From March, 2014

Diigo: An Online Tool to “Annotate and Capture the Web”

Online research is a primary form of information gathering for most students and teachers.  Diigo is a way to make this type of research more interactive, organized, and effective.  In other words, as Diigo states, it is a means to “annotate and capture the web.”

How to Diigo

In order to use the program, register on the site and then download the application in order to get the “Diigo” icon on the top of the browser window.  This works best in Google Chrome instead of Firefox.  Once this icon is present, all one has to do is highlight any text or multimedia element on a webpage and a pop up screen will appear and provide these options:

  • Pen icon- Highlight articles (can be color coded)
  • Paper icon- Comment on articles (can also be color coded)
  • Magnifying Glass Icon- Search for additional information using the highlighted term, phrase or sentence

Once the first highlight is made on an article, then the Diigo toolbar appears in the top right of the browser window:

Diigo Menu

A pop up menu will appear with each new highlight, but the red flag icon is only available in the continuous menu at the top right.  This is the icon used to archive articles when they have been read, noted, and are ready to be saved in a Diigo account for later use.  As articles are archived by the user, the title of the article and all highlighted sections and reader comments will be shown in the account without viewing the article itself.

When saving, tags can be added articles to make them searchable.  In addition, “lists” can be created where articles will be placed for organizational purposes.  These labels will be helpful when in the Diigo account (available via logging in to the Diigo website) because the popular and recent tags are listed at the top of the screen, and an article can be tagged for multiple purposes.  The lists are shown to the right, and when a list is clicked on, all saved articles in that category appear (see below).

Diigo Account

There are also additional Diigo functions available from this icon next to the search bar (the blue d):

Diigo Icon

Click on this icon to see options to save a screen shot of a page in the Diigo account, share a page using various social media options, or save a page to read later.

Using Diigo with Students

In addition to teachers using the application for their own purposes, students can set up accounts to use Diigo for individual research.  In addition, there is a function to create groups.  Teachers can create groups of classes to share information, and students can also set up their own groups if they are working on a research project/question together.

Canva: An Online Tool to Create Posters, Web Graphics and Presentations

This blog graphic was created through using "text holders" and an arrow graphic.

This blog graphic was created through using nothing but a background, “text holders,” and an arrow graphic.

Beautiful, well-designed graphics can help to make information engaging and meaningful. is an online program that can easily be learned in less than fifteen minutes.

When you create an account and login to the site, you have the option to create for social media, posters, presentations, blog graphics, Facebook covers, documents and cards.

To create the image above, I used the “blog graphic” option.  Below is the same screen I was brought to but for a “presentation” instead.

Design for Canva

From there, users can use the side menu to choose elements for the design.  Any element a user wants to use can be dragged and dropped into the workspace.  In addition, to the right of the workspace, pages can be added, deleted or copied to the same file.

Here is a list of functions and a short description of each:

  • Layouts- Layouts set up a background and slots for text, images, and graphics.  These can be deleted as needed, however.  In the picture above, I had chosen a “layout” displayed on the right.
  • Text- In Text, there is an option for Headline, Sub-Headline, and Body text.  In addition, there are various designed graphics with text boxes in them.  The fonts color, size, and style can be changed in the menu that appears when you drag and drop the element on your page.
  • Backgrounds-  Backgrounds are colors or images that appear behind the other graphic elements
  • Uploads-  These are images you upload yourself.  The program can choose from your computer files (or from Facebook photos of you give it permission).  If you have chosen a layout with photo boxes, then you can drag and drop your pictures into them and crop the photo to fit best once it is placed.

When users are finished with the design, they select “link and print” in the top right of the screen.  From there, a pop up window will ask if the file should be saved as an “image” or a “PDF.”

Although the program suggests saving as a PDF to print, I was not able to get this function to work.  Instead, I saved as an “Image” and it printed right away.  As an image, you can choose “fit to page” for the image to fill more of the space available or keep it set as the default with no changes. Either were fine for me, but it might just be whatever fits best for your design.

I can imagine this tool being used by teachers to create posters, presentations, or graphics for a class website. However, I think the most valuable way to use this tool would be for students.  Speaking and listening standards ask students to “integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse media formats, evaluating the accuracy and credibility of each source.”  To this end, I think exploring and discussing infographics and other visual sources that integrate text before using this program would be valuable.

The standards also ask that students “make use of digital media (e.g., textual, graphical, audio, visual and interactive elements) in presentations.”  After students have explored others use of graphic elements to present information, then they could use this tool to plan their own presentations.

These strategies will meet standards, but will also help students to increase their visual literacy, or ability to interact with and interpret visual information.  In the digital age, this skill is necessary to navigating a breadth and depth of information that has never before been available.  More and more, designers, business leaders,  journalists and others are relying on graphic representations to relay information quickly and easily.

The Crucible: A Socratic Seminar on Human Cruelty and Groupthink

The witch hunts in The Crucible can easily be tied into modern day research group think and events in the news during Socratic Seminar.   Photograph: Allstar Collection/Cinetext/20 C/Sportsphoto Ltd./Allstar

The witch hunts in The Crucible can easily be connected to modern day research on groupthink and current events in the news. Photograph: Allstar Collection/Cinetext/20 C/Sportsphoto Ltd./Allstar

I’m not the only kid who grew up this way, surrounded by people who used to say that rhyme about sticks and stones, as if broken bones hurt more than the names we got called, and we got called them all. So we grew up believing no one would ever fall in love with us, that we’d be lonely forever,that we’d never meet someone to make us feel like the sun was something they built for us in their toolshed. So broken heartstrings bled the blues, and we tried to empty ourselves so we’d feel nothing. Don’t tell me that hurt less than a broken bone, that an ingrown life is something surgeons can cut away, that there’s no way for it to metastasize; it does.

-“To this day, for the Beautiful and the Bullied” a TEDTalk from Shane Koyczan

The Crucible‘s themes of victimization of outsiders and humanity’s ability to enact terrible cruelty when condoned by the group are universal and timeless.  To capitalize on the richness inherent in these ideas and their relevancy to modern day, Sam Bosse and I planned a Socratic Seminar with the following essential questions:

Essential Question: How can fear, suspicion, and ignorance lead to cruelty and destruction in society?

  • What allows individuals to be cruel to one another?
  • What are some of the effects of this cruelty on the individual?  On society?  Have you seen examples in your own personal experience?
  • From where does prejudice and suspicion come?  What are the effects on the individual who is experiencing prejudice?  The one who is prejudice?  How does prejudice add to the cruelty of society?
  • What role does ignorance play in cruelty, destruction and prejudice in society?
  • What are the causes of mass hysteria?
  • What is groupthink? Describe positive and negative effects of this phenomenon.  How does it impact society?  The individual?
  • How does modern technology affect groupthink in positive and negative ways?
  • What are some modern day examples of a “witch hunt”?  Why do they exist?  How might one be caused?
  • Is human cruelty implicit or is it something that can be overcome in the individual?  Provide examples to support your thinking.
  • What are some methods to alleviate fear and suspicion in society?
  • What are some methods to alleviate human cruelty in society?

To answer these questions and find support, students were given the following list of non-fiction sources to use in addition to evidence from the play.  These resources are also listed in the handout for students at the bottom of this post.  


This is so We” from Psychology Today

  • An articles about how preferences are formed by social phenomenon (ex: music downloads)

The Marathon Bombings: Lessons on Fear, Good and Bad” from Psychology Today

  • An article about the positive and negative effects of fear
  • Discusses some ideas on how fear can be overcome in a society but will always exist

A Brief History of Group Think” from Yale Alumni Magazine

  • An article describing how the term “group think” came to exist and some examples of it in history
  • Describes possible ways “group think” can be avoided
  • First part is good on its own, but it also has a collection of academics views of “group think” at the end of the article that could be broken into separate pieces

Bad to the Bone: Are Humans Naturally Aggressive” from Psychology Today

  • An article analyzing whether violence has a psychological and physiological basis

The Evils of Yes Men and Group Think” from CNN News

  • This article describes the problems caused in corporations when leadership does not seek truth over flattery

Prejudice Can Cause Depression” from the Association of Psychological Science

  • This article describes the link between depression and hate for self and others
  • It is really interesting and addresses deep-seated connections between self-loathing and prejudice of others

What Causes Prejudice Against Immigrants and How Can it be Tamed” from Scientific American

  • This article defines prejudice and its causes; it explains how “foreign” can equal threat, and it addresses options for how to alleviate prejudice in society

Europe’s Roma Face Witch Hunt After Reports of Child Snatching” from Time Magazine

  • This article outlines a modern day witch hunt based upon race through examining the plight of the Roma in Europe (from 2013)

Peter King’s Modern Day Witch Hunt” from The Washington Post

  • This article describes a very modern and applicable use of the term “witch hunt” in American society against Muslim people


To this day, for the Beautful and the Bullied” a TEDTalk from Shane Koyczan

  • A man talks about how he came to be a bully.  It is a very personal take on the article on the effects of “prejudice” on the individual, as he experienced bullying growing up because of his weight.

The Wisdom of Crowds” from PBS

  • This video explains how crowds can accurately estimate information to come up with correct answers whereas one individual is unlikely to be able to come to the same conclusion

The Code- The Wisdom of the Crowd” from BBC

  • This video has the same information as the one above, but has a different tone.

The Power and Danger of Online Crowds” a TEDTalk from James Surowiecki (16 min.)

  • This video explores the blogosphere as a form of “collective intelligence” and also addresses potential problems
  • It provides some examples about how groups think more effectively than individuals.

Although students had already participated in a Socratic seminar earlier in the year, we used the Students Coaching Students model, which was new to them.  To this end, they answered the following question through a quick write and then shared via class discussion:

In what way can communicating with others (particularly peers) promote your personal growth?  What are some of the types (modes) of communication that are most valuable? 

They then watched a video on the Teaching Channel showing the new model.  Students were given a list of questions to note differences in the roles and types of sources from what they had experienced in the past (See this video for the example).

Before the seminar, each student had to choose three non-fiction sources to read in preparation.  They took notes over the sources using a “summary sheet” created by Melissa Larisch (see the bottom of the post to download).  In addition, students were given the half-time feedback sheet and a list of advanced transitions to use during the seminar (also at the bottom of this post).

During the first day of the seminar, Bosse and I facilitated together.  We were both very pleased with the use of textual evidence and students’ overall engagement in the discussion.  In addition, the richness of the ideas presented reflected deep thinking from students.  Overall, I have found this method of Socratic seminar to be a very dynamic, student-centered approach.

Here are resources to use for the seminar:

A Lesson Using Text, Audiovisual, and Infographic Sources to Explore Mental Illness

Ken Kesey wrote One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest after working in a hospital and feeling the mentally ill housed there were not necessarily  psychologically disturbed, but instead misunderstood.

Ken Kesey wrote One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest after working in a hospital and feeling the mentally ill housed there were not necessarily psychologically disturbed, but instead misunderstood.

“I don’t think I can give you an answer. Oh, I could give you Freudian reasons with fancy talk, and that would be right as far as it went. But what you want are the reasons for the reasons, and I’m not able to give you those. Not for the others, anyway. For myself? Guilt. Shame. Fear. Self-belittlement. I discovered at an early age that I was– shall we be kind and say different? It’s a better, more general world than the other one. I indulged in certain practices that our society regards as shameful. And I got sick. It wasn’t the practices, I don’t think, it was the feeling that the great, deadly, pointing forefinger of society was pointing at me–and the great voice of millions chanting, ‘Shame. Shame. Shame.’ It’s society’s way of dealing with someone different.”

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey

Mental illness is often misunderstood by teens (and sometimes adults as well).  Pete Planisek wanted his students to explore misconceptions about mental illness in conjunction with a unit using One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.  To meet these goals, we planned a three-day lesson where students used a variety of sources to explore thinking on topics related to psychological illness.

The lesson addressed the following Core Curriculum Standards:

  • RI.11-12.1: Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.
  • RI.11-12.7: Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem.

The learning targets were as follows:

  • I can explore my thinking on the issues of mental illness via print, multimedia, and infographic sources.
  • I can share my opinions with others using textual evidence in classroom and group discussions.

The first day (with shortened class periods) students met in small groups to discuss the following questions and record responses:

1.  Explain how we, as a society, determine who/what qualifies as mental illness?

2.  Provide reasons why we have a bias towards the mentally ill?

3.  Does society maintain its own level of insanity (consider social norms, cultural practices etc.)?  Provide (2) examples from our society and (2) from either Part 1 or 2 of the book.

4.  Identify rights the mentally ill should be entitled to.

5.  What are some of the effects (positive and negative) of mental illness on the individual and the family or friends of an individual with mental illness?

6.  Identify connections between creativity and mental illness. Connect to events, characters, or themes from Part 1 or 2 of the book.

Some of these questions were difficult for students to answer at first, for example the “positive” effects of mental illness on the individual were difficult to note.  However, many of the resources provided additional context for students to reconsider the question.

After students recorded initial responses, they examined a variety of sources relating to the questions and recorded important information on a notes sheet to reference later.  Each group had to choose an article, an infographic, and an audiovisual source to analyze.

In order to do this, on day two, students were given access to ipads and hard copies of all articles to do research and find infographic, audiovisual and text-based resources.  Each group chose from a list (see below and the handout at the bottom of the post) and took notes over each source, noting interesting, surprising, and new information that might influence their position on the initial questions.  Here is a list of the resources we used:

Group A – Informational

“Facing Mental Illness [Infographic],” from USC Social Work Virtual Academic Center

  • This infographic provides a wealth of information about mental illness and its effects on the individual and society.

“Mental Health: The Facts,” an infographic from New Internationalist Magazine

  • This infographic provides information about mental illness, discrimination and the literal cost of mental illness.

“Rethink Mental Illness,” an infographic from Design

  • This infographic deals with schizophrenia, stereotypes/stigma, and symptoms

“Timeline: Treatments for the Mental Illness,” from

  • This timeline describes the positive and negative developments in the treatment of mental illness over time, including some of the detrimental, and at times abusive, treatments

Group B – Audio Visual

“Mental Illness to Mental Skillness,” a TEDTalk by Joshua Walters

  • This speech describes the personal experience of a man with bipolar disorder and how he overcame to embrace the positive aspects of his symptoms and treat the negative ones

“All Kinds of Minds,” a playlist of TEDTalks  (7 videos to choose from)

  • This is a series of speeches dealing with personal experiences of psychological illness or research on mental illness

Group C – Articles / Biographical

“11 Historical Genuises and Possible Mental Disorders” from Mental Floss

  • This article summarizes theories on historical figures who likely suffered from one or more mental illnesses.  This resource might help to de-stigmatize psychological illness

“Just Manic Enough: Seeking Perfect Entrepreneurs” from The New York Times

  • This article explores the link between “hypomania” and entrepreneurship

“Social Worker Shares Story of Living with Mental Illness,” from The Chicago Tribune

  • This article describes a person with bipolar disorder who overcame adversity

“The Dark Side of Creativity” from

  • This article describes the link between creativity and mental illness

“Community Support Programs Keep People Out of Hospital, Jail,” from the Vancouver Sun

  • This article describes successful treatment of mental illness

“Baker was Compassionate Amid Personal Struggles,” from the News Observer

  • This article is about a young man with a mental illness that results in his suicide

“The Roots of Mental Illness,” from the American Psychological Association

  • This article explores the causes and diagnosis of mental illness

“Seven Facts about America’s Mental Health-Care System” from The Washington Post

  • An eye opening account of what we spend, treat, or fail to treat here in the U.S.

“Solitary Confinement Ravages the Mind, but use is Widespread” from The News Daily

  • Examine the impact solitary confinement has on both the healthy and mentally ill alike
  • An eye opening account of what we spend, treat, or fail to treat here in the U.S.

On the third day of the lesson, the intention was to have students share out their findings and focus on the following questions:

  • Which sources were most convincing and why?
  • Which sources were most reliable?
  • Which sources were most effective?
  • Choose two questions on which to focus and consider the following:
  • How did your perspectives change based upon the information you analyzed?  Which information influenced this change and why?

With a shortened class period again on the third day of the lesson, we were not able to fully develop the conversation as we had intended.  However, we did have some interesting conversations about the information read and the types of sources used.  Many students found the TEDTalks telling individual stories to be one of the most effective means of receiving information because they enjoyed the first-person perspective version of the information.  We discussed how this information appealed to emotion most.  We also discussed how the infographics were a fast and reliable way to receive information.  Some students enjoyed this format, but others found it to be overwhelming because they had trouble conceptualizing how all of the information was connected.

Here are resources that can be used for the lesson: