Monthly Archives: August 2014

FOSSweb Tutorial

Over the years, our schools have purchased many FOSS kits. Today, I want to share a tutorial with you on how to access the digital content that comes with your FOSS kit.

The tutorial includes information on:

audio recordings
your class page


Navajo County Fair for STEM Projects

flickr: Brent Moore cc

Our Navajo County Fair has a lot to offer.  Blue ribbon bunnies.  Tractor races.  Cotton candy.  Ferris wheel.  STEM showcase.

You’ve seen the exhibit halls.  Mom’s canned peaches.  Grandma’s quilt.  Grandpa’s model railroad.  But, what about our STEM projects?  Absolutely!

The Navajo County Fair offers a wonderful opportunity for students to submit their projects.  The exhibit halls have categories for agriculture (STREAM Garden!), crafts, rockets, Legos, most creative use of duct tape (!), and trash to treasure recyclable art.  One exhibit category allows for free choice from schools.  Why not use the county fair as a way to showcase our students’ projects?!

Entries are due by Friday, September 5th, but the entry application is due in the Navajo County Fair Office by Friday, August 29th.  Please contact Susan Rodriguez at if you are interested in entering a STEM project from your class.

Our county fair has all the information available here:

Information regarding the exhibit entries starts on page 24.
So, when your students start to talk about the Tilt-a-Whirl, you can ask them to build one out of straws.  When they talk about the midway games, you can ask them about the probability of winning or recreating their own midway games.  Let’s use the county fair to showcase their STEM talent.

Using infographics for STEM: Part 2

In our last segment on Infographics for STEM, we looked at:

  • what infographics are,
  • why they are so popular now,
  • and what they look like in a classroom.

In this segment, we will look at:

  • more examples of infographics in STEM lessons, including interactive infographics
  • how to use infographics in your classroom
  • professional development opportunities

What does an infographic look like in a classroom?

(If you are viewing this on a mobile device, you may need to click on the images to enlarge them)
In this screenshot, you can see that we are in the infographic lesson for the Solar Energy Unit of our Energy Resources STEM project.  Just as good readers make predictions before they read novels, good readers of infographics scan the text and make predictions.  Since we want to make students aware of their metacognition, we ask them questions about what clues they used.
Look at the Math concept displayed and think of a question that would fit your grade level.  For instance, in this example, I know that this grade level works to the 10,000s place.  I selected the two numbers on the page that stay within that range.
Double dip.  How many Math concepts can you cover with one image?  Common Core, PARCC, and Smarter Balanced all work with progressive questions that build on each other.  Don’t be afraid to put multiple questions on one page.

What is an interactive infographic?

In interactive infographic is an infographic that can be manipulated in some way.  Sometimes, just hovering over a section of the image creates a pop-up.  Sometimes, it is hyperlinked to more data.  Let’s take a look at an interactive infographic here.  Click on the picture below and explore for a few minutes.
  1. Take a moment to look around the infographic.  It helps if you look in a clockwise motion, starting with the top left corner.  What information will this infographic give you?
  2. Scan your eyes to the top right corner.  What is pictured there?  
  3. Continue to the bottom right corner.  What picture is there?  What information will be there?
  4. Follow this pattern to the bottom left corner.  What can you expect to see there?
  5. Finally, direct your eyes to the middle of the infographic.  What does it say to do next?  
  6. What happened when you clicked one of the circles?
Spend some time with the infographic before you use it with students.  What information do you want them to learn?  Don’t be afraid to bring English Language Arts into the conversation too.  In the example above, I used the infographic to reinforce the ELA concept of Greek roots and affixes.  
You can still incorporate Math concepts in an interactive infographic.  You may need to take a screenshot of the infographic to really highlight that section.  In this example, I used the same screenshot for three math questions.  

How do I teach my students to “read” infographics?

It has been said that “a picture is worth a thousand words”.  Even if you are not labeled a “visual learner”, you have been using your eyes to make sense of the world since infancy.  Fortunately, there are strategies to harness that instinct.  Just as young readers are taught directly how to read a book, 21st century students need to be taught directly how to “read” visual text.

Students don’t have to “read” infographics on a computer.  You can print them.  In fact, by printing them and placing them in a page protector, your students can interact with the infographic even more.  I LOVE the ideas presented in this article on  


  • Place a star next to the very first thing that catches your eye.
  • Place a circle around the one word that best describes the topic.
  • Place a square around important quantitative information
  • Draw an arrow to point out the best graphic that helped you to understand the topic.
  • Put a smiley face next to the data source.
  • Draw an arrow showing the best pathway to follow to read all of the important information.

As students become more adept at reading infographics, you can prompt to respond to 6 common questions in a journal or online text:

6 questions

  1. who
  2. what
  3. when
  4. where
  5. why
  6. how


Finally, students should reach a deep level of analysis.

  Ask students to find and analyze an infographic. They should be able to answer the critical thinking questions:

·         Does the infographic cite their sources? and, Are the sources reputable?

·         Is the data relevant?

·         How old is the data?

·         Is there an angle or bias coming through?

·         What is the motive of the organization, person, or group that created the infographic? Is it to educate, entertain, or sell something?

·         Are you being manipulated through the text, colors or graphics?

·         Does the infographic represent an accurate outline of the data?

Where can I learn more about this?

Since visual text is becoming more and more prevalent, professional development opportunities
exist to help teachers.  


 Visual Thinking Strategies offers professional development on how to analyze works of art and other visual text.  With the rise of infographics, there has been an insurgence of webinars on the topic.  You can search directly for infographic webinars.  If you are ready to create your own infographic, you can search YouTube for infographic tutorials.  

Using Infographics for STEM: Part 1

Infographics might just be a perfect link between all the subjects in STREAM.

Science: Many infographics focus on science concepts.

Technology: Most infographics are found online.  A growing number of infographics are interactive.

Reading: The “reading” of multimedia is encouraged in Common Core Standards.

Art: Infographics are visually appealing and have a great deal of design built into them.

Math: Most infographics have some form of graph or math concept represented.

What is an infographic?

Before we go any further, you may be wondering, “what is an infographic?”  An infographic is information presented visually (info + graph).  Another way to say it is that infographics are a visual representation of data.

This slideshare does a great job of explaining infographics:

Why are infographics so popular now?

Common Core State Standards have perhaps created a perfect opportunity for teachers to bring infographics into the classroom.  “Analyzing text structures is a major theme of the common core literacy standards.   It’s more than just reading in science, it’s looking at data, charts and information presented as pictures.” (Biology Corner)

To be ready for college, workforce training, and life in a technological society, students need the ability to gather, comprehend, evaluate, synthesize, and report on information and ideas, to conduct original research in order to answer questions or solve problems, and to analyze and create a high volume and extensive range of print and non-print texts in media forms old and new.  (Common Core State Standards)

Common Core Standards for Literacy in Science and Technical Subjects 6–12

5. Analyze how the text structures information or ideas into categories or hierarchies, demonstrating understanding of the information or ideas.
7. Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., quantitative data, video, multimedia) in order to address a question or solve a problem.

Despite the arguments of Common Core detractors, what students are “expected to learn” are not facts so much as argumentation, logic and how to vet and interpret informationThe goal of the system is to help students distill the most important pieces of information from any given text and form a conclusion. Allison McCartney

What does this look like in a classroom?

Instead of telling you what infographics look like in a classroom, let’s look at an example!

In this screenshot, you can see that we are in the infographic lesson for the Wind Energy Unit of our Energy Resources STEM project.  Just as good readers make predictions before they read novels, good readers of infographics scan the text and make predictions.  Since we want to make students aware of their metacognition, we ask them questions about what clues they used.

Since most infographics include data, writing Math questions is a perfect fit for Math in STEM.  Common Core and the new digital assessments (PARCC and Smarter Balanced) prompt students for more justification of their answers.  Build that in to your use of infographics with prompts such as “why did…?” and “what strategies did you use?”.

Infographics typically use multiple types of graphs/charts within the same infographic.  It’s a great opportunity to spiral back to prior learning.

This particular infographic included seven (count them, seven!) different graphs/charts.  Analyzing this one infographic could taken an entire class period.  Instead of using worksheets with naked equations, you can use an infographic!  The added benefit is that using an infographic in Math, also uses literacy skills to read about science content by using technology.  (Imagine the possibilities once students begin to create their OWN infographics based on research!)