Author Archives: TechnoHella

TechnoHella

About TechnoHella

Hella Comat, Curriculum Writer - Hella Comat is a dedicated professional, who has taught in the education system for more than 30 years. As a pioneer of technology integration in Ontario public schools she was one of the first teachers to introduce the internet, video conferencing, web design, and multimedia learning activities to teachers and students in the Halton Board. To inspire teachers to use technology, she has led sessions for the Touch Technology program, ran workshops at education conferences, and sat on numerous advisory committees related to technology-issues. In recent years she taught the Computer in the Classroom course, at York University. Her lifelong commitment to teaching and learning was acknowledged when she was honored as the recipient of the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence in Science, Technology, and Mathematics. Hella's contribution to the blog includes entries about the importance of technology integration. Drawing from her in-depth knowledge of technology in the classroom Hella writes about teaching strategies and useful resources that can benefit your practice. In addition, she provides innovative lesson ideas that you can implement into your own curriculum.

The Power of an Infographic

As an alternative to report writing or giving a presentation, an infographic is a compelling way for students to demonstrate their learning. Due to its visual nature, an infographic portrays facts, data, images, and a call to action in a convincing and appealing format. When we teach students the tools for designing their own infographics, they acquire a variety of essential skills. Here’s a list of the values of teaching students how to build an infographic.

infographic

Apply Research Skills

In order to present the facts and images that are fundamental for an infographic, students need to build search skills. In a couple of recent blogs, we outlined some tips for teaching explicit strategies for online research. Limited reading and scanning skills, irrelevant sites, advertising, and biased websites are stumbling blocks to students finding reliable, appropriate results quickly. If we teach them how to search, they will achieve greater success in finding trustworthy information fast. Making an infographic is a great way for students to boost their search skills.

Develop Digital Literacy

An infographic can be designed for almost any subject area. Topics in science, geography, visual arts, history, and language arts can all be expressed using images and brief text. Multiple technology skills are developed:

  • graphic design
  • digital citizenship
  • online search strategies
  • communication and word processing
  • web-based publishing

Promote Critical Thinking

An infographic has very limited text. When creating this type of document, a student needs to evaluate all the information and determine which facts are most important and engaging. An infographic has different sections, so they need to organize the layout in a logical way. Finally, the headings of each block of information must be interesting to capture audience attention. Therefore students must synthesize, paraphrase, and describe the topic in brief but intriguing titles. These skills are in the top two levels of Bloom’s taxonomy, evaluation and synthesis, where students master the most complex learning tasks.

Inspire Creativity

Infographics are lots of fun to create! Choosing layouts, picking color themes, drawing icons,
listing fun facts, making an image carousel, and displaying surprising numerical data are just some of the elements to design and construct. Students find it highly motivating to make an original infographic. Spark the interest of students from Grades 6 and up with a novel assignment. Inspire them to make unique infographics that both demonstrate their learning as well as inform others.

Develop Real World Communication Techniques

An infographic presents a topic using universally recognized symbols and images. Text is brief and enticing to attract and hold the viewer’s attention. Students need to understand the topic, but they also have to convey it in an authentic way that will captivate readers. An infographic is likely to be web-based, so it should mirror contemporary media. There is a lot of information to compete with, so it must be accurate and convincing. The student isn’t writing a report for the limited audience of one teacher. It is being written for the public. Quality, grammar, vocabulary and tone are critical with a global audience.


Learn How to Create an Infographic with TechnoEarth

technoearth icon

TechnoKids’ newest project, TechnoEarth, instructs students how to build an infographic about an environmental issue. They play the role of environmental stewards as they design an interactive infographic about an important problem. They learn how to outline the cause, harmful effects, stakeholders, location, and solutions using a highly engaging format. Learn more about TechnoEarth here.

Boost Online Search Strategies: A Fun Activity

In the previous post, we listed a set of tips to develop online search strategies. Try this skill building activity with middle school students to apply those tips and raise awareness of ways to find trustworthy information fast.

technoearth icon

This activity is from TechnoKids technology project TechnoEarth. In this project, students learn how to use Google Sites to design an interactive infographic about an environmental issue. The search activity below is a Skill Review from Session 1, in which students learn about environmental stewardship and infographics. Then they pick a topic of their choice and use a template to research the cause, harmful effects, stakeholders, location, and solution.


Explore Online Search Strategies

1. Try many keywords

search strategies

Some topics use different terms to mean the same thing. For example, both algal bloom and algae bloom refer to lots of algae in water. Compare the search results for algal bloom and algae bloom. Look at the list of sites, questions, images, or videos on the page.

  • Are the results the same for algal bloom and algae bloom?
  • If no, which keyword do you think is the best? Why?

2. Be specific

boost search strategies

Pretend your research topic is poaching of rhinos.

  • What is a solution to the problem?
  • To narrow the search results, what phrase did you use?

3. Pick from the dropdown menu

search drop down

The dropdown menu in the search box suggests keywords. Let’s say you are researching smog. List two suggested phrases you think would be helpful.

4. Refer to People also ask

search people ask

Many people ask questions about environmental issues. Search for plastic pollution. List a question from the People also ask section that you find interesting.

5. Check the URL

search strategies

The website address can give a clue about who made the web page. Find a government website about overfishing. The URL might end .gov or .gc.ca.

  • What is the URL?

6. Skim and Scan

skim and scan

Save time! Find a website about harmful effects of acid rain. Scan the search results for words that match the facts you need.

  • Which search result do you think will be the best? List the title.
  • Scan the description. Which keywords are in bold text?

technoearth
Design an infographic using Google Sites. Improve research skills and search strategies.

Boost Search Strategies with Middle School Students

web design for kids Google Sites

There is LOTS of information on the Internet. When students are conducting searches for specific topics, they can become overloaded with results. Irrelevant sites, limited skimming and scanning skills, advertising, and unreliable data are all factors that can make online searching time-consuming. Competent Internet search strategies can help students to locate high-quality sites quickly to get the facts they need.

Here’s a list of tips to boost Internet searches. In the next blog, we’ll post an activity to use with students to discover different ways of finding information by applying these tips.

search strategies
TechnoEarth includes a skill review to boost search strategies.

Search Strategies to Find Information FAST!

Try many keywords:

search strategies

Some topics have more than one term used to describe it. Each will provide different results.

Be specific:

boost search strategies

To narrow search results use a phrase that states exactly what you want. The more precise, the better.

Pick from the dropdown menu:

search drop down

As you type into the search box, a list of suggested phrases appears. This can save you time typing. Plus, it offers helpful keywords.

Refer to People also ask:

search people ask

The People also ask section has popular questions. The answers can quickly provide you with the information you seek.

Check the URL:

search strategies

Look for sites that are well known organizations, government agencies, or educational pages. The URL of these sites end with .org, .gov, or .edu.

Skim and scan:

skim and scan

Read the title. Check the description for the keyword. It will be bold. Glance over the text looking for words that match the facts you need.

Notice if the site is an Ad:

boost search strategies

Websites can pay to be at the top of the search results. The listing will be labeled Ad. Just because it is first does not mean it is the best.

Check the sources:

search strategies sources

A website may list their sources of information. Often, they are links to online articles. Verify that they are high-quality. If they are, use them.

Use Find to highlight facts:

search strategies using find

If there is a lot of text, use the Find feature. Press CTRL+F on the keyboard. Type a word into the search box. If it is on the page, it will highlight. Jump to each place where the word appears using the Previous and Next buttons.

Use multiple search engines:

search strategies using search engines

Use more than one search engine such as: Bing, Google, or Duck Duck Go. Each provides different results.


TechnoEarth to Boost Search Strategies

technoearth icon
TechnoEarth Technology Project

TechnoKids’ newest project, TechnoEarth, inspires students to become environmental stewards. As they research an important issue, they develop and refine search strategies. Then, using Google Sites, they design an interactive, web-based infographic that outlines the cause, harmful effects, and solutions. The publication also summarizes stakeholders, highlights interesting facts, and pinpoints the location of the problem. Students inform the public about the environmental issue, raise awareness, and spark action.

Check out the next blog post to get a fun activity from TechnoEarth. Students search for information and explore these tips to build proficient search skills.

Create an Infographic Using Google Sites

Middle school students can design an infographic using Google Sites. Google Sites, is a free app to anyone with a Google account. It is primarily a web design tool. However, it has many features that make it the ideal way for students In Grades 6-9 to create an infographic that is interactive, compelling, and lots of fun to build!

In a recent blog, we listed reasons for teachers to assign an infographic as an innovative method for students to demonstrate their learning. An infographic’s characteristics – simple graphics and brief text – as well as its interactive nature make it an ideal means of communication. As an alternative to report writing, students must use higher order thinking skills such as analysis and synthesis to summarize and condense information to the most essential facts to create an infographic.

google sites

The next decision is “What app should we use?” Here are some reasons to use Google Sites as an unlikely but ideal program to easily create an interactive infographic with elementary and middle school students.

Google Sites: A Great Fit for Making an Infographic

Divide Information Visually with Layouts

In Google Sites, the banner for the page title and various layout options are perfect for designing an infographic. The image blocks visually divide the separate parts of the infographic, which may be headings and text, clipart, number facts, links, and pictures. Sections draw the reader’s eye through the various parts of the document. The nature of simple web page building using image and text blocks makes creating an infographic with this tool so suitable.

infographic
Create an infographic using Google Sites that chunks the information into sections using Layout options.

Add Professionalism Using Themes

Google Sites helps students produce a professional looking infographic using themes. When a theme is chosen, the web document is limited to a coordinating palette of colors and fonts. This not only results in a high quality design but the publication appears well organized and integrated too. Scanning through the infographic is easier when the parts have a similar appearance.

Search for Images

Working within Google Sites, students can find and display the simple images that are typical of infographics. These cartoon-like pictures are used to convey data or facts quickly. Using the Insert Images tool, students search with keywords. By restricting the results to just Clip art or Line drawings, they can eliminate photographs and just find basic, universally recognized images ideal for an infographic.

icons
Search for simple images that convey a message.

Create Collapsible Text

One more reason to use Google Sites is that it provides collapsible text. This element can be added to create a box of text that can be expanded or collapsed by the viewer. Using this feature, you can give the option of looking at the contents or not, and thereby saving space on the document. In TechnoEarth, a collapsible text box is used to list sources of information for the infographic. If the reader would like to check facts or find out more about the topic, they can click to enlarge and see the contents. Often collapsible boxes are used for FAQs, allowing a viewer to scan through the questions and only read the answers of the ones in which they are interested.

collapsible text
An infographic will often list sources of information. Use collapsible text to show or hide the reference list.

Add an Image Carousel

Infographics do not typically use photographs, but instead have cartoon-like images. However, there is a limitation to using just icons to advocate about an environmental issue. This is because photos that show the cause or harmful effects can make a powerful statement. The good news is that Google Sites lets you do both using an image carousel.

To make an infographic engaging and interactive, the image carousel feature can be added. It shows a collection of picture files, by scrolling from one to another. To keep the publication true to an infographic, the first image should be an icon of a camera. However, after that the images can be photographs. In the TechnoEarth project students include on their interactive infographic, photographs showing the effects of an environmental issue.

Create image carousel of photographs.
Create image carousel of photographs.

Insert a Google Slide Deck

Another great feature of Google Sites is the ability to insert a document made in other Google Apps such as Docs, Slides, Sheets, Forms, and more. To keep the viewer engaged, students can add a rotating slide deck created in Google Slides to an infographic. Using the many features of Slides, the deck can have distinctive layouts, unique formatting, word art, graphic organizers, and more. The slides display brief facts and eye-catching images. They are set to play automatically, adding interest and variety for the reader.

Use Google Slides to illustrate facts about the environmental topic.

Design a Unique Drawing

Another file type that can be inserted into Google Sites is an image created in Google Drawings. As an alternative to searching for ready-made clip art, students can create their own one-of-a-kind artwork to add to their infographic. Instructions in TechnoEarth explain how to use the tools in Google Drawings to produce simple, but powerful icons. These graphics grab the viewer’s attention and communicate a concise message.

Google Drawings
Use Google Drawings to create original icons. Insert them onto the infographic.

Highlight Locations with a Map

Google Sites allows users to insert interactive maps constructed using Google Maps. Most infographics pinpoint the location where an issue or topic is happening. The drawback is that viewers only see a static image. However, with Google My Maps viewers can actively explore. By clicking on custom map markers, they discover interesting facts and photos about each spot.

Google My Maps
When the viewer clicks on an icon, facts and photos of the location display.

Learn How to Design an Infographic Using Google Sites

technoearth icon

Want to get started on an infographic using Google Sites? TechnoKids has a project for you! In TechnoEarth, middle school students become environmental stewards as they design an interactive infographic. They use Google Sites, as well as Docs, Slides, Drawings, and more. They follow instructions to select an important, real-world issue. The infographic outlines the cause, harmful effects, and solutions. Stakeholders are identified. A thematic map shows where the problem is located. The final web based infographic will inform and inspire.