55 minute class Monday. I’d give myself a C- but I think the underlying concept and the examples are decent and worth sharing.

Here’s the idea. Essentially it’s easier and easier to tell convincing lies in a digital environment.

I’m stealing from Dan Meyer here. I asked the kids to tell me one thing they knew was true and then one thing they knew was false.  The next request was for a statement that was sort of true or sort of false.

Augmenting Reality

There are four photoshopped images from various ads.


So I start with the question “Are these pictures lies?” and then try to drill down to the various pieces and apply the idea of context, intent, and manipulation.

Essentially, maybe it doesn’t matter so much if Dana Carvey is airbrushed up.  He’s a comedian.  I don’t think anyone cares too much what he looks like.  He’s not selling anything to do with looks.

Does it matter more that they’re changing Beyonce’s skin color dramatically?  Why would they do that? Does it matter? Interestingly, the students seemed to feel that this was done with lighting and wasn’t a big deal.

With Demi Moore, I tried to add complication.  Would this be a lie if this picture was used to sell a beauty product?  That seemed to trigger something for the students and they stated that manipulation of the audience was what made these “augmentations” of reality acceptable or unacceptable.

A worker at Foxconn died after working a 34 hour shift image of Daisey speaking


Now I brought in Mike Daisey and his comments about Foxconn.  What was interesting to me was that most of his lies were simply adding himself into the story.  Matthew Baldwin illustrated that really well in this post. I tried to illustrate that by starting with the entry statement above (which is true) and then adding the lie portion in red (below). “It’s a lie but the important part is true. Does it matter?” The students seemed to feel that if he’d add himself to manipulate you that stripped him of any credibility.

It’s important to emphasize that he’s an entertainer.  That’s his excuse. It’s entertainment but the important parts are true.

Contrasting OJ Simpson covers on Newsweek and TimeSo now we have “real” news and they’re certainly altering things to make a more compelling story.  I didn’t seem to convince them that this mattered. The observation that the Newsweek title ought to have been on the Time magazine. The feeling was that the Time magazine looked like a movie poster.  I should have drilled down more on why the image was darkened. What is the purpose?

NYT's graph of the housing crash


Only the bottom $100,000 measure is showing initially.  I then ask them to guess how much the house would cost at the peak.  The red money markers appear sequentially and then we talk about how you might manipulate the axises to make graphs more dramatic and why you might want to do so.  I’ll stress again that this is accurate.  The question is then “Is this a lie?”

masterpiece quote



Now we get into quote mining or decontextualizing phrases. This was a quote used to promote the movie Se7en.1  The more complete quote is below and it turns out Owen was not very impressed by the movie.

So we got most2 of that done semi-decently in about 25 minutes.

I wrapped up with the idea that we were going to impugn the reputation of a historical or fictional hero.  The goal was to come up with two images- one that uses a partial quote from the character/person and then one that uses actual data in some way to discredit them.  My examples were from Star Wars.


I originally had Hitler stats in the chart. I replaced them with the Khmer Rouge. It is strange that one mass murderer feels more acceptable than another but it seems that’s the case.

Place I got media or information

Dana Carvey
Demi Moore
Ralph Lauren
Daisey quote
Daisey image
Foxconn death
OJ Simpson covers
NY Times graph
Comparison for the NYT graph
Se7en quote excerpt
Yoda image
Deathstar population
Civil War
Khmer Rouge
Cultural Revolution and Mao
Skywalker image

1 That’s for you Alan!

2 I skipped a few slides that I used but I’ll put all of the links to stuff below.

Screen Shot 2012-03-03 at 10.16.07 PM

Random Thoughts and Examples of Student Dashboards

This collection of dashboards1 was brought on by a tweet2 from Dan Meyer but precipitated by the fact that I am struggling to figure out what matters in terms of a future LMS and how the data we present (or don’t present) to students and teachers impacts education as a whole.3

While we4 often say we5 want a balance between multiple choice assessment and other types of assessment, if the only data that teachers see and talk about is related to multiple choice we probably shouldn’t bother talking about other types of assessment. There’s also the idea that assessment data may just be the tip of the iceberg. I’m not sure what exactly would make a difference but there are lots of other things that ought to be looked at.

In the end I see the data displayed to students and teachers as being pretty important but it means nothing if it’s not set within the right context and used in the right way by both parties.

All that aside, let’s see what’s going on right now.

Delaware Insight Dashboards

Fairly traditional, I’m not sure these dashboards are even meant for student view but many of the systems I’ve seen lately just give students access to their own data with the same views they give teachers and call it a student dashboard. One of the things that concerns me here is the green/red binary system. There is no room for even a yellow in this world view? Even if your focus is purely on test scores, this kind of thought disregards the importance of scores that fall immediately below and above the cut score. Those scores can easily go either way so seeing green may lead to unfortunate degrees of over confidence.


Despite having one of the worst icons I have ever seen, EquipSchools has some interesting pieces to this dashboard.

Note the motivation/stress/energy/engagement/homework chart on the right. I’ve seen some people6 encouraging students to input those kind of data that through Twitter like status updates that use emoticons to indicate the emotional state but this is the first I’ve seen of something more sophisticated. It would be interesting to have those kind of data as a student and as a teacher but it seems like they have an awful lot of categories. I can’t think of a way to gather those data without it being either burdensome (and thus not done) or ineffective. Their method, multiple strand Likert scale ratings, seems to be presented in a way that ties it too loosely with time and too tightly with projects for it to be as useful as it could be.

I like the idea this seems to support. Students ought to set goals and the software ought to facilitate that as well as the tracking of progress towards those goals. While that’s a relatively obvious idea, it’s not often done. Most student data dashboards are purely passive visualizations of test data.7 If you’re lucky you might get a mouse over for more information or a dynamic chart.

Ten Marks

This is one of those dashboards that seems to creep up too often in education. It tries to make the data fun by letting you fill up these wacky body shapes with blood.8 It’s pretty much useless for student reflection and really only shows progression along a predetermined path.

You can also see some attempts at “gamification” going on in the sidebar. Apparently you can earn presents. This type of thing would prepare your children well to succeed in College Apprentice where they can accomplish feats and win awards by generating points by attending “events hosted and supported by College Apprentice.”

Read 180

Read 180 pulls out all the stops on the “gamification” bandwagon. I almost expect to get some virtual chickens for my virtual farm if I read enough. Personally, I don’t like this mentality. I fear it’s going to catch on and I imagine it motivates certain kids. I don’t think it does anything to help them learn or reflect on what they’re doing that might impact their learning. I don’t think it’s aiming too high to expect that.

1 A pretty imprecise word that appears to mean quite a few different things to different people.

2 I will never like that word.

3 Someplace I have an interesting way that someone was visualizing learning along five thematic branches (content, critical thinking, etc.) and displaying it as a star/pentagram in order to help reflect the idea of balance. For some reason I thought it was an NSF grant but I’m not finding it currently.

4 I have a frog in my pocket.

5 Yep, frog is still there.

6 I think it was eSparks but their website tells you nothing. I’m also pretty sure Dell’s new personalized learning environment does this as well but I can’t recall if they aggregate the results for student reflection.

7 CosmicMath seems to be a good example of that.

8 It’s bright red, apparently liquid, and in a body. What else could it be?