Category Archives: Digital Literacy

Confessions of an Infographic Newbie


I am an infographic newbie.  (Mostly.)

I first tried one out last week in my Digital Design Club. In the spirit of getting to know one another better, while simultaneously teaching safe online sharing, I  asked the students to create an All About Me Infographic using a template from Piktochart. I played around with it a little before giving them this task, of course, but my playing around was more along the lines of how to… 

The template from Piktograph

The template from Piktochart


  • edit text boxes
  • insert a head shot
  • change graphics/colours/fonts
  • share and export


In other words, this Tech Integrator focussed on the Tech side of things…or the graphic in infographic.  


My first rushed job of basic manipulations of the template

I didn’t spend too long thinking about the information side of the equation (not to mention design) And that, I quickly realised, is at least half of the battle:

“What should I put down?”  “What do you want to know?”  “But I only know one language.” (in reference to the template’s graphic representation of language spoken) was heard throughout the room.

Later, giving it a second go myself,  I scratched my head wondering what to share and how to best to show that graphically.

My second version of the infographic

My second version of the infographic, more carefully thought out

I have spent a good deal of time thinking about design elements when creating presentations or possible infographics…And this visual does it very nicely…but it’s the what to share aspect of creating an infographic that is challenging, and needs just as much time as the how.

As fellow Coetailer Christopher Panna describes in his post :

They were initially excited at the opportunity to use this format, until they realised it would be just as much work as a writing project. Sketching a concept for their graphic, using the right kinds of charts, visuals, and colours, PLUS doing the research was no small task. “

He offers a book recommendation- Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures  where the first line of the promotional tag gave me a #ThingsThatMakeYouGoHmm kind of thought.

“There is no more powerful way to prove that we know something well than to draw a simple picture of it.”

People often describe the ability to teach (well) in the same terms.

So…I realised I sometimes get lost in the tech side of things and focus more on teaching the tool than on how to best use it to teach something arguably more important.

20 Minute Teaching Time Limit Dilemma…this is an After School Club, after all:

Teaching technical skills involved in manipulating an infographic template  vs presenting safe and interesting information worth sharing about oneself visually...all while incorporating design principles?

The more I think about it, being able to present key information graphically/visually can be paramount to others’ actually understanding that information.  

Just today I kept re- reading Google Support to check sharing settings when sharing things with colleagues vs students vs blog. But it wasn’t until I saw this visual grid comparing each sharing setting that it suddenly became clear:


Thank you, Saikat Basu, from 10 tips for managing files in google drive. I love my top 10 lists!

Finally, this is a bit random, but here are some more #ThingsThatMakeYouGoHmm moments I had while perusing this week’s readings:

  • This infographic showing How Productivity Works.  It  visually compartmentalises different areas of life (mindset-habit-body-”life hacks”) and how all work together to aid or impede one’s productivity…(and I wonder, happiness?)
  • This post from Seth Godin and the power of the words, “Here, I made this.” 
  • Here, I made this. Photo, Pixabay.

    Here, I made this. Photo, Pixabay.

“These four words carry generosity, intent, risk and intimacy with them.”

*If I had all the time in the world for this post, I would try to make an infographic or visual representation of Seth’s currently-all-words-concept.  Perhaps that’s my final project.


Digital Stories Revisited

In 7 essential skills that aren’t taught in school, there is an Andy Warholesque 15 minutes of fame kind of quote:

“Your goal is not immortality,

but a momentary piercing

of the ever-shifting zeitgeist.”

I would argue that one of these of these essential skills is being able to tell a story and spread your message not only digitally, but in a way as to engage and influence people.  

Pixabay attribution free image +google drawings

Pixabay attribution free image +google drawings

Last year, I began to explore this idea with my small group of Early Years students with a vengeance.

With only 7 children, and a relatively open curriculum, I had the luxury of working individually with each of them (or in small groups) on different digital storytelling projects throughout the year.  Using Book Creator, we began by creating class ebooks based on books read in class.

*Note: I am a huge Book Creator fan.  I have been introducing it to all the first grade students (and their teachers) this past week using this short presentation. Feel free to make a copy/download.

One of these ebooks was our own version of Todd Parr’s, “It’s Okay to be Different.”  Students thought long and hard about what made them different from other students in the class.  One said, “It’s okay to speak Spanish.” Another declared, “It’s okay to call your dad  Mausi.”


Once downloaded as an epub to our ibooks library, and shared to our class blog, the students could view the digital book at any time, just as they might a real book.  They could then view and revisit the ebooks they had created on the ipads, on the desktop and projected onto the wall.

When revisiting their digital stories, I noticed that different digital viewing formats offered different possibilities and extensions of the learning experience. 

Projecting an ebook onto the wall initiated a re-arrangement of chairs for ideal viewing (theatre style.) This sudden re-arrangement of the room provided a provocation for different feelings and connections. The children suddenly felt the seating reflected a train journey, leading to a mini inquiry into riding trains.


The viewing experience of projecting eBooks onto the wall prompted a completely new inquiry: riding trains!


Students became focussed on creating their own tickets–those with little interest in print now had an authentic reason to practice their SBB’s. (Swiss Rail System.)

We projected clips of moving trains onto the wall and the children rehearsed packing bags , catching trains, and punching tickets…eventually making their own tickets, using the local Swiss SBB logo as our guide.

Of course this spin off was unrelated to our ebook…but the process of revisiting our work and the way in which we viewed the book prompted an entirely new and unexpected learning inquiry.

We also re-visited our Books as epubs in the iBooks library. (Books created on different iPads were eventually Airdropped onto all other iPads so the students could access all books on any iPad, acting as a traveling library.) The portability of the iPads allowed us to bring them to our Buddy classes.  We shared the stories with a wide range of ages—all of them impressed by our school’s littlest learners.  It also prompted discussion: “Wow, how did you do that?” and provided an opportunity for the students to develop their oral skills.  Other class teachers—viewing over the students’ shoulders, learned something, too and were motivated to create their own ebooks.

We also uploaded all creations to our class blog so they could be shared at home with family members, or at school assemblies.  All comments made by others were revisited in class, helping to build the confidence and perseverance to make more ebooks.

Finally, viewing the ebooks on the desktop helped build other skills—the understanding that different devices provide different views of the same thing, but perhaps more importantly– the patience and fine motor skills required for small hands to maneuver and click with an aging mouse!

With each new ebook we tried to blend a different app or or learn a new process.  

With our next ebook, we focussed on another element of our “All about me Unit”–our favourite things. The children explored the instant alpha tool in a separate photo editing app, Juxtaposer.  We developed our fine motor skills and attention to detail further as students carefully traced around a photo of their bodies to erase the background, before adding it to their favourite page in the book about favourite things. 


Next, we blended video, pictures and sound and tried out the (then new) comic book feature in Book Creator when we made a Quiet and Loud book.  The students needed to think of two juxtaposing ideas for the book–(doors are quiet, but slamming doors are loud…very challenging for 4 year olds–they needed help with this. )  Now familiar with the book making process, the students slowly began taking more ownership of the design elements of making a book—selecting the colours of their page, their font and basic layout:


It was around Thanksgiving when my fabulous Ed Tech Coach, Jocelyn Sutherland brought us an iPad stand.  We immediately jumped into playing around with Stop Motion.  She initially tried a simple claymation technique using playdough…

…which we eventually modified to create the word ‘Happy’ as the “intro” to our class Thanksgiving ebook.  The students developed many literacy and digital skills while making the “title page” alone–

  • letter recognition/formation–we created the letters we used to make the stop motion video in Letter School and learned to take a screen shot
  • importing screen shots into Pic Collage for easy printing
  • more letter formation using playdough
  • intro to spelling–that the letters that make up Thanksgiving must go in certain order
Early Years students learning Stop Motion movie making techniques from 5th Grade Buddies. Photo, my own

Early Years students learning Stop Motion movie making techniques from 5th Grade Buddies. Photo, my own

Interested students learned the process of making stop motion videos using Stop Motion Studio App with the help of our fifth grade buddies.  I documented the entire process in our class blog here.

This began our lengthy exploration into stop motion as a digital story telling tool and prompted the evolution of moving from ebooks to pure movie making magic.  I plan to continue to document and reflect on the learning process in future posts.

Finding Photos is Easy. Crediting them is Hard(er)

Ideas are easy. Implementation is hard.


The above quote found at the bottom of the article, The State of Storytelling in the Internet Age. This sums up my efforts at putting together a blog post for this week.  

I did a lot of reading and note-taking and summarising before actually looking at this week’s assignment: use a CC image in class and describe how I plan on using it. Hmmm. Scratch most of what I have been working on.   

My “Digital Design” after school club comes to mind. Last week I challenged them to “make their mark” as part of  International Dot Day. We all worked “collaboratively” on a Google Slideshow (big learning curve here, as many slides were accidentally deleted by students, brand new to the Google Environment).

I initially asked them to explore the possibilities within Google Slides, by using shapes, text and animations. Immediately, some of the older, more experienced students asked if they could create their mark in a different program and import it into the slideshow. I told them this was fine–I was curious to see what they came up with.  

Our final product:

I was excited to see how some had created animations on the ipad using ABCYa! Animate; others created a simple animation Hopscotch. Most followed my guidelines and played about with animations within Slides.

I did notice that some students had searched in images for “dot” animations/gifs and inserted them into their slides. I wondered how many of these images were CC, and wasn’t entirely sure how Google Slides image search engines operated.  

So, after a little digging and clicking, I noticed this:

I thought inserting images into Google Slides was too easy...

I thought inserting images into Google Slides was too easy…

Hmmm. So, it seems the kids were freely using pictures–Slides makes this very easy!– but they were missing the attribution part. I used a few of the gifs the kids had selected and tracked down their attributions.

I’ve come up with a new quote to complement the first:

Finding/Inserting Photos in Google Slides is easy.  Properly Crediting them is hard(er). 

I decided to create a short presentation for my club about CC images and how to attribute them. I included this useful Edugraphic: You can use a picture if…

When creating the slides, I kept in mind the CARP elements of Design:

  • Contrast –bright background, red circling/arrows and dark text
  • Alignment — bullets lower left, titles in the center
  • Repetition –background colour, font
  • Proximity –again, same kind of info/directions in the same place (mostly lower left corner)
Great Repetition. I love you Unsplash.

Great Repetition. I love you Unsplash.

Options to further jazz up this or (more realistically) my next presentation:

  1. I could add some free CC youtube musica super great find in my readings this week.
  2. I could save myself the trouble and utilise the beautiful pre-made slides from SlidesCarnival  –I will have to find a way to use the Halloween Themed Deck at some point…too cute!
  3. I could look into the art of combining fonts –an art form I wasn’t even aware of before viewing Kerri Lee Beasley’s Google Slide Design Secrets.  
  4. Pay closer attention to the Rule of the Thirds, when designing my slides, as well as include more “insanely great visuals” — any of the links from “stock photos that don’t suck” will do.  
Alignment. Cool Photos that don't suck. I love you Unsplash!

Alignment. Cool Photos that don’t suck. I love you Unsplash!

I am not sure how this presentation will go over with my grade 3-5 students –I hope it doesn’t kill their enthusiasm. I will simply repeat my made up mantra, “If we use it, don’t abuse it, we must credit it.”



** I am experimenting with images from .  Here is their Attribution policy:

All photos published on Unsplash are licensed under Creative Commons Zero which means you can copy, modify, distribute and use the photos for free, including commercial purposes, without asking permission from or providing attribution to the photographer or Unsplash.

10 Things I will Change About my Blog


Thanks to the article, How we read online, I will strive to apply much of my new learning in this and future blog posts.  Here are my top 10 changes:

  1. I will keep my sentences short and to the point. See any Seth Godin post for great examples. 
  2. I will leave plenty of white space and avoid large chunks of text, since People shudder large blocks of text; I know I do. 😉
  3. I will employ more
  • Lists
  • Bullets
  • Occasional Bold
  • Sentence fragments

to make reading easier for the typical online reader.

4. I will change my blog’s theme to one with (IMO) a “cleaner” font and alignment, one that allows for more white space.

5. I will change the cover image (the magnified lady bug was too blurry, red colour too “angry”) to one that better suits the length of the header.  Image is still student created, but with more colour variety and uses Repetition as a design element. See below.

Screen Shot 2016-09-12 at 11.44.16

BEFORE: Too much red? I’m not angry…

Repetition, Repetition, Repetition: My new Header Image

AFTER: Repetition, Repetition, Repetition: My new Header Image

6. I will more thoughtfully consider the design principles in C. A. R. P. /CRAP when creating, (Design Secrets Revealed by Kerri Lee Beasley is a fabulous e book/resource!)

CARP Posters, courtesy of Kerri Lee Beasley. Feel free to download a copy here.

CARP Posters, courtesy of Kerri Lee Beasley. Feel free to download a copy here.

7. I will become a better expert at “detecting crap”, according to Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner.   (The two “Contrasting” Dove and Greenpeace videos in the intro of Questioning Video, Film, Advertising and Propaganda: Deconstructing Media Messages are excellent examples of the “C” in CARP…or Crap?)

8. I will try very hard to avoid puns (but just can’t seem to resist.  See above.)

9. I will not freak out when my not yet 3 year old twins spot the Golden Arches (A relatively simple design, with far reaching symbolism) from across the road and immediately beg for “donald’s,” and instead be impressed with how their “keen intellects are hard at work decoding their environment.”  

Golden Arches courtesy of Mike Mozart at Flickr.

Golden Arches courtesy of Mike Mozart at Flickr.

10. Finally, I will write more about the things I really want to write about–mainly my reflections on finding my bearings in my new role as Ed Tech Coach at my new school.

If things get personal, that’s okay, because in all likelihood, you, the reader, aren’t reading everything anyway,  since:


“[U]sers (readers) are selfish, lazy, and ruthless.You, my dear user, pluck the low-hanging fruit. When you arrive on a page, you don’t actually deign to read it. You scan. If you don’t see what you need, you’re gone.”  -according to Jakob Nielson

And you generally prefer shorter articles over long(Note: I didn’t actually finish this article.)

Finally–you  may have simply glazed over the words and bullets that formed the F shaped pattern:

Screen Shot 2016-09-10 at 14.58.20

Eye tracking Studies reveal the F shaped way our eyeballs view a webpage. Screenshot courtesy of the article “F shaped pattern For Reading Web Content”

This is why Headers &  Subheaders,  along with

  • Lists

  • Bullets

  • Numbers

are employed with abandon:  they form the letter F.  Although to really draw the you in, I ought to include pictures of 


Faces grabs your eyeballs


Cleavage grabs your eyeballs

Cleavage grabs your eyeballs…more low hanging fruit…







Deep apologies for the above, I am merely illustrating the F shape, the eyeball theory and testing my readers’ ability to detect crap.

Tracking, the 4th Amendment and Apple vs the FBI

“The only true protection is to understand that anything you put up there can be accessed by somebody else.”

from the article 5 Biggest Online Privacy Threats.

Being a new user of Cloud Technology, and feeling excited about its potential (wow–I have unlimited online storage, can access all my photos on any device and share with anyone easily?  I love you, googlephotos!) these words really popped.  It’s like you kind of know it, but really you don’t.

“A huge concern about using the cloud is that your data does not have the same Fourth Amendment protections that it would have if it were stored in a desk drawer or even your desktop computer,” says Consumer Watchdog’s Simpson.

Being Canadian, I had only a vague sense of what the fourth amendment was.  So I googled it and found this in the featured snippet:

fourth amendment


Hmmm, so, stuff I keep on my google drive or icloud is not protected from being searched and seized?  Just like that, without cause? Was this all agreed to in the fine print?  I guess I (along with most people) am happy to play along as long as it is free.

Side Note: Here is where I learned about Featured snippets in search:”

Featured Snippet aspects highlighted using Skitch

Featured Snippet aspects highlighted using Skitch

  • Google is really helpful and want you to see it better.
  • The snippet is “extracted programmatically” from a  top hit website once it recognises the question you want answered.
  • The hyperlink featured is the website where the snippet was retrieved: a very well linked overview from Cornell Univeristy Law School.


Next I read Internet Privacy is the Wrong Conversation,  discussed how there is really no such thing as online privacy and that we should be demanding transparency, work to understand the 5W’s of tracking (our online behaviour) and not to conflate (and therefore confuse people and make it political) security with privacy.


flickr photo shared by m01229 under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

Tracking happens – get over it.  

The article goes on to state, The conversation we should be having isn’t about absolute privacy, as the European Union seems to believe, but about transparency.

And further:

“Rather than today’s often-impenetrable privacy statements, companies should publish a detailed, dumbed-down description of their tracking procedures. When you visit a website, who is that website sharing its data with?”

Confusing road sign in New South Wales, Australia

Purposefully Confusing By Chelm261 CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This so resonated–who has ever read a privacy/user agreement for Facebook (for example)…let alone understood it, other than the lawyers who crafted it? Most people can’t possibly be fully aware of what they are agreeing to–I know I’m not.

Finally, this article details the latest debate relating to privacy vs security.  Major players are Apple vs FBI/US Government and it has been grabbing my attention lately. You can download this Smart Tech Podcast to your device and learn about it on your commute, too.  (Great podcast for keeping in the loop about technology/devices…)

Basically  the US government is trying to force Apple to write code to help the FBI unlock the cellphone of a suspect in a terrorist attack in San Bernardino.  Apple is refusing to buckle under pressure from the government to unlock phones and claims writing such code poses a threat to privacy everywhere and warns it could set a precedent for government interference in this open customer letter .

FBI director James Comey says in his op-ed:

“We have awesome new technology that creates a serious tension between two values we all treasure: privacy and safety.  That tension should not be resolved by corporations that sell stuff for a living. It also should not be resolved by the FBI, which investigates for a living.”

Well, it begs to the question, who should solve it?  It seems to me, the American people don’t have much of a say beyond opinion polls, as the article suggests.  But maybe that is enough.

“What’s important to understand about the San Bernadino iPhone case is that its very existence is a public relations manoeuver.”

The article points to the timeliness with which the FBI is using this case to push their agenda: after recent terrorist attacks in Europe, when it is likely


What if the master key gets out there?
flickr photo shared by sk8geek under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

to have the most public sympathy and support. Apple claims there is no way to write code that simply unlocks one phone–there would be the equivalent of a master key, and once available, could be used again and again –by anyone with this knowledge.

Apparently there is no current legislation surrounding encryption, so the debate is allowed to flourish.  What’s crazy to me is that simply because the US government seems to believe they can force Apple (okay, also a US company) to abide by whatever legislation they come up with, the whole world (any Apple user) must suffer the consequences?

flickr photo shared by m01229 under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

From Switzerland to Israel with love: examining (digital) neutrality

After dropping out of the Coetail world for a couple of weeks, (and the online world in general–”vacationing” with twin toddlers in Israel with limited wifi…my activity reduced 

Requisite charming vacation pic posted

Requisite charming vacation pic posted

to lying in bed late at night with my phone, eyes blinded by tears, sand and exhaustion, but still determined to post those darn vacation pics!)


I returned home with my first assignment a week late and began to read the plethora of fellow Coetailers’ posts on the digital footprint.

I first read Amber’s post as she recently emailed me about a possible collaboration for course 2’s final project.  Amber reflects on her “personal vs professional” digital spaces and references articles warning us to avoid posting incriminating things in case your future boss sees.  (How you are embarrassing yourself online without knowing .) Why are these catchy and ominous titles so addictive?

I replied:

The quote about the innocuous statements you make on facebook really struck me…as I think about “liking” references to 4.20, for example. (Or highlighting that fact here!) But in all seriousness, I would hope employers (and anyone judging someone entirely on what is posted on social media) take what they see with a grain of salt, and understand that people change and their understanding of what is appropriate and what is not changes…unfortunately for a lot of young kids, that learning curve is very public. You are right –it is part of our job to get kids thinking about their digital selves and digital etiquette. Already I have had discussions with my 4 and 5 year olds about posting questionable pictures of others–me included (!) to our class blog and we have had to come to certain agreements about this.

The opening lines of Layla’s post grabbed me.  She wrote a beautifully worded, researched and analyzed article discussing our quest for identity…and how the internet is changing how that quest is undertaken, and how it can be manipulated to work for or against us.  She references an article by Meredith Scroeder to highlight the idea that

removing chunks of information that violate one person’s right to forget may in fact violate another individual’s freedom of speech and right to know.”

This highlighted quote made me immediately think of this picture:

Okay--I went ahead and posted it...this is an exercise for educational purposes, surely a higher calling than mere entertainment.

Vacationing with toddlers can go from barely surviving the day to this at any point. Pooped on and naked in the street.

I respond to Layla:

Thank you for your thought provoking post and helpful links. Like Brendon, I also wonder similar things…what happens when the views or ideas we may have expressed in the past have changed, and yet the digital ties to us are there forever…or when our well meaning friends and relatives tag us in silly or even offensive posts…

I myself am currently debating whether to post certain hilarious to me pictures during a recent vacation, but potentially embarrassing to my children in the future. Should I be posting pictures of them at all? They are toddlers and can’t give their consent…

Okay–so I went ahead and posted it…this is an exercise for educational purposes, surely a higher calling than mere entertainment.Does my action violate my child’s right to forget? Or Dad’s right?

Next I read Jon’s post about moving from a neutral footprint (previously a focus in many inquiries into digital citizenship) to a deliberately positive footprint.  I was left worrying and wondering at my relative lack of footprint, thanks to this article and after taking Lisa Nielson’s Digital Footprint quiz and realised I need to work harder to put myself out there in a positive and proactive way.   

I wrote to Jon,

I liked your comment about moving your “neutral digital footprint to a positive one.”  I feel I had been mostly working hard (okay, not that hard) to maintain relatively neutral online, lest I offend someone.  This approach only works to a point, as you mentioned in your “scare tactics” with your first graders–“Posting mean things online will get you into a lot of trouble” or “How would you feel if someone said something rude to you online?”   But I see this neutrality has left me without much of a digital footprint at all.  (Darn, I’ll blame it on living in Switzerland!)

It’s actually harder work to continuously seek ways to showcase our positive contributions–we have to go out of our way to write nicely worded comments on someone else’s blog or Facebook posts…the ‘like” button is way too easy.  But this this effort is worthwhile in the end, and is a good way to move that neutral footprint (both ours and our students)  to a positive one.


From the security wall in the West Bank, Bethlehem.

Shot taken mid spray!  The security wall in the West Bank, Bethlehem.


Finally, it seems to me there is still a war of ideologies going on when it comes to Social Media & Technology in the classroom.  On the one hand there are articles like this, basically telling us to use common sense when using Facebook as teachers, but at the same time informing us of different school districts who have taken matters into their own hands and outright banning communication via all social media between teachers and students.  And then there are more progressive approaches to Social Media, and selling the importance of “having the opportunity to publish online with your name attached.”

While one approach takes away freedom of expression, the other encourages it.  If there is one thing I learned while traveling with toddlers in Israel-it’s that everyone wants to be free and be heard.