In my own classroom, the use of infographics has been a valuable tool to teach not only visual literacy, but graphic design. Our society is a visual one and students need to be prepared to not only interpret the meaning of visuals presented to them but to present their own visual stories back to others. Many already do this in some capacity on sites like Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat. Of course, creating an infographic does go beyond taking a selfie, requiring students to think very critically. Above are some infographics of mine that I’ve shared with students.
What is an infographic?
I tell my students that infographics (informative graphics) are a way to convey information to an audience in a simple, engaging way. I tell them that it is a way of storytelling. I tell them that it counters the notion, often seen in writing, that longer is better. I tell them that synthesis is truly the challenge here. The key to a successful infographic is a finished product that looks deceptively simple.
How do you use them in your teaching?
Each time I’ve presented this idea, I’ve been surprised by how many student haven’t heard the term infographic. They are, however, familiar with similar images in nonfiction books from their childhood. Students are often surprised by how much they can “read” from a visual image, as well as how quickly they can identify the relationships present, such as in flowcharts and cycles, etc. I often begin by showing students some examples and asking them to identify key elements. This is an important first step to pave the way for students to create their own. Infographics can be used as a creative alternative to a typical project or even writing assignment. Students can share them in a printed form or with each other online. In the examples below, my students use infographics to share elements of symbolism from novels they had recently read.
How do you make an infographic and not just a poster?
Get out of the habit of “go find and stick up” (Images are not stickers to place without thorough consideration.)
Viewer should be able to understand relationships at first glance (cross language barriers perhaps)
Overall imagery should be thematic or symbolic
Not just be content, but an analysis of this information
Does your infographic…tell a story? persuade? present an argument?
Consider the overall text structure (compare & contrast, sequence, cause & effect, etc.)
What tools do you use to create infographic?
There are many, many online tools available that can make this process easy and fun for students. Some examples are shown above. Please note that some of these tools have both free and paid versions with varying customization options. Be warned that “go find and stick up” is tempting with these tools. Additionally, by no means is a fancy tool necessary to create such a visual image. A simple tool like Google Slides, Powerpoint or even pen and paper can work just as well!
I also had the opportunity to implement this lesson during its creation, revising the lesson in real time to meet student needs. While this project was new territory for me, allowing more student choice and use of individualized technology than ever before, I can attest to its success. Check out the media gallery above to see some screenshots of their work. I hope to share some of their fully finished products soon! If you already use book trailers in your classroom or are interested in trying to, I encourage you to review the lesson and provide your feedback in the comments.
The next step in my graduate coursework in Digital Education Leadership is to work my way through the ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) Student Standards in order to implement technology for effective teaching, learning, and assessment. First, I will address ISTE 1 by focusing on how students use technology to apply existing knowledge to new ideas. One of my educational philosophies is that creativity is more effortlessly fostered when students are first equipped with basic tools in their pockets.
A student in an art class to whom a lump of clay is given can perhaps be innovative and creative in his or her manipulation. However, this same student, if provided with a background knowledge of the clay’s composition, the temperature and method of firing, and the instruments and hand techniques used to manipulate it, can use this information in conjunction with personal ideas to break new ground. In my experience, this same principle applies to educational technology. Unfortunately, I have often found that students who are given free choice often gravitate towards the same tools they have used before. Perhaps, front loading instruction around certain tools can prepare students for experimentation and innovation later. With this as an important consideration in mind, I posed the following question:
“How can students use their knowledge of a recently read book to create a teaser for this novel? What tools would allow students to both engage a potential new reader and share important literary elements of the story (such as tone, theme, characterization, setting, etc.) in a structured but creative way?”
Forever on a quest to engage new readers, I hope to provide opportunities for my middle school language arts students to work with texts in an engaging, yet still structured way. While I have always required outside reading from students, I am averse to traditional book reports, perhaps due to my own hatred of reading as adolescent. I attempt to avoid such a fate for my own students. Student choice in book selection is an easy first step in encouraging reading for pleasure. The second step is implementing technology effectively.