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Thursday, December 5, 2013

QuizBean - Quickly Create and Distribute Quizzes to Students Even If They Don't Have Email Addresses

QuizBean is a nice platform for creating simple image-based quizzes that your students can complete online. The service recently received some updates that teachers will appreciate. The most significant update to QuizBean is the removal of the email requirement. You can now create QuizBean accounts for students that do not have email addresses. You can assign quizzes to students on a class-by-class or individual basis. Quiz results are automatically sent to your teacher dashboard when students have completed a quiz.

Another update to QuizBean to note is support for special characters and accents. QuizBean now allows you to quickly duplicate quizzes in your account so that you don't have to re-create a quiz in order to assign it to multiple classes.

Applications for Education
One of the things that I like about QuizBean is that students get immediate feedback on each question that they answer. Before moving to the next question students are told if they answered the previous question correctly or incorrectly. The option of having your students' results sent directly to your dashboard will save you a lot of time grading quizzes. Being able to include pictures in quizzes makes QuizBean a good platform for asking questions that include diagrams and equations.

Now You Can Download Your Gmail and Google Calendar Data

Google Takeout has long offered options for downloading your data from Drive, Blogger, Google+ and a dozen other services. Today, Google announced that Gmail and Calendar data can be downloaded through Takeout too. You have the option of downloading all Calendar data or just the calendars that you specify. Similarly, you'll be able to download all Gmail data or specify that you only want messages with a particular label to be downloaded.

Downloading of Calendar data is available to everyone right now. Downloading of Gmail data will be rolled-out over the next month.

Five Good Online Tools for Creating Infographics

In my previous post shared some advice from Randy Krum, author of Cool Infographics, about creating infographics. In his book Randy devotes a chapter to design tools. Many of the tools used by professional designers cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. But you don't have to spend anything if you want your students to try their hands at creating a data visualization in the form of an infographic. Here are five free tools that your students can use to create infographics.

Infogr.am is an online tool for creating interactive charts, graphs, and interactive infographic posters. There are four basic chart types that you can create on Infogr.am; bar, pie, line, and matrix. Each chart type can be edited to use any spreadsheet information that you want to upload to your Infogr.am account. The information in that spreadsheet will be displayed in your customized chart. When you place your cursor over your completed chart the spreadsheet information will appear in small pop-up window. Infogr.am infographics can include videos and maps along with pictures and text. Your Infogr.am projects can be embedded into your blog, website, or wiki.

Easel.ly provides a canvas on which you can build your own infographic by dragging and dropping pre-made design elements. You can use a blank canvas or build upon one of Easel.ly's themes. If Easel.ly doesn't have enough pre-made elements for you, you can upload your own graphics to include in your infographic. Your completed infographic can be exported and saved as PNG, JPG, PDG, and SVG files.

Piktochart provides seven free infographic templates. Each template can be customized by changing the colors, fonts, icons, and charts on each template. If you need more space on the template, you can add more fields at the bottom of the templates. If you need less space, you can remove fields from the templates.

EWC Presenter is a new tool from Easy Web Content (a website creation and hosting service). EWC Presenter makes it easy to create slideshows, banner graphics, and interactive infographics. The slideshow creator and banner graphic creator don't stand-out from other tools like them. The EWC Presenter's infographic animation option is worth noting. EWC Presenter's infographic tool allows you to animate elements within your infographic. And as was featured in a post early this month, EWC Presenter infographics support audio files.

Canva is a service that makes it easy to create beautiful slides, flyers, posters, infographics, and photo collages. Creating these graphics on Canva is a drag-and-drop process. Start by selecting a template then dragging and dropping into place background designs, pictures, clip art, and text boxes. Canva offers a huge library of clip art and photographs to use in your designs. You can also upload your own images to use in your graphics. Your completed Canva projects can be downloaded as PDF and PNG files. You can also simply link to your online graphic.

Advice on Creating Infographics from the Author of Cool Infographics

Infographics are everywhere these days. I post some on this blog from time to time. A well-designed infographic can convey a lot of information in a concise package. An infographic that has a poor design is just a poster. Randy Krum is the president of Info Newt, a firm that specializes in data visualization and infographic design. He's also the author of the blog Cool Infographics and a book of the same name. Randy was kind enough to send me a copy of the book. I devoured the book in two cross-country flights last month.

Business people are the target audience for Cool Infographics, but there are some take-aways from the book that apply to anyone who is thinking about creating an infographic. For example, Randy emphasis the need to identify the one central story that you want to convey with your infographic before you build the infographic. Since his book is targeted to a business audience, I asked Randy what advice he had for teachers interested in having students create infographics.

What advice would you give to teachers, particularly elementary and middle school teachers, who are interested in having students create infographics?

  • I would strongly suggest starting with charts. The big three chart styles are important (pie, bar and line charts), but also more advanced charts like arrays, gauges, scales, tree maps, mind maps, word clouds and proportionally sized circles that may require different software, websites or manually creating the visuals.
  • Then ask students to redesign an existing infographic. That gives them access to all of the data, but allows them to experiment with new layouts, colors and types of charts that are different than what was used in the original design. Then students should be able to incorporate their own original data visualizations into their own reports, presentations or infographics. I’ve seen successful student assignments that ask students to design persuasive infographics about a specific topic covered in class. This requires the students to attempt to clearly show the data that supports a particular position in an attempt to convince the audience.


Cool Infographics contains a chapter devoted to the concept of using infographics as resumes or biographies:

What advice would you give to high school and or college students that want to create infographic resumes but aren't sure how to work them into an interview?
  • An infographic resume should be used to support a traditional text resume, and focus on the visualizing only the most important information about the student. What makes them stand out as a better candidate than others? Usually, graduating students don’t have much work experience yet, so the visuals should focus on the skills or software applications they have learned that are relevant to the job.
  • During an interview, a candidate could offer the separate infographic resume page while saying: “Let me show you a summary of my strongest skills in this easy to read visual.” This tells the interviewer two things about the candidate: they have strong skills and they can concisely summarize a topic. The visual summary will also stand out in their memory compared to a pile of text-only resumes.
Click here for a sample chapter of Cool Infographics.

Video - How to Create Google Scholar Libraries and Alerts

Google Scholar, like Google Books, is one of the research tools that students often overlook when searching on the web. Google Scholar can be an excellent place for high school and college students to find peer-reviewed academic papers, journals, theses, books, and court opinions. In the video below I demonstrate how to create a library of resources in Google Scholar as well as how to create Google Scholar Alerts that will notify you when new content related to your research appears in Google Scholar.


You can find screenshots of these processes here.

Dozens of Web Tools That Don't Require Registration

A couple of nights ago someone on Twitter asked me for recommendations for web tools that her middle school students could use without having to register to use them. My first thought was to consult Nathan Hall's long list of registration-free web tools for students. Nathan's list is divided into twenty-five categories. Some of the categories of most interest to teachers are online whiteboards, survey/ poll tools, chart/ graph tools, annotation tools, document creation tools, and photo & drawing tools.

Applications for Education
Using web tools that don't require registration to use can save you and your students time as you can jump right into an activity without having to struggle with usernames and passwords. The downside to using registration-free web tools is that often you don't have an option for saving your work other than downloading it directly to your computer or sharing it to another service like Evernote or Google Drive which do require registration.

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