Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Transforming Information Using Infographics

The great Aristotle once said, "There can be no words without pictures."  Although he was probably not talking about the engaging power of infographics, I would like to share with you my ideas on how to create these wonderful visual tools.
Infographics are graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge.  They are intended to present complex information quickly and clearly.   Infographics take important events and data and tell a visual story. Furthermore,  infographics may also use typography (fancy and appropriate fonts) to transform data in an interesting visual format.  Here is a great explanation of infographics by Kathy Schrock,

Using Infographics in the Classroom
Having students develop research questions and then portraying their synthesized answers in an infographic is a very valuable learning experience.  Students will develop the following approaches to learning skills:
a. Organize and depict information logically
b. Use and interpret a range of discipline-specific terms and symbols
c. Collect, record and verify data
d. Present information in a variety of formats and platforms 
e. Collect and analyse data to identify solutions and make informed decisions 
 Here is an infographic about Infographics by infolicious:
Infographic About Infographics

Explore more visuals like this one on the web's largest information design community - Visually.

Steps to Creating an Infographic with Students
a. Come up with a compelling challenge- Research has show that students are more engage when they are solving real world challenges.  The more we can anchor our assignments based on problems the world is already facing the better.  To do this, stay abreast with current events going on in the world.  I watch the news and read various online publications so that I am aware of current issues.  Then, I turn these issues into a real world challenge.  Here is an example of one I created for my grade 7 science students on a unit of inquiry related to plants: (you can access my complete plant assignment here).
Design Challenge
There has been a growing trend by consumers to purchase less and less of certain types of plants in Canada.  The farmers of these plants are having a difficult time making a living.  They have petitioned the government of Canada to do something about this alarming trend.  You have been hired by the Government of Canada to create greater awareness toward one of these particular plants by creating an Infographic.  Your well-designed infographic will hopefully generate greater interest in the plant and help farmers of these plants create more business.
b.  Create Clear Instructions-
 It will be important to provide detailed procedures and instructions for students when they are making an infographic for the first time.  The more you are able to scaffold the process the greater success students will feel.  Here is a sample a procedure:
Step 1- Pick a Topic from the list of topics below.  Here is a list of possible topics to create your infographic about. 
__________________(these topics will depend on what your unit of inquiry is about)_____________________
Step  2- Generate 3 Questions-  What inquiry questions will you address in your infographic about your topic?  Questions should lend themselves to pictorial and graphical information.  For example, where in the world is it found? How is it processed? What are the most popular types? What is it made of?  Please come up with 3 questions that you will represent on your infographic page.
Step 3- Gather your data/information- Research your questions and gather your data, facts and information regarding your questions.  Remember to cite your resources in MLA format.
Step 4- Chose 3 ways to transform your research questions into visual information.  Examples include: a visual timeline, a graph (pie, histogram, pictograph, bar, line etc), a visual map, a unique image, etc.  The easiest way to do this is using an website that allows you to create the infographic using a template.  Here are 2 sites that do this:
Step 5-Customize your page layout: Edit your page by putting in your title, data and any new images you need.
Step 6-Save your template as a jpeg or image file.
 c. Choosing the Right Program-  Several factors will determine what type of program you use to create your infographic.  Age, level of technology experience and time are three factors that will help you decide what you will use.  Here are possible levels:

1. Beginner-  if you are working with upper elementary or middle school students that have never created an infographic before then I recommend they use; a)  or b)  (here is a great tutorial on   These programs make it very simple and easy to generate infographics as they have tools and templates that will enable students to transform data and information without any prior knowledge.  These two programs are also helpful if you can not afford a lot of class time toward this project.

2. Advanced- for students that have experience with infographics and/or computer graphic programs that use layers, then they will appreciate having more control over their design by using a program like a) Adobe Photoshop or b) Adobe Illustrator.  This more advanced method requires much more time.

In the 21st century, we are presented with more and more information in visual format.  People are becoming more accustom to reading visual based information then straight text.  Thus, if we want to get our message across in an interesting and engaging way, then infographics is a great tool for students to learn how to create.  What has your experience been with creating infographics?

Additional Resources

1.  Ways to Teaching using Infographics
2.  Basic Infographic tools for teachers
3. Why should Teachers use Infographics?
4. Five Great Tools for Creating Infographics