Including Infographics

As a kid, I grew up on a steady diet of posters.  Posters were the go-to product at the end of units of work or when presenting data.  Right up to and including university we were making posters (that’s showing my age).  I loved making posters – choosing colors, what to go where, layout, styles, fonts etc.  I didn’t realise at the time, I was being exposed to and learning essential design principles.  To this day, I love to use visuals to organize my thinking by sketching, creating flowcharts etc.  While posters are out of fashion these days, as there are many way cooler ways to display information, there are still many of the same metacognitive skills to apply. Out with posters, in with Infographics.  Infographics are being used for many purposes including:

They have many educational uses as students can consume infographics (read, intepret, and discuss) or create their own.

Currently in class, we are just starting a new unit (Sharing the Planet) which focuses on biomes of the world and their threats.  We are using mangroves as a case study as it is a big local issue where I am currently located (Mumbai, India).  To learn about global threats through mangroves we use sources such as:

But I’d like to include an additional source of information as a result of the focus of this week’s course.  In this unit the purpose of including an infographic would be to learn more about our subject area and to focus on the key skills of <how to read and interpret> an infographic.  I found an infographic that supports our learning objectives at the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment, and Health website.
Infographic From United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment, and Health

At the same time, we would be inquiring into ‘How this text compares to our other sources of information’ through these key concepts:

  • What makes an infographic an infographic?  Form
  • How does it work?  Function
  • Why is it like this?  Causation

What I’m really trying to do is set up a foundation for future units when students could have an opportunity to create an infographic.  A lot of groundwork is already laid.  They would already know what infographics are like and when is it best to use it as opposed to other forms of text.

When thinking about infographics I immediately thought of Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano who has written a lot of blog posts about the use of infographics as well as creating infographics herself for a variety of purposes for example this infographic on copyright.  She has some fantastic resources to help teachers use infographics in the classroom.  

A spanner:

When I was ready to push publish on this blog post, I came across one last article that I could have done without reading at this point in time.  But once read, I can’t hit the undo button in my brain.  Essentially, it is discussing the difference between an infographic and digital posters.  It’s possible that there are many digial posters disguised as infographics if you were to get technical on some of the features or even the purpose of an infographic.  So, I am going to have to rethink some of my work.  

  • Am I using an infographic or a digital poster?
  • Are students creating an infographic or digital poster?
  • Does it matter?  

I’m interested in your thoughts.  For now, I’ve got a plan and I’ll implement and reflect and modify for next time.  Teaching is like that.  You make decisions based on what you know at that point in time, and it is likely that you’ll acquire more information and experience and change.  If I think back 15 years ago when I started teaching, there are many things I cringe at (think tri-fold brochure – really popular back then).  

Well… “The times they are a-changin’ ” – says Bob Dylan… constantly…







Private Eyes are Watching You

Hall and Oates sing:

“Private Eyes
They’re watching you
They see your every move”



I’ve been wondering why it has taken me so long to write this blog post about privacy, until it dawned on me the irony of the post. It is the same reason it has taken me so long to start blogging. It’s because I’m a very private person. It is only due to the course requirements that I have started blogging. Privacy is important to me. Unlike a lot of friends, I hardly ever kept a diary or a journal throughout my life. Everything was just stored safely in my mind and memories. The ageing process has revealed that this is not the most reliable storage unit, and perhaps it would’ve been wise to record the anecdotes of my life.

Internet privacy is a kind of privacy and comes with its own characteristics. To truly maximize the full benefits of living in a connected world, I believe a different mindset to privacy needs to be adopted. Like most new things, you need to educate yourself about it so you can make informed choices and decisions and be comfortable with those choices. It’s important to be balanced. I’ve been a user of Facebook for many years now. It has been an important tool in my life to stay connected with family back home and with all my friends living around the world. Every one of my Facebook friends is someone I know personally. We’ve meet in person. A lot of my friends are current or past colleagues from international schools. Every year, when new teachers come to the school or when I move to a new school, my Friends increases. It’s a great way to share the social part of our international life – where we are holidaying, or an awesome night out at a new restaurant that others might want to try, etc.

However, I’m fully aware that many of my colleague-Facebook friends colleagues could potentially one day be in an administration role or be sitting across the table from me at the recruitment fair. I feel totally comfortable that my online Facebook life represents the well rounded, family orientated, travel loving teacher they know in real life. However, I often get a chill when friends post strong personal views on a topic, or photos that I wouldn’t personally share. I don’t have a problem with what they are doing, but the fact is that there is a connection between them and me. I have had a long standing rule about Facebook  –  Don’t accept friends request from students. When I first started using Facebook I developed this rule. I didn’t know why I made this rule. My gut just told me. It just didn’t feel right. As an elementary teacher, I don’t get many friend request from current students. But a couple of years later when they start using social media the requests come in. Do I have a burning desire to know how my students succeed in life? What careers they choose? When they get married and start their own families? YES, but do I want to see all that goes on in their life throughout their teenage years when they are experimenting with life choices – NO. So privacy is a trade off.

If you want to take advantage of the many features of using online resources, there will be some aspects of privacy that will need to be relaxed. Take Flipboard for example. It is a wonderful tool. It has a Privacy Policy. It clearly states what information it collects and how it is used. Flipboard, and other apps like it, are designed to collect information to enhance how it works. It is the customisation piece that we appreciate.

It’s important to teach kids about privacy and help them understand how the internet works. For example, it is useful to teach them why pop up ads appear and how to deal with it.  Another important teaching point is password protection.  However, how much restriction or protection you use can also be determined by country laws, school rules, and family values.  Everyone has their own comfort level.  Julia Agwin documents the measures she takes to protect and teach her children about internet safety, including the use of fake names, rules about the use of google and search engines, encryption and password protection.  Others will have a more measured approach, but the point is to inform yourself and make your own decisions.

To finish, take some time to listen to Juan Enriquez compare our online life with tattoos.  He calls them electronic tattoos and gives 5 lessons to consider when it comes to our electronic tattoos.[youtube][/youtube]

Diving into a Sea of Content and Connections

The internet has always been about communication – communication of information and data – so in its earliest form there was content being communicated.  Over time, a mass of content grew as well as an ever increasing group of consumers.  Web 2.0 has moved the internet to become a mass of connections between people, groups and the content.  So at its core, the fundamental principle hasn’t changed, just who, what, how, how much, when and where.

I’ve realised I’ve stayed in the consumer role way too long.  I love getting lost in all the available content on the internet and this course feeds it well as I’ve been exposed to hundreds of new blogs alone in just this past week.  However, it is time to start connecting with the mass of content and its producers, and start making a mass of intentional connections both for my own development and for that of my students.  It’s time for me to remix and produce my own content and embrace the true potential of Web 2.0 and yes… become a PROSUMER.  Today is my first step by posting my thinking as unevolved as it may be.  Let’s see where it goes.

I must admit I’ve never heard of the term Prosumer before.  Turns out it is not so new.  I did some digging around and found a couple of explanations about this term and how it has been used in the past and now in the present.  I instantly started to think of prosumers I know.  People who, unlike me, are already prosumers.  Check out these inspiring prosumers Maya Penn and Sylvia – two girls who are creating new content and making connections with the world.

This leads me to reflect on my classroom practice; how much consumption is going on and how much production?  How intentional am I being in teaching my students the critical 21st Century Skills needed by the prosumer?  Even though I have all the tools around me to be a prosumer, I am truly a consumer and that may spill over to my students.  Well, I suspect that is about to change with the start of COETAIL.

One important aspect of education is communities.  With a simple definition “A group of people having common interests”  (Reach, 2010) it shouldn’t be hard to create communities.  The importance of communities in a digital setting is discussed in REACH (2010) as well as distinguishing communities with networks.  In addition to this course, my other major area of professional growth this year has been around building classroom/school community through the Responsive Classroom approach.  One of the four key domains is Positive Community – “Teachers nurture a sense of belonging, significance, and emotional safety so that students feel comfortable taking risks and working with a variety of peers”. School-wide training has been completed and I have been intentionally incorporating the aspects and approaches to build a positive community.  I’ve watched the resulting benefits unfold.  Yes, building a community is extremely important and sets us all up for success as learners and people who share many hours together each day.  But I believe layering in digital communities needs the same level of intentional implementation.  As Jeff says in REACH, “We have been creating them since the beginning of time” and we will continue to do so in an ever changing digital learning space. In addition, in his talk “Community Trumps Content” Utech stresses that we “need to understand that it is communities and not content that changes learning”, and therefore “it is the  communities we need to be building in our schools”.

So I’ve formed a classroom community.  But how about networks?  These are the more specific groups with the characteristics of a group providing assistance and support to others.  Are there networks inside my classroom community?  Are there fluid groups interacting and providing support and assistance?  Yes, but did they form by themselves?  What role did I play?  Looking forward, I’m interesting to start talking about communities and networks within the classroom and beyond.  I think it is also important to think about what this means for different age groups.  Let’s talk about what a digital network means for 9/10 years olds and other age groups.

Me personally, I am a joiner of communities.  But my next steps are to reach out and become an active participant in a network in order to benefit from the “real learning and relationships” that comes from being part of a network.


Utecht, Jeff. (2010).  Reach:  Building Communities and Networks for Professional Development.  San Francisco, California.

Community Trumps Content: