Saturday, July 2, 2016

The Challenge of Information Processing for Students: Two Technology Solutions

In the learning process students can take basic information and process it in their own way – whether through rote memory, placing the material into a story, or by watching a video. It is quite helpful, though, to put this information into a compare/contrast form so that they can identify the similarities and differences with the information that they are trying to absorb. There are a few ways that teachers can approach this technique.

In this article I wanted to offer up a couple technology solutions that can help with this task. Each of the following websites have a purpose they serve. The first functions as a data collection and analysis tool and the other is designed as an organizing and brainstorming software.


Data can be collected in a myriad of ways such as polls, online questionnaires, scientific studies, or just simply by collecting the facts around an event. The means by which the data is collected is not as important as with how it is presented to students. It has to be easily viewed and the differences and similarities should be apparent. 

Here is where spreadsheets come into the equation. Spreadsheets will list the information in column form and then the sheet can be fed into a chart format. When I first thought of collecting information in this manner I thought of history class. In the course of history class students are inundated with a mountain of statistics, dates, and events that they are expected to sort out and keep in their memories for future testing. In my middle school classroom this scenario would certainly be a reality.

I found a website that would work well for this application. It is called Infogram. With this tool teachers and students as well can plug information into spreadsheets and then the results will be displayed in the format of choice. With this site you can create visual representations of data using any of the examples you see in the photo above.

Infogram can be useful in the classroom for all other subjects as well. Any information that can be plotted into spreadsheet can be useful on this site. Along with charts or graphs, Infogram offers infographics or reports and the use of maps as well. Creating visual tools for students to see the similarities and differences with an abundance of facts can help disseminate the material and see it in a new context. This site might also move you into the direction of video infographics like this one:


When it comes to organizing and brainstorming software there is a long list of possibilities available. True, as a middle school teacher I could use a simple Venn diagram to illustrate the differences and similarities with a chosen topic. 

They are, ideed, very effective tools for accomplishing this goal. However, I am an educator in search of something more involved and on the edge of innovation. I want my students to have the most effective tool available to capture their ideas and to flesh them out in an expanded form. Here is where the software of MindMeister makes its debut. This tool has a wide range of versatility and it can create mind maps like this one:

This is a simplified version of what this site can do with ideas that need to be developed and expanded upon. The maps can not only reveal your choice of photos, but they can also be embedded with videos and interactive tools to bring the brainstorming map to life. The website states that “MindMeister has been positioned as the number one mind mapping and online collaboration tool available today” and when you begin to navigate through the site, you can see why. 

My students will be able to work on projects together and do so in real time because there is that collaborative option here. The information can be shared on all of the major social media channels with the presentations being sleek and attractive. This will motivate my students to really explore MindMeister and see how far their creativity will take them. If they wish to present their mind mapping ideas to the classroom (or maybe that would be my assignment), it can be done in a number of ways with floating topics that represent the keywords, a live broadcast with a slideshow on the website, or an even cooler way is to use their iPhone or iPad to wirelessly present mind maps on a larger screen. 

I really like what I see with this software in regards to organizing material and presenting the flow of ideas through mind mapping. MindMeister has even catered to those who like to use emoticons in their presentations because that option is also available within its formatting tools. I think this software will bring smiles to my classroom and provide a great tool for intrinsic motivation. :)

Any Thoughts?

The two websites presented here are by no means the only ones out there. Technology is still in its infant stages when it comes to bring education to the classroom or to a home-school environment. I believe we are just beginning to understand the importance of these tools and just how effective they are in getting our students to "own" their education and learning experiences. I see complacency with traditional methods of teaching as being perhaps the biggest reason behind why students find school to be boring and disengaging. I hope these suggestions can help you in some way.... as I too look forward to implementing them into my classroom someday!

If you would like to share your thoughts, I'd love to hear them! Just type them into the comment box below or on any social media site you find this article and.... thank you!!

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