New Learning: Infographics … Now What?

The first #edcampiowa session I attended yesterday (March 8, 2014) was on the topic of INFOGRAPHICS. I have admired many infographics on the web, yet I knew nothing about how to create one myself or how to engage students with this visual text format. As the session started we all discovered we were there for about the same reason. A few participants had tried infographics with their students, but were still wanting to know more.

Our curiosity first lead to the HOW! How do we even begin to create an infographic? And more importantly – how do we create them for FREE! The internet searching began! One site we landed on was 10 Free Tools for Infographics. You can find our session notes here. A few more tools are mentioned. Your own search will lead to many more. Explore!

As we collectively found and shared ideas we realized that we really should define the WHAT. One participant shared an article from Forbes titled Why Infographics Rule. This article defines infographics as:

What is an infographic?

Infographics are those cool poster-like images you see floating around the web. You see some of it on Pinterest lately. It is usually a collection of data presented in visual form. Think of an infographic as Microsoft PowerPoint on steroids, but without the constant droning of a speaker who doesn’t know you’ve tuned out of his or her slide presentation.

Okay, so we had a few FREE tools and we had a basic understanding of what an inforgraphic was. As educators we then moved the WHY? Why should we use infographics in the classroom? Another participant ran across a page on Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything. Schrock’s explanation of an infographic is:

Infographics are a visual representation of data. When students create infographics, they are using information, visual, and technology literacies. This page includes links to help you develop formative or summative assessments that have students creating infographics to showcase their mastery of knowledge.

The WHY was still swirling in my head. Were infographics just a replacement or substitution for posters that line hallways after a unit of study each looking pretty much the same? Is our goal to have students just displaying their learning in a visual form? Are we talking about the fact that some students are visual learners?

This may be the beginning stage to use an infographic as a substitution for a poster or chart idea we once had students do to show mastery of knowledge, but I believe a deep study of infographics as adult learners and with students will reveal they are much more.

Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 11.53.42 AMTake a look at this infographic. It is an infographic made with student input for National Library Week. Go to this link to view the infographic in its entirety and to read more about it. It is my understanding that the students’ participation in this infographic was to take a survey about books and reading habits. I’m not sure actual students generated the infographic. So my next question is WHY NOT?

Couldn’t students study the “genre” of infographics? Couldn’t they basically use the CLOSE READING process described by Christopher Lehman and Kate Roberts in Falling in Love with Close Reading

          • First Read: Read through the lenses of gather details.
          • Second Read: Use lenses to find patterns
          • Third Read: Use the patterns to develop new understand of the inforgraphic/text.

This would give students an understanding of the purpose and application of REAL infographics and how they can be used to visually represent data. The data may look simple – but doesn’t it cause us to synthesize the content at a deeper level, especially after viewing multiple times. Yes, one key to an infographic is the quick, appealing visual display – but isn’t there so much more?

THEN … Couldn’t we have student gather their own data either locally or globally? Couldn’t they analyze the data for patterns? Couldn’t they summarize and synthesize the data in a visual display? Couldn’t they share their infographic to an outside audience either locally or globally for reactions? Did it get their message across? Couldn’t they do this with classmates in their building or with other students from around the globe?

Infographics can be so much more than a way to share knowledge on a topic. They can be a tool to increase learning in an authentic manner. I don’t have time today – but if I did I’d pull out my Common Core standards and wrestle with this idea even more. I have already noticed a lot of connections to the English Language Arts and Math Standards. Wouldn’t this address content areas as well?

The #edcampiowa session was a great starting point to this topic. Participants walked away with new learning, new ideas to try. The limitation of the #edcamp model is knowing where this new knowledge leads people. The key will be a school culture focused on redefining education in the 21st century. If we let it happen at the teacher isolation level we are never going to transform the school culture to what our students and society NEED. Linking the learning to the Common Core and 21st Century Learning will take an in-depth focus of the Common Core and technology integration. Not the surface level substitution of past standards/benchmarks to the Common Core and substitution of tech tools for paper/pencil tasks.

When I’m introduced to new ideas/tools, I like to try them out. I went to EASEL.LY and made my first INFOGRAPHIC! Before I can help guide teachers and students I need to understand the basics and wrestle with the WHY. This tool was quite easy to use. Give it a try. Make an infographic. Then see where the new learning leads you. How will your new learning transform student learning?

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