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#BackToSchool: The Old Posterboard Is Now Outdated

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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Teaching from the Inside Out

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Valerie Lewis is an EDUPRENEUR, technology fanatic, a forever learner, and a DISRUPTOR of normalcy within education!  Connect with her on Twitter at @iamvlewis.

We all have that ” ITch” from within that drives us, makes us, consumes us, tickles us and incessantly strums louder than our heartbeat could ever drum. This abstract thing we can’t put our hand on pushes us beyond our usual self and in some cases causes us to step aside, around and outside of our normal selves. Each day is a given chance to challenge ourselves to be greater than the day before. When I rise in the morning and before going to bed at night I look in the mirror (or in reality lay in bed while gazing at the TV ) I want to be able to say to myself “Self…YOU did that!”

The power of ME is one that can’t be contended. This power is unmatched BUT infectious. It’s OH so lethal that it causes those that long to be unbothered, apathetic, and indifferent to take notice.  Pardon me a moment for those that want to call it arrogance but let me rub my CONFIDENCE in your face just a little bit more. I’m not talking about taking a glance at the physical ME. NO NO! I want the ME that forces an inspection into the depths of themselves because they have been so long buried under layers of skin, bones, organs, muscles, tissue and STUFF.

EMOTIONAL STUFF, EGOTISTICAL & HAUGHTY STUFF, HATEFUL & SPITEFUL STUFF, COWARDLY and SILENCED STUFF, INHIBITED & INSECURE STUFF, and STUFF STUFFthat just can’t be easily erased away STUFF!

This type of contagion can be the breaking and changing point within a mere soul that will eventually connect to many other lives. I intentionally and purposefully teach fom the inside out because my kids need to know that I am human, real and relatable. Though stern and strict at times they must always know that I have their best interest at the heart of every moment we share together in our learning space. The goals I set for myself are good for me but I also need to help them blaze their own trails toSUCCESS and HAPPINESS.

I once had a student say to me “Mrs. Lewis…you are always doing the most and act like we’re going to change the world.” Though it pierced me a bit to think that he was doubting his own ability (and that of his peers) to do just that; I quickly recovered and realized he was surely being infected with the venom of my PASSION. He recognized he was getting the ITch and in many ways wanted to deny or reject the process or metamorphosis. He was battling with the idea that he actually may want to try to change the world and be successful at it. There would surely be an OUT-BREAK!  This would be a shedding of normalcy and a true TRANSFORMATION in thinking for all of us.

Despite the fact that we change clothes, hairdos and outwardly things; our inner beings should dominate and shine through all the layers of STUFF! What a great day it will always be when we  facilitate and assist our students to discover the GOOD & GREAT longing to be unveiled from within. Let’s continue to plant and water the learning seed simply by teaching from the inside out.

My New Summer Love

Summertime is made of all things nice: cookouts, swimming and tanning poolside, chilled watermelon, lemonade, family, friends, concert series, good books, sandy beaches, festivals and PROFESSIONAL DVELOPMENT! Hmmmm? < insert Scooby-Doo voice here>. Unfortunately, the ipod and playlists will not include Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff’s Summertime anthem! 

Here we are mid-August and on the 2nd week of school and I am asking myself “where in the world did the time go?” I made plans to clean out closets, empty out the garage that is harboring God knows what, and taking care of those home projects that the school year holds me hostage from flirting and dancing with. I guess you can tell that my summer went by too quick and I did not get to the many things I had hoped to accomplish. This is true but an unexpected surprise made this summer feel like the Bruno Mars and Mark Brunson collaboration…TOO HOT!!!

I had an affair and cheated on my husband and 3 kids with a large group of strangers. It was more than just a one night stand—- BUT don’t judge me! In fact, this group gave me a new lease on my professional career. Where did your mind take you? SMH! Things that I wanted to learn about and even things I didn’t know I needed or wanted to know were “gifted” to me. They massaged my mind and electrified everything within me. For certain each day and every night I was summoned by the 3 chirps in notification form to come to the fold for more mind stimulations and I….. DID…. NOT…. REFUSE!! I longed for more of this good good loving and to top it off–it didn’t cost me a dime. Usually all things come to an end but this relationship seems to be going 1,000,000 miles fast!

The rush and the thrill of this new found love causes me to keep tight grips on it. I’m holding on tight and have this baby in the palm of my hand. That’s right…I’ve got it in the bag. The exchange is so deep that I am propelled to new dimensions. I don’t even need gravity to keep me on my feet because My VoxSquad (in my Ice Cube- Straight Out of Compton voice) now holds me down.

I have learned more this summer about the things that matter to me. I have had professional development my way. It’s been individualized and personalized. The “sit and gets” are for the birds and the “you’ve been trained” in a manilla folder of printouts or death by powerpoints should never resurface.

Voxer is Twitter on steroids! Subtract the 140 character limitations or inability to hear or read tone and Voxer is where it is at. You feel connected to the voice on the other side of this walkie-talkie app. These strangers have upgraded to accountability partners, friends, and sometimes feel like family. The affair we’ve had has blossomed into a relationship of several months now so I feel comfortable disclosing some names. SatChat, Teacher VoxLine, PoCEdTech, EduMatch, Hack Learning, Admin2B, DocVox, TeacherPreneur, and Google Education Certification Support all have my back and best interest at heart! No hidden agendas…just great people wanting to share their knowledge and to help in whatever way they know how. The names are too many to send individual shout-outs. I could never forgive myself by playing “favorites.” This thing has my mind so crazy that I’ve gone so far as to have more of them in a multitude of ways that I upgraded to a Pro account/user. Though summer has sadly ended before I could cross most things off my list but I am glad to announce that this sizzling affair will continue to run its course into Fall, Winter, Spring..and of course..next Summer!

More specifics on Voxer and how you too can get in on some dirty dancing will be part of a future post!