Category Archives: Visual Thinking

Twitter: Research Tool, Network & Curation Opportunity

Twitter allows us to fine-tune our research skills and create an academic network that will help our class this year as well as other American Studies students who will inherit new inquiries yet utilize and build this network of historians, museums, librarians, journalists, writers, researchers, historical societies, and enthusiast who love history. And as someone who grew up learning how to appreciate cross-referencing skills and harvest great sources, key players, and important narratives at a card catalogue (of course, I’m “referencing” a 20th century library here) or in the notes and index of an amazing book, I now love to teach students how to apply the same techniques to books, internet searches, and Twitter accounts. Now let’s move forward with more research and curating. Onward #PBLResearch & #CrossReferencing!

As an educator who internalized the idea that keeping up with professional development is best practice, I constantly share with other educators that Twitter is a great place to network with other learners. What better place then to find historians who are in the process of researching and writing history as well as other educators who are scaffolding authentic projects for deeper learning! So within that big picture appreciation for Twitter in the classroom, I also think there is so much to learn from having students compose intentional and deliberate Tweets that illicit information and expand our academic network at the same time. What a challenge! Perhaps what is the most important thing about these challenges in class is that we are pushing the academic boundaries so much that we do not need to bring grades into the conversation. If your Tweet is not strong enough for this high standard, let’s all help you improve it. If it does well, meet the standard, and illicit much needed information for our authentic project as well as adds a new asset to our academic network: Huzzah!

Therefore, pause with me a little while and see how I use Twitter to slow down the learning process in a #PBL classroom. Let me summon some Whitman’s genius in section II of Song of Myself: Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems, and suggest that Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano ( and others in the #PBLChat know #PBL educators are sharing their micro steps on Twitter, and if you want to try your own version of #PBL and want suggestions or ideas from other practitioners, then get thee to Twitter, fellow educators. And model appropriate use, good manners, and excellent prose.


Can We Challenge Students to Create a Profound Graphic for this Complex History?

Charles Joseph Minard’s Napoleon Map

Once students get to know the historic complexity of the Underground Railroad in Connecticut, can they make meaningful displays of their learning to share this history? In the meantime, can we begin to collect and curate great displays of information for inspiration? Please add design models in this comment thread.

Connecticut’s own Edward Tufte ranks the Minard map as one of the “best statistical graphic” displays ever drawn ( Can we ask students to reflect on Tufte’s standards of graphical excellence and attempt to include dimensions of data within their displays? Click here and start at minute 26 of this presentation to hear Tufte’s appreciation for this “beautiful” display. Note major insights about how a display should resemble analytical thinking skills and show a comparison as well as causalities. Minard animates the third principle of showing multivariate data by showing six dimensions of data with clarity about what happened to the soldiers. Tufte then explains the fourth grand principal about design is that the designer uses a “whatever it takes” mindset for presenting content in the display. Tufte then concludes around minute 36 with a celebration of Minard’s impressive anti-war content implicitly built into his “beautiful” design.

What other ways can students share what they learn?

Click here to learn more about Edward Tufte: