This is a blog I had written for Piktochart, an infographic I have used in my classroom since last summer. Students have created projects and I have also used it for my own personal work for presentations and coursework.
Teaching isn’t easy. The school system, which was designed to prepare kids for a normal career path – high school, college, a good and stable job, retirement – hasn’t been updated in decades. Nowadays, kids have other needs and want to explore their different abilities. They (generally speaking) don’t enjoy their experiences, hence they end up bored and not paying attention in class. Luckily, there are some awesome teachers who recognize this, and try their best to encourage kids to learn in a different way.
One of these fantastic teachers is Rachelle Poth. Apart from being an attorney in Pittsburgh, she has been a Spanish and French teacher at Riverview Junior-Senior High School for over 18 years. In addition, she is the Spanish Club Sponsor, the Foreign Language Department Chair and a Member of the Mentoring and Technology Committees.
In her own words, she ‘enjoys finding new ways to use technology with my students and my purpose is to provide a variety of experiences for them that are more than just learning the language of Spanish. I want to help prepare them for the future and enable them to use a variety of tools in their high school and future careers’.
In her search for new technology, Rachelle stumbled upon Piktochart, and started using our tool to diversify and accelerate her children’s learning of a new language.
As a foreign language teacher for almost 20 years, I have assigned many different student projects in my classes. With each passing year and each passing chapter, we teachers try to come up with new, creative ideas to incorporate into our classroom, and to liven up the projects our students create. In years past, creativity usually came in the form of colored construction paper or poster board or by adding glitter, confetti, bright markers or paint to paper presentations. All of these additions were great and really helped to demonstrate the individuality and creativity of the students. However, some of these elements resulted in a somewhat messy display, glitter-covered teachers and materials. Worse still, these projects would sometimes result in students feeling a bit inhibited because of a perceived lack of creativity or artistic skills in their work.
The Age of Technology
As time has passed and technology capabilities have grown, students, teachers, and society have accumulated so many more options for creating projects or presentations. The possibilities of incorporating the same types of styles and effects into projects exists; however, the end result is much different. As a Spanish teacher, I teach all levels of Spanish and I need to assess my students and provide opportunities for them to complete a variety of multi-themed projects each year. The number of projects that I assign for all four levels requires some serious creativity on my part.
Teaching a Language Class
For example, in Spanish, students study the food and culture of a Spanish-speaking country. The assignment is for them to research and then complete a brief report using Microsoft Word or a similar word processor. In addition to the report, the students have to create a paper menu. For all of these projects (sometimes close to 80 or 90 individual projects), paper was necessary to display the work in the classroom. Most teachers have assigned similar projects in their classrooms. However, today, projects can be easily done using an infographic. This format enables students to complete their whole project using one tool. Within this tool, they have many choices regarding how they will enhance their work. Whether it’s choosing between templates or deciding which artistic object to include, these options are all laid out for the student. During this entire process, the project is readily available. It’s durable and accessible to anyone at any time, and can easily be added into a digital portfolio.
Piktochart in the Classroom
In my classroom, the great thing about using infographics, especially Piktochart, is that students can create brochures, flyers or posters, and they can add various multi-media elements and select different presentation modes. They’re still completing the exact same assignments before there was Piktochart, but in the process they’re working with technology and enhancing the vital technology skills they will need for their future. Best of all, grading rubrics still apply.
Using Piktochart is one way students can learn to complete a task without the standard form of paper. For example, Spanish II students have created school club flyers and brochures with Piktochart. Their individuality and creativity was reflected in the backgrounds, templates, colors, and objects they chose to add to their work. These tools helped make their learning more meaningful because it was all about student choice. They were engaged and had fun creating their infographics but, more importantly, they were really focused on the processes behind learning the language.
How Teachers Benefit from Introducing Infographics in Their Classroom
Any teacher at any level and in any subject can benefit from using infographics in the classroom. My first step was to create a syllabus for each of my Spanish courses using different infographic tools available. I did this for a few reasons:
- Students could easily access the information displayed on our Learning Management System and Edmodo page, which eliminated the possibility of the papers being lost.
- Students could see the potential for engaging the reader because of the infographic’s visual aspects.
- I was able to show students a different way of presenting information, to encourage trying new things, and to model taking a risk with a new method of conveying information.
It was my way of setting them up for one of their first assignments which was to create an infographic. In Spanish I, the assignment was to write a self-description of interests and family background. In Spanish II, it was to create a school club, and in the higher levels of Spanish, there were respective assignments for creating infographics as well. The students then took these tools and used them in other classes and outside of school. Giving my students the benefits of creativity and technology is really what I aspire to do as a classroom teacher.
I want to teach my students Spanish and Spanish culture, but I also want to teach them skills that will follow them and empower them in the future. It’s my goal to provide them with opportunities for growth and to create a more engaging, meaningful, curiosity-inspiring learning experience.
Some of Rachelle’s Creations
Rachelle uses Piktochart for almost everything, but we wanted to share a few infographics on education. The first one is a talk she gave at EdCamp, on August 1st, about using technology in education.