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.
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
Some topics use different terms to mean the same thing. For
example, both algal bloom and algae bloom refer to lots of algae
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
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
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
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
The website address can give a clue about who made the web
page. Find a government website about overfishing. The URL might end .gov
What is the URL?
6. 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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Learn How to Design an Infographic Using Google Sites
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.
What is an infographic? An infographic is a big picture that summarizes a topic. It is a one-page publication that presents information in a graphic way. Simple icons, symbols, maps, and charts combine to explain the data. Text is only used as labels or to briefly describe facts. The viewer explores the content by studying each section of cartoon-like images.
Why Use an Infographic?
An infographic is a simple but powerful way
to communicate. There are many reasons to use it:
catches the interest of the viewer
outlines many facts in a compact space
conveys data quickly using images
informs without lots of written information
engages the viewer to think about the topic, because they must explore each part
makes a complex issue easy to understand
How Can Students Make an Infographic?
Now that the question “what is an infographic?” and “why use an infographic?” have been answered, the next question is “how can my students make one to demonstrate learning?” Older students with strong graphic design skills can use professional software such as Adobe Illustrator. Unfortunately, not all schools have access to this software, as it is expensive.
Another option for creating an infographic is to apply the drawing and image tools in Microsoft Word. This does limit the design to a standard-sized piece of paper. Although this is a suitable solution for students who are proficient users of Microsoft Office, beginners or younger learners may struggle with arranging their content.
A third choice for designing an infographic is to use Google Sites. Google Sites is a web creation tool that is typically used to build websites. However, the ability to add sections, combine simple images with text, rearrange the layout, and have an infinite page length make it ideal for students who lack strong graphic design or word processing skills. Please note, this option does require students to have Google Drive accounts. Moreover, if your students have school accounts, they must be granted permission to use Google Sites.
View an Interactive Infographic Designed Using Google Sites
How Can Students Design an Infographic using Google Sites?
Are you interested in designing an interactive infographic using Google Sites? In the TechnoKids project TechnoEarth, students play the role of environmental stewards. They select a real world problem and are guided in the research and design of an engaging infographic.
Google Sites, Slides, Docs, and Drawings are combined to build the document. Simple, compelling graphics and brief, captivating text spark interest. To make it especially appealing, the project is interactive. The viewer can browse a rotating slide deck, explore a map, and click through an image carousel. The web-based infographic is a powerful way to communicate an important issue, promote public awareness, and inspire action.
Why should you consider incorporating STEM and web design into curriculum? Do students really need to know how to build web pages? After all, how likely is it that they will choose jobs in computer science or careers requiring any these skills? What benefit is an understanding of web design if becoming a web designer is not a future goal?
Learning how to create a web page has substantive value. Knowledge of website construction and the decisions that need to be made in its creation empower students. Following are some of the benefits to teaching STEM and web design.
Provides an Authentic Audience
When students make a website and publish it in the public domain, they are aware that not just their teacher or classmates will be viewing their results. Anyone in the world will be able to see it. They are motivated to provide the best quality of their work by having an unlimited number of actual, legitimate viewers. This is strong incentive for putting their best efforts into their creations.
Builds Digital Citizenship
In designing a web page, a student becomes a producer of information. With this power comes responsibility. The website should be a meaningful contribution to the World Wide Web. To achieve this goal students must apply Internet search strategies to link to trustworthy sources of information. They must also respect copyright laws in regards to the use of media. Moreover, they need to create content that is respectful of others. These activities promote digital citizenship as it requires them to behave appropriately when online.
Develops Media Awareness
Considering the perspective of the audience is a critical skill in web page design. In planning an online publication, students should first reflect on their target audience. Whether it is their peer group, younger kids, or the public in general, the website should be appropriate. Decisions about wording, types of graphics, and suitability of hyperlinks is affected by the type of viewer. A clear navigation system through the site, information blocked into organized headings, appealing images, and working and informative links all contribute to a site attractive to the consumer. Understanding what engages an online audience is essential.
Fosters STEM Career Skills
Very few students will become actual web page designers. However, a very large proportion of students will pursue careers related to technology skills. Whether they become online marketers, bloggers, programmers, software developers, scientists, systems analysts, or engineers, the future will favor young adults who have STEM skills. Building a website can spark an interest in pursuing other STEM areas.
Promotes Creative Arts
STEM has been amended to STEAM to include the value of the Arts. When publishing a web page, creative decisions need to be made: background themes, layout, image choice and type, text typeface and formatting, and overall page appearance. These choices are all important in keeping the viewer engaged. Eye catching and aesthetically appealing websites will attract and hold a viewer’s attention.
Effective communication skills are an integral part of many STEM job skills postings. It’s a rare career that doesn’t require proficiency in working as a group. And website creation isn’t done in isolation. Before publication, a site should be submitted to peers for comments and constructive critique. The written or spoken teamwork between designer and testers is a key component in the development of a successful project.
TechnoSite to Teach STEM and Web Design Using Google Sites