Planting a Passion for Polychromatic Pleasure: Design Seeds

Screenshot from Jessica Colaluca's chromatically enchanting Design SeedsSearching for ideas, beauty, and or trichromatic transcendence? If so, be sure to visit  Design Seeds on a regular basis. Jessica Colaluca, an individual with a finely honed sense of chromatic compatibility shares captivating color combinations via her blog. It’s a tantalizing treat for the eyes. Drawing upon 17 years experience working in color design and forecasting, Jessica kindly allows visitors to her site to accompany her on a journey of inspiration through a prismatic paradise that surrounds all of us. Viewing her images makes one wonder what other alluring color palette prizes we might be overlooking during our daily hustle and bustle encounters with the world.

Related resources:


Well-Rounded About Every Corner of the World: GeoCube

A long, long time ago many people thought the earth was flat. Today, we know it’s not. In fact, according to HERODOT, the European Network for Geography in Higher Education, these days, it’s cubed.

Screen shot 2009-11-12 at 7.28.44 AM

Geocube is an engaging, FREE, online resource devoted to the exploration of geography. With an interface based on the appearance of a Rubik Cube, its six faces and 54 topics invite users to learn more about our planet.

Back By Popular Demand: Trends

Two weeks ago, I wrote a post describing how 21st century educators use technology to take a digital pulse of popular culture. I mentioned a site called What the Trend. Today, while I was talking to an acquaintance who works for Google, she kindly pointed out that Google Labs has a nifty resource for comparing and contrasting the popularity of ideas. Upon checking out this resource, I was hooked. To use Google Trends, supply a few related terms (using commas to separate them) and click the Search Trends button. For example, I jokingly supplied bacon, lettuce, and tomato. What I got in return was the following graph.

Screen shot 2009-10-22 at 12.09.56 AM

In terms of search, bacon seems to be gaining in popularity these days though the term tomato was of some importance to folks over the last few years. Admittedly, my example is silly. Think, however, how this resource could be used to generate questions about a number of topics being discussed in schools throughout the world. For example, in a social studies class, pupils might compare trends in terms of Mesopotamia, Indus Valley, and ancient Egypt.

Screen shot 2009-10-22 at 12.20.40 AM

In a language arts class, a teacher might ask students to conduct a little investigation about the popularity of titles by the same author. While studying a lesson on health, learners could examine trends surrounding obesity and anorexia. Google Trends has the potential to generate higher-level thinking and excellent discussions.

XMind Over Matter

XMind is an excellent concept-mapping tool that your learners should be using. Why? For starters, mapping out complex relationships helps pupils see the big picture. Often, creating an image is a very productive means of making outlines more meaningful. Secondly, this program works on computers across platforms–Windows, Macintosh, and Linux all accept it. Finally, it’s FREE!

Screen shot 2009-10-13 at 4.44.39 PM

Related resources:

  • If you liked XMind, check out FreeMind, too.
  • Working with FreeMind will be well worth your time, especially if you explore Mappio–the Mind Map Library. It’s rich with FreeMind visualized concepts.
  • Amble on over to TopicScape. There are tons of mind maps there as well.

Styling with Tiling

Mathematics involves much, much more than adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing. Math has the potential to be an intensely engaging study of patterns and relationships. Math can be a doorway to exciting new ways of thinking and seeing the world around us. We just have to awaken a desire within our students to recognize and embrace what math has to offer. A great place to start is art and design.

Some art and design resonates with order and internal consistency. Greg Egan is a science fiction author and computer programmer. When programming, Greg uses math to create impressive products. His engaging work is an excellent example of how the simplicity and complexity of math can be combined to create stunning works of art that foster higher level thinking. His site contains an amazing applets gallery full of math-powered images. For example, have students take a look at his applet called Escher. Ask them one or more of the following questions:

  • Have you ever seen anything like this? If so, where? Was it in a video game, an advertisement, a design on clothing, on a building, or something that occurs in nature?
  • Is there a pattern in the image below? How can you prove that your answer is correct?
  • If we want to make a copy of this image, what resources offline or online might we use to accomplish the task? What are the steps we’d have to make?
  • Assuming it was your job to generate designs like this one, how much money would you charge someone who asked you to create a similar design? Would you charge a high fee because it’s difficult to replicate such a design or would you charge a low fee because it’s easy to replicate such a design? What supports your answer?


In Greg’s words, this applet is “inspired by the conflicting orientation cues that are used throughout the artwork of M.C. Escher. The technique of projecting selected faces from hypercubes is adapted from deBruijn‘s method for quasiperiodic tilings.” The topic of (geometric) tiling is an excellent springboard for mathematical thinking. Opening students’ eyes to the world of tiling is a powerful means of helping them become cognizant of the beauty and logic of mathematics.

Related links: