Saturday, 31 October 2015

Creating illustrations and infographics for ELT tasks

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.



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.

Related links

Best
Nik

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Brainstorming and polling with AnswerGarden

AnswerGarden is a very simple tool for creating short answer polls and displaying the answers as word clouds. It’s really simple and quick to use and can be used in the classroom or embedded into webpages, blogs or in online courses.

To create an AnswerGarden poll just go to http://answergarden.ch and click on the + sign at the top. Then you can either type in a topic to brainstorm or a question.



AnswerGarden poll responses are limited to either 20 or 40 characters so be sure that the type of question you use doesn’t require a long complex answer. AnswerGarden works best when only a single word answer is required.

Once you have added your topic or question you can just click enter and your poll will be ready. Then just share the URL with the recipients.

You can refine your poll and add some security to it if you wish.
  • There are a number of modes you can choose for your poll.
  • You can allow different users to repeat the same answer, in which case the repeated word will appear larger depending on the number of people who enter the word, or you can allow each word to be entered only one time.
  • You can set the poll to be moderated so that words only appear once you approve them.
  • You can add a password for the poll and add your email address to get an admin link for the poll.
  • You can lock the poll so that nobody can add to it, but this would usually be done once the poll is complete.

Once the poll has been launched there are a number of other nice features including an automatically generated QR code to make the poll easy to access for students on mobile phones.


 You can also share the poll quite easily through a range of social media or get an embed code to add it to a webpage or blog. You can even geo broadcast the poll through your local network so that anyone can discover it on their mobile phone or laptop.


Once your students have completed the poll there are a number of export options including export to Wordle, Tagxedo which allow you to customise the word cloud and save or edit the results. You can also send it to Twitter or save it as a PNG.

AnswerGarden in the classroom
  • You can set a topic and get students to brainstorm vocabulary connected with that topic. Once all the words have been added you can ask students to peer teach any they don’t know in pairs or small groups or research the words in an online dictionary.
  • As a warmer you could get students to enter all the verbs, nouns or adjectives they know that start with a particular letter. You could even create two or three AnswerGardens with the same task and give them to different groups and see which group produces the most examples.
  • You could do a variation of the above game by getting students to brainstorm nouns that have specific qualities. For example, students could add anything they can think of that has feet, or anything that can fly, or anything that is green.
  • You could start with a route word and ask your students to enter or collect words that collocate with it. This doesn’t have to be done in one lesson but students could use a number of these AnswerGardens to collect collocations. They could do a similar thing with phrasal verbs using either a verb or a preposition in the question.
  • You could use AnswerGarden to get your students to create anagrams from a route word. Again you could have a different poll for each grup and make this competitive.
  • You could use an AnswerGarden to find out more about your students by getting them to enter things or people that they like or don’t like, such as favourite sports or actors.
  • You could find out how students feel about something by getting them to enter adjectives to express their feelings about anything from politics to action research on specific classroom techniques you use. Or they could just enter adjectives to describe how they are feeling. This is a good way to take the temperature of the room.
  • You could use AnswerGarden to get students to decide between two or three options. They just type in the one they want and the most popular one will appear as the biggest word.
Because AnswerGarden is so simple and quick to use and doesn’t require registration it would be great to get students using it to create their own small research questionnaires. They could then share these within the class or through their social media networks and then present the responses in class.

I hope you enjoy using AnswerGarden with your students. Please post any additional ideas or links to examples you have created in the comments.

Related links:
Best

Nik Peachey

Saturday, 3 October 2015

10 reasons why you should buy my book

Over the last year I have been working on the first in what I hope will be a series of books to help teachers exploit new technologies in ways that will enhance their students learning. My first book - Digital Video - A manual for language teachers - was released in August 2015 and here just a few of the reasons why I think it's worth the price of a cup of coffee.

1. It’s a ground breaking ebook that combines text and images with 26 embedded video tutorials.

Here's an example:



2. It combines instruction on how to use the best in new technologies with creative practical classroom activities.

3.It gives an overview of how new technologies can be combined with existing methodological approaches such as TBL, CLIL and Flipped Learning to make students’ learning more engaging and effective.



4. It shows you how to build your own technical and pedagogical skills to enable them to create their own materials and activities for students.

5. It helps you to see beyond the concept of using video for comprehension and consumption and looks at ways you can exploit the amazing power of handheld devices to encourage students to use video creatively to develop their skills.

6. It includes annotated links to some of the best free video based apps and resources that are available online.

7. It shows you how to build the technical skills and confidence you need to gradually start introducing new technologies to your classroom.


8. It helps you to see how you can make the transition from classroom teaching to blended and online teaching.

9. It’s the cheapest good quality 400 page full colour multimedia ebook for teachers that you can buy online. (Price at present is below £1 / $1.99 so around the price of a cup of coffee)

10. The money raised from creating the sales of the book will help to ensure that I’m able to produce similar books like this at a comparable price.

You can buy the book from:
I really hope you enjoy the book and please do leave a review.

Related links:
Best
Nik Peachey

My eBooks and Lesson Plans