"Bringing the Farm to School: Growing Healthy Children & Communities" by USDA is licensed under CC by 2.0.

Visual Literacy: Analyzing Infographics with Students

In my last post, I wrote about the use of infographics in the classroom. Their creation can be a powerful exercise in both visual literacy and graphic design. A far cry from the poster projects of my youth, infographics call on students to synthesize information and think thematically. Just because you present students with a great online infographic creation tool (Piktochart, Visme, etc.) doesn’t mean they are ready to create one. Many students are not even familiar with the term infographic (informative graphic). I start any lesson on the topic by asking students to analyze the work of others. This extra step yields far better results in students’ final work.

Questions to Ask Students

  • How do you read this image? From left to right?

  • How does the organization of information/text structure help an author and a reader establish important themes?

  • What do you see first? Why?

  • What stands out to you at second glance? Why?

  • Where does your eye travel?

  • What relationship is shown in this infographic? How do you know? What choices did the designer make to ensure this was clear, even from afar? How does this help you to read this information?

  • How is color used? What is bright and what is dull in color? Why do you think the creator chose to do this?

Students are amazed to realize that these design decisions are not haphazard, but purposefully considered by the author. 

"Bringing the Farm to School: Growing Healthy Children & Communities" by USDA is licensed under CC by 2.0.

“Bringing the Farm to School: Growing Healthy Children & Communities” by USDA is licensed under CC by 2.0.

For example, consider the infographic above. A quick “read” yields some clear key aspects of this infographic’s design. Thematic imagery is used to convey the larger message (farm-to table practices are present in some U.S. schools). Even a cursory glance suggests that numbers and statistics are a focus. Color and font size also draw attention to these statistics. This infographic is designed to highlight the successes of current farm-to-table eating in schools, rather than challenges. One may even notice that the sizes of the grocery bags decrease to coincide with the percentages represented on them. While this is far from a complex infographic, it is successful in presenting synthesized information about the topic. It is  also clear that graphic design elements are purposeful and on-message. You may think these simple elements are innately obvious, but it is useful to model your thinking and work with students to unpack these design choices as they relate to theme and message. Finally, I encourage teachers to survey students for topics of interest before choosing an infographic to study together. This will create further engagement and interest with students.

Using Infographics in the Classroom

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Infographics

In my own classroom, the use of infographics has been a valuable tool to teach not only visual literacy, but graphic design. Our society is a visual one and students need to be prepared to not only interpret the meaning of visuals presented to them but to present their own visual stories back to others. Many already do this in some capacity on sites like Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat. Of course, creating an infographic does go beyond taking a selfie, requiring students to think very critically. Above are some infographics of mine that I’ve shared with students.

What is an infographic?

I tell my students that infographics (informative graphics) are a way to convey information to an audience in a simple, engaging way. I tell them that it is a way of storytelling. I tell them that it counters the notion, often seen in writing, that longer is better. I tell them that synthesis is truly the challenge here. The key to a successful infographic is a finished product that looks deceptively simple.

How do you use them in your teaching?

Each time I’ve presented this idea, I’ve been surprised by how many student haven’t heard the term infographic. They are, however, familiar with similar images in nonfiction books from their childhood. Students are often surprised by how much they can “read” from a visual image, as well as how quickly they can identify the  relationships present, such as in flowcharts and cycles, etc. I often begin by showing students some examples and asking them to identify key elements. This is an important first step to pave the way for students to create their own. Infographics can be used as a creative alternative to a typical project or even writing assignment. Students can share them in a printed form or with each other online. In the examples below, my students use infographics to share elements of symbolism from novels they had recently read.

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How do you make an infographic and not just a poster?

  • Get out of the habit of “go find and stick up” (Images are not stickers to place without thorough consideration.)

  • Viewer should be able to understand relationships at first glance (cross language barriers perhaps)

  • Overall imagery should be thematic or symbolic

  • Not just be content, but an analysis of this information

  • Does your infographic…tell a story? persuade? present an argument?

  • Consider the overall text structure (compare & contrast, sequence, cause & effect, etc.)

 

What tools do you use to create infographic?

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There are many, many online tools available that can make this process easy and fun for students. Some examples are shown above. Please note that some of these tools have both free and paid versions with varying customization options. Be warned that “go find and stick up” is tempting with these tools. Additionally, by no means is a fancy tool necessary to create such a visual image. A simple tool like Google Slides, Powerpoint or even pen and paper can work just as well!

The Past Year

Well, it has been 349 days since my last blog post! Where have I been you ask? Great question. My last post found me completing a graduate degree in Digital Education Leadership at Seattle Pacific University while closing out another school year as a middle school language arts teacher. It also found me nine months pregnant and counting, awaiting the arrival of my son. Born on June 10th, Parker arrived only four days shy of the last day of school, and the same day as my graduation from Seattle Pacific. Of course, this made it a tad tricky to attend. Check out the make-up graduation my esteemed program director, David Wicks and my devoted cohort, hosted a few months later. Who says you can’t do it all?

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During this hiatus spent caring for my son, I have continued to engage in education technology by exploring some great opportunities presented to me. Follow me as I share about the following experiences in the coming weeks!

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1. Running professional development sessions for teachers on the topics of Infographics, Student Blogging, and Genius Hour

2. Presenting an Ignite Talk at an EdSurge Summit Event on Inquiry-Based Learning

3. Teaching my first higher education course, EDTC 6102 Teaching, Learning and Assessment 1, at Seattle Pacific University

4. Developing elective coursework for the Digital Education Leadership graduate program at Seattle Pacific University

4. Serving on a Future Ready Framework committee

5. Presenting a workshop for docents at the Bellevue Arts Museum on working with middle school students

I’ve been busy and I look forward to sharing more in the next posts!

 

 

Evaluating a Technology Course According to ISTE Student Standards

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Practicum

As part of my final course with the Digital Educational Leadership master’s program at Seattle Pacific University, I engaged in a 12 week practicum, job-shadowing two instructors who teach a technology elective course for middle school students. The course, a high school graduation requirement, focuses on preparing students to use technology for various academic and job-related objectives. It also seeks to explore the use of different digital tools and is taught using the Learning Management System (LMS), Moodle.

Although in many ways I was an independent observer, I did actively engage in the classroom. I worked with individual students on demand, had regular conversations with the instructors about their approach to the curriculum, and taught a few classes in their absence. These combined experiences provided me with an authentic and immersive understanding of the curriculum’s implementation.

Program Evaluation

After completing this practicum, I chose to engage further in my understanding of this course by conducting a program evaluation of its curriculum.

Focal Points for Evaluation

Utilizing the work of Sanders and Sullins (2006), the following focus was identified for this evaluation (p. 7):

Process of strategies for providing services to learners: to provide insights about how best to organize a school to facilitate learning
1. Curriculum design: to provide insights about the quality of program planning and organization
2. Classroom processes: to provide insights about the extent to which educational programs are being implemented
3. Materials of instruction: to provide insights about whether specific materials are indeed aiding student learning

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Reflections on Peer Coaching: Experiences and Essentials

As part of my studies with the Digital Education Leadership program at Seattle Pacific University, I recently engaged in and completed an exercise in peer coaching with a new teacher. I considered the additional challenges that face new teachers in the first few months of school and transitioned from an advocate to a collaborative partner, capable of leading and guiding inquiry. I practiced communication skills, including active listening and questioning strategies as my collaborating partner and I worked to build lessons together. Much of my work in this course centered around the study of Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Communication by Les Foltos

How can a school without a peer coaching program still benefit from the peer coaching method?

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Using Universal Design to Differentiate Instruction

"Universal Design for Learning" by Giulia Forsythe CC 2.0  https://www.flickr.com/photos/gforsythe/8527950743

“Universal Design for Learning” by Giulia Forsythe CC 2.0 https://www.flickr.com/photos/gforsythe/8527950743

As part of my recent exploration of peer coaching, I have recently explored what it means to peer coach and what 21st century learning looks like in the classroom. Now, my attention has progressed to think about lesson improvement within the peer coaching process. As previously discussed, effective learning challenges students to shift from simple consumers of information, to producers of knowledge in the real-world (Foltos, 2013). For many, this type of learning is not easily integrated into daily teaching (Foltos, 2013). What steps are necessary to co-plan an effective lesson plan?

Creating a Task

Foltos (2013) wrote that first you need to create a task that is complex and real-world. It shouldn’t be too simple or too easily solved (Foltos, 2013). While this concept sounds good, it can be difficult to translate into a learning activity that is both relatable and digestible for students. Foltos (2013) suggested that real-world problems presented are aligned with student interest and that requirements can be easily defined and understood by students.

Defining Standards

Next, it is important to define the standards being focused on. There can be multiple categories of standards to consider: curriculum standards like those found in the Common Core, 21st century standards such as those with the Partnership for 21st Century Learning, and technology standards like the ISTE Student Standards.

Crafting Student Directions & Assessments

From here, the learning context can be defined. This might be more easily understood as a “series of carefully sequenced learning activities” (Foltos, 2013, p. 125). It is, of course, important to determine how the learning activities correlate with the standards (Foltos, 2013). Finally, student directions can be crafted, assessments can be created, and resources can be identified, all through a process of receiving and sharing feedback.

Differentiation

One of my collaborating partner’s current focuses is differentiation. As such, I thought it relevant to align this week’s guiding questions about co-planning lessons to questions of differentiation. Differentiation is easily discussed but not as readily implemented into the classroom. It remains a great theoretical concept that is difficult to implement on a daily basis, given time constraints and curricular demands.

What protocols can be used to collaboratively design differentiated instruction effectively?

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ISTE Teaching Standard 5: Leading Collaborative PD in EdTech

This week in my exploration of ISTE Teaching Standards with my graduate program in Digital Education Leadership at Seattle Pacific University, I am examining ISTE Teaching Standard 5 in an effort to understand how teachers can…

“continuously improve their professional practice, model lifelong learning, and exhibit leadership in their school and professional community by promoting and demonstrating the effective use of digital tools and resources.”

Embedded in this standard is the indicator for teachers to…

“exhibit leadership by demonstrating a vision of technology infusion, participating in shared decision making and community building, and developing the leadership and technology skills of others.”

This standard immediately make me think about my previous post on ISTE Teaching Standard 3 in which I explored collegiality and collaboration among educators. Collaboration of any kind is an important global skill that takes advantage of unique perspectives and expertise, while also being an effective method of adult learning (Morel, 2014). It is one that we need to be fostering in our own students, so it is important that we develop and model this ability ourselves. EdSurge reported that “Teachers consistently say they learn best from their peers” (2014, p. 8). In my previous post on collaboration, I used the word informal at times to define a collaborative experience that is less about attending a training guided by a top-down approach and more about working with colleagues to experiment and offer reciprocal feedback. My professor, @RobinHenrickson, guided me to consider my use of the word informal, as it can connote practices without norms or protocols. I realized that my past year of effective collaboration that I shared in this post utilized norms, whether I knew it or not. My colleague and I followed an inquiry model for implementing new practices or technologies, we offered each other feedback and support, and we respected each other’s expertise. So, as I approach ISTE Teaching Standard 5, I am now wondering how leadership can play an important role in  the effectiveness and sustainability of collaborative professional development. How can I expand upon the success I’ve had collaborating during this past school year and work to lead a model that engages and benefits more of my school community?

What role do teacher leaders play in establishing effective collaborative practices focused on Ed tech?

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ISTE Teaching Standard 4: Engaging in the Practice of Social Media at School

A Splash of Colour

A Splash of Colour by Garry Knight licensed under https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Teaching digital citizenship is a broad topic that as the name implies, demands that character education be addressed before one even enters the digital space. If a student doesn’t know how to behave responsibly in real life, then doing so online isn’t going to change that. As part of my studies in Digital Education Leadership at Seattle Pacific University, I am reflecting on ISTE Teaching Standard 4 to promote and model digital citizenship and responsibility in technology by focusing on indicator c. to “promote and model digital etiquette and responsible social interactions related to the use of technology and information.”

Recently some circumstances at my school have pushed me to think further about an educator’s role in digital citizenship. My school has addressed everything from nude pictures shared among students, to YouTube videos posted for the sake of student humiliation, to online threats made to student safety this year. These behaviors occurred both in and out of school, alarming and paralyzing those tasked with responding to them. Disciplinary action was taken in all of the circumstances, but a feeling of resolution remains absent.

Despite the serious acts described above, one situation in particular has stayed with me. A colleague of mine noticed two of her students engaging in off-task behavior while on computers. She used LanSchool to monitor their actions on screen and discovered an inappropriate dialogue between them. She printed out the transcript of the conversation and brought the students down to speak with the principal. While the students were aware that they had violated the school’s acceptable use policy by abusing the use of school devices, they adamantly disagreed that the nature of their conversation was any of the school’s business. This admission forced me to re-evaluate the role educators play in teaching digital citizenship skills. In “3 Quick Tips for Building Digital Citizenship,” Cary (2013) stated that “Schools have a tendency to shy away from actively teaching digital citizenship due to time constraints in the curriculum, concerns about student-teacher interaction online, as well as anxiety over students having ready access to social media (like Facebook and Twitter)” (para. 2). My fellow graduate student @ingersoll_ryan introduced me to the work of Carrie James. In her book Disconnected: Youth, New Media, and the Ethics Gap she addressed the need for educators to foster conscientious connectivity practices in students (2014). She wrote that most adults are not entering into the digital citizenship conversation and that, as a result, our students are lacking necessary mentorship in their online practice (James, 2014).

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ISTE Teaching Standard 3: The Power of Collegiality and Collaboration in EdTech

@University of the Frasier Valley via Flickr

@University of the Frasier Valley via Flickr

This week in my graduate studies, I looked at ISTE Teaching Standard 3 or “Model digital age work and learning.” The broad implications of this standard initially left me wondering where to start. The more I thought about it the more I realized that, in many ways, I have lived this standard over the past year. I investigated the following two indicators, with a focus on the audience of my peers.

  1. Demonstrate fluency in technology systems and the transfer of current knowledge to new technologies and situations
  2. Collaborate with students, peers, parents, and community members using digital tools and resources to support student success and innovation

This school year has seen a major shift in my instruction. Due to the influence of my graduate studies, I have both experimented with and implemented more new ideas with technology, than ever before in my past seven years of teaching. While I have never felt behind in my use of technology, I have certainly never been ahead. Previously, digital tools have felt additive, as opposed to integrative. With new tools emerging all the time, I found myself overwhelmed. I viewed digital tools as finite tasks to master, instead of part of a larger pedagogical approach. As my own discovery of education technology has emerged and left my excited to share, I now wonder how I can become a leader in this field. What are the best methods for sharing my own shift in mindset and becoming a resource to fellow educators?

How can educators share and model successful and unsuccessful technology tools and ideas to colleagues in a manner that is useful, applicable, and trustworthy?

Collegiality

If I reflect on my lack of experimentation in past years, I am reminded that new ideas have been often shared with me in presentations at professional development settings. These have been static in nature, and rarely, ever collaborative. However, this year, that has changed. Learning and improving any practice doesn’t happen in isolation. While informal in nature, my collaboration with one particular colleague this year has resulted in impactful change for my students.

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ISTE Teaching Standard 2: Student Autonomy in Assessment for Learning

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StudentAutonomyAssessmentforLearning by Annie Tremonte is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Education is no longer a practice that happens to a student, but one that happens with a student (Bayse, 2014). Promoting student autonomy continues to be an important aspect of preparing students for the future. Previously this year, I investigated the benefits of student autonomy in project-based learning, digital tool selection, and the troubleshooting of technology. In my exploration of ISTE Teaching Standard 2 this week, I am once again investigating student autonomy, but as an important aspect of assessment for learning. I have chosen to specifically focus my exploration of this standard on criterion b. which asks teachers to “develop technology-enriched learning environments that enable all students to pursue their individual curiosities and become active participants in setting their own educational goals, managing their own learning, and assessing their own progress.”

Assessment for learning describes using assessment results to inform instructional practices, and it is often broken into two categories: summative and formative. Summative assessment refers to the evaluation of student learning at the end of a unit of study. Alternatively, formative assessment refers to the monitoring of student learning during a unit of study so that instruction can be modified to meet student needs. Formative assessment assissts both teachers and students alike to identify areas of strengths and weaknesses. It is intended to be ongoing and not embodied in a high stakes final grade. Instead, learning should be modified based upon the feedback gathered, in order to make spiraling attempts at learning. Many methods of formatively assessing students exists. Exit tickets at the end of a lesson can garner data on student mastery of a concept, which can then be used to tailor instruction for the next day’s lesson. Technologies such as polling software can obtain and display student data immediately for the entire class to view and, as a result, be used to modify teaching in real time.

Personalizing Assessment for Learning

Assessment for learning strategies are most impactful when assessment is personalized, allowing students to be involved in their own growth. Basye (2014)  claimed that “in addition to responding to students’ needs and interests, [personalization] teaches them to manage their own learning — to take control and ownership of it” (para. 14). Technology is useful in the self-monitoring process, in that online grade books like EnGrade and learning management systems such as Blackboard or Edmodo can allow students to play an active role in tracking and monitoring their progress. Stiggins and Chappius (2005) wrote in “Using Student-Involved Classroom Assessment to Close Achievement Gaps” that students are no longer shocked at the end of a grading period by their grade when formative assessments are implemented, and, as a result, trust and confidence are established between teacher and student.

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