Making infographics the easel.ly way

Infographics have become a very popular means of communication recently and in an earlier post, I discussed the potential uses for them in education. While viewing my Scoop-it feeds today, I came across this brand new Web tool for creating infographics called easel.ly.

It’s still in beta form but is free to test out. Being in beta form, it is obviously not 100% ready for prime time and incomplete but in a quick play with it this morning, I like what it has to offer.

It’s a drag and drop interface that allows you to drag ready made themes, objects, text fields and insert your own images to create an info graphic that looks as professional as the ones flooding the Net at the moment. There is an extensive collection of icons, graphic elements, maps etc although it lacks in a feature for creating and editing graphs ( there is one area graph you can drag on that is not editable but this shows that it is probably coming in the future ). Everything is very easy to edit and includes colour, layers, resizing, duplicating features.

With visual learners everywhere in our classroom, we need to think about presenting data in a variety of ways, Infographics is one option. You could use expensive, complex graphics software or something simple and free like easel.ly. I encourage you to give it a go.

Maths Extension/Enrichment and Edmodo


Addressing the needs of all students in your Maths Classroom can be a real challenge. Do we stream based on ability? Do we use collaborative mixed ability groups? What’s the role of rich,open ended questions and differentiated curriculum? How do we pitch to the middle 50% but still cater for the upper AND lower 25%? It’s a challenge I’ve been grappling with for 25 years. Recently, I’ve been considering the use of Edmodo to provide access to extension and enrichment Mathematics opportunities for the more able students in the classroom. ( For those unfamiliar with Edmodo, click here for a description) This is my plan. I would be interested in feedback on its potential effectiveness before going further with it.

Identifying the target group
This is not a simple task. The standard method these days seems to be the standardized test. In Australia, we have NAPLAN, the yearly national assessment task targeting Years 3,5,7 and 9. Debating its merits here is not my intention today. I see its usefulness in quick identification of the higher achievers in a current group of students. I would then administer the next level test to these able students to gauge how far their abilities extend beyond the current class level. For example, after selecting a group in Grade 6 based on Grade 5 results from the previous year, I would give them the Year 7 test. Using data analysis, I’d identify their strengths and learning needs for future programming and targeted areas for extension and enrichment.

This would only be a starting point. Standardized tests are a narrow form of assessment that don’t necessarily identify fully the student’s need for extension in Mathematics. I’d continue to evaluate the children within and outside the extension group. I’m sure during the year I would identify children who could join the group for extension in specific areas they excel in. The beauty of using an open, collaborative, independent learning platform like Edmodo is that students can opt in and out of specific tasks or units of work.

The Edmodo Extension Maths Program
This is how I envisage setting up and running an Extension Program in Mathematics within the standard classroom environment.

First I would set up a Maths group for every student in the class. I wouldn’t want the Extension group to stand out from the crowd by having sole access to Edmodo for Maths. I would use this area to post problem solving tasks that the whole class could engage with, links to quality Maths sites that students could use to consolidate understanding in current units and revise past lessons as well. I would provide opportunities for discussion of strategies used, allow children to share their understanding, ask questions that both teachers and students could answer and share with the class. I’d allow for the possibility of using iPad apps like ShowMe or Explain Everything to post audiovisual explanations or lessons created by teachers or lessons. I would also post resources children could access to support them while working independently. The extension group could have a lead part in sharing their expertise with other classmates in this main Edmodo group. they could even create their own mini “Khan Academy”.

I would then create a subgroup within the main Edmodo group for my Extension/Enrichment group. I envisage this group being formed from able students across all classes in a particular grade level, possibly across several if there are able students in lower Grade levels who could qualify. I would plan for this group to access materials and concepts beyond what is available to the main group but accessible through the same platform as everyone else.

Obviously there would need to be some significant planning and negotiation with all class teachers to ensure this worked within their programs. consideration would have to be made about how these students would participate in both the extension sessions and regular class lessons. I see this happening in a number of ways.

Option 1. The students begin the lesson with the rest of the class. When they have received enough instruction on what is expected of them, they move on to completing required work for their class teacher independently, leaving their teacher to work with those who need support. When they complete the set task, they submit it on Edmodo through the assignment section and then enter their Edmodo Extension Sub group to collaborate on the higher level tasks assigned by me. They communicate with each other either personally if in the same grade or via posting their strategies, solutions, suggestions, questions, comments on Edmodo for the rest of the Extension group to respond to. Their work will be completed digitally and submitted through the Assignments section of Edmodo so that I can feedback and collaborate with them on the tasks.

Option 2. Alternatively, for one session a week, the group would meet with me and work on high level problem solving tasks and extension work related to the unit of work their class in currently involved in. Using online enrichment programs like the website nrich, the group would be collaborating on problems, sharing their possible solutions and strategies not only with each other but by submitting group or individual solutions on the nrich site for other like minded students to collaborate on through global forums. I envisage opportunities for the students to use technology such as screen casting computer programs or iPad apps I previously mentioned like ShowMe to record their solutions and strategies audio visually. Using a site like nrich, which would allow them to self select problems to solve would give them the freedom to challenge themselves both individually and in teams. It would also give them the option to opt in and out to return back to their class if they choose to.

Option 3. A third model could be a choice of making daily decisions to complete regular class work as homework and deciding to work in their extension groups or individually on Edmodo on a daily basis. As their test results would have already indicated in being selected for the program, they have most likely mastered the skills being taught in the regular class program and a simple completion of the tasks for homework would satisfy their class teacher’s need for evidence they have understood that area so they can report on it later in the year. This option fits a Personalized Learning model commonly encouraged in today’s schools and would allow the student to remain engaged in Maths at or beyond their level rather than going through the motions of completing simple tasks.

How Edmodo would help me implement this program

  • All links to nrich and teacher/student created work would be posted on Edmodo, with individual entries tagged or saved in libraries so that students could always have easy access to the tasks.
  • The collaborative nature of leaving instant comments and feedback allows the group to stay in contact with each other outside of school to continue their problem solving together. This could become engaging homework, with the teacher able to remain in contact and feedback on the work they post on Edmodo.
  • Each member of the group can work on their own problem solving and submit it to me or their teacher independently of the group for personal feedback before sharing with group if they choose to.
  • The function of the Assignment process in Edmodo allows for children to receive private feedback and allow the teachers to collect, collate and mark each submission, enabling effective assessment to occur at all points in the program. Teachers can submit rubrics and criteria for marking the work on Edmodo so the students know what is expected of them. I have had success with such use last year working with a Literature Circle group.
  • The fact that all students from the classes are also using Edmodo for their Math work as well means that all students can easily be given the opportunity to opt in to or out of the Extension group at any time without any extra planning or organisation by the teachers. I think this would be an important option as it would encourage other students to take on the challenge of extension tasks if they choose to.
  • Other teachers can be given co teacher status and become involved in the program, either as observers or contributors. This would allow for professional feedback on the suitability and effectiveness of the program.

These are my initial thoughts and obviously this kind of radical change to the status quo of primary schools as I have experienced them would involve leadership, class teacher, parent and student discussion. I need to think through this more and would appreciate feedback from others on how they have managed the needs of the more able students in their classrooms. I would really appreciate readers leaving a comment and contributing to the conversation of extending and enriching the learning of the able mathematician.

Infographics – presenting Data and statistics in the 21st Century

I’m always looking for ways of presenting information to my students in more effective ways. I’ve recently discovered an explosion in a new way of representing data and information on the WWW called infographics. Obviously, they didn’t just start popping up this year, but they seem to be everywhere at the moment. They offer great possibilities in Education across many curriculum areas.

Ways to use Infographics

  1. Tuning in to a topic. With today’s visual learner, Infographics present a great way to present information quickly without bombarding them with text. The breadth of information outlined in graphical form allows the whole grade to find some piece of info that they can share.
  2. Information source for a range of subjects. There are a host of infographics available on the sites shared in this post that cover History, Geography, Society, Economics, Science – just about everything. They are often current, relevant and up to date information sources that you can use to supplement your class program
  3. Data Analysis, statistics and fractions/percentages in Mathematics classrooms. Instead of limiting our students to text book sourced graphs that are often irrelevant in what they represent, use infographics for your Maths lessons. Every imaginable form of graphic representation is provided and the information is easily available for every student online to analyse in class or for homework. Post it to a blog or social networking site and students could engage in collaborative analysis on current issues. The breadth of percentage, fraction or decimal numbers on offer in these charts open up discussion about the real purpose for these numbers in real statistics. As a teacher, all the prep work is done, giving you time to prepare the possible analysis.
  4. An alternative way for presenting data for students to learn. In keeping with 21st Century learning, introducing students to infographics shows them a new way of data presentation that is being used across all fields of work today. Its a form not yet in most text books or curricula but is a real medium being used today that they can embrace. In an upcoming post, I will look t the types of web based and other programs that are available for students to create their own infographics. Just make sure you focus on current examples and the purpose of them before embarking on yet another tech tool!

Here are two websites I have found that have a great selection of infographics to use in schools. Like anything on the WWW, I strongly encourage you to curate appropriate examples rather than just giving unfettered access to the students ( depending on their age of course).

Infographics Archive sorts their infographics into categories for easy access to topics. As I said above, it is better if you searched for relevant infographics s a teacher as their is a Sex and Love category that you may not want your students accessing. There are some powerful infographics available so happy searching.

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Cool Infographics is another great site. It is set up as blog so uses tags rather than categories for searching for infographics topics. This is sometimes better as tags can drill down more specifically for what you are after. Again, be cautious in allowing access to younger students. I can’t guarantee the content of every infogrpahic here because of the tagging structure. Great possibilities, though.

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If anyone else has any other ideas on uses of Infographics, I would love for you to share them here. Any other links to sites would be appreciated as well.