What are infographics again? Infographics are visually simplified representations of complex data, aiming to engage interests, and deliver an easily understandable message. Imagine a simple photo communicating a thousand words to a person (now that is a good metaphor for infographics!). You might be thinking of using infographics as a visual aid to let your students digest your lesson. But there is a lot more you can get out of using infographics.
Instead of spoon-feeding your students with your infographic lessons, why not try to pluck them out of their regular and normal habits and take them out of their comfort zones. Go ahead and ask them to create their own infographic. Let them break down complex information. Let them decide which symbol, image or text to use to create an attractive and effective infographic. When students are advised to create their own infographics, they are more likely to practice their informational, visual and technological literacies.
According to research conducted by Sidneyeve Matrix (Queen’s University), and Jaigris Hodson, (Ryerson University), an infographic assignment inspires students to practice strong multimodal communication skills – without requiring you, the instructor to rehearse basic composition lessons. Furthermore, an infographic assignment serves as an experiential learning tool that can allow students to apply key competencies necessary for the digital skills class. What competencies are they referring to? Two are content curation and content production. As cited, an infographic assignment also needs good level of critical content analysis, audience identification and message construction. All of these can help your student learn a multitude of skills related to professional communication. Wouldn’t you want to influence them in so many different ways?
In this era, we find ourselves in an amazing educational landscape where information knows no boundary, access points are ubiquitous and technology is quotidian. Classrooms have to reflect this reality. High school teachers across the globe have been practicing the use of Infographics as their aid in teaching their students. In fact, as Ryan Lytle, US News, quoted on his article, “In a recent study by Dell, which surveyed 1,575 high school and college students, teachers, and parents in the United States, China, and Germany, 9 in 10 respondents said technology helps students’ abilities to learn. But 82 percent across the globe also noted that technology needs to play a bigger role in classrooms.” Together, let us get the best practices from teachers with their successful integration of infographics in teaching.
An article posted by Katherine Schulten titled “Teaching With Infographics | A Student Project Model” discusses approaches used by Diana Laufenberg in great detail. Check out the article to see more details about it. Diana Laufenberg (Twitter) is a public school social studies teacher for the last thirteen years (eight years in middle school level and five years in high school). She works at the Science Leadership Academy, PA and is currently working on a project where technology is primarily used as a tool for teaching. They describe the project as “an inquiry driven, project-based high school utilizing a 1:1 laptop program to foster 21st century learning.”
If you are a teacher, you would know how hard it is to integrate technology in you teaching plans because there are so many things to consider. First and most important of all is the availability of access to the technology for both the students and teachers. Diana herself spent eleven years in schools where access was very limited. She is definitely lucky that her school now gives the advantage of having a ready access to technology anytime. On the other hand, she also admits that “an effective project-based, inquiry-driven learning is not dependent on technology.” (Phew, that’s good news!) To sum up Diana Laufenberg’s detailed approach, she starts by introducing and discussing the theme of the infographic. Then she relates it to other topics, and assigns her students into small groups. She gives them time to do research for their infographic, answers and supports their questions. Finally students present the infographic by group in class and she lets her students asses their works, review the lesson and make predictions.
Let’s take a look on another strategy in using Infographics inside the classroom. Brett Vogelsinger, a 9th grade English Teacher from Doylestown, PA, occasionally uses an infographic to substitute news articles or essays that students were accustomed to read. Check more about his approach on his blog. According to him, his student’s reactions were positive. His students were able to notice how they save time significantly in reading and understanding infographics as compared to reading a traditional article. Although infographics are used by teachers in lieu of a traditional research essay, it is possible to combine the visual design elements of this assignment with some reflective writing. Your students can be prompted to comment on their research journey, their creative process and the digital tools they used. Or maybe you can ask them to reflect on the quality of their classmates work. Let them provide feedback in the form of reflective writing.
Gary Rob Lamb, et al, wrote an academic journal describing how they integrated infographics into their high school science classes. Their main goal was to educate students about graphical representations while they build their information literacy in the 21st century. They used infographics for visual read-aloud/think-aloud activities, a re-visualize activities, and student-authored projects. What do they exactly mean? On read-aloud/think-aloud activities, teachers would project a science infographic on a whiteboard and explain how to read data, how to interpret meaning and understand its implications. Re-visualizing activities makes the students review the topic and student authored projects are the same as letting the students make their own infographics on a given topic.
Carissa Peck, a high school teacher in California shares how she uses infographics in teaching on her blog. She mainly uses infographics as another way of essay writing. She asks students to read and analyze stories, to do a comparison and contrast of two novels, and to interpret the in an infographic. Students then work together in groups to create their infographic. After they are done, they present their infographic and have their classmates provide feedback on their work.
Another approached is shared by the California Academy of Science, in one of their articles. Make sure to check out their article for a complete toolkit guide. It is made specifically for Middle School and High School teachers. These different teaching strategies can be summed up into four approaches: interpreting infographics, visually representing data, critiquing infographics and making infographics.
Interpreting infographics is the use of existing infographics made by others. You can use any infographic, even the ones that are not related to the subject you are teaching. Maybe you can use infographics on the latest teen trends. But do use infographics that has a story, not just the entertaining ones. Again, don’t forget to check out the article above for samples you can use.
Visually representing data is the understanding of use of different graphs, tables, charts and images on the infographics. Your students should be able to analyze and interpret the data to ensure they understand it. This is where you can teach them about the right ways to interpret such data.
Critiquing infographics is the approach where you would allow your students to tell the good and bad sides of an infographic. It would be best if you give them a rubric, a criteria or list of how they would judge the infographic. I suggest you show them bunches of infographics and let them give comments. Do comparison and contrast.
Start using these approaches and you may see improved outcomes. Integration of infographics inside a high school is not a one-step process but as a teacher you can start with little steps.
Don’t forget to share your success to us in the comments below and to your fellow teachers.
(Added 5/25/2015) One of our readers, Kathy Schrock, has compiled an incredibly comprehensive guide on using infographics as a creative assessment. Her website also has a throve of information on technology and education.