Monday, July 2, 2012

A Picture is Worth 1,000 Gigabytes: Creating InfoGraphics with Middle School Students

This week I am away on an offline vacation. Rather than let the blog be dormant or rerunning old posts I decided to give some other people a chance to share their experiences and ideas with you. I hope you enjoy the posts.

InfoGraphics seem to be all the rage these days. Cool graphic designs blend images and words to create an informative story or graphic about a specific topic.  There are a multitude of InfoGraphics available to use as teaching tools to disseminate information. For example, an InfoGraphic I found online about the Death Penalty was very impressionable and informative to share with my Speech and Debate students who were preparing for a debate activity.  Finding infoGraphics is not that difficult with websites like Daily InfoGraphics and InfoGraphic-a-day, which share new InfoGraphics daily.

Creating InfoGraphics is a craft all unto its own. InfoGraphics combine graphic design and textual information.  Thus, a really good infoGraphic is not overly graphic or too text heavy.  There must be a balance between the two, and if the graphics are not appealing to the eye, the effectiveness diminishes.  The key is to marry the images and text in a creative and unique design that draws attention to itself like a beautiful piece of art.

After finding an InfoGraphic about Factors that go into Choosing a Career for my 7th and 8th grade Career Exploration elective course, I wanted my students to make their own InfoGraphic about their own career interests and map out how they plan to achieve their target career. Think of a resume for oneself fifteen years from now (a project that I had assigned in the past) but spin it on its side with the visual factor to create a Graphic Info-Resume.  On our class wiki, I posted the project assignment with additional resources to help students get started.

Students completed the project during class time.  While working on the InfoGraphics project, I began each class period by posting an InfoGraphic on the SmartBoard for students to read and analyze. Students were to note what the designers did well in regards to visualizing information and disseminating knowledge. The students also pointed out any weaknesses in the InfoGraphic presented.  Sometimes students wrote in their journals; at other times, small group or whole class discussion ensued.  The idea was to show as many InfoGraphics as possible and offer models for students’ own InfoGraphic designs and layouts.  The variety of the InfoGraphics that I shared helped students broaden their ideas for layout and design.

Students who were not strong graphic designers used GlogsterEDU to help build their InfoGraphic.  Having used GlogsterEDU before, students were familiar with the program and could use the prefab graphics already available on GlogsterEDU. Whereas InfoGraphic making websites like Piktochart and easel.y offer templates and graphics for making InfoGraphics, students need to register with these sites to create. (Due to our school’s Internet Policy, I am unable to require my students to create accounts with online web applications that require registration and email accounts. I already had classroom account in GlogsterEDU.)

Having the students sketch out their designs before they went online allowed for more creative and thoughtful InfoGraphics versus students who made them up as they were online. Creating the InfoGraphics using GlogsterEDU was a bit more challenging for some students who wanted to create a “cleaner” layout seen on many of the published InfoGraphics online.  Websites like Piktochart and offer better templates for creating these types of InfoGraphics.  In rethinking the InfoGraphic assignment for next year, I might try out the other InfoGraphic websites mentioned above, spend more time teaching about the different genres of InfoGraphics (comparison, resource, evolution), and help students gain a deeper understanding the key elements of InfoGraphic design.

Have you done an InfoGraphic project with your students? Please share your experience with us  :)

Michele Haiken, Ed.D. is currently a teacher at Rye Middle School in Rye, NY and adjunct professor at Manhattanville College in Purchase, NY.  For more teaching ideas utilizing technology and literacy you can visit her blog and follow on twitter @teachingfactor.

For more on Using and Creating InfoGraphics, check out:

ISTE SIGMS and SIGILT 1 Tool at a Time Webinar Series Carolyn Jo Starkey’s archived webinar on InfoGraphics as well as Starkey’s Livebinder with a myriad of resources on InfoGraphics.

Kathy Schrock’s Guide to InfoGraphics as Creative Assessment

New York Times’ Learning Network Lesson Plan on Data Visualization

Teaching with InfoGraphics: A Student Project Model

The Anatomy of An Infographic