Infographics for Student Use

My students, by nature, are visual learners.  Many times, the mere act of using written language throws a wrench into my ability to assess understanding and often times prevents students from really showcasing what they know.  Infographics are a great way to have students demonstrate knowledge in a visual form.   I explored three types of infographics this week.  I have to say that the two that really hit home with me were ones that were available on the Google platform.   I am not sure if it is because it is a form in which I am already comfortable or because I know that it will take very little to indoctrinate the students to these applications.   I first looked at a “timeline” infographic.   I found using Google Photos to be the most user friendly application to use.   At first, I was not that thrilled with it as I was looking for ease of use, but once I played around with it and stopped making it harder than it needed to be, I really enjoyed it.   I also liked that the album stays on the student’s cloud and is easily accessible.  One of the biggest struggles I have with my Learning Disabled students is the ability to remember where everything is located.   We use Symbaloo webmixes for ease of access in the classroom, but I also try to think bigger picture.   My students are juniors and seniors, they will be leaving the classroom soon and I want them to have skills that they can use later in life.   The use of Google Photos to create a timeline is something that they will be able to use as the mature and even start their own families.  Additionally, I used Google Drawing to create a statistical infographic.   I found this process to be fun and challenging.  I like the idea that it also challenged me to use my mathematical skills.   I needed to convert the data into percentages and then calculate how to visually represent that information.   This type of infographic could be used as a group project or as an individual assessment.   I am currently teaching a lesson on the Holocaust.   I think that I may change on of the written assignments to an infographic, allowing the students to demonstrate comprehension of the novel, the use of creative commons and creative expression.    I have also made a note to add the statistical infographic to the introduction of the unit, when we discuss the victims of the Holocaust.   All in all, I think that infographics can lend a great deal to the learning process for visual learners.

Online Assessment Tools

This week I explored the applications of Thinglink and Adobe Spark video as a means to create online presentations.  I have used Thinglink before as an in class assessment before in class.   I like the idea that students can demonstrate their knowledge and critical thinking skills in a creative manner.  Students are able to utilize additional skills such as photo copy right usage.    I have used this assessment to introduce and/or reinforce the use of Creative Commons or Google Usage Tools for images.   Many times my students can explain how they cannot use other’s written work as their own (plagiarism) but they rarely transfer that knowledge to images.   I already had a Thinglink planned as an assessment for the unit I am currently teaching with my Honors English class.   I was able to use this assignment to develop a model for the students to refer if needed.  The students in question have never created a Thinglink in the past.  The only struggle that I did encounter was adding a Google Document to my Thinglink.   Once I was logged in under my school account, there were no issues, using my personal account presented no additional complications.   I realized that crossing accounts is not the easiest avenue to take.

The second online application that I attempted was Adobe Spark Video.   I found this process to be easy to use and create.   I like how user friendly it was to use.  I could easily see my students using this in class and creating their own videos.   As a teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, the narrating aspect of the application was not needed.  I was, however, able to add “narrated” signed videos.  The only concern that I see with my school is student videos on the web not on the school server.   I would need to have additional permissions from student’s parents in order to have them add videos to the web (even not public).   Many of my parents struggle with written language.   This is a tool that I would need to introduce at the beginning of the school year with parents getting their permission. 

As I have a student set of computers in my classroom, access to technology is not the issue nor is the time to get it done, students often come to my class at lunch or before school to complete assignments that they cannot complete at home.  Since I am the English Department in my high school, I have a bit of flexibility on assessment application.   Additionally, since my students are second language learners, my administration supports alternative assessments that allow students to demonstrate their understanding of the material. I often use an assessment of this type as a cumulative assessment.  I am excited to try an Adobe Spark video type assessment with my students.

When Educational Standards Don’t Measure Up!

When did education lose sight of the student?  When did the ideals of those in power trump the desires of those in the trenches? When did we stop teaching students to be members of society?  When did we tell them that unless you go to college, you are less?  When did teaching become a chore and not a joy?

Like most of my colleagues, I became a teacher because I love learning and wanted to pass that love along to others.  I work with a very diverse population of students.  Many of my students start school with a severe language delay-5 or more years behind their hearing peers-and it is improbable, not impossible, that they will ever catch up, Sadly often making college and college driven careers unattainable. Therefore, from the lens of data driven educational standards, my students are failures, when in essence, education is failing them.  According to state and federal mandated educational standards, I have to teach all of my students using the same standards, expecting the same outcome, preparing them all for a transition to college from high school.  Please note that I am not anti-standard, I am anti-”one shoe fits all” theory of education. For students at or near grade level or who have the desire to go to college, these standards are mostly sufficient (but that is a blog for another day).

We are judging intelligence on one set of criteria, negating to look at the talents of the masses.  Just look at Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences and one sees my the spectrum of students in my classroom! Intelligence is not only measured by how well you read and write.   Yet, I am forced to plan lessons for all of the students, regardless of their varied desires and drives, in the same manner.  I work with students who would blossom in a vocational program, learning a trade, yet I teach concepts such as persuasive essays and Shakespeare, to all of them!  I have students who need real world experiences, to make connections to the tangible, yet they are standardized assessments eight grades above their ability level and deemed failures when they do not pass.  This keeps me up most nights, it haunts me. I am failing my students and there is little I can do.

Karen Martinko (2016) states in her article, What Happened to Vocational Training in Schools – and Can it Come Back? that the removal of vocational training was shortsighted and over generalized as all students, “…come with varied skill sets, strengths, and interests. Some kids are cut out for college; others are not, and there shouldn’t be anything wrong with that.”  This is what I face almost daily.  My students may be behind their hearing peers, but they are by no means stupid.  They want what we all want, the ability and the right to be free and independent citizens.  Schools need to start realizing that all students are not made from the same mold.  They also need to realize that fact is ok. Education must address the actual needs of the students and not their perceived needs.  A one size fits all standardized system is not measuring up.  It’s about time to acknowledge it and change it, for the sake of our students and their future.