Using Infographic Design to Make Common Core Connections

Image credit: Wesley Fryer

In a recent article in Phi Delta Kappan, Moeller discusses the use of visual thinking strategies to “strengthen students’ communication and critical thinking skills and creativity” (2013). Visual literacy, data visualization, and design thinking are buzzwords in the education rhetoric and are becoming more popular in the classroom partly because of the accessibility of visual creation tools. No longer is robust illustration limited to graphic designers, analytics experts, and lucrative enterprises. Many tools for visual creation are freely available, making them a useful and cost effective instructional tool.

One popular visual that is popping up all over the Web are information graphics, or infographics. Infographics are visual representations of data and are intended to make complex information more understandable by enabling to viewer to graphically view trends, patterns, percentages, etc. These handy little illustrations are not only fun to look at, but are tools with which to teach foundational English literacy and mathematical concepts. Infographic design can help teach students how to properly find sources on the Internet and creatively amalgamate them into a graphic that helps others understand intricate information as well as discover new knowledge of their own.

While infographics are not new on the education scene, new tools for creating infographic are. In the last three years, infographic generators such as Piktochart,,, and were created. In addition, social media outlets such as Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr streamline image sharing, allowing for wider infographic dissemination. Educators can capitalize on the popularity of infographics and easy to use  infographic generators to teach valuable literacy skills that are aligned with the Common Core in a fun and interesting way. Here are a few ideas:

Common Core Infographic Activities

1)     Social/Environmental Issue Infographic

Many infographics are used to represent and explain a problem. Assign each student with a social issue, require them to analyze quantitative information (such as census data), and create an infographic that visually represents the problem (and maybe proposed solution). After the infographic is completed have students analyze and critique each other’s creations. One great example is Justin Beegel’s Crude Awakening, which depicts the 2010 Gulf Oil Spill.

Standard Connections: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.7

2)     Compare/Contrast Infographic

Ask students to analyze a topic, such as Walt Disney, using both a print resource and an infographic and have them answer questions based on each medium: Is the information easier to understand in print or via infographic? What are the pros and cons of using these different formats? Does the information vary greatly? Then have students create an infographic that analyzes the differences between these mediums. Electronic Health Records vs. Traditional Paper Records is a good example of a compare and contrast infographic:

Standard Connections: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.7

3)     Interactive Infographic

Ask students to create an interactive infographic and present it to the class. The infographic will require organization and development that combines both visual, technical, and textual writing skills. If used with an infographic generator, interactive components can be added such as video, interactive data visualizations (which includes hovering your mouse over the data for more information), audio, and animation. This will also require knowledge of web publishing and digital image files. Additionally you could incorporate instruction on programming language concepts required to make the infographic interactive (i.e. Flash and HTML5). Flash and HTML5 can help students understand why certain interactive components don’t work on iOS devices and static image files. The infographic, 13 Reasons Why your Brain Craves Infographics, is a useful reference for a project like this as well as a good example of an animated infographic.

 Standard Connections: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL9-10.5 & 11-12.5

Infographics are also great for collaborative activities. Assign a group of students an infographic project using Piktochart (or another infographic generator). Require each student to work on one portion of the infographic (with Piktochart this is particularly easy because the infographic is divided into “blocks”). Require students to utilize hyperlinks, embed video and images, and implement attractive color schemes.

Standard Connections: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.8.6, 9-10.6, & 11-12.6

4)     Statistics & Probability Infographic

One awesome aspect of infographic design is the data visualizations that can be added to them. All the high school statistics standards fall directly in-line with the charts, graphs, plots, etc that can be created for an infographic. Infographic generators, such as Piktochart, have a built in chart feature that allows you to input statistical data. For more advanced features and functions the program allows you to import data from excel files. Once calculations have been made, the data can be interpreted and discussed in the infographic to further comprehension and provide another dimension of learning and understanding.

These are just a few ways infogrpahics can be incorporated into the common core. Do you use infographics in your classes? If so, please share in the comments!


Promote Your Library With Snapchat Stories

This is probably the best way libraries can start implementing Snapchat for promotional purposes. According to an article published today by Business Insider, Snapchat Stories has increased 100% with over 1 billion stories being viewed a day! Since this app is so widely used by individuals under the age of 25 (traditional college aged students), it’s a great marketing tool for academic libraries and public libraries alike. Listed below is the Snapchat Stories promotional video:

Here’s How Snapchat Stories Works:

  • You take a series of snaps (photo and video)
  • From those snaps you select “Snap to your Story”
  • The photos in your story are then available for viewing by all your Snapchat friends for 24 hours.
  • Snapchat states that because your story plays forward, it makes sense to share moments in the order you experience them.

Snapchat Stories is awesome because it removes the cumbersome task of individually sending the snap to each friend, and it creates a fun narrative for your patrons to view. The ideas for a Snapchat Story are endless, here are a few:

  • A day in the life of a librarian
  • How books make it to the shelf
  • How digital records are searchable (the process of metadata)
  • The research process

I’m going to be playing around with this over the summer. Add umhblibrary on Snapchat if you want to view our story! Also if you have any Snapchat Story ideas please comment below. 🙂

Update 2/5/2015:

Business Insider recently published instructions on how to add music to your Snapchat Stories!

You Might Also Like:

Snapchat for Your Library

How to Create a Snapchat Contest

Graphene Valley: What This Super Material Is and How It Will Affect Libraries

Image credit: AlexanderAUS
Image credit: AlexanderAUS

Graphene! It’s the materials science buzz word you’ve most likely heard on repeat for the last few years. It’s being touted as the “wonder material” that will revolutionize technology as we know it. It was isolated in 2004 by Nobel prize winning physicists  Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov, and since then scientists have been creating a multitude of innovative device applications. I’m going to discuss what graphene is, overview its amazing properties, and what it means for the future.

What it is

Graphene is an atomically thin 2D material that is taking the electronics industry by storm. How thin you say? Graphene is only 1 atom thick and is the thinnest material that we currently know of. But don’t be fooled by this wonder material’s seemingly weak interlayer molecular bonds (which allows separate layers of graphene isolated from ordinary 3D graphite. Graphite can be can be thought of as many many stacks of graphene). Graphene packs quite a punch in terms of strength, and is the strongest known material on earth. In addition to it being both light and strong (about 100 times stronger than steel), it is also super flexible. This could result in (among a myriad of other possibilities) bendable, waterproof phones that are as thin as a piece of paper and don’t easily break. This trifecta of perfection puts this material in a class of its own in terms of electronic applications.

Graphene’s Molecular Structure

To better understand how graphene is able to create materials that are going to transform technology as we know it, I’m going to briefly explain its composition. (Since I’m not a physicist I consulted with a physics doctoral student who gave me some awesome explanations and examples).

  • Graphene is a 1 atom thick, 2D material- This means you can’t see it with the naked eye. It also means that electrons can move in the x and y direction but not the z direction.
    • Think of a piece of paper where the electrons can only move on the surface but not off the surface, this is what physicists mean by ‘2D’.

Why It’s Lightening Fast

  • Graphene’s electrons are called “Dirac Electrons”. Dirac electrons are relativistic quasi-particles that effectively have no mass! (This is due to the interaction of graphene’s electrons with the carbon nuclei.)
  • The behavior of graphene’s electrons allows it to conduct heat and electricity much faster than other semiconductors like silicon and gallium.

Why It’s Thin and Pliable

Image credit: Mattman723
Image credit: Mattman723

Graphene is thin because of the weak chemical bonding between graphite layers.

  • When graphene is layered on each other it forms the 3D material graphite (think of a ream of paper stacked on each other). Graphite’s interlayer chemical bonds are very weak, and graphene can be easily extracted off of graphite by sticking on a piece of scotch tape and ripping it off (which was how Nobel prize winners Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov first extracted it).

Why Aren’t We Seeing Graphene Electronics in Droves??

One reason graphene phones, cars, and wearables aren’t flooding the market is because currently the majority of companies haven’t figured out how to create graphene transistors that turn “off.” The reason for this is because in ordinary semiconductors electrons can have any energy they want, except when they are in a region called the “band gap”. In approximate terms,what a transistor does is change the energy of the highest energy electrons and puts that energy into the band gap, and since electrons can’t have that energy, they can’t conduct electricity and the transistor turns off. Graphene on the other hand, is a zero gap semiconductor, meaning it doesn’t have that band gap and transistors are always set to “on.” Right now Samsung is the only company claiming to have created graphene transistors and they’re not in the idea sharing mood.

Graphene Tech You’ll Be Seeing in the Next Few Years

Once the transistor snag is worked out, you’ll be seeing copious amounts of graphene based electronics. Some that are currently being created in labs are:

How Graphene Will Affect Libraries

  • 3D Printing- Meghan Neal is predicting that the combination of graphene and 3D printing will spur on the next industrial revolution.
  • Energy Efficient Computers- Because graphene can be used to produce computer chips powered by light, you will definitely be seeing future computers that will help you save on your energy bills.
  • Solar panels for just about anything- If your library is interested in becoming more “green” then graphene is the answer. Multitudes of patents using graphene-enhanced solar cells are being submitted every year.
  • Graphene e-readers?- The applications of graphene to phones will probably trickle over into e-readers. Think bendable, waterproof, energy efficient, and cheap e-readers that you can check out to your patrons!

It’s crazy that something you can’t even see with your naked eye will be used in just about every electronic device in the coming years. What are your graphene predictions for the future?



Data Visualization: An Effective Way to Encourage Librarian/Faculty Collaboration



Social_Network_Analysis_Visualization (1)


In our digital environment big data rules. It’s changing they way brands market to consumers, how programmers develop apps, the list goes on but it is all resulting in a significant shift to the digital landscape as we know it. One way researchers are capitalizing on this trend is by using data visualization to depict and measure scholarly impact. This visual method has been used in applications for promotion or tenure, to measure one’s competition, to determine journal impact, etc. Data visualization in academia is also resulting in new methods for analysis. Two methods that I have been actively researching are bibliometric mapping and social network analysis. My work with infographics got the attention of a faculty member at the University of Colorado Denver, and this past year we have been collaborating on various research projects that involve visual methods for measuring and representing impact. The increased interest in these topics that were once limited to information and computer science, has made me realize the opportunity for librarian and faculty collaboration. Many of the programs now available don’t require advanced statistical knowledge and make it easier to incorporate visual representations of qualitative and quantitative data into research. I strongly recommend that academic librarians look into data visualization training for their professional development as this is an excellent opportunity to facilitate collaboration. I also encourage students in library science take statistics classes beyond what’s required to get a head start in this area. Listed below are links to my current publications on these topics and some of the software that can be used. Feel free to contact me if you’d like more information on it.

Here are some of the software programs available for bibliometric and social network analyses (most of these are freeware and as such take a while to figure out):

This is just a smattering of software that is currently available. Do you have any that you like to use?

Image credit: Calvinius


Increase Your Productivity With a WiFi Coldspot

Sometimes I need to just disconnect from technology so I can reconnect with myself. If you’re like me you probably have calendar reminders, new tweets, breaking news, blog posts, and a whole plethora of various other digital distractions all suffused across your desktop in about 50 tabs. According to Nicholas Carr’s book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, the Internet is causing us to sacrifice our ability to read and think deeply due to a bevy of distracting small bits of information. Here are some ways that one can take a digital break in order to refocus:

Find a WiFi Cold Spot

Harvard’s Library Test Kitchen designed this WiFi Cold Spot to allow for disconnected tranquility using EMF blocking paint that radio signals.

If you’re really ambitions you could follow suit and make your own DIY study pod/room using wifi proof paint or wifi proof wallpaper. If,  unfortunately, you don’t have access to a wifi cold spot you can still set aside a place in your house that is free of digital devices. Even if it’s for an hour a day the benefits are worth it. In a recent radio broadcast from Humankind Public Radio, former NY Times science correspondent Daniel Goleman discusses the importance of a distraction free work space and how it allows us to be more productive and create positive emotions. He states that when he writes, he works in a studio that has no phone, email, etc. Having both professional and personal benefits, taking time out of your week or month to refocus is essential to a successful work/life balance. Especially in an environment that is proliferated with digital distractions. So, next week, try allotting one hour to monotask.  Read some literature, research from a physical book, write out that essay, pen a poem, or flip through a magazine, you’ll be so glad you did!

Do you have any wifi cold spot suggestions? I’d love to hear them 🙂

Be a Twitter Fly on the Wall



In the past year I have become a Twitter fanatic, attending every Twitter conference session I can get into, and reading as many blogs, articles, and tweets that I can. I predominantly use Twitter for my library and not personally. Anywho while I attended TLA last year I went to an awesome session by Jim Holland. He introduced me to TweetDeck and searching by proximity.  Those tools have proven so useful to me that I gave a presentation at Tarleton State University’s Texas Social Media Research Institute’s annual conference (a mouthful I know), about using apps to create relevant content on Twitter. Due to the positive feedback I’ve received both at the conference and through various listservs I thought I’d write a post about it.

Twitter apps can really open up your opportunities for interacting with your users. By using TweetDeck to track hashtag use and utilizing a zip code and mile range search you can find out who is talking about you, even if they don’t use your Twitter handle.

TweetDeck and the Zip code search

TweetDeck is a management client that allows you to set up customizable twitter feeds based on specific parameters (it does a lot more than just this). You can create columns based on mentions, followers, searches, trends, etc. My favorite column has been the search: “library near:76513 within:25mi. That column allows me to monitor every time someone within a 25 mile radius of my library mentions the word “library” in a tweet. Here’s what it looks like in my feed:

TweetDeck Feed

This method has proven to be a very useful tool for entering into the conversation of our users. It has allowed us to solve problems, discover student needs, and find some great content for retweeting. If you have a hashtag search or Twitter tool that you find indispensable please let me know!


What Google’s New Search Algorithm Means for Libraries

Image Credit: PC Mag

In the nostalgic garage where Google first operated, Google celebrated it’s 15th anniversary with the announcement of Hummingbird. Hummingbird is Google’s new algorithm that has been silently implemented for about the past month. The algorithm is intended to produce more relevant results based on natural language search queries and networked relationships (think a more robust Knowledge Graph). On of the reasons for this revamp was due to the influx of people “speaking” searches into their mobile device. When people speak searches they are more likely to speak as they would to a person (i.e. natural language).

So what does this mean for libraries? I think as Google adjusts to the way people search so should our databases and catalog search engines. Robert Hof in a recent Forbes article stated “it’s interesting that although queries are getting more complex, that doesn’t always mean it’s harder to find the right answers. ‘The more terms people use, Huffman says, the more context Google can divine.’ So those extra words, even if they’re in a more complex query, can give Google better information–but only if the algorithms are adjusted to be able to recognize the relationship among those terms.” Students/patrons are already used to searching using natural language and as Google gets better at giving relevant results they will use it even more. We as libraries should be right behind Google in modifying our algorithms to be more semantic. Semantic searching also opens up the opportunity to see relationships between search results and ultimately discover new information. For example: a search in Google for Albert Einstein will  provide information on where he was born, when he died, who his children were…as well as related scientists like Isaac Newton and Thomas Edison. All without even having to click on an item record. In my opinion our catalogs need to start out with a default “semantic search” and then have options for advanced navigational searching.

Ok Ok so this might be easier said than done depending on your budgetary constraints and programming know how. But even if we can’t change our catalog searching algorithms we need to be making even more of an effort to show the differences between Google searching and library catalog/database searching.  As Google becomes better at providing results using natural language, students can be disillusioned into thinking all search engines perform the same way. I am definitely going to be teaching my students search query formulation even during my “one shot” 1 hour library orientation sessions because I think this is extremely important for students to be aware of. Also we as librarians need to stay current in the way Google is changing and improving so we can make our instructional sessions more relevant.

Google fun fact: Google was first used as a verb on Buffy the Vampire Slayer in 2002 (Help episode)

Please share any thoughts you have on the Hummingbird launch!