Tag Archives: tech tools

Building an Infographic? Begin with a Blueprint.

infographic data

Recently, I had the chance to design and create my first infographic for some survey data collected on technology use in early childhood education. I was excited by the opportunity because it presented a new challenge and the chance to expand my tech skills in a new area.

I began, as I often do, with research. I reviewed some of my favorite infographics that I have saved on Pinterest to get a feel for what I was  looking for in my design. Then, I did a few Google searches to see what the top hits were for “creating infographics,” “designing your own infographic” and similar keywords. I was surprised at how old many of the top hits were, especially with sites like visua.ly recently launching their “create” function.

Still, after some digging I was able to find some good resources. There are a number of different sites that can help you create your own infographic. They vary in price and functionality and since I wasn’t interested in the $2,500 starting price for a custom infographic at visual.ly and needed to do more than pull data from Twitter or Facebook, I searched for other tools. I found infogr.am, which lets you choose from a few templates and then upload or add your data but there wasn’t an easy way to add my own icons, which was important for my design plan. Next, I discovered Piktochart and found that I could have a lot of flexibility with the colors, fonts, icons, and charts I used, even with their free service. Another platform, easl.ly, looks like it could also be promising but it’s still in beta and I found it after I had made my infographic and had some trouble with it freezing. Finally, this post on creating infographics just came out on 6/12 and has a number of additional resources.

Since I knew I wanted customized icons to clearly represent my data, I chose Picktochart as my platform and began to explore what was possible with the site and how to arrange my data. I quickly discovered that before I could make progress with my digital infographic, I needed to revert to old-fashioned pen and paper and sketch out a blueprint of my idea. In order for the content to be organized and flow methodically, I had to work out the connections between each piece of data and which ones were best displayed via a graph versus icons versus text. Ultimately, I used the key questions of: Who?, What?, When?, How?, and Why? (and why not?) to structure the flow of the data. Then after outlining everything on paper, I returned to Piktochart to put my blueprint into a digital format.

I adjusted the theme colors and fonts and then began searching Icon Archive for symbols that would represent my data (e.g., a smartphone). You can upload a maximum of 5 images under 1 MB using the free version of Piktochart and I have to say that when I ran into trouble deleting images (the trick is to delete them under Manage Uploads), their customer support was very responsive and helpful! After adding all of my icons and creating a systematic way of presenting each of my big questions, I reviewed my infographic in its entirety and asked a few colleagues to check it over. A second pair of eyes is always helpful to make sure the information will flow and make sense to another audience.

After that, I downloaded my infographic as an image (if you have the paid version you can also download the HTML) and now it’s ready for the world to see! You can find a small clip of it below and the full version is available on ecetech.net.

infographic

Tech Tools for Parent Engagement

This week during #ecetechchat we discussed different tech tools that can be used to help create and sustain parent engagement in your early childhood program. I think there are a number of great tech tools (many listed below) that are available today to help teachers easily connect and engage with their parents on a regular basis. And as we discussed during the chat, engaging with parents and building those relationships is vital to creating a strong, connected class community because it allows for a whole new level of home-school collaboration.

One of the key points I took away from the chat was the power of tech tools to help teachers engage parents in starting a cycle of engagement that facilitates learning at home and can then replenish the classroom community with new energy. Basically, by engaging parents, you are providing them with new ideas and activities for discussion with their children at home. Parents are then able to engage with their children about what they are learning at school and talk about new topics and ideas, which children can then bring back into the classroom, completing the cycle.

To get that cycle started, it’s important to check in and survey the parents in your classroom to learn about their existing tech knowledge and comfort. Something emphasized in the chat was to provide multiple venues for engagement (e.g., phone, email, social media) and to meet parents where they already engage. So if all of your parents are on Facebook and that site is allowed at your school, look into creating a private group for your class that you can update with pictures and notes about your classroom activities throughout the day. @Matt_Gomez shared a great piece about using Facebook with his Kindergarten class.

For parent engagement to be sustainable, especially through technology, we agreed that there needs to be support from the administration so they can model appropriate engagement and endorse the use of specific tools or websites. Unfortunately, many schools have blocked social media sites and other online spaces that make sharing easy. One way to work with that issue is to talk to your administration about creating an Acceptable Use Policy as @cybraryman1 suggested and think about what type of specific Social Media Policy you want or need for your classroom. With young children, you cannot be too protective of their privacy, so think carefully about what permissions you set on any social media sites you use and before you create a social community for your class, build a social (personal) learning network for yourself so you become comfortable with the tools and online spaces.

That said, social media and other tech tools will likely be foreign to some/many administrators, colleagues, and parents so you may experience some push-back from trying to introduce something new. Take calculated risks and if you believe the tool will help foster meaningful engagement, ask your administrator if you can at least have a trial run. Some parents might just be afraid of the technology, which is why teacher-parent tech nights can be a great way to build strong relationships with your parents while also helping them learn some new skills. During #ecetechchat we also discussed this idea as a way to help bridge the digital divide and help parents learn and use technology that they may not have access to at home. Another idea is to invite volunteers from a local college or organization to come teach the children, parents, and/or other teachers about new tech tools they can use to engage with one another.

Ultimately, the teacher-parent relationships are the most important piece and technology remains just one tool to facilitate the development and support of those relationships. So, make your engagement proactive instead of reactive and contact parents in as many ways as possible, as often as possible, to share child photographs (worth 10,000 words when it’s your child), videos, notes, work, and more with parents!

Here are some of the tech tools we discussed to engage with parents. If you have more ideas, please add them to our shared #ecetechchat Google Doc!

Tech Tools for Parent Engagement

  • School Website – post updates about your class
  • Class Blog – post about classroom activities and pictures/videos
  • Social Media
  • YouTube – upload videos of children in the classroom
  • Voicethread – digital slide show tool, allows parents to comment
  • Podcasts – of children working, classroom activities, etc
  • Music Playlists – send playlists home of songs you listen to in class
  • Digital Photographs – posted on a blog, Facebook, Twitter, child portfolio, etc
  • PhotosCaps & Skitch –  let you caption your photos and quickly share and save them
  • Evernote – create individual child portfolios to share with parents
  • Skype – video chat with parents
  • Symbaloo – share mixes with sites for children to play/practice skills
  • Tungle.me – schedule meetings with parents
  • Digital storytelling tools (e.g., Storybird) parents can view or make at home
  • Email 
  • Text Message
  • Phone Calls