You may have seen infographics on your social networks lately. They are used prominently in the news, or for marketing, political campaigns, and health communication. Some people even use them for self-promotion or as a modern form of resume.
We can agree on one point: infographics are trendy. They are full of colors and are very attractive to the eye. But what are they exactly, and how could you use them in your classroom? In this post, I describe what infographics are and the benefits of using them in the classroom. I also provide tips and resources for creating your own infographics.
What are infographics?
Infographics present information visually and succinctly. They integrate design, writing, and analysis with the bulk of the information you want to convey. In an age of information overload, infographics are a compelling communication medium. This movement is reflected in the interest of the topic over time. You can see the results from Google Trends show this growing interest:
But more than a fad, infographics are useful tools to represent information in a compact way. In their study of how readers understand environmental health risks in the news, Miller & Barnett (2010) reported that readers benefited from reading infographics that combined texts and graphics. The authors argued that on their own, text and graphics are both useful yet imperfect methods for communication. Here is what they expressed about the relevance of infographics for learning: “Combining text and graphics allows communicators to take advantage of each medium’s strengths and diminish each medium’s weaknesses” (p. 63). Because of their ability to synthesize information, infographics can be of use for both educators and students alike. Educators could use them to present core ideas of a lesson, and students could create them for presentations or to summarize and share valuable facts.
What are the benefits of using infographics in my classroom?
We are naturally inclined to “snackable” content. Think about Twitter, vines, snapchats, haikus, memes, etc. They are eye-catching, they combine images, colors, movement, and they present contents that catch our attention. In the same vein, using infographics in your classroom will allow your students to broadly scan information before reading your material in more detail. Some educators are now even creating their syllabus with infographics (I invite you to check out Google Images for inspiration).
Infographics will force you to extract the most important features of your lesson or course, and similarly, they can encourage students to summarize the information they’ve learned. In addition, infographics are engaging, creative, and are easily shareable. They can be a great tool for students to keep track of your class content or for them to express the knowledge they’ve acquired.
Davis & Quinn (2013) recommend that initially, a carefully selected infographic can serve as an example with which the educator can model reading and interpretation practices. Students can then work in groups to examine and create infographics for practice, which could then become part of their assessment in the course.
Following Davis & Quinn’s suggestion, below is an example of infographic that describes some guidelines to integrate infographics in the classroom. The design was specifically chosen to display a list of steps to follow (the guidelines) to lead to a desired outcome (integrating infographics in the classroom). Short sentences and straightforward images were used to made it easily readable and useful to the reader. Finally, the infographic can serve as a visual summary of the present blog post that readers can refer to in the future.
In their own classes, instructors could use class time to show an infographic related to the class topic. As a collaborative exercise, students observe the infographic content and discuss its effectiveness in communicating important information, both verbally and visually. The goal of the exercise is twofold: first, it prompts students to think about the principles behind good infographic creation, and second, it helps them think about the salience of the content in more detail.
Some questions to ask students to help them reflect on specific infographics:
- Why is this infographic useful to me?
- What is the purpose of the visuals (charts, maps, drawings, etc) in this document?
- Is the text important for me to understand this infographic? Why?
- How can I evaluate this infographic? What does it do well? Where could it be improved?
- What information am I learning thanks to this infographic?
- Is this infographic helping me learn? How? Why?
If you don’t know where to find an infographic to share with your class, I suggest visiting Daily Infographic, a site dedicated to curating the most interesting infographics available on the web.
I don’t know anything about creating infographics. Where do I start?
There are a variety of (free) available tools to create infographics online. Most online infographic tools provide templates that individuals can use for their own purposes. You can adapt available infographic templates and add your own content, images, designs, etc.
Here is a brief selection of the most popular infographic sites:
- Piktochart (a presentation tool with templates that allow you to turn any kind of data into engaging infographics. You can modify color schemes and fonts, and upload basic shapes and images.)
- Easel.ly (web-based tool with dozens of customisable templates. They have a library with basic shapes, and you can change fonts, colours, text styles and sizes. You can also upload graphics and place them within the infographic.)
- Visual.ly (this is a community platform for data visualization and infographics that allows you to create infographics and to share them on social media.)
- InFoto (this site builds infographics from photos available on your Android phone.)
- Venngage (a tool that allows you to create and publish infographics. Templates, themes, charts and icons are available, and you can upload your own images as well.)
- Dipity (here, you can create, share, or embed content with interactive timelines. It lets you add video, audio, images, text, and links to social media for instance)
Remember that while technology surely can enhance the capacity to create beautiful infographics, students can draft them by hand on paper as well.
How have you integrated multimodal information in your class? Share tips or suggestions in the comments below.
Brain Pickings, How to be an educated consumer of infographics
TedTalk, The beauty of data visualisation
Justin Beegle, Infographics for dummies
Randy Krum, Cool infographics
Sarah Gretter is a doctoral candidate in Educational Psychology & Educational Technology at Michigan State University. Her research focuses on Media & information literacy. Specifically, she is interested in the competencies that educators should acquire to successfully help students understand the functions of online media and information in our digital lives. She is also interested in student acquisition of 21st century digital skills, including media & information literacy, computational thinking, and online citizenship. (website: www.sarahgretter.org)