Global Collaborators

For this weeks blog post I wanted to focus on ISTE Standard 7 Global Collaborator “Students use digital tools to broaden their perspectives and enrich their learning by collaborating with others and working effectively in teams locally and globally”. I especially wanted to focus on 7a “Students use digital tools to connect with learners from a variety of backgrounds and cultures, engaging with them in ways that broaden mutual understanding and learning”. To begin my research on becoming a global collaborator I asked myself “How can Kindergarten students use digital tools to collaborate with classrooms around the globe?”

Ever since I have started working at my current school, my team and I have become passionate about our students learning about different cultures within school community. I think having students become global collaborators allows them to make greater connections outside of our school.

Benefits of Global Collaboration

According to ISTE article 5 ways students benefit from global collaboration by Julie Randles “Exposing students to global collaboration builds cultural understanding, communication skills, and knowledge and awareness of the wider world, experts say”.

“It just makes the world real to them,” Killian says. “It opens their eyes to the world out there and helps them realize they can do and be so much.”(Randles)

Starting a Global Partnership

Global collaboration projects, which allow students to work with peers across state and national boundaries, aren’t just fun. They can also address several of the ISTE Standards for Students, including Digital Citizen, Global Collaborator and Empowered Learner. Pernille Ripp the founder of Global Read Aloud has 7 steps to set yourself up for success in ISTE article 7 steps to starting a global collaboration project by Team ISTE.

Ripp’s success tips include:

“Find your passion and purpose. Passion drives the energy and dedication you’ll need if obstacles present themselves during the course of the project. Consider where something will naturally fit into your day because you already have a lot of passion for it.

Pick a focus. Will your project support reading, writing, speaking or another component of instruction? Narrow your focus to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Similarly, decide in advance how much time you have to dedicate to the project. First-timers should start small.

Check in with students. Make sure that your students feel comfortable sharing their thoughts with others outside their classroom or school. There are times when students don’t want others involved, and educators should respect that.

Similarly, be sure students are actually ready to collaborate and can mind their manners.

“You need to have community in your classroom before you set them loose on the world,” Ripp says. Do they know how to behave on a Skype call? Have you practiced working together, say with an in-class project, to avoid student embarrassment or awkward situations during a live collaboration?

You gotta believe. Believing in your idea is essential for getting others on board. Your conviction will convince others to spend time doing the project.

Find your people. Educators should be connected so that their students can be connected, Ripp says. To make your project work, reach out to your PLN on Twitter, Facebook, Skype in the Classroom, email or even just a face-to-face conversation. If no one jumps on board, it’s time to rethink your idea.

Dream a little. If your project concept is a little loose when you start seeking collaborators, that’s OK. True collaboration means all partners have a say in the project. As the creator, you should be prepared to figure out the details with your partners. “So you have to have a dream and an idea of what it may look like, but do leave room for others’ dreams as well,” Ripps explains.

Let go. There will be times when things don’t go according to plan. Count on it. That happens with learning and teaching. Allow your project to take its own path and resist the urge to shut it down if it takes unexpected twists and turns.” (Team ISTE)

Global Read Aloud-One Book to Connect the World

One great site for introducing students to connecting with a variety of learners of different backgrounds and cultures in the Global Read Aloud. With Global Read Aloud teachers pick a book to read aloud to their students during a set 6-week period (October to Mid-November) and during that time they try to make as many global connections as possible. Each teacher decides how much time they would like to dedicate and how involved they would like to be. Some people choose to connect with just one class, while others go for as many as possible. The scope and depth of the project is up to the teacher. While there are official tools you can use such as Skype, Twitter, WriteAbout or Edmodo, you choose the tools that will make the most sense for you. Teachers get a community of other educators to do a global project with, hopefully inspiring them to continue these connections through the year (Global Read Aloud). Since Global Read Aloud has started more than 4,000,000 students from more that 80 different countries have participated. Using a site like Global Read Aloud would allow for my students to share their ideas with students who might not have the same experiences as them. The possibilities with this program are limitless. I really like the idea of making connections that could last longer than the initial 6 week period.

This program will enhance read aloud experiences and show students to draw upon a variety of resources and experiences in order to become more knowledgeable and responsible citizens.


7 steps to starting a global collaboration project. (2017, August 8). Retrieved March 19, 2018, from (2017). ISTE Standards For Students. [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 Mar. 2018].

Randles, J. (2018, January 12). 5 ways students benefit from global collaboration. Retrieved March 19, 2018, from

Ripp, P. (n.d.). The Global Read Aloud. Retrieved March 19, 2018, from


Blogging as Co-Emergent Learning Process


Bates, A.W. (n.d.). Fundamental change in education. Teaching in a digital age. Retrieved from

Berger, P. (2010). Student inquiry and web 2.0. School library monthly, 26(5), 14-17.

Boyd, P. (2013). Blogging in the classroom: Using technologies to promote learner-centered pedagogies. The researcher: An interdisciplinary journal, 26(3), 85-112.

Greener, S. (2009). e-Modeling – Helping learners to develop sound e-learning behaviors. Electronic journal of e-learning, 7(3), 265-272. Retrieved from:

Kop, R. (2010). Using social media to create a place that supports communication. In George Veletsianos (Ed.), Emerging technologies in distance eduction, Athabasca University Press. Retrieved from

Pursel, B.K., & Xie, H. (2014). Patterns and pedagogy: Exploring student blog use in higher education. Contemporary educational technology, 5(2), 96-109.


Digital Storytelling and Creative Communication: Does One Help Develop the Other?

Alan Alda, from M*A*S*H*, knows how to tell a story.  In one of his presentations, he asks a young woman to the stage.  Alda then asks the young woman to carry an empty glass across the stage.  She stares at the him awkwardly and does it without much fanfare. Alda then walks to her with a pitcher of water.  He pours water into the empty glass and fills to the brim. He asks her to carry the glass to the other side of the stage. “Don’t spill a drop of water or your entire village will die.”- he says.  The young woman, slowly, deliberately walks across the stage. She carefully gauges the level of water in the glass as she takes each step. The audience is silent, enraptured in the backstory of the overfilled glass.  They are interested and invested in the story. (Watch Alan Alda explain the importance of storytelling in his video: “Knowing How to Tell a Good Story is Like Having Mind Control.”)

Stories are powerful. Storytelling is one of the oldest forms of communication that we have.  We are attracted to stories because they are human, (Alda, 2017). Stories relay information about human nature, accomplishments, challenges, and discoveries. They make us feel part of a community and help evoke empathy, (Dillion, 2014).  According to Alan Alda, we like stories because we think in stories, particularly if the story has an obstacle. Like in the example above, we are interested in listening to the attempts overcoming the obstacle, (Alda, 2017).

Stories can also be powerful in the classroom.  A good story helps shape mental models, motivates and persuades others, and teaches lessons, (Dillion, 2014).  There are many ways to deliver a story but I have been gaining significant interest in digital storytelling. Technology is not stoic but rather highly personalizable as people are discovering unique ways to learn, entertain, network, and build relationships using technology, (Robin, 2008).  It is not surprising then that people are using technology to also share their story. Digital storytelling is technique that I discovered as I was exploring problem based learning (PBL) to develop innovation skills.  In that blog post, I explained that digital storytelling was one mode students could employ to “solve” a problem in PBL by creating an artifact. I realize that this wasn’t directly related to my inquiry at the time, because problem-based learning is more focused on the process of problem-solving rather than the artifact itself.  Despite this, I found the idea of digital storytelling interesting and wanted to revisit it. “Storytelling” in particular, is a buzzword that circles back in unexpected mediums. For example, my husband attended a conference that explored storytelling through data, in other words, how to design graphs, charts, and other visual representations of data that share a story without any significant description or explanation. Yet these graphs communicate important information. That then got me pondering about how digital storytelling can be used to teach students to creativity communicate information either about themselves or about a topic using technology.

So then how can students use digital storytelling for the purposes of creative communication? This question relates to ISTE Student Standard 6: Creative Communicator in which, “students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals.”  Digital storytelling is one vehicle in which students can use to express and communicate clearly.  Interestingly, the idea of digital storytelling isn’t new, it was originally developed in the 1980’s but is experiencing a renaissance in the 2000’s, (Robin, 2008). Not only can digital storytelling be a medium for learning, but also different types of information can be relayed using this technique including personal narrative (what most non-ed professionals use), stories on informing/instructing, and lastly, stories that examine historical events, (Robin, 2008).

Stories must be well-crafted in order for them to be effective and memorable. Students can deliver a story by investigating a topic, write a script, develop their story, and tie it all together using multimedia, (Robin, 2008).  Blogs, podcasts, wikis, and other mediums like pinterest can be used to convey a story simply,(University of Houston, 2018). To help students get started, the University of Houston’s Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling webpage offers great information such as timing, platforms, and examples of artifacts.

Figure depicting the digital storytelling process.
Figure 1.1 The Digital Storytelling Process

Before diving into a story, the most important elements are explored in its theoretical framework.  This framework includes the seven-elements needed in order for each story to be impactful. Figure 1.2 below summarizes the seven key elements.  

Infographic describing the 7 elements of digital storytelling
Figure 1.2 The 7 Elements of Digital Storytelling

Just as Alan Alda explores in his video, the seven-elements emphasize that good stories must capture the audience’s attention, explore obstacles or serious issues that the audience can connect with, and must be personal in order to enhance and accelerate comprehension, (Robin, 2008). By allowing students to engage in digital storytelling, they are also developing crucial 21st century skills: digital, global, technology, visual, and information literacy.

Tying it all together: How does digital storytelling fulfill the requirements for the ISTE student standard on creative communicator?

As Robin alludes to, it can be challenging to distinguish the various types of stories because oftentime they overlap, particularly considering the personal narrative, (Robin, 2008). A good story is relatable, we can put ourselves into the shoes of the protagonist.  The use of technology is just another medium we can use to communicate our stories. By implementing digital storytelling in the classroom, it would allow for transformation (SAMR) of existing assignments and lectures.  Here are some additional thoughts on how this technique can help students become creative communicators:

  • ISTE 6A: “Students choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication”.  Platforms such as blogs, podcasts, in addition to tools such as cameras, and editing software are all components of digital storytelling. Allowing students to evaluate the various platforms and tools in relation to their desired outcome, they would be developing digital, technology, and visual literacy.
  • ISTE 6B: “Students create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations”. Though the most common application of digital storytelling would be to create an original artifact, Robin provides an example of remixing in recreating historical events by using photos, or old headlines to provide depth and meaning to the facts students are learning in class, (Robin, 2008). By curating and remixing existing artifacts, students would develop global, digital, visual, and information literacy.
  • ISTE 6C: “Students communicate complex ideas clearly and effectively by creating or using a variety of digital objects such as visualizations, models or simulations”. This idea goes back to the example I shared of storytelling using data (graphs/charts/figures) but it can also include infographics. Depicting complex data through an interesting visual medium engages digital, global, technology, visual, and information literacy.
  • ISTE 6D: “Students publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for their intended audiences”. The basis of storytelling is that it is meant to be shared with others.  If the story doesn’t match the audience, it will not be impactful or important. This is a point the 7-elements of digital storytelling stresses. Understanding and crafting stories for a specific audience demonstrates digital and global literacy.

Good digital storytelling can allow students become creative communicators.  Using technology can reach audiences in many ways never thought of before while still sharing the human experience.  As Robin puts it, in a world where we are receiving thousands of messages a day across many different platforms, stories become engaging, driving, and a powerful way to share a message in a short period of time, (Robin, 2008).


[big think channel]. (2017, July 18). Knowing how to tell a good story is like having mind control: Alan Alda. [Video File]. Retrieved from

Dillon, B. (2014). The power of digital story. Edutopia. Retrieved from

International Society for Technology in Education, (2017).  The ISTE standards for students. Retrieved from:

Robin, BR., (2008). Digital storytelling: A powerful technology tool for the 21st century classroom. Theory into Practice, 47: 220-228. DOI:1080/00405840802153916

University of Houston, (2018). Educational use of digital storytelling. Retrieved from:

Teaching Visual Literacy through Infographics

One of the most exciting ISTE Student Standards is #6, Creative Communicator. I believe that the goal of any educator, whether in the classroom with students or supporting learning via a coaching role, is to assist students in becoming independent critical thinkers who can clearly express themselves. For this week’s project, I chose to focus on 6c: “Students communicate complex ideas clearly and effectively by creating or using a variety of digital objects such as visualizations, models, or simulations” (, 2017).

I am a huge advocate of teaching visual literacy in addition to ‘traditional’ literacy. Images are a form of communication. Consider the emotion that can be conveyed through a group of emojis or the shared humor of a meme. For a more academic example, consider the power of World War II propaganda or the tactics used by advertisers to manipulate consumers. It’s easy to see how interpreting images is a critical part of media consumption. Science also supports the inclusion of visual literacy:

  • “When visuals and text are paired together, we have more information to rapidly decode the content and proceed with comprehension, delivery, and transmittal to others” (Johnson 2017).
  • “…[T]he effective use of visuals can decrease learning time, improve comprehension, enhance retrieval, and increase retention” (Kouyoumdjian 2012).

What better way to incorporate visual literacy into the classroom than to teach infographics?

Public domain image: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Infographic Components

Infographics that are easy to understand and that communicate information clearly share the following components:

  • Text features with titles, subtitles, and information. Authors use different fonts, sizes, and colors to emphasize important points.
  • Organized ideas that follow text structures such as cause-effect, chronological, compare/contrast, problem/solution, or description.
  • Images such as symbols, charts, and graphs that help visually communicate the ideas being shared.
  • Credit given to sources.

Introducing Infographics in the Classroom

My classmate, Susan, shared an excellent Edutopia article that provided insight into how Brett Vogelsinger introduces infographics to his English class. After reviewing infographic terminology and basic layouts, he selects three different infographics and has students discuss the following:

  • Which of these was the best infographic and why?
  • How does the writer try to engage an audience, even an audience who may not initially care about the topic?
  • Is the text or the visual design most important in each of these? How do the use of color and white space affect your ability to focus on the main message of the infographic? How is font size used to emphasize certain facts?
  • Does the infographic make a claim or develop an argument? If so, how can you tell?

I would add to Vogelsinger’s list of questions: How do the images support the text? Through discussion, students decide for themselves what makes a high-quality infographic. They are then in a position to evaluate others’ infographics and create their own.

Professor Tremonte brought up an additional point when she saw my topic: When we teach infographics, how do we equip students to use the best possible graphics to support information? And likewise, how do we prevent infographics from becoming nothing more than digital posters? I think the answer to this is with careful scaffolding. Just as we close read mentor texts before asking a student to write an essay, we must perform a close read of quality infographics. Students can evaluate each graphic choice the author made in a particular infographic:

  • Is this graphic to enhance a point? Example: an e-reader image next to a quote about libraries in the 21st century.
  • Is this graphic a symbol for something? Example: the outline of a state around a statistic instead of writing the name of the state.
  • Is this graphic a representation of data? Example: a pie chart or line graph visually representing data.
  • Is this graphic explaining something? Example: a diagram of how microbeads from face wash end up in the water system.

Ideas for Using Infographics in the Classroom

  • Support nonfiction: Students can create infographics in support of nonfiction articles. Challenge them to consider what information can be represented visually and how best to do so.
  • Start a discussion: Present a controversial topic (perhaps this infographic on gender pay inequality) and have students discuss the main points and brainstorm the causes.
  • Demonstrate learning: Students can create book infographics in lieu of traditional book reports. Consider this Fahrenheit 451 infographic for inspiration.
  • Offer additional context: Instead of teaching Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech in historical isolation, why not explore how far America has come in fulfilling that dream?
  • Support arguments and research: Charts, graphs, and visual data can be easily incorporated into student presentations for added impact. Consider making visual data a required component of a presentation or research project. Check out this excellent tutorial for making charts and graphs in Google Sheets.
  • Present content: Infographics can be an engaging way to present content to students. Instead of a traditional lecture, students can independently review infographics on the topic–such as this infographic on the water cycle and conservation efforts.
  • Share passions: All students have a hobby or interest that they would like to share with others. Creating an infographic can be an engaging and creative way to share that passion while practicing visual literacy skills.


Piktochart: a tool for making infographics

Piktochart is one of the most popular tools for creating infographics online. It is user-friendly and offers many options for customization. Piktochart offers free and paid memberships. With a paid membership, you have access to additional images and templates. Additionally, you can create unlimited projects, download in multiple formats (not just PNG), and remove the watermark from your projects. The pricing for educators is very generous compared to their standard plans. Even if you aren’t in a position to pay for an account, you and your students can still create sharp-looking infographics. I have (happily) used both the free and paid versions. Another advantage is that Piktochart offers Single Sign-On (SSO) services which means that students can log in using their school Google accounts and not have another username and password to remember. Please watch below for a quick overview and tutorial.


Sources (2017). ISTE Standards For Students. [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 Mar. 2018].

Johnson, L. (2017). Cultivating Communication in the Classroom: Future-Ready Skills for Secondary Learners. 1st ed. Thousand Oaks: Corwin.

Kouyoumdjian, H. (2012). Learning Through Visuals. [online] Psychology Today. Available at: [Accessed 16 Mar. 2018].

Vogelsinger, B. (2014). Inventing Infographics: Visual Literacy Meets Written Content. [online] Edutopia. Available at: [Accessed 16 Mar. 2018].

Rethinking Hands on Math with Understanding by Design

This quarter for our class EDTC6102 we had to create or modify a lesson that integrated technology in a meaningful way using the Understanding by Design model by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe. After being assigned this project, I knew that I wanted to pick an upcoming unit that is apart of the school districts curriculum for math. I wanted to explore ways to enhance the math my students were already receiving. The unit I decided to revamp using the Understanding by Design model is Composing and Decomposing numbers to 10.

Understanding by Design Process

Stages of Backward Design

Stage 1- Identify Desired Results

Stage 2- Determine Acceptable Evidence

For this unit I wanted to create performance tasks that allows for students to show their understanding in multiple ways including using technology.

Performance Tasks:

-Students will create visual representations of decomposition patterns and will record the corresponding addition sentences. Students will use unifix cubes to show the different ways to make a number (example: the number 8). Then students will create a visual using colored squares to represent the cubes. Once students have shown their patterns, they will write the addition number sentences to represent their decomposition. Students can choose an number 2-10 to show decomposition patterns.

-During math rotations students will use the classroom SMART board to solve decomposition problems. Students will show work using a different colored pen per student.

-Students will use to create an interactive whiteboard to teach others about part-part-whole relationships. Once students create their interactive whiteboard they will share it with the teacher.

Other: Students will also complete an end of topic assessment, along with quick checks throughout the lesson to check for understanding. At the end of the entire unit students will complete a self-assessment of their decomposition visual using a rubric. Students will then ranking their understanding using of the topic. To see an example click here.

Stage3 – Plan Learning Experiences and Instruction

Digital Citizenship-

When introducing technology to students it is important for students to become digital citizens before interacting online. With my students being only in Kindergarten, I am usually the first person to teach them technology standards. ISTE has seven student standards. Standard 2 Digital Citizenship is stated as “Students recognize the rights, responsibilities and opportunities of living, learning and working in an interconnected digital world, and they act and model in ways that are safe, legal and ethical”. Before teaching my Rethinking Hands on Math unit, I first need to teach my students about being safe on the internet, especially if they are going to interact with the site With our discussion on digital citizenship students will become aware of their role with safe, ethical, positive, and legal behavior when using technology.

Six Facets of Understanding-

  • Can explain—via generalizations or principles, providing justified and systematic accounts of phenomena, facts, and data; make insightful connections and provide illuminating examples or illustrations. 
  • Can interpret—tell meaningful stories; offer apt translations; provide a revealing historical or personal dimension to ideas and events; make the object of understanding personal or accessible through images, anecdotes, analogies, and models.
  • Can apply—effectively use and adapt what we know in diverse and real contexts—we can “do” the subject.
  • Have perspective—see and hear points of view through critical eyes and ears; see the big picture.
  • Can empathize—find value in what others might find odd, alien, or implausible; perceive sensitively on the basis of prior direct experience.
  •  Have self-knowledge—show metacognitive awareness; perceive the personal style, prejudices, projections, and habits of mind that both shape and impede our own understanding; are aware of what we do not understand; reflect on the meaning of learning and experience. (p.84)

During this unit students will be hitting all 6 facets of understanding. When making their visuals and creating interactive whiteboards to teach others this concept they are explaining what decomposition is, they can interpret their work to make it personal and available for others. Students will apply when creating their interactive whiteboard to teach the class this concept. When their interactive whiteboards are shared among the class they have perspective and can empathize. Finally, students will have self-knowledge when they complete their self-assessment of their visual and overall understanding of the content.


The Understanding by Design model was first introduced to me when I was studying for my undergrad. While I practiced using this model in college classes, I got away from using it during full time teaching. When this current course brought Understanding by Design back into my life I remembered how great it really is. Using this model allowed for me to step back and really think about the content I was teaching my students. I felt like I was often just using the curriculum assigned by the district rather than looking at what I wanted my students to get out of the lessons I was teaching. With knowing the desired results of a lesson or unit helps make these lessons/units more meaningful for students and allows for them to know the purpose of each lesson.  I really liked how this process allowed for me to integrate new learning opportunities for my students by using technology. I also really appreciate how this model made me think about what I wanted students to produce to show their understanding. In the past students have complete math magazines for each lesson, now I have allowed the students to demonstrate their learning in a personalized way. I love this simply because I am able to connect with all of the different learning styles my class has to offer.

Sources- (2017) ISTE Standards for Students. (Retrieved on 2018, March 17) from:

Wiggins, G., & McTighe, Jay. (2005). Understanding by design (Expanded 2nd ed., Gale virtual reference library). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

A Matter of Time: PD Frequency & Follow-Through

“Time, Time, Time…See What’s Become of Me.” According to a 2015 report by The New Teacher Project (TNTP), teachers spend about 19 days or approximately 10% of their school year on professional development. The financial cost, according to the report is about $18,000 per teacher per year and that totals up to about $8 billion … Continue reading "A Matter of Time: PD Frequency & Follow-Through"

Using infographics for traditional types of reports in elementary school

While technology and access to information has dramatically changed the way our students learn and the way we teach, there are some “classic” learning experiences that still have a place in the classroom in my opinion.  One of these learning experiences is the traditional reports that students typically do in elementary school such as state, animal, or country reports. These reports are often students’ first experience with research and the topic is usually something that is easy to find information on and there isn’t much dispute as far as the facts.  However, the traditional way of writing these reports may not be the most valuable and engaging for today’s students who have been raised as digital natives accustomed to limitless information, flashy graphics, and the urgency to get the information they are looking for quickly.


ISTE Student Standard #6 is Creative Communicator:

Having students communicate their ideas and research clearly and effectively using digital products is one of the indicators (6c) for this standard (ISTE, 2017).  Using infographics as a final product when completing a report is one way to meet this standard and engage students and allow them to communicate their learning creatively.


Why Infographics?


An infographic is a visual image which represents information.  Infographics are a way to engage the reader and convey a large amount of information more quickly than with traditional text. Both creating and reading infographics can be a much easier way to understand information for students that are more visual learners.  Summarizing information and determining importance are two very important skills for students. Creating an effective infographic requires these skills and also encourages the student to consider audience and purpose in order to help trim the content to include in the infographic (Vogelsinger, 2014).  When elementary students are reading through research on their topic and deciding what they would like to share with their audience, determining importance and considering the audience, are two of the skills I am looking for when evaluating them. Using infographics as a final product really stresses the importance of these research and communication skills. Although Bob Dillon wrote an article on digital story creation some of his thoughts on using digital images to convey “stories” apply to infographics. “Digital story creators need to select each image with the same intentionality that each word is chosen for the narrative. Beautiful images allow digital stories to be remembered by more people in a deeper way (Dillon, 2014).”


How to Incorporate


Vogelsinger suggests that the first step to introducing infographics to your students should begin with having your students look at a variety of different infographics and then engage in discussions on the pros, cons, and purposes of each.  “The key to creating infographics is understanding that the finished product looks deceptively simple. Every decision, including font, shapes, color scheme, and use of white space, will either contribute to or detract from the overall clarity of the message in the finished infographic” (Vogelsinger, 2014).  He also suggests having students begin with a template to provide support in the design process when they create their first infographic (Vogelsinger, 2014). That way they can focus on the text and images they are selecting rather than the design of the product. With elementary students doing reports I might give them a list of information I want them to include and a menu of images to choose from. I would likely create a simplified, custom template specific to the project I am having them complete.  Like with everything in our classrooms, some students will take to infographics quickly and easily and others will continue to need support and encouragement.


Different Infographics Apps and Websites


Being new to infographics, I only have experience using Pikochart, which I have found very user-friendly and the end results are beautiful and impactful.  On Common Sense Media, which is a website I use often in my work as an educator, I found a list of the top 11 “Best Infographic Design Apps and Websites”. It appears that there are three that are officially suggested for elementary students, although I imagine there are a few more than can be used by elementary students with support.

App or Website Cost Suggested Grades
Canva Free 4-12
The Noun Project Free 4-12
Smore Free (basic), paid 5-12
Office Sway Free 6-12 Free; paid 7-12 Free; paid 7-12
Lucid Press Free to try; paid 7-12
Piktochart Free; paid 7-12
Venngage Free to try; paid 7-12
Adobe Spark Free 8-12
Grafio 3 Paid 9-12



Sources: website (Retrieved on 2018, February 28) (Retrieved on 2018, March 17) from:


Dillon, B. (2014). The Power of Digital Story. Edutopia. (Retrieved on 2018, March 17) from: (2017). ISTE Standards for Students. (Retrieved on 2018, March 17 ) from:


Vogelsinger, B. (2014). Inventing Infographics: Visual Literacy Meets Written Content. Edutopia. (Retrieved on 2018, March 4) from:

Credibility, Citation, and Curation: a 21st Century Take on Research Skills

Throughout this quarter in the Digital Education Leadership MEd program, I’ve been working on a unit plan that encompasses the Understanding by Design teaching model, Common Core English Language Arts Writing standard 8 which deals with research skills, and ISTE Student Standard 2c which asks students to consider the rights and obligations of using others’ intellectual property online. This blog post serves to outline the process I took in applying the Understanding by Design Model as well as sharing the unit plan I created.


In my prior district, all of our 8th-grade students completed an interdisciplinary research project where the English teachers, History teachers, and librarian worked together to assist students as they researched an issue of their own choosing within the umbrella of Human Rights. By far, the most difficult aspect of this project for students was in determining which sources they should use. Even when given a specific database to use, students had difficulty in determining the best source when multiple options were presented. The problem was compounded when using Google to find outside resources. Too frequently, students attempted to use websites that were not credible or they simply chose the top results on Google. As a teacher, I was so focused on the end result (a presentation supported by a digital presentation tool of student choice) that I didn’t spend enough time thinking through this critical element of the puzzle. Throughout the quarter, I was asked, “Is this a good source?” much too often. Other teachers argued that students’ online research should be limited to school-subscribed databases like SIRS to avoid this issue altogether. I felt (and continue to feel) passionately that effective, real-world searching skills are necessary so I diverted from the department norm. However, I clearly could have done a better job of scaffolding the individual research skill sets.


I began my unit by formulating an essential question: How can students effectively and ethically find and use online sources? I then broke my question down by considering what I really wanted students to accomplish. I followed the advice of Wiggins and McTighe: “Curriculum should lay out the most effective ways of achieving specific results” (14). Or, to put it simply, begin with the end in mind. The end result of this backward design thinking was the separation of the unit into four skill sets.

  • How can students effectively and ethically find and use online sources?
    • Effectively searching requires that students find online sources that are credible. It also requires students to evaluate multiple sources in order to determine which source best meets their research needs.
  • How can students effectively and ethically find and use online sources?
    • Ethical sourcing of information online requires that students avoid plagiarism by giving credit to source authors/creators. This includes knowledge of HOW to cite (MLA format for the English classroom) as well as the knowledge of WHEN to cite.
  • How can students effectively and ethically find and use online sources?
    • Finding information online requires that students do more than just pop their essential question into Google. Students can use Boolean search operators and advanced search options to get better quality results.
  • How can students effectively and ethically find and use online sources?
    • Using sources online can take many different forms. Regardless of the end project (be it the traditional research paper, a blog post, or a paper poster), students need to know how to actively read and interact with online sources.

Stage 1 of the Universal Design process includes the identification of desired results.

Established Goals (with standards)

  • Students will effectively and ethically find and use online sources. Throughout this unit, students will: 1) use search terms effectively, 2) assess the credibility of each source, and 3) use online information while avoiding plagiarism and citing sources.
  • Unit addresses CCSS ELA Writing 8 (which covers researching, evaluating, citing, and synthesizing multiple sources) and ISTE Student Standard 2c (the respect of intellectual property online). The unit is appropriate for students grade 7-10.
What essential questions will be considered?

  • What tools can be used to find relevant sources online?
  • How can a reader determine if information online is trustworthy?
  • What makes one source more beneficial than another in terms of answering an essential question?
  • How can writers avoid plagiarism and properly credit their sources?
  • What does it look like when researchers actively read and interact with sources? Why is this important?
  • Why is it important to curate and publish information online?
What understandings are desired?

  • Students will understand how to refine their online searches for more precise results.
  • Students will understand what makes an online source credible and relevant to their research.
  • Students will understand how to use information from online sources in a legal and ethical way.
  • Students will understand how and why to actively read (using notations, underlining, and comments) online sources.
  • Students will understand how and why to curate information online.

Stage 2 of the Universal Design process includes the identification of acceptable evidence.

For the unit’s performance task, I wanted to include an authentic and engaging way for students to demonstrate their understanding of research skills. When I came upon a blog post on curation from Jennifer Gonzalez, the idea for a project was born.

Show You Know with a Curated List: Students will research, evaluate, and critically respond to a topic of their choosing. The research and evaluation process will look similar for all students, but the topic and curated list is unique to their interests. They can choose to explore a future career, a hobby, social or political concerns, etc. The end result will be a curated list published online via  A curated list is essentially a collection and synthesis of information on a single topic from a variety of sources. It requires the traditional research elements taught in the ELA classroom with the addition of analyzing and evaluating the quality of sources in order to meet a specific publishing goal. For example, “3 Must-Read Harry Potter Fanfictions” would involve the creator’s personal preference and also their ability to summarize the stories and persuade readers to read them. Instructional topics such as “So You Want to Play the Drums” require students to present their findings in a sequential way that is clear enough for a beginner to benefit from their curated list. In addition to the academic benefits, curated lists are an ideal classroom tool because they require higher-order thinking and they may be published to an authentic audience (at teacher/parent discretion). Student example on differing interpretations of free speech. On the platform, students customize each element of their list (title, photo, and commentary). Because of this, the possibilities really are endless.

Stage 3 of the Universal Design process includes the specific learning experiences that will guide students through the learning process.

As I frequently do with my teaching, I blended existing online sources with unique sources I made specifically for this unit. My unit is broken up into the 4 skill sets I identified in Stage 1: Strategic Searching, Credible/Quality Sources, Credit Given to Authors, and Meaningful Interaction with Sources. I used a puzzle piece metaphor to help students visualize the various skills coming together to support solid research. This metaphor extends to the student note page which provides students a way to collect evidence from class discussions and work through an essential question for each skill set. At the end of the unit, the note page is a reference sheet that students can use in the future for any research assignment (including the performance task). Below is my complete, 2-week unit, “Credibility, Citation, and Curation: a 21st Century take on Research Skills.” To access the resources linked within, please open via Google Docs, here.

For a preview of the Performance Task (and explanation of curated lists) please check out the video tutorial I made below.


Understanding by Design was not a new concept to me, but it was extremely helpful to take an existing learning objective and rethink the learning process using the framework. If my experience is like that of other teachers, the best practices we learn in our credential programs occasionally must be sacrificed in the interest of hundreds of papers to grade, clubs to advise, meetings to attend, and lessons to present.

I’m thankful for the opportunity through my MEd program to take a deep dive into previously taught material while considering the lens of the ISTE standards. ISTE Student Standard 2c is a key component of any research project. Students must learn when and how to credit other sources. Students often think that they only need to credit a source if a direct quote is used. Or they change a few words and believe that is not plagiarism. For this reason, I wanted to incorporate not only the formatting guidelines of MLA, but also give students practice with crediting the various types of note-taking (quotes, paraphrasing, summarizing, etc).

Part of the Understanding by Design framework is evaluating what it means for students to truly understand the material you are presenting. Through the Performance Task, students were asked to apply the various elements they’d learned about research in publishing a curated list of sources and information on a topic of their choosing. I love the idea of having students create a curated list of sources because it is an ideal project to demonstrate knowledge of searching strategies, website evaluation, proper citations, and synthesis of information. Throughout the project, students much choose the BEST source, not just any source, and the justification they write allows their thinking in this aspect to be visible.


Wiggins, G. and McTighe, J. (2008). Understanding by Design. Alexandria, Va.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.