Tell Then and Now Image Stories with JuxtaposeJS

I’m excited about JuxtaposeJS – a new free web-based “storytelling” tool from the Knight Lab at Northwestern University. As they describe it: “JuxtaposeJS helps storytellers compare two pieces of similar media, including photos, and GIFs. It’s ideal for highlighting then/now stories that explain slow changes over time (growth of a city skyline, regrowth of a forest, etc.) or before/after stories that show the impact of single dramatic events (natural disasters, protests, wars, etc.).”

I think it’s a great tool for students and teachers who want to explore themes of continuity and change. While it could be used to compare and contrast in subjects across the curriculum, I’ve created a few examples using historical content.

I selected pairs of historical and contemporary images with elements that are consistent and aspects that change. But the challenge is to size and crop the images so that the consistencies align. To accomplish that, I used another free tool – Google Slides – to position and crop each pair of images and export as JPGs before importing into JuxtaposeJS. (Scroll to the bottom of this post for my workflow video that illustrates each step of the process.)

Created with two archival photographs
Tom Torlino – a student at Carlisle Indian School, 1882 and 1885.
More about Tom at my post on Medium.
Pro tip: get the eyes aligned

 

Timeline sliderCreated with archival photograph paired with a screenshot I took from Google Street View.
Portland Ore Engine No 2 – 510 NW 3rd Ave.
Pro tip: choose a historic image that is shot from an angle similar to Street View. Street View is made up of a series of still images. You may need to navigate slightly on the street to get a shot that matches. Street View has been shooting for years. Use the drop down timeline (highlighted here) in upper left of Street View that has the angle and lighting that works best for your Juxtapose

Archival photograph of paired with photograph I took in the same location.
Taylor Hotel entrance Circa 1920
Pro tip: bring along a print out of historic photo to line up you new shot. Maybe you’ll get lucky (like I did) and find a SUV parked in the right spot. 

Here’s a video that details my workflow for this project
You’ll see how I used the transparency feature in Google Slides to create two well-aligned images that I imported into JuxtaposeJS via Dropbox. JuxtaposeJS supports both vertical and horizontal sliders. Pick the orientation that does a better job of concealing or revealing the continuity and change. Once the images are “published” at JuxtaposeJS they can be imported into your web via an iFrame embed as I have done in this post.

Image credits:
Tom Torlino
Portland Ore Engine No 2
Taylor Hotel Entrance. 347 SW 3rd Ave Portland Oregon Courtesy of Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center ONLC 533

Learning to Think Like a Historian

art-classI recently was a contributor to a Education Week Teacher’s “Classroom Q&A With Larry Ferlazzo” column Teaching History By Encouraging Curiosity Note: you can also listen to our 10 minute podcast on the subject at BAM radio or iTunes

The column prompt was “What are some stories (testimonials) of the process teachers experienced when moving from the ‘stereotypical history teacher who only gives multiple choice tests on the dates of battles and offers their students a steady diet of mind dumbing worksheets and lectures.’”

I thought I cross post my response below for readers who do not have access to content behind the Ed Week paywall.

What do historians do? Research, interpret, and evaluate sources, apply historic perspective, pose questions. … they share the fruits of their research with others, take positions and defend them.

Let me share my evolution as history teacher. In 1971, I began teaching history much the same way it was taught to me. I did all the reading and assimilation of material, then worked hard to craft the interesting lecture. I delivered the information with great gusto and loads of clever asides. Then I gave the objective unit test to see if the students got it. I was doing all the work; learning far more than my students; preparing and delivering “five shows daily.” And so I trudged through history – Plato to NATO.

Then one day I had a revelation. I walked into the art classroom next door to borrow some supplies and looked at the interaction of the art teacher and his students. I realized that if Tom taught art the way I taught history, then his student would be sitting in rows watching him paint. And so my journey began. Just as Tom was teaching his students how to think and behave like artists, I needed to figure out how to get my students to be the historian.

Here’s a few key ideas I considered when making the transition to student as historian. Note: For more, see my Slideshare The Student as Historian

Teach how historians think and behave:

What do historians do? Research, interpret, and evaluate sources, apply historic perspective, pose questions. More importantly they share the fruits of their research with others, take positions and defend them. Make these skills the basis of your class and you’re on your way to meeting Common Core standards. Build in opportunities for students to peer review each other’s work and reflect on their progress as learners. See my Taxonomy of Reflection for prompts.

Stop teaching facts and let students explore essential questions:

Look at a contemporary issue in the news and use it as catalyst for understanding its historic roots. Why teach the Federalist vs. Anti-Federalists debates? Better to frame the lesson around the essential question “How Powerful Should the National Government Be?” It’s timeless and extends the issues raised by the rise of the Tea Party back to the debate over the ratification of the constitution. Download my free Great Debates in American History

Use history as a platform for teaching across the curriculum:

Why not teach some graphing skills using historic census data? A great chance to design an infographic. Historians rely on key literacy skills like summarizing and comparing. Frame tasks for the students that allow them to develop their own summaries and comparisons, share them with their peers and defend their thinking. Those are more Common Core skills.

Choose the right primary and secondary sources for students to work with:

Visualize the famous “Golden Spike” photo taken to mark the completion of a transcontinental railroad line in 1869. What can a student learn by looking at the image? Not much, because the important information is not in the image. It’s in the background knowledge a student must already possess to interpret it. Unfortunately, this type of photograph dominates our textbooks. It’s iconic – it refers to something else that we want students to know. More

Instead use historic sources that are less reliant on background knowledge. Allow students to make their own judgments about source material and share what’s important to them (instead of just repeating the details the teacher highlights). It’s a great chance for them to put those summarizing and comparison skills to use.

If you have access to Ed Week, I urge you to read the article. It also features a great response from Diana Laufenberg, who notes:

Now, I’ve never had a class start with, “Miss… I just have to know about the War of 1812, can you please tell me more?” The majority of students don’t come to class naturally curious about the stories of history. However, when you take the time to pull the students from their own experiences, allow them to make connections to history, float back to modern day to again find further connections and go back into history with all that information – meaning starts to develop in a way that is not achieved otherwise.

And interesting interesting observations from Sarah Kirby-Gonzalez, including

When I first stepped away from the basic, bubble-assessment curriculum and into a more inquiry-based approach, I was surprised by my students’ reactions. I had assumed the students would eat up the rich lessons, yet their first reaction was one of discomfort. When my good, little memorizers didn’t easily earn a perfect score on an assessment, they were frustrated and shut down. After much reflecting, I realized they were out of their comfort zone and not used to being asked to think critically. Answers didn’t come easily, and since often their self-image of being smart is wrapped up with things coming easily, the students felt attacked. Slowly, the students began to thrive and rise to the challenge.

Here’s some interesting comments from Part II of Larry’s series Teaching History By Not Giving ‘The Answers’

First from Bruce Lesh, who writes:

Colleagues looked at me funny as students began to ask questions and engage in debates about historical evidence. My peers–who have been trained (as I was) to lecture, assign readings from the books, break things up with Hollywood movies, and test with quickly graded multiple-choice questions–wondered why I was challenging “what has always worked.”

…Students had become accustomed to history being taught in a certain manner. In their effort to learn to “do school,” they expected to come into the history classroom and be regaled with stories of the past distributed through lectures, films, and textbooks, and they had mastered the skill set necessary to “do history.”

And this response from PJ Caposey, who notes:

When working with teachers I focus on …  trying to change from the ‘status quo’ to what is best for kids. One [element is the] Google test. If it can be answered via a simple Google search – then very little instructional time should be spent on it and it should not be assessed. CCSS is a game-changer, so too can be the ‘Google Test.’

Image credit: Flickr / Classroom scene, [Strabane technical school, Northern Ireland]
Date: c.1930

Reflection and the Student Centered Classroom

taxonomy of reflection graphic

This week I head to Grand Prairie TX to work with teachers and students at Adams Middle School. We’ll be demonstrating high value learning strategies that foster rigorous thinking, student engagement, and deeper student reflection on themselves as learners.

The key to fostering reflection is scaffolding more choices for students to make about key elements of the lesson. Providing options gives students more to think about. Divergent student products gives students a chance to explain and defend their thinking. Student can then compare outcomes with their peers, assess successes (and failures) and design improvements. See my post The Reflective Student: A Taxonomy of Reflection

Students can be given “appropriate” choices to make about:

  • Content – what knowledge and skills will be studied?
  • Process – what materials, procedures, etc will be used?
  • Product – what will students produce to demonstrate their learning?
  • Evaluation – how will the learning be assessed?

We have a variety of activities planned for the week including workshop sessions focussed on how to foster students engagement when using learning strategies for defining, summarizing and comparing. For example, when we ask students to summarize we should giving them the opportunity to use their higher order thinking skills to analyze the patterns, evaluate what’s most significant to them and craft a unique summary. 

While summarizing has been shown to be one of the most effective strategies for building content knowledge, that gain only applies when students are allowed to make their own judgements about what’s important and frame their summaries for an audience. When we ask them to “learn” the teacher’s summary – they are reduced to memorizing “another fact.”

Our training sessions will be followed by classroom walkthroughs – PD works best when you can make the connection to the classroom. I’ll also have the opportunity to work with some groups of students on the Marshmallow Challenge to demonstrate these approaches. 

Student centered Look-fors

A Satiric Lesson in Media Literacy

This Is a Generic Brand Video

First the backstory. Start with a clever essay satirizing the clichéd corporate message ad - This is a Generic Brand Video by Kendra Eash published in McSweeneys. It begins:

We think first
Of vague words that are synonyms for progress
And pair them with footage of a high-speed train.

Science
Is doing lots of stuff
That may or may not have anything to do with us.

See how this guy in a lab coat holds up a beaker?
That means we do research.
Here’s a picture of DNA. More

Next, a stock video footage company – Dissolve uses some of its clips to turn Eash’s piece into a meaningless montage of grandiloquent pablum.

Here’s the lesson:

  1. Ask students to read the full text version of Eash’s original, focusing on word choice, imagery and intent. What is Eash’s “video” selling? You might ask them sketch a rough storyboard to illustrate the text.
  2. Show the video with the sound off and let students list its visual details. Have someone read Eash’s piece while watching the video without sound. (Does the timing matter?)
  3. Discuss the artistic choices made by the video’s creators to illustrate the piece? How does the music and narrator’s voice impact the message?
  4. Compare the impact and effectiveness of text, audio and visual.

Care to extend the lesson?


Use YouTube to find political ads from current or past elections. How to they exemplify the themes raised by Eash?

Dissolve has a gallery of all the video clips used in the video. (Hover over them to activate.) Ask student to select the clips that they feel have the greatest visual impact. Ask them to explain how they might use these clips to tell a story. 

Show students this actual corporate video and ask them decide if it uses themes noted by Eash. How does the Suncor video compare to the Dissolve satire? Hat tip to Jeff Beer. More of his recommend corporate videos here. Students could re-edit corporate videos to “sell” their own message.

BTW – you’ve been exploring Common Core:

Reading Standards for Literature, Integration of Knowledge and Ideas, Standard 7, Grade 7. Compare and contrast a written story, drama, or poem to its audio, filmed, staged, or multimedia version, analyzing the effects of techniques unique to each medium (for example, lighting, sound, color, or camera focus and angles in a film).

Reading Standards for Informational Text, Integration of Knowledge and Ideas, Standard 7, Grades 11–12. Evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of using different mediums (for example, print or digital text, video, multimedia) to present a particular topic or idea.

5 Rules of Infographic Excellence

txkcd_infographic

xkcd’s brilliant mockery of the explosion of “info-junk” (at left) should remind us that the best infographics should efficiently combine quantitative data, prompt pattern recognition and cogent visual storytelling.

Perhaps aspiring infographic designers would do well to revisit the work of the Edward Tufte, the guru of the art form. I’ve had a chance to attend one of his inspiring workshops, but you easily appreciate his thinking from his books. In his classic “The Visual Display of Quantitative Information,” he lays out his principles of Graphical Excellence (p 51) Graphical excellence is:

  1. well-designed presentation of interaction data – a matter of substance, statistics and design.
  2. consists of complex ideas communicated with clarity, precision and efficiency.
  3. that which gives the viewer the greatest number of ideas in the shortest time with the least ink in the smallest space.
  4. always multivariate.
  5. requires telling the truth about data.

In the same book he showcases what he feels to be the best narrative graphic of space and time – Charles Joseph Minard representation of Napoleon’s ill-fated invasion of Russia in 1812. Six variable are plotted – the size of the army, it’s location on a two-dimensional surface, direction of the army’s movement, and temperatures on various dates during the retreat from Moscow. The comparative sizes of Napoleon’s invading army (in tan) to his meager retreating forces (in black) tell the story with eloquence.

Click images to enlarge
Minard Napoleon's Iinvasion

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