Saturday, October 1, 2011

Creating and Using Infographics in the Classroom

Infographics, which are simply visual or non-linguistic representations of information, are ubiquitous in social media as well as the on-ground corporate world. An infographic can contain any combination (or lack thereof) text, images, graphics, maps, and diagrams. Take this example infographic illustrating how an understanding of Twitter usage takes place in stages. To explain something like the usage of Twitter as it naturally develops among its users, one would have difficulty if limited simply to using words to convey the message. However, using an infographic allows for multiple representations of the ideas contained within the message all at once. This permits the audience to interact with the information in a more dynamic way and actually see what the author is trying to convey. Infographics can sometimes take on a humorous or satirical nature in the way that they portray information, even if it is subtle. If you want to find out the impact that Apple, Inc. has had in China, you could check out this infographic from to learn more about it.The concept behind an infographic is nothing new. For ages, communication of ideas through illustration and diagrams has been employed to convey an author's point. Comic strips do a pretty nice job of conveying messages with visuals like this as well, though they would hardly be considered infographics. The use of infographics has been seen in textbooks and posters for many years to illustrate a written point to the reader. This concept has seemed to reach a tipping point on the social web in the last few years, however, and has gained recognition and popularity as its own product of information communication. The exposure students have to infographics is so pervasive among the media through which they consume information, it seems like a logical step to incorporate infographics into the classroom.Powerful poster creation site Glogster would allow users to create a mega infographic. Other resources for doing the same thing can be found in this article from Smashing Magazine.Now, I am not talking about creating mega infographics, although that could be a later project to attempt, but I wanted to try and create very small infographics that would capture the essence of a concept, lesson, or unit to provide to students for inclusion in their physics lab notebook. I went simple with my idea. Take the main points of a unit, lab, or lesson and compile them into a single 4" x 3.33" space that could be printed onto a shipping label and stuck right onto a notebook page. I downloaded the Avery label template that went with these labels for Microsoft Word and then created my infographic there. It did not take long to put together all the text, images, and graphics for my idea. After a short effort, I had an all-encompassing infographic for a unit we did on constant velocity (dealing with an object that travels at an unchanging rate) and printed them on the labels to distribute to students.After printing the infographic, I realized that something about them was incomplete for me. I thought to myself, what if students want to have an expanded resource for information on this infographic? Then, the answer was clear. To help summarize the ideas captured in the infographic, I put additional content on my class blog entry for the week we studied constant velocity. Next, I created a QR code to visually link to that blog entry, and I included the QR code on the infographic.
VoilĂ ! An infographic was created that students could have to include in their notes and study materials. It was an expandable infographic to, because it contains a QR code option for them to explore more if they want. I am excited to use these in my classroom this year and expect students to find them handy.

Just as with any graphic organizer, the point is to get the main ideas all in one place and show the learner how to organize their thoughts about the topic in question. These infographics should serve the same purpose as any graphic organizer, but on a smaller scale that also transcends the online and on-ground learning experience. My constant velocity infographic is shown below to give you an idea of what I did with them.
  Constant Velocity infographic