High Tech Tools: Illustrations
Whether working with data or drawings, there are many technology tools available for creating illustrations. Although you may think of artwork, pictures, diagrams or other visual representations, illustration is simply a way to represent information.
Data Collection and Graphing Tools
From planning a home renovation to organzing family history information, data organization is an element of many learning activities. Spreadsheet and database software are commonly used for this type of activity.
Electronic spreadsheets use a table or grid to organize information into rows and columns. Tools such as VisiCalc and Locus 1-2-3 were among the first electronic spreadsheets for personal computers. Today's versions incorporate high quality graph and media options.
Many libraries collect their own data with online surveys.
- Filemaker Pro (commercial) - database
- Microsoft Office: Access (commercial) - spreadsheet
- Microsoft Office: Excel (commercial) - spreadsheet
- Openoffice: Calc (open source) - spreadsheet
- Openoffice: Base (open source) - database management
- Openoffice: Math (open source) - database management
- Tools for Young People
Web-based Spreadsheet and Graphing Tools
- ChartTool from Google
- Cool Graphing. Great for elementary.
- Edit Grid. Allows users to create and share spreadsheets.
- FooPlot - graphing software
- Google Spreadsheets. Allows users to create spreadsheets, store, and share spreadsheets on the web. Peers can also make changes.
- Graph Master. Great for Elementary.
- Lovely Charts
- Pie Creator
- PDF Pad - print free graph paper
- Zoho Sheet (free) - alternative to traditional spreadsheet. Works like Microsoft Office
- Tools for Young People
Use existing data to create a chart, graph, or map.
- Regional Explorer.
- Public Data Explorer.
- World Bank Data.
Web-based Form Tools
Web-based Survey Tools
- Poll Daddy
- Polling Everywhere
- Stellar Survey
- Survey Monkey
- Viewlet Poll
Graphic Organizers and Collaborative Whiteboards
Concept maps, timelines, mind maps, and diagrams are all ways to visually organize and present information. Technology tools are particularly good for these applications because they allow users to easily expand, edit, and reorganize their work. The student example below is from Cmap. Click the visual to enlarge.
Stand Alone Software
- Free Mind - brainstorming and outlines (free download)
- Inspiration - concept maps (commercial)
- Microsoft Office: Visio - technical diagrams (commercial)
- Microsoft Office: Project (commercial)
- Tools for Young People
- Bubbl.us. Very easy to use. Try it without signing up. No distracting tools, choices, or options.
- Cacoo. Create diagrams and concept maps.
- Creately. Create diagrams and mindmaps. Try it without signing up.
- Diagrammr. Very easy to show relationships. Try it without signing up.
- DropMind. Create mindmaps. Must sign up.
- Gliffy. Works great, but very annoying signup reminders. Try it without signing up.
- Lovelycharts. Create charts. Must sign up.
- Lucidchart. Create a flowchart or concept map. Try it without signing up.
- Mindmeister. Create a concept map. Must signup.
- Mindomo. Create a mindmap. Must signup. Three maps for free.
- mind42. Create mindmaps with links. Must signup.
- Popplet. Creat concept maps and post-its. Must signup.
- Slatebox. Creat mindmaps. Must signup.
- Spicynodes. More an a mindmap. Includes lots of space for text, links, images, etc. Try it without signing up.
- SpiderScribe. Create maps and include notes, documents, images, etc.
- Venn from ReadWriteThink
- myWebInspiration - from the creators of Inspiration (subscription-based)
- Adobe: Illustrator - vector graphics
- Adobe: Fireworks
- getPaint - Paint.net (Windows)
- GIMP- (open source) graphics
- Inkscape- (open source) vector graphics
- Corel: Draw
- Openoffice: Draw (open source)
- Tools for Young People
- Avatar Generators
- Color Tools
- Drawing and Painting Tools
- Icon, Sign and Multimedia Image Generators
- Poster Creators
- Other Imaging Tools
- GlassGiant - endless up putting yourself on cereal boxes, chocolate bars and more
- Graffitti Creator
- Online Banner Maker
- PicsLit - combine pictures and words
- Scrapblog - create e-blogs
- Spell with Flickr
- Spelling with Zombies
- Wordle - create beautiful word clouds (see example below)
- Generator Blog - contains endless links to image generators
Let's give it a try! TuxPaint is a free, open source drawing program similar to KidPix. Download the TuxPaint software. Be sure to download the application and the stamp file. Download the TuxPaint Basics (PDF) handout by Annette Lamb. Have some fun! Check out an example of a TuxPaint project for the food pyramid.
Whether creating simple comics or entire graphics novels, there are lots of software packages and online tools to make the process easy. Many of the online tools such as Pixton provide ideas for using comics in teaching and learning.
- Comic Life by plasq
- Pixton. Use the free version or consider the school version. Check out the Digital Citizen example.
- Bitstrips. Need to sign-in to save.
- Cartoonist from Creaza
- Comic Creator
- Comic Master
- Comic Strip Maker. Easy for younger students.
- Lego City. Great for younger students.
- KABAM. Restricted to the story and theme provided.
- MakeBeliefs Comix. You can print or email your comic. No storage.
- Myths and Legends
- Professor Garfield. Provides characters for stories.
- Strip Generator. Sign-in required to save and publish. Print without sign-in.
- Superhero Squad Show
- Witty Comics
From Google Earth to Google Moon, you can explore the universe through technology. You can create a map from scratch or access maps online. Google Maps contains an option called My Maps that allows people to create, share, and collaborate on map making project.
- Mapvivo - combines Google Maps with travel logs
- Frappr! Groups - maps, chat, and photos for online communities (great for collaborative student projects); check out brune
- Google Mapmaker
- MyGreatMaps and MapMaker 2.0. Perfect for elementary and middle schools.
- National Geographic MapMaker Interactive
- National Altas Mapmaker
- Old World Map Maker. Great for elementary school. Create an "old world" map.
Explore tools for creating timelines. Traditional resources simply let users add dates and text to a timeline. Newer, online tools allow multimedia features and collaboration.
- Timeliner from Scholastic
- Capzles - contains multimedia elements
- TimeRime - example
Infographics are gaining in popularly. Visual.ly is a website dedicated to sharing infographics as well as helping developers create these types of visual communications. Explore lots of examples at blogs:
- Cool InfoGraphics
- Data Visualization
- Flowing Data
- Good Transparency
- Hipmunk Flight Search
- Infographics Showcase
- Joe Lertola
- USA Today Snapshots
- Visual Economics
The combination of high-powered computers, huge data sets, and complex graphic software has made the field of visualization possible.
There are many times that it's useful to have a still shot of the computer screen. Although both Mac and Windows operating systems have built-in these tools, there are also software packages that provide additional options.
Macintosh Screen Capture. If you have Mac OSX, it's easy to use the built-in key commands for grabbing a screen.
- Press Command (Apple)-Shift-4. The cursor turns into a cross.
- Select the area of the screen you wish to capture. The screen is captured and saved as a PDF file called Picture 1 on your hard drive.
- If you hold down the Control key in addition to the Command (Apple)-Shift-4 and select an area of the screen, the image is stored on the clipboard.
If you have Mac OSX, you can also use the Grab Utility. This allows you to capture windows that are open.
- Open Grab (located in Applications/Utility).
- Choose Capture > Timed Screen.
- When the Timed Screen Grab dialog opens, click Start Timer.
- Click the menu you want to capture and keep the mouse button pressed until the Timer Screen Grab dialog closes and the picture appears.
- Use the Grab preferences for option options such as showing the pointer.
Windows Screen Capture. The PRINT SCREEN key allows you to capture the Desktop or individual windows. You'll have to look for this key on your keyboard, it's placement varies with the type of keyboard.
To capture the entire screen:
- Press the PRINT SCREEN key. The image will be placed on the clipboard.
- Open an application such as Microsoft Word, pull down the Edit menu and choose Paste. Or, press Ctrl-V to paste.
To capture the current window on your screen:
- Press the ALT + PRINT SCREEN key. The current window will be placed on the clipboard
Other tools for screen capture include:
- Gadwin PrintScreen (Windows)
- 5 Clicks - Windows 95/98/Me/NT/2000/XP (Try it free; buy for $9.95) - saves as png, jpg, or bmp
- Snapz - Mac - trial version ($29.00)
- CaptureEze - Windows
- Screen Capture - Windows
- SnagIt - Windows 95/98/Me/NT/2000/XP (Try it free; buy for $39.95) - does video off screen too
There are other related tools that are helpful when creating technical documents or presentations. For instance, ZoomIt is a screen zoom and annotation tool that can be use to zoom in and capture documents in Windows.
Many of the same features available in high tech writing tools such as editing and exporting can also be found in illustration.
Collaborative Tools. Many of the tools contain collaboration elements allowing people to share information over space or time. For example, each semester different student groups could add to a database of the plants in a local nature park. Or, people from different locations could add to a concept map or timeline. It's even possible to use the web-based tools simultaneously. For example in a weather project, people at different locations could all enter their updated weather reports at the same time.
Data Presentation and Organization. Many of the illustration packages have interchangible components or options for exporting. For example, graphics created in one package such as Fireworks can be inserted into a database or spreadsheet. Many programs also have multiple ways of viewing their data. For example, Inspiration can be viewed as an outline or a concept map. Databases have single record and report views.
Hyperlinks and Hotspots. The use of hyperlinks and hotspots allows a spreadsheet to hyperlink to a supplier for up-to-date pricing. Hyperlinks can also be used in concepts maps. For example children can use a Kidspiration concept map as a portal to websites.
Expandability. Many of the tools provide an option to add new features. For example, TuxPaint is open source allowing users to change to sounds in the software, add their own stamps, and even modify the program itself.
Multimedia. Want to play a movie in a spreadsheet or insert a graphic into Timeliner? No problem. Look for ways that multimedia features can be incorporated into illustration software.
The key to using illustration software in learning is thinking of ways to transform data, information, and ideas into a usable form. In other ways, can we take pages of articles, notes, and ideas. Then, organize this pile of resources in a meaningful way that conveys the larger picture or shares an understanding of the people and their experiences? When studying the American Civil War, it makes sense to create a database of key battles, a spreadsheet demonstrating casuality rates, a timeline of key events, a cause and effect concept map, and a collage showing the experiences of one person. These projects all use illustration software.
Explore tools for creating your own images and symbols:
- Totem Pole Creator
- US Bill Generator
- Habitat Maker
- Insect Generator
- Mammal Maker
As you think about the tools, consider how they can impact learning. The key to effective use of tools is practical applications. Many of the tools can be integrated across the curriculum. Over the past several years, researchers have explored the link between the use of visuals and learning.
Read Make a Sketch by Sara Bernard at Edutopia.
Many technology tools for young people provide a combination on-computer and off-computer activities. For example Community Construction Kit by Tom Snyder Productions allows users to design scaled down versions of communities from different historical periods and create their own towns.
Use of illustration software matches well with Howard Gardner's visual-spatial intelligence. These "picture smart" people learn best visually and tend to organize their thinking spatially. They like to think and create pictures. They are also drawn to information that is presented in a visual form. Encourage learners to combine visual elements such as editing photographs or enhancing line drawings. Encourage them to add other intelligences such as written or oral descriptions or discussions. Ask them to make visual metaphors and stories.
These learners would enjoy illustrating the project, identifying the visuals, color-coding the presentation, and creating the storyboard for the project. They enjoy identifying project visuals and visualizing aspects of a research project.
Consider how illustration technology tools could be used with visual/spatial learners:
- Process - Create transform information into another form, use icons, color-code projects, match pictures and words, visualize abstract concepts
- Product - Create puzzles, board games, e-scrapbooks, slide shows, posters, chart, graphs, timelines, murals
In addition to the visual-spatial intelligence, those who enjoy working with data may also have a strength in the logical/mathematical area. These "number smart" people learn best through numbers, reasoning, and problem solving. They are able to create and manipulate visuals and create mental pictures from many perspectives. They like to weigh, measure, calculate, and organize data. Give students opportunities to create or manipulate data they find on the Internet. Provide them with a video camera to record their scientific experiment. Get them to use other intelligences in their sharing of data such as making an analogy or debating an issue.
Those learners with a logical/mathematic strength enjoy collecting data, conducting experiments, and solving problems. Creating spreadsheets, databases, charts, and other data organization and calculation projects would be their contribution to a group. They enjoy problem solving, measuring, sequencing, predicting, experimenting, classifying, and data collection aspects of a research project.
Use the following resources and links for more ideas.
- Flowing Data. This blog contains lots of ideas for visualization and statistics.
Links to the materials in this section can be found in the navigation bar on the left side of this page. Continue to the Tools: Photographs page.