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Draw.io is one of my favourite tools and the one I use most for creating graphics and infographics. As someone who doesn’t draw very well and has only limited design abilities it has really helped me out a number of times and enabled me to produce professional looking illustrations, product mockups and teaching materials.

How it works
When you go to the Draw.io site you can either open an existing diagram or create a new one.

Click on Create New Diagram and you will have the option to either choose from a number of templates that you can edit or use a blank template.

Once you open a blank template you see the canvas in the centre and on the left of the screen there are a number of shapes and a search engine. If you scroll down the categories on the left and click on them you’ll see a vast range of shapes images and icons any of which you can use by simply dragging them onto the canvas.

The canvas appears to be A4, but to can drop images and shapes anywhere around it and it will expand in any direction to accommodate your graphic.

If you want something specific you can type a key word into the search engine and you’ll see images related to the word.
All shapes and images can be resized, dragged around and have text and colour added once they are on the canvas.


Going to the insert menu also enables you to add images from URLs or search Google for images to add to your graphic.
Once you have finished creating your graphic you can export it as an image or save it in a number of different format types including PDF, PNG, SVG and HTML. You can also save an XML file of the graphic and then open it at a later date or share it with someone else to edit it. This is a really useful if you spot an error or typo at a later date.
The files can be saved on the device you are working on or on Google Drive or DropBox, so they are easy to share with other people.

How to use it

Create time lines
Time lines are great for helping students to understand the concepts and time relationships in various statements. You can use the timeline to map out the events in the sentence and illustrate the order in which they happened. draw.io can help you to quickly produce visually appealing timelines with images to help illustrate the sentences.


Flashcards
Creating flashcards can be time consuming, especially if you can’t draw. You can very quickly create your own flashcards using the images from draw.io and add text or phonemic script (You can copy paste the phonemic text from: http://www.photransedit.com/Online/Text2Phonetics.aspx ) or you can find and add the images on Google Images.

Create infographics
Infographics are a great way to convey dense statistical information in an accessible way for the computer screen. draw.io is a great way to create your own infographics for students or you can get students to create the infographics themselves. draw.io makes it easy to add images and colour to the graphics.


You can find lots more tasks and suggestions for exploiting infographics in my ebook.


Process maps
draw.io is great for creating process maps students can create these to demonstrate their understanding of the processes described in a text or you could create them to show students different process, such as visually explaining a the writing process.

Mindmaps
Mindmaps are a great way to support memory and show connections between different topics. They are also great for helping students to remember and review vocabulary. draw.io makes these very easy to create and you can also add images to illustrate them. If you save the xml file created by draw.io you can also share it so that others can edit it and create their own version.

Grammar summaries
You can use draw.io to create illustrated grammar summaries or get students to create them. You can have a section for meaning, form, pronunciation and appropriacy and use icons or illustrations to help clarify and make the summaries more attractive and memorable.

Conversation/ dialogue maps
Many transactional conversations follow very similar patterns. You can use draw.io to create dialogue maps to illustrate this for students or get them to map out a conversation themselves. They can use the dialogue map to show the purpose of each part of the conversation.

Visual story summaries
You or your students can use draw.io to create visual summaries of stories. These can show the characters and the main events in the plot. For longer stories, students can build the visual as they read each section or paragraph. This is a great way to get students to demonstrate their understanding of the text.

Lifeline maps
Students can create lifeline maps of themselves showing the main events in their lives. These can be really useful as prompts for speaking activities and to help students get to know each other better. They can also create lifelines for famous people or historical figures or events.


Illustrations for materials
If you create your own texts or worksheets you can use draw.io to add illustrations graphs and images to them to make them look a bit more attractive and professional.

What I like about it
  • It’s free and runs in the web-browser so no need to download anything.
  • Great selection of images and icons to add to illustrations
  • Great to be able to save to Google Drive and share with others
  • Great range of formats for download
  • Love the unlimited canvas space
  • Doesn’t require any login or registration
  • Quick to learn so usable with students
  • Great that photographic images can be imported in too

As a tool for creating graphics, infographics and illustrations there isn’t much that can be improved. I guess some people might prefer a freehand creation tool but I’ve personally never had much success with these. For me draw.io is great the way it is. I hope you and your students find it useful too.
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On the surface Riddle is a great free tool for creating a variety of quizzes and polls that can have rich media embedded into them, but when you look below the surface it's actually a pretty sophisticated tool for quickly authoring engaging elearning.


Creating a Riddle is easy
Go to: http://www.riddle.com and sign up. Then you will see the different quiz types. The main types of interactions you can create are:

  • Opinion polls - These are simple single question polls which can contain a number of fixed response for the recipient to choose from.
  • Lists - Lists aren’t questions as such, they are more like a nice way of presenting information in a series of chunks. Each chunk of information can also have media or text embedded into it. This would make a great way of presenting infographic type information in a more mobile friendly way.
  • Pop quiz - A pop quiz can contain a number of multiple choice questions. Pop quizzes can be scored across percentage of correct answers. Students can also get feedback on each answer within the quiz and you can attach specific messages to scores to tell students what they need to do in response to their score.
  • Personality tests - With this kind of test you can create a number of questions for participants to answer and link the answers to specific personality types. So for example if the participant answer a to all questions they are shown their a personality type. You can actually create the different personality types yourself.
  • Surveys - Surveys are the most flexible poll type. You can have a choice of different question types from text fields for written input to single choice or multiple select questions.
You can either click on ‘New’ to start from a blank template or click on ‘Template' and you’ll see an example of that type of quiz which should give you an idea of how to create one yourself.
Most quiz types start with some kind of introduction screen where you outline the theme and purpose of the quiz. With Riddle it’s easy to add media to this part of the quiz just by clicking on the media type and searching for it or uploading your own file.
Then add the questions and potential answers. You can also add a score the answer in the pop quiz type questions and some explanatory feedback.
Once you have added the questions you can customise the look of the quiz by changing colours or fonts.
Then once the quiz is complete you can share either a URL or embed code or post it directly to your social network accounts.

The responses to all the questions are collected within the platform and you can view and download these by clicking on ‘Statistics’ (to download a csv file you need a pro account) so this provides a form of LMS though it doesn’t enable you to identify specific students (again you would need a pro version to do that).

How to use Riddle with learners
  • Riddle is pretty simple and quick to learn so you can get students to create their own research questionnaires. These could be for classroom research or they could share them through social media networks. You could use infographics to base the research on and get students to do parallel research and create their own infographic.
  • You could get students using the List option as tasks to report on films or reading assignments. They could create a ten point list to include the ten most important features of the book or film.
  • You can create opinion polls to lead into classroom discussion. This would give students the opportunity to think about the issues before they come into class. You could then follow this up with a second poll to see how many people had changed their mind about the issue.
  • You could use the list option to have mock elections. Students could use the list to create a ten point election manifesto. The students could then look through them and decide who they would like to vote for.
  • You can use lists to present different aspects of verb tenses with a section each on meaning, form, pronunciation, time lines and usage. You could also include links to videos or songs where the verb tense is being used.
  • You can use personality tests to identify learning styles and make students more aware of them. You just need to define the different learning styles and then add answers to the multiple choice questions that identify each style.
  • You can create a pre test to get students thinking around topic you want to teach and to find out what they already know about it.
  • You can use Riddle as part of flipped learning approach with video embedded into quizzes or polls. Then you can collect students’ answers and go into class with a clear understanding of what they have understood from the material.
  • You can embed articles, short stories or video clips in the pop quiz or surveys and then build them into  complete online course.
What I like about Riddle
  • The free option still gives lots of scope for creativity.
  • There is a great range of quiz types.
  • The simplicity of creating the quizzes makes this easy for students to learn quickly
  • I love the choice of media and how easy it is to embed media into the quizzes.
  • I like the way the personality type quiz answers can be set up with sliders to refine the way the answers apply to the different personality types.
  • The list type quizzes are a great way to segment the presentation of new materials
I hope you enjoy using Riddle and create some useful interactive learning materials.
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Infographics are a great source of information and make reading information from the computer screen much easier, but just showing students an infographic and telling them to study it isn’t the most effective way to exploit the medium.



Creating your own infographic tasks can be time consuming though, so in this posting I’m presenting a number of generic ideas that should work with a number of types of infographic. You can use these ideas with students to help focus their comprehension of the information and give them clear goals for engaging with the information in the graphics.



Peer created questions
Give your students an infographic and get them to create a quiz based around it. Once the students have created their quiz they can use it to check the comprehension or knowledge of other students in their class. You can make this competitive and have teams to quiz each other. You could also have different infographics for each group and they can exchange questions and infographics.
  • This activity has a duel role in that students need to read through the infographic and understand it in order to create the questions, but they also practise formulating questions. The activity also adds an element of competition which some students find motivating and of course it saves you a lot of time creating questions yourself.
Fact finding
Ask your students to find x-number of what they believe are the most important or significant facts in the infographic. Get them to justify their choice and explain why these points are the most significant.
  • This activity encourages students to evaluate and make value judgements about the information they are being exposed to. It also reveals elements of their own value system and exposes them for discussion which can be very enlightening.

Checking sources / corroborating information
Get students to check the sources of any statistics mentioned in an infographic to make sure they are correct and that the sources are valid. You could also get them to find supporting sources on other sites that either authenticate or contradict the statistics stated in the infographic.
  • There’s a common joke that 83% of all statistics are made up. Often students tend to believe any information that they find online. This activity encourages students to be more critical and to check the validity of information they find. It also helps them to develop the necessary research skills to validate online information.
Comparing to yourself
You can get students to find out where they fit within any infographics that contain personal information. You can also use this as a mingle task by asking students to try to find someone in the classroom who fits into any of the same statistics that they do.
  • This encourages the students to apply the information to themselves and by personalising it can make it seem more real, memorable and tangible. This can make data a little less dehumanising. The mingle activity can also help to improve classroom dynamics and help students to get to know each other.
Checking bias and motivation
Ask the students to find out who created the infographic and why they think it was created. This involves them researching the source and thinking about the relationship between the company that created the graphic and the information in it.
  • This encourages students to think more deeply about information and to question the goals and motivation behind it. Students often think of information as neutral, but the way information is displayed and what information is chosen can influence readers. Pushing students to look more deeply at the motivations behind the information can make them more critical readers.
Personal response
You can ask students for a range of personal responses to any infographic. Here are some possible example questions.
What did you find interesting?
What information do you doubt?
What information would you like to share? Who with? Why?
  • This encourages students to think about applying information and making it purposeful for their own lives. Encouraging a personal response from students can also make the lessons more meaningful and memorable for them.
Summary / Writing
Ask your students to take notes about the most important information in the infographic and then use the notes to write a summary. The summary could have some form of publication as a motivation, such as a newspaper report website publication. Once they have finished a first draft they can exchange with another student and compare to see if they chose the same main points. You could also ask them to peer edit the text and then return it before writing a final draft.
  • This can help to develop students process writing skills and academic study skills. It encourages students to evaluate information and make and articulate the connections between different nuggets of information.
Presentation summary
You can ask your students to prepare an oral presentation based on the information they took from the infographic. They can also prepare a presentation deck with images and text to help support their presentation.
  • This can help to develop students speaking and presentation skills. The ability to present and talk about information is also a valuable workplace skill.
Create your own research
Get students to create their own research questionnaire based around the same topic. They can use this either in class or share it through social media and collect the information for their own infographic.
  • This develops students research skills and encourages them to think about the framing of questions to extract information. It also encourages them to think about how they present data once it has been collected.
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I’ve been a long term advocate of the use of infographics in education and especially enjoy thinking of ways that students can be encouraged to engage with and question the content as well as create their own graphics, so when I rediscovered Visme.co I was really delighted to find the tool that I once thought was a PowerPoint substitute for creating online presentations had turned into an awesome interactive infographic creator.


What’s so impressive about Visme?
I’ve used quite a few infographic creation tools and most are either template based or they have a library of assets which you can drag and drop to construct your own layouts.

Visme.co offers a combination of both these options along with the possibility to animate the elements within the graphic, drop in your own images or online videos and also embed html elements such as polls and quizzes into the graphic.

This enables your infographic to be more than just data display, they can act as multimedia tools to encourage user responses and build learning and research and it's built on html 5 so it works across mobile platforms too.

How to use Visme
When you go to the Visme.co dashboard you get three main options. You can create a presentation, an infographic or use a blank space to create any kind of hybrid of the two.

If you choose presentation you get a number attractive templates which you can flick through and select. Once you have selected one you can edit the design and images and add your own content.


If you choose infographic you can search through a wide range of completed infographic designs and choose one with a structure similar to what you want to display and edit and customise it for you own data.

 Every element within the graphic can be edited, moved around and animated.


If you choose a blank canvas, then you can search through the images and icons library and create your own design from scratch. You can choose the size of your canvas so that it can be presentation size or more of a poster format.

You simply drag on any elements that you want to include from the graphics library and then click on then to edit them to suit your design. It’s easy to resize them, change the colour or even animate them. You can also search through and add images.


You can find some really nice examples of what’s possible on the Visme blog.


What I like about it
  • Visme.co is a really flexible tool which offers the choice between using templates to develop your content and an open canvas.
  • There is a huge range of professionally designed icons and graphics you can simply drag and drop into your creations to make them look professional.
  • The potentials for dropping in html objects such as quizzes that enable interaction can make static data much more dynamic.
  • The ability to drop in multimedia and particularly video can lend more significance and impact to the information in the graphic.
  • You can hyperlink elements within the page to pages on the internet so you can use this to show sources of information or link to other images or background information.
  •  Visme.co is built on html 5 so runs across platforms and devices.


How use it with students
  • Create multimedia posters - You can get students to research a famous person and create a poster about them. This could be a fan poster about someone they like, a historical character or even someone in the news. They can add short video clips about the person as well as a range of facts. 
  • Combine lectures with visual notes - You can combine a short lecture video with some notes about the lecture to teach students visual note taking skills or to make the content of the video more meaningful and memorable.

  • Create interactive animated work sheets - You can create colourful worksheets with images or text that links to various resources around the internet and embed them into online courses or blog posts. 
  • Poems or songs with visuals - You can have videos or audios of songs dropped into graphics and add images and icons that help students to understand the words. This is an example of a poem reading with a visual gap fill activity. The images below illustrate the words of the poem, but there are some clouds with question marks and students have to listen and hear the missing word. The cloud is also hyperlinked to the answer (an image of coral), so they can check their answers. They can then  use the images to help them remember the words of the poem.
  • Publish student research - You can ask your students to do research and find data and information about various topics and then create their own infographic display of the information.
  • Transforming text to visual - You can get your students to create a visual representation of a text as a means of checking comprehension. This could be based around literature, such as a play or story they are reading or it could be a representation of the information in an article or essay.
Tools like Visme.co are great to lift the level of engagement in your classroom whether you use them to create tasks, present information or put them in the hands of your students to do the creating. There is a learning curve with these tools, but Visme.co provides some great tutorials and support to get you and your students started.

Visme.co is a commercial product with premium lisences but there is also a free lisence you can use with your students.

I hope you enjoy using this amazing tool.
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I recently revisited Phraseum, an app which I first discovered and reviewed in March 2014. I’m glad to see that the tool is still around, has gathered a loyal following and has developed both in terms of design and functionality since that first review.

In this article I’d like to show you some of the new features and also share some ideas for how you can use it. Let me start though by recapping what Phraseum does.

Phraseum is a tool that students can use to capture lexical chunks, collocations and expressions while they read online text. It helps students to collect these expressions into theme based phrasebooks that they can then use to revise and share their learning. 
Within the platform there are also a number of features to help them learn the phrases, these include tagging of phrases and links through to Google translate. Phraseum also records the source of the phrase so that students can go back and find the phrases in their context. 

A new feature that’s been added since the last review is the ‘Learn’ feature. This is great as it  helps them learn and memorise the phrases using a process of spaced repetition. To use this students just select a phrasebook and then click on the ‘Learn this phrasebook’ button.  
They can then select key words to remove from the phrases. After these have been clicked, they will have to select them in the correct order to put them back into the sentence. 

They work through the phrases doing this a couple of times and each time things get harder and more words are removed. Eventually the prompt words are removed and they have to type in the missing words. 
Once the students type in the words they will be able to compare with the original.


Phraseum can also create revision tests so that the students re-study a selection of the phrases in their collection. When students have learned new phrases, each session begins with a test. This test is designed to identify exactly what they can remember. In each test they are required to type in phrases with minimal prompts. Their success in the test determines whether a phrase is learned or marked as weak and repeated again.

As a teacher you can also create your own phrasebooks just by typing in the phrases you want stusdents to learn and then sharing the phrasebook with them.

Getting started with phraseum. 

Once you have registered on the site, one of the first things to do is to add the ‘Clipping button’ to your browser. You can find it at: https://www.phraseum.com/page/clipping-button and just drag the button onto the bookmarks bar of your browser. 

Once you have done this all you need to do is highlight some text while you are reading and then click the button and it will open the clipping window which helps you to save the text chunk into the correct phrasebook and add tags and annotation to it. 

It’s also wise to decide how you want to organise the phrase you collect and create some empty phrasebooks too, then these will appear as options when you clip phrases from a text. Once you have done that you (or your students) are ready to start clipping as you read.


Activities for students
Here are some activities you can do with your students to get them started with Phraseum.

  • Choose a web based text that you would like your students to read. Collect phrases from the text into a phrasebook. Share the phrasebook with your students and get them to check their understanding of the phrases. Ask the students to try to learn the phrases using the Phraseum ‘Learn’ feature. Once they’ve made an initial attempt to learn the phrases, get them to read the text.
  • Give the students a web based text to read. Once you have completed comprehension and reading development activities ask the students to look for sentences in the text that have vocabulary, collocations or lexical chunks that are new to them and save the sentences into a phrasebook. Then get students to use the learn feature and choose the specific words from the phrases within the sentence that they need to learn. Students can then practice them regularly.
  • When using a text that has a lot of dialogue such as a play, you can get the students to choose one of the people in the text and grab all the sentences they say into a phrasebook with that person’s name. They can then use the ‘Learn’ feature to try to memorise the lines of the text. You can then get the students act out or recite the text.
  • Collect some different lines from a range of short poems into a phrasebook. Share the phrasebook with your students and get them to try to decide which poem each line came from (You’ll need to give them the titles of the poems, or use poems they have already read.) 
  • Get students to collect wise quotes or sayings ( these could be based around a specific topic or just any that the students are interested in) once they have 5 to 10 quotes get the students to use the ‘Learn’ feature of the site to try to learn and memorise the quotes.
  • Create or get students to create a phrasebook containing each of the lines from a short poem. They can then use the ‘Learn’ feature of Phraseum to try to memorise the complete poem. 
 If you'd like more ideas for how to use Phraseum to develop your students' vocabulary, check back to my original review: Creating social phrasebooks with Phraseum
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This is just a short post to anounce the publication of my new ebook 'Exploiting Infographics for Digital Literacy and Critical Thinking'.


Exploiting Infographics follows on from 10 Lessons in Digital Literacy, which is a collection of lesson plans based around infographics, and looks in more depth at the genre and how infographics can be used as both sources of information and as creative learning tasks for students.


The tasks that accompany the infographics are intended to encourage students to think more critically about the information they are exposed to and to question the sources of information they find whilst browsing the internet.

Exploiting Infographics should help teachers to start creating their own tasks, activities and lesson plans for students and to integrate infographics in a way that will enhance students’ critical thinking, digital literacy, language and communication skills.

Exploiting Infographics was conceived as part of The Digital Classrooms Series which started with the award winning Digital Video - A Manual for Language Teachers.


The series is intended to help teachers, teacher trainers, materials writers and course designers integrate digital technologies into their classroom practice in a pedagogically sound and impactful way.


I hope you enjoy these books and find them useful.
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