Education

#BackToSchool: The Old Posterboard Is Now Outdated

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This post was written by Valerie Lewis. She is a teacher, entrepreneur, technology fanatic and forever learner from Atlanta, Georgia.

As teachers and students head back to school for another amazing year; the planning is as lengthy as the teacher supply store lines at WalMart. There is a sea of overzealous parents overspending in order to be certain their young learners have everything they need. On the other hand, there are some parents frustrated with the wish lists of elementary and middle school teachers requesting staplers, borders, paperclips, pencils, markers, tape, notebook paper, and colored copy paper!

One item that teachers add to their collection annually is……POSTERS! How could we ever do without plastering our walls with quotes, memes, and infographics?

Classroom walls

Howver, the typical posterboard has run its course. Over these past 2 years, I have come across a tool which allows my students to display complex information in a concise way. An alternative that’s digital and custom.

Piktochart.

It all started when my 8 year old came home with one of those infamous “All About Me” projects that have families running to their local CVS or Walgreens to print out family portraits. It was a daunting project, but I knew there had to be a better way. After reaching out to my Professional Learning Network (PLN) to vent, they suggested Piktochart and we set out to create his digital poster.

This is the result! Superb for an 8-year old boy!

Carsyn's Infographic

Getting Started

Creating an account

The first step is creating your Piktochart account. We already had an account so I did not need to create another for him. However, if you haven’t created yours, go to www.piktochart.com and click Sign Up. You can use Google+, Facebook or email. You will then need to create a username and password. Once you are in, you can decide which of the 4 formats you’d like to use: Infographic, Poster, Report, or Presentation.

Piktochart's format picking

Selecting a Template

There are 12 FREE templates for you to begin with, including a blank canvas for you to customize and format to your liking. I have found the benefits of the free account rewarding but upgrading to a Premium account will give you access to so many additional features. Once you have selected your template, you are ready to begin!

A great tip is using the search bar to find what you are looking for. For instance, if you need to work on a project with food, you can search for that. Odds are you’ll find a beautiful template that will suit your needs!

Picking a template in Piktochart
The Creation Process

The process is a very simple drag and drop motion which allows you to resize, change font appearances and colors or simply delete what is already there. This reminds me of the interface of Microsoft Word when you are adding an image or Word Art. On the left side of your screen is where you can find various graphics to include shapes, lines, icons, photos, and photo frames.

You can also upload images to your canvas from files that are already saved on your computer or external drives. The benefit is that you can save these images within the site and they will become part of your gallery for future use. You can also change the look of your background, add text and charts and the latest feature allows you to import external tools and embed into your infographic (i.e. SurveyMonkey).

Piktochart's editor

If you would rather watch an instructional video first, I suggest you start with this one by Michelle Shaeffer. I showed it to my high school students and my 8 year old. Or, you could simply use the Tour button within Piktochart to get familiar with the many features that will help create a great piece of art.

Finishing Up

Just like any cautious being, I would advise you to save your work as you plug along and give your masterpiece a title so it is easy for you to locate under the My Saved Piktocharts or File icon the next time you log into your account. You can preview your completed work and share it out through Social Media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest. If you level up to a premium account then you can export to SlideShare and Evernote as well! If these aren’t an option for you then you can download your infographic as a JPEG or PNG but with an upgraded account, you can download a PDF version of your work and remove the Piktochart watermark from your finished product.

Bonus: Brainstorming and Crowdsourcing Ideas

I remember having a discussion on Twitter one evening where one of the teachers mentioned wanting to see things around her classroom that would be culturally relevant and reflect the students she would be teaching. I suggested creating posters of African-American scientists that were innovative and contributed things that we still use today. She loved that idea and was excited to see if she could print the final products in larger dimensions from her school’s printshop. This was so she could cover her classroom walls with quality contributions by her students, all the while demonstrating the knowledge they had gained. One of my fellow Edumatchers from my VoxSquad, TimmonsTechyTips.com uses Pinterest to pin her work and mentioned how Piktochart is a great way to share information learned as evidenced by the infographic she created on 3 ways to Read an Anchor chart.

As an educator, I have had my students create cultural projects, advised other teachers on how to use these projects to set the school tone, climate, culture and spirit during the school year and even let my 8 year old start his “All About Me” project (which sadly, his teacher wouldn’t accept because it wasn’t on old fashioned poster board). I have even created infographics for a Reading, ESOL, and Gifted endorsement class that I took because I just simply wanted to try something fresh and easy. Though, my skills were very basic at the time, it certainly allowed me to stand out amongst the other submissions which all shared the same presentation format.

The possibilities are endless when it comes to creating with Piktochart. I would think that school administrators, reading coaches, instructional and tech coaches can create informational materials to help parents, teachers, and students all “get connected” and remain in the loop in order to have a successful school year. To be able to walk in school hallways throughout the year and see work created by students, administrators and faculty would certainly contribute to the learning environment we’d all love to see!

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