Piktochart provides a host of free templates for students and teachers to create visually appealing infographics, presentations, posters, and reports. Users can upload files, insert graphics, adjust font and backgrounds, and use powerful tools such as graphs, videos, and maps to customize their presentation in a myriad of ways. Of this list, Piktochart is the most challenging to to use, but the initial investment of time and energy is well worth it.
Lucidpress is a free Google-based alternative to Microsoft Word, offering a wide variety of document templates such as resumes, brochures, menus, and many more. Lucidpress integrates with GoogleDrive, making it the only tool on this list that supports simultaneous collaboration by multiple users on text-based files (for free). However, Lucidpress limits free accounts to only three pages per document, and lacks capabilities to insert data in creative and visually appealing ways.
Prezi is quickly growing in popularity, and has been used more than 75 million times. Prezi focuses exclusively on presentations, offering a wide variety of templates and customizable features to create more engaging and memorable presentations. Like Lucidpress, Prezi also allows simultaneous collaboration among multiple users. Prezi is very different than traditional presentation formats (such as Powerpoint), so students will likely encounter a learning curve in early attempts. However, once students learn how to use Prezi, they will be able to quickly and easily create powerful, beautiful presentations.
Suggestions for NGSS Tool Use
The potential applications for these technology tools are limitless. Here are a few examples of how I have used these technologies in high school science courses:
These technology tools provide novel modalities for students to facilitate the Science and Engineering Practice of obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information within the classroom. Students will improve their skills in using different technologies, promoting problem solving and critical thinking as they work to communicate information in innovative new ways using these tools.
Before attempting to use the tools described in this article, it is imperative that students first understand appropriate uses of technology, especially in a web-based setting, to ensure a safe and productive online experience.
Also, part of the power of these tools lies in their novelty. It has been my experience that students will find them new and exciting, and thus will be eager to experiment with them. That said, any of these tools will quickly lose their originality and corresponding intrigue if overused over the course of the school year.
Students should consistently be required to step outside their comfort zone as they attempt to communicate information. In doing so, student interest will be maintained, resulting in maximized engagement and achievement.