So You Want to Create an Infographic in One Lesson…

So this week we were tasked with finding an infographic that we would use in our teaching and then write a blog post about it. I think I would like to take a different path to this assignment. I would like to write a post about how to help teachers understand the elements involved in infographics so that when they ask me to come to their class for a 40 min lesson with the expectation that I will be able to teach the skills and then the students will be able to produce an infographic, that they have wildly underestimated the amount of time needed for such a task.

Ryan Harwood stated in his post titled Infographic ReRun that

“When I’ve used them in the past, students have absolutely loved them. I’ve even taken a shot or two at having students create their own. From that experience I learned that it takes a good bit of explaining and patience”

I completely agree with this point and have found that oftentimes part of the reason for the failure is that teachers do not allow enough time. Also, teachers do not do the prep work beforehand.

Creating an infographic is a complex thing. There is a writing component, a data component, a graphic design component, and a printing component to consider (I am sure that there are more!). So, let’s lay them all out.

Writing Component

In order for a graphic design to be effective the amount of text on it must be short and purposeful. Being able to take a large amount of data and explain it in a few keywords is a writing element that takes time for students to develop. In actuality, it is probably very good to start them in elementary school doing this when the act of writing is harder for them so they want to write less! We have to teach them how to be more purposeful and meaningful with their words, all the time reminding them not to copy someone else’s thoughts and ideas.

For the writing of an infographic to be effective the author has to know when the right time to add writing is and when is the right time to visualize that writing with an image. Visualising writing is not something that many people do. The Sketchnote movement is helping with this. Books like The Sketchnote Handbook are helping people get started and develop their skills. I have begun to try this myself when I am note taking. I have found it difficult to get into a habit of doing. I have also found it difficult to use images that would translate into an understanding to another person looking at my note.

I can see the writing component of a good infographic being whole writing unit of study and that is before we get to any of the other infographic components.

Data Component

So you have found your research, written some of your information out. Possibly drawn some of that information. But what are you going to choose to represent as data in a visual way. How are you going to represent that data? Plain old bar charts and pie graphs or are you going to go for something that more closely represents that the data is about? How are you going to make that data make sense in the wider world?

How many times have you looked at an infographic closely and realized that while the images were flashy they were misleading the information that they represented. Check out this article on the 11 Most Useless and Misleading Infographics on the Internet. We all know that data is only as good as it is represented and anyone who has taken a statistics class can tell you that you can make data say what you want if you finagle it! Teaching students about good data representation is again another whole unit of study.

Graphic Design Component

So ignoring that fact that graphic design is an entire degree field, think about what students like to produce. Something quick and simple. Yes, there are always those students who spend double/triple the amount of time on anything requiring drawing or design, but for the most part students are happy with slapping some tape on a poster to stick elements on even if it looks like they just slapped some tape on it.

Getting students to think about ways to cut the CRAP out of their design is a whole series of lessons at looking at bad designs and good designs and picking out the good elements. Then you have to get them to look critically at designs that they have made. Try as we might, we will still have that child who feels that neon colors are the way to go no matter how many times you or their classmates try to lead them away from it.

So you understand graphic design principals, now you have to lay one out. Spacial awareness issues come to the forefront here! This is when you get to see if students have actually understood the design theory and have decided to use it or completely ignore it. You have to find the balance between the writing and the data piece. How they choose to represent their information here is key to their audience understanding their infographic.

Then you still have to figure out a decent tech tool like the ones mentioned in The Educator’s Guide to Infographics and teach your students how to use it which is a whole other lesson. Which leads me to the last part, printing.

Printing Component

This is the point in the blog post where I tell you why I actually don’t like infographics. They are great online where you slowly scroll through screen by screen looking at information (Which by the way is a key element of the graphic design layout). But then you have decided, hey this is a good infographic, I would like to somehow put this up in my room to reference for my students. Like this one from ISTE called Citizenship in the Digital Age. After having a Digital Citizenship (DC) lesson or two I might want to put this up in my room to reference when reminding my students about DC, so I download it and open it. And this is when it all goes to pot!

Because anyone who has ever tried to print an infographic knows that they don’t fit on one sheet of paper and are readable. You can have readable and on multiple pieces of paper, if you can figure out how to get your computer to even print that way. Or you can have it on one sheet but even elementary students with 20/20 vision will need a magnifying glass to read.

And herein lies the problem with using infographics in school. Many times there is no good way for students to work with them. Yes, there are loads of digital tools that will allow the student to view and annotate and infographic during the discovery stage, but part of graphic design is understanding how the follow the entire design goes together. That is not something that you can see on a computer or printed unless of course, you have figured out how to get it to print full sizes on multiple pages, good luck with that!

So when I have teachers ask me if I can come in and teach infographics in a lesson my answer is always what do you want me to actually teach? The skill of the writing component, the skill of the data component or the design component. I usually get the response of ‘Oh, can you do all three?’ in a 40 min lesson no less! This is where the practice that my school has of asking teachers to write their own mentor texts of any style of writing that they have not done comes in handy! I ask them to make me something that would be similar to what they would want from the students and they quickly realize that one 40 minute lesson is not going to cut it!

That is the point where I get to facilitate the conversation about what planning needs to be done to help the teacher create infographics in their classrooms.

Sources:

Biller, Abhimanyu Das and Diana. “11 Most Useless And Misleading Infographics On The Internet.” io9, io9.Gizmodo.com, 26 Feb. 2015, io9.gizmodo.com/11-most-useless-and-misleading-infographics-on-the-inte-1688239674.

Fingal, Diana. “Infographic: Citizenship in the Digital Age.” ISTE, ISTE, 12 Oct. 2017, www.iste.org/explore/articleDetail?articleid=192&utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=Social&utm_campaign=EdTekHub.

“The Sketchnote Handbook – Designer Mike Rohde.” Rohdesign, rohdesign.com/handbook.

Digital Storytelling: Sharing the Understanding

How could digital storytelling be used in your classroom/subject area? This is the question that we were posted this week. At first, I was a bit like “Arg, I don’t want to do this.” And I spent the whole week ignoring the post. That was until Thursday during our PYP Exhibition Workshop we were tasked with taking an element of the Exhibition and inquiring into what it meant. So here I am sitting in the workshop deciding on Action, creating a 1 minute iMovie about action and presenting it. When I sat down after presenting it dawned on me that had actually created a digital story to share with the workshop members.

When I realized that, I also realized that I have used this skill several times in the past with students and that I find it a fantastic way to do several things.

  1. Get inside their heads. In this example, a student is explaining how they solved a math problem. How often do you get to hear a student think out an entire math problem so that you can identify what they were thinking as they made a mistake? How much more powerful feedback could you give students if you could correct only the thinking around the mistake and not have to reteach the entire concept to them.
  2. Allow them to share their learning before they are able to write. Digital Stories created by students who are developmentally too young to write is an amazing thing. Hearing and seeing what the students create and the complexity of their stories helps teachers to develop their story writing skills so that when they are finally physically able to write they are not trying to do both the learning about how to write a story and the learning about how to write words on paper. This is also a great way for students with motor skill and learning issues to continue to develop the skill of creating a good story without being confined by having to do it also on paper.
  3. Allow students to share what they have understood about a concept. For a final assessment of student understanding in a unit for a Kindergarten class, the students worked as a small group to create a water cycle video. This allowed their teacher to see if they could identify and explain the parts of the water cycle. While this took quite a while to teach them how to do the videos that were produced allowed the teachers to quickly assess the student’s understandings of the concepts. Also while recording there were opportunities to address misconceptions that the students had and reinforce the vocabulary around the teaching.
  4. Allow students more speaking practice when learning a new language. I have seen this be used as a powerful tool to improve language learning in a classroom and had teachers tell me how much faster the student’s speaking skills grow when they use digital storytelling and digital tools to practice their speaking skills. By making digital stories the students are able to all practice speaking at the same time in a classroom. A teacher is able to hear all students speak. The students are able to hear themselves and correct their own mistakes more easily. Making digital stories in language classes also give students more confidence and practice so that when they do speak out loud to their whole class they feel better prepared.

While all of these are great one thing to consider is what do we do with all of these digital stories? As the article, The State of Storytelling in the Internet Age makes the point that while it is now tremendously easier to fact check stories and information on the internet it is also equally as easy to post anything. Leading to comments like

“I read it on the internet” can sometimes be synonymous with “it’s not true.”

So how do we manage all of these digital stories that we are publishing on the internet? Do we publish them to the internet? Do with all of these stories? And how do we keep them from becoming just more static noise on the internet?

I think that this is when we have to teach students the importance of making a story to show a skill vs making a story to share a story to the world. When they are making stories to show a skill they may have multiple low quality digital stories throughout the course of a year that show the progress of their skill, their story making ability, and their creativity.

But do all of the individual stories need to be published or should a final higher quality version be created and shared? How do they know what is a publishable piece? How do they publish it? Should it be public or private? These are some of the key questions for digital storytelling that are just as important to teach students as “How do you tell a good story?”.

“Just Kill Me Now!”, Death by Slideshow

After watching David Phillip’s TEDx Talk about How to Avoid Death by Powerpoint I realized that maybe we are doing it wrong. I don’t mean creating presentations. I mean teaching students that they need to know how their presentation will be viewed before they start. “Is there going to be a live audience or is it designed for the audience to read?” How many of us have asked students that question? I wonder if telling students to use Slides for things that are designed to be read is in and of itself part of the problem.

Instead, we need to look at other options for making things that are designed to be read by the audience. There are many ways that we can create resources that are designed to be read. For example, Book Creator is now available on Chrome, why not make books for information that are designed to be read. Books are designed to be read, therefore people have a different attitude towards the way they engage with them. When an audience is given a book they are expecting to take time and read each element on the page. That is what we do with books.

If our goal is to present then our audience expects to listen. Listening and reading are not always hand in hand. The point that David Phillips and this blog post titled The Scientific Reason Why Bullets Are Bad for Presentations where Dr. Atherton is quoted as saying

“that when you accompany a lecture with bullet point slides, your audience will switch between reading and listening. This type of task switching is cognitively exhausting.”

The article is mainly discussing the woes of bullet points but the principles apply to sentences on presentations as well which is one of David Phillips’s things to avoid.

Basically, they are all saying the same thing less, less, less. Not less slides as David Phillips says.

“Amount of slides in a powerpoint has never been the problem, the amount of objects on a slide is the problem”

Less stuff on the slides. Making sure that the slide is simply something to visually represent the speaking point.

So reflecting back on a slideshow that I created at the beginning of the year. The original plan was to have some time to present it to all of the ES teachers during the orientation days. That time got shrunk to 5 minutes and so my slides went from 24 slides to 3. The 3 slides that I did present were very minimalist since I planned on speaking to them. But the rest of the slides were shared with teachers with the expectation that they read them.

Now I think that I should have created another type of resource. With that in mind, I am going to reimage the slideshow as a book in the new Book Creator for Chrome app. I would share that but it turns out that there are so many more options in Book Creator that I have fallen down the rabbit hole and hope to come up sometime around the Course 3 final project!

I can show you this Slides presentation:

Which I originally thought wasn’t too bad but then I think I have improved it with some modifications to things like the titles on each slide.

A couple of things. This is designed for a workshop that I do so the URL in the top right corner is helpful because people occasionally join in the middle of the session. Also, I do these as visual references and then talk the audience through the building of a sample site. I find that if I do it live they lose the spot, so if I have images they can look back up to see where to go. So the first slide is generally up for at least 5-6 minutes as everyone is coming in so it is not really part of the presentation, the same with the last slide.

PS. The reason that I don’t embed YouTube videos in my blog posts, but link to them instead can be found by reading this blog post Bloggers Beware: You CAN Get Sued For Using Pics on Your Blog – My Story.

PSS. Just for fun! Death by Powerpoint comedy skit!

Helping or Enabling?

This week we were asked to select a Creative Common image to use in one of the classes that we teach. Well, that proved difficult as I am in the middle of MAP testing so I am not working with students very much this week. So I thought about when I have used images recently and when I would in the future and I decided to take a look at the logos that I have created for our ES Portal (in-house only, sorry no link).

I was asked to create a place that could become a one-stop shop for teachers. In doing so I used the skills mentioned in last week’s blog post Cut the CRAP out of Design without really understanding what I was doing. I also did something else that I didn’t realize until I was given this assignment that I had in fact used Creative Common images.

When I double checked my images, I realized that the way that I found the images to use was to use the search option inside of Google Drawings, which only searches for images labeled for commercial reuse with modification.

But when I decided to double check these images by following the link that appears at the bottom of the search windows. I found out that the images I used were, in fact, Creative Commons licensed so that I did, in fact, find correct images to use. Go Me!

It is always nice to find out that you actually did the correct thing with images.

I know that because of working in a school we have a sort of “get out of jail free” card. If you would like to read about Fair Use here on the US Copyright Law Page. Here is an excerpt of the Fair Use page. One thing I did learn from trying to read the Copyright Law is that Educational Institutions are not exempt carte blanche. For example, they are not allowed to profit from the use of someone’s copyrighted material.

Purpose and character of the use, including whether the use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes:  Courts look at how the party claiming fair use is using the copyrighted work, and are more likely to find that nonprofit educational and noncommercial uses are fair.  This does not mean, however, that all nonprofit education and noncommercial uses are fair and all commercial uses are not fair; instead, courts will balance the purpose and character of the use against the other factors below.  Additionally, “transformative” uses are more likely to be considered fair.  Transformative uses are those that add something new, with a further purpose or different character, and do not substitute for the original use of the work.

I think that we as educators actually can make it difficult for students because of this thought that “We are in Education so it’s okay for us.” We aren’t held to the same account as the students will be when they are writing papers as they get older. Because of the exemption for educators, we don’t create the habits in ourselves that we can use to teach students. So we spend years showing them the wrong way to do something only then to force them to change in a very short time, usually in high school.

That is why I was glad to find resources like Dustin Senos’s Stock Photo List. As Dustin says bookmark this site because you will need it. I am going to make a more conscious effort to not only use Creative Commons images but to encourage teachers to do the same. That is the main thing that we as educators have to do, make the effort to search out and find images with Creative Commons licenses so that we can show our students what they should be doing in their work.

Another thing that I found that I can use to help teachers is this visual resource from The Visual Communication Guy. I would show you a picture of the visual but I do not have a license. Though he does say when asked that a teacher can use it in their classroom! I think that this visual is simple yet effective. It is easy to understand and could be used with younger students.

The main thing that we try to teach our students is that if at all possible to take any pictures themselves. This is not only for copyright reasons but also because we are trying to get them to learn how to create not just consume. To create resources to show what they have learned, not just regurgitate what they have read. That being said, taking your own images is not always possible. So when we can’t use images that we take we need to make sure that students know easy, simple ways to find Creative Commons images. Easy and Simple being the keyword.

Another resource that I would add to Dustin’s list is Photos for Class which a fellow teacher used this in her class recently. I think that the biggest issue that students have with these types of services is that they don’t always have images that our students want to use. That is where we as educators have to manage expectations and wants against reality. As well as encourage creativity in our students. If you can’t “grab” an internet image, what could you do instead? This is maybe the more important question that we should be asking our students.

Even after all of the reading and research on this topic, I am still wondering does use of a logo as a link to the site count? For example, you will notice the PYP and MAP logos on our site. Is that okay? The PYP one links to our evidence collecting site for our PYP evaluation visit that is forthcoming and the MAP one leads to the website that our MAP coordinator has created to help teachers remember how to proctor their MAP tests. I think the same rules probably apply, good thing it is being used by an educational institution!

I think that all and all we as teachers need to slow down and consider what we are doing? By finding a quick image are we showing our students the reality of what finding a good Creative Commons image is like or are we showing them good ways to cheat? Are we helping them or enabling them to do the wrong thing? Something to think about.

Course 2 Final Project Empowering Educators

Empowering Educators Website

This project has tested my collaboration skills. The purpose of this project was to build collaboratively. I think that in a normal COETAIL Course starting in September and having Course 2 ending near Christmas, that would be good timing. But with this course, it puts ending Course 2 very close to the beginning of school for some teachers. I think that has caught a lot of us out as several people were caught out.

But I digress! So we have been tasked to work collaboratively to build a professional development program based on the Digital Citizenship (DC) themes of Course 2. When I joined Dudley and Michael they already had the basic idea for a three-day plan. So I jumped in with helping clarify ways that we could do this by thinking of it not as three days but as three courses. That way they could be delivered in a variety of ways not just on PD or pre-planning days. After some initial freaking out about how much time we had and getting a small extension we began to claim our “day”. I chose to work on DC through the G Suite.

We chose to create a website so that we would have, as a team, even more, ability to share the courses with teachers. The website could be used during a PD day or a pre-planning session or it could be shared with teachers so that they can use it independently. The advantage of a website is that it is easy to update, easy to find (if you bookmark it!) and allows for multiple inputs. This means that it will not be a one-time click on a slideshow read it and then never review it again, resource. It can become a live resource within a school to be used to continue the conversation around Digital Citizenship, Privacy, and Digital Literacy.

The propose of my page of the website is to give teachers the talking points and information that they need to make sure that they are bringing up the ideas of DC whenever they are using technology. I feel that this is a much better way to deliver DC than having stand-alone DC lessons with no connection to what you are actually using in class at that point in time.

So I created a slideshow to highlight the key points around DC in some of the G Suite apps. In theory, the slideshow could be one that is given to teachers to read by themselves but I have found that a) They don’t read them and b) that method does not give them the opportunity to ask questions about real live instances that have happened in their classrooms. Also by presenting these to a whole group, you are more likely to have everyone get the same interpretation (though not always!).

I chose the DC through G Suite because I have found that many times teachers miss prime opportunities to embed DC while using the apps in their classrooms. With just a simple reminder to the students about expectations each time they open an app they are less likely to have issues. I can remember back to a visit in 2010 to NIST in Bangkok. I ask the students about email and without fail every time I asked them about their email they said “We use email for school purposes only” then they answered my question. It was obvious that they had heard that over and over again and they knew the purpose of email in at setting.

 

Thank you to Michael Leyland and Dudley Rosenblatt for working with me on this.

Cutting the CRAP Out of Design

I have enjoyed reading the articles this week. They remind me of the effort and work that I put in to make the websites that I make for teachers and students the best that I can with the tools. I know that better tools could produce better sites, but with the tools that I have, I do what I can. I have always taken when I like and what I didn’t like from other websites to guide designs. Unconsciously following the CRAP model mentioned in this article. Now that I have read about the CRAP model I realize that what I liked about websites is that they used the CRAP design principles.

I have also been using many of the ideas shared in this article about visual hierarchy. Since I consider myself a visual learner I guess it makes sense that I have been using these without training. Reading the articles has reinforced the techniques that I have been using are correct. They also make me realize how awesome the new Google Sites is. Many of the design features mentioned in both the CRAP and visual hierarchy articles are not only easy to do in the new Google Sites, but almost impossible not to do. This is why I have found using the new Google Sites with students is actually super easy to use.

I also enjoyed reading about the eye tracking studies. While it may seem that they are not directly connected to the CRAP and visual hierarchy design article I think that they are. I wrote a blog post back in 2015 about how my left eye being more dominant affects the way that I visually layout my personal computer. If it affects my layout of my computer, then it must also affect the way that I layout a website or the way that other people layout websites. That is another element to consider.

I have also been working with my school on a new digital system that is web-based and one of the things that we found was that the initial designs were very much not user-friendly. But then after some revamps mainly based on both of the points in these articles the user interface is beginning to take a more pleasing shape.

For this week we were asked to take the skills that we learned in reading these articles, and “fix a resource that we had designed for working with students. I choose to improve a page in my Student Tech page.

The page started out like:

And it ended like:

I mainly worked on improving the elements of CRAP except for repetition. I worked on improving the contrast, alignment, and proximity. I think that my original design was based on what I was able to do with Sites at the time I created it. But now with new updates, there are more options which allowed for more design changes. I am looking forward to the 4th quarter changes that are coming for sites so that I can continue to improve my resources.

 

I’ve Got the Power!

After watching videos this week, I feel a buzz. The buzz comes from seeing young students who have started exploiting technology in their lives. The first video was about Martha Payne and her journey to find her voice. When you watch the video which is a fantastic example of a child taking action. You may initially think “Wow, that is a that is a student who chose to take action. Look how strong and forward thinking she is.” What I realized as I watch the video is that I don’t believe that she chose to write on her blog, Never Seconds, because she felt that she had a strong, empowered voice but instead that she chose to write a blog because she didn’t feel that she had a strong, empowered voice. Through writing, she was brave enough to say things that she was not brave enough to say out loud. I think that the blog and being behind the computer gave her courage and a voice that she may never have found without technology. I realized this when I watched the video. It is obvious that Martha, while being very confident and committed to her cause online, does not have that confidence in front of an audience. This is maybe not what you would expect from a child who has had so much success online. But I think that it is exactly the type of thing that technology can do for some students.

I have seen on more than one occasion students who are nearly silent in class, blow me away with something that they have written. While writing doesn’t necessarily involve technology. Technology does allow a writing piece to be shared in ways that were nearly impossible before. Think of how much of a boost Martha got the first time she received a comment or realized that her blog was actually being read, that she has a voice.

I was in a class today with a group of students who were video recording a message to their parents on the SeeSaw ePortfolios. The teacher asked them to introduce their ePortfolio to their parents. One student asked, “What if my parents already know what it is?”. We suggested this would then be a good time for you to tell your parents how you would like them to interact with your Portfolio. Tell them what kind of feedback you want them to give you. One student went on to say: “Mom and dad, last year you liked my posts but this year could you make more comments.” What a great way for kids to communicate about their education with their parents. By having the students tell their parents what they need they are showing that they understand the benefit of good feedback.

After watching Martha’s video I was still stuck on what to write for this blog post but then I saw Scott McLeod’s TEDx Talk. The beginning of his talk is about Martha but then he makes the statement that there thousands of Martha’s who are using technology at home to learn, create and grow but, that in school, technology use is less about learning, creating and growing. That to get to the point at school where we are allowing students to achieve similar to what they can at home we have to get past our FEAR. We have to stop locking down and blocking out the world.

“We do everything we can to get technology into the hands of our kids, then we do everything we can to prevent them from using it. If we want to have more kids like these, we have to get rid of our fear, our need for control and focus more on Empowerment. If we want more of this to happen in school, then we have to give them something meaningful to work on, give them powerful devices and access and get out of their way and let them be amazing.”

I completely agree, especially since this is essentially my job. My job is to empower students, teachers, teacher assistants, secretaries, administrators, and staff to use technology and be amazing. If I do my job well then I should be able to get out of their way. I should be able to let them get on with it. That goes for training the teachers, guiding the students and working with colleagues.

When I think back on the examples of student action that I save for reference, most include tech and most include home/independent learning with tech. Imagine what students would do at school if we gave them the venue to do it. Like Richard who saved his village from Lion attacks with blinking lights. Or Kylie Simonds who wanted to help cancer patients be more mobile during treatments. Or Kelvin Doe who turned garbage into a radio station. Or William Gadoury who had a theory about Mayan temples that led to the rediscover of unknown temples with the help of Google Maps.

Another example of empowering students comes from System Administrator Aram Schalm, who encourages the students that notify him of weak spots in the school’s system, to help him find ways to close the gaps. He has empowered these students so much that they are coming to him with management suggestions, like when a student suggested that the news Widget on the iPads might occasionally show images that would be shocking to the younger students (ex: War photos). Aram says:

I love it when Students help finetune tech to make improvements! I always make sure that they get credited for this too; from sending out Staff-emails to make Teachers aware, or even during Staff-meetings and also during conference-type gatherings.

I first heard of Aram’s style of empowerment when we chatted at one of those conferences. I have found that many of my ideas for empowering students come from the buzz that I get when going to one of these conferences!

Kids are amazingly diverse and creative, imagine what they could do if got out of their way and let them be AMAZING.

This is what I love about technology, with a little bit of information and playing with keywords in Google Search you can find what you are looking for!

Sources:

“Martha Payne: ‘Changing the World, One School Dinner at a Time.’” Vimeo, Madfeed.co,  8 Sept. 2017, vimeo.com/85140281.

TEDxTalks. “Extracurricular Empowerment: Scott McLeod at TEDxDesMoines.” YouTube, YouTube, 9 Sept. 2013, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyIl4y_MRbU.

Myinstants. “Instant i Got The Power.” Myinstants, 2010, http://www.myinstants.com/instant/i-got-the-power/.