Wednesday, March 14, 2018

A Great List of Tools for Making Cool Infographics

Cool Infographics is a book and a blog written by Randy Krum. I read his book a few years ago and came away with some great design ideas that I now use in my slides and in some social media posts. On his blog Randy critiques the design quality and information accuracy of infographics found around the Internet. His blog also contains a section in which he lists dozens of tools for creating all kinds of data visualizations.

The Cool Infographics tools page lists dozens of tools for building all kinds of data visualizations from simple word clouds to complex interactive designs. The Cool Infographics tools page also lists resources for free images, resources on picking the right design for your project, and places to find data to use in your projects.

Some of the tools on the Cool Infographics tools page will be familiar to readers of this blog. Canva and Timeline JS, for example, have been featured many times on this blog. Some tools, like Zanifesto, were completely new to me.

Applications for Education
Creating infographics can be a good way for students to develop skills in analyzing, summarizing, and explaining data in a meaningful and concise way. Most of the resources listed on the Cool Infographics tools page could be used by middle school and high school students.

A Cool Kaizena Update

Back in January Kaizena released an update that streamlined the process of adding voice comments to Google Documents. This afternoon they announced an update to how they handle voice comments. First, they've improved they speed at which voice comments appear in documents. Second, they've added the ability for to continue to record even if your wi-fi connection drops out during your recording. Kaizena will continue to record even if your connection drops out. Your recording will upload when your connection is restored.

Watch my video to see how easy it is to add voice comments to Google Docs with Kaizena.

Three Good Options for Building a Course Website

Twice this week I have had readers ask me for recommendations for platforms building course resource pages or full course course websites. Both readers were looking for options that had more flexibility than Google Classroom and systems like it. Everyone's situation requires different features, but there are three options I generally recommend.

Weebly for Education makes it easy for anyone to build a great-looking website. You can choose from a large selection of templates that you can then customize to meet your needs. I've never bumped up against a file storage limit on Weebly for Education. The service supports embedding media and supports hosting files that your visitors can download. The best part of Weebly for Education is that you can create and manage student accounts. You can find a video tutorial on Weebly for Education right here.

And if you're looking to create a website for selling things or you just want to use your own domain, Weebly has some inexpensive options here (affiliate link). Take a look at Tom Richey's website for an example of what can be done with one of Weebly's commercial plans.

Google Sites
Google Sites can be a good choice for teachers who are working in a G Suite for Education domain. For everyone else, I'd go with Weebly or a self-hosted WordPress site (more about that below). Google Sites is good if you already are locked into using the G Suite ecosystem. By that I mean you already have a lot of videos, slides, documents, and other files stored in Google Drive. Google Sites makes it easy to import items into your website from your Google Drive. There are two downsides to Google Sites that I always acknowledge. First, the web addresses that are automatically generated by Google Sites are ridiculously long and hard to remember. Second, while Google has started to allow more media to be embedded from third party sources Google Sites still prevents a lot of embeds.

Self-hosted WordPress Site
Creating a self-hosted WordPress site will give you the ultimate in design, function, and privacy flexibility. WordPress is the open-source software that powers some of the world's leading blogs and is the most popular blog software in the world. You can use WordPress to build a blog, to build a course website, or to do both in one place as I am doing with I'm currently using a WordPress plug-in called Learn Dash to build courses within my Practical Ed Tech blog. Creating a course website in this way is more time-consuming than using either Weebly or Google Sites, but my customization options are limitless.

If you think you're ready to build a course website on a self-hosted WordPress site, I have step-by-step directions for getting started right here.

FAQs About Tomorrow's Video Projects Webinar

Tomorrow at 4pm Eastern Time I am hosting a webinar that is titled 5 Video Projects for Almost Every Classroom. As I write this, 25 people are registered and I've answered a bunch of questions from readers who are interested in registering. I recorded the following short video by using YouTube Live to answer those FAQs. The most frequently asked question is, "will it be recorded?" Yes, it will be recorded and the recording will be available to everyone who is registered whether you attend the live session or not.

Why I've Stopped Making My Public Google Docs Printable

In a word, theft.

In the last couple of weeks I've published a handful of charts that compare the features of popular ed tech resources. The most recent of those is this chart of 12 alternatives to Google Image search. I publish the charts in a widget that includes a download link. I also publish a link to view the Google Docs version of the charts. I don't, however, allow printing or copying of the Google Docs versions of the charts that I publish. I used to allow that, but about two years ago I started to see my charts and other handouts getting redistributed without any attribution. And thanks to one loyal reader, I discovered a couple of my documents on Teachers Pay Teachers (a company that doesn't seem to be the least bit concerned about copyright infringement as long as they keep getting their cut of your money). So now I only allow downloading my documents as PDFs through the widgets that I use in blog posts.

Using Box and allowing downloads through it doesn't stop someone from using or redistributing my work without permission, but it does make it a little more difficult to do. Box also provides me with information about how many times my documents get downloaded which is something that Google Docs has never done.

I hate that I have had to take this approach. Unfortunately, until every teacher respects copyright or I just quit caring, this is the only way that I can feel comfortable publishing my charts and other handouts.

Finally, I realize that some schools block Box which is unfortunate because it is a great service operated by a publicly traded company. If you're school is preventing you from downloading one of my documents, I recommend talking to your IT person about why they're blocking it. Often, they don't even know that they're blocking it because they just apply broad filter settings that capture a lot of otherwise innocuous sites.

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