Including Infographics

As a kid, I grew up on a steady diet of posters.  Posters were the go-to product at the end of units of work or when presenting data.  Right up to and including university we were making posters (that’s showing my age).  I loved making posters – choosing colors, what to go where, layout, styles, fonts etc.  I didn’t realise at the time, I was being exposed to and learning essential design principles.  To this day, I love to use visuals to organize my thinking by sketching, creating flowcharts etc.  While posters are out of fashion these days, as there are many way cooler ways to display information, there are still many of the same metacognitive skills to apply. Out with posters, in with Infographics.  Infographics are being used for many purposes including:

They have many educational uses as students can consume infographics (read, intepret, and discuss) or create their own.

Currently in class, we are just starting a new unit (Sharing the Planet) which focuses on biomes of the world and their threats.  We are using mangroves as a case study as it is a big local issue where I am currently located (Mumbai, India).  To learn about global threats through mangroves we use sources such as:

But I’d like to include an additional source of information as a result of the focus of this week’s course.  In this unit the purpose of including an infographic would be to learn more about our subject area and to focus on the key skills of <how to read and interpret> an infographic.  I found an infographic that supports our learning objectives at the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment, and Health website.
Infographic From United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment, and Health

At the same time, we would be inquiring into ‘How this text compares to our other sources of information’ through these key concepts:

  • What makes an infographic an infographic?  Form
  • How does it work?  Function
  • Why is it like this?  Causation

What I’m really trying to do is set up a foundation for future units when students could have an opportunity to create an infographic.  A lot of groundwork is already laid.  They would already know what infographics are like and when is it best to use it as opposed to other forms of text.

When thinking about infographics I immediately thought of Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano who has written a lot of blog posts about the use of infographics as well as creating infographics herself for a variety of purposes for example this infographic on copyright.  She has some fantastic resources to help teachers use infographics in the classroom.  

A spanner:

When I was ready to push publish on this blog post, I came across one last article that I could have done without reading at this point in time.  But once read, I can’t hit the undo button in my brain.  Essentially, it is discussing the difference between an infographic and digital posters.  It’s possible that there are many digial posters disguised as infographics if you were to get technical on some of the features or even the purpose of an infographic.  So, I am going to have to rethink some of my work.  

  • Am I using an infographic or a digital poster?
  • Are students creating an infographic or digital poster?
  • Does it matter?  

I’m interested in your thoughts.  For now, I’ve got a plan and I’ll implement and reflect and modify for next time.  Teaching is like that.  You make decisions based on what you know at that point in time, and it is likely that you’ll acquire more information and experience and change.  If I think back 15 years ago when I started teaching, there are many things I cringe at (think tri-fold brochure – really popular back then).  

Well… “The times they are a-changin’ ” – says Bob Dylan… constantly…







Presentation Upgrade

The beginning of the school year seems a bit of a distant memory as we have just finished week 7.  However, the early weeks were formative in setting up many systems and building relationships that have lasting impact throughout the year.  One particular important beginning of the year event was the Open House session (Back to School Night for some) where parents came to school to meet the teacher and learned more about their child’s upcoming year.  At our school, we conduct this during the school day.  We start with a whole grade level presentation to parents.  It is this presentation that I would like to re-examine as I’ve struggled with the presentation that I’ve used in the past.  Feeling overwhelmed with the amount of information needed to share, the presentation became a sit and get for parents.  Here’s the presentation:

As you can see, this presentation does not align with many of the principles of presentation design that experts write about.  It is far from being simple and balanced.  It doesn’t tell a story or revolve around a central idea.  There is too much text on some slides and much of the information could be accessed by parents before or after the open house through handouts or additional information sessions hosted by the school (e.g. technology, assessment, EAL).

I would really like to rethink this presentation and incorporate best practices from presentation zen which includes going back to the very beginning and reviewing purpose.  Instead of sharing so much school logistical information I’d really like this Open House session to convey some big ideas and themes around the year.  I started to think deeper about the purpose of the session and what my personal goals were (What I hope parents would walk away knowing or understanding).  This got me thinking critically about what kind of information is best shared in person and what information is best accessed through handouts.  Here is a list of the ideas that I brainstormed that are important to me (not in any particular order at this stage):

  • Who are we as a group of educators working with your child every day?
  • What are our fundamental beliefs about learning (especially for this age group)?
  • What are some features of this particular grade (that sets in apart from other grade levels)?
  • What is the learning environment like and how does this support student learning?
  • What do we believe about home-school connections and partnerships?
  • What is the role of technology in learning?

My next step was to find powerful images that represent these ideas and would help me to convey a message.  After a quick search I realised that finding the perfect image is hard work and on reflection perhaps the best way to get the ‘just right’ photo would be to use some my own images.  If I’m talking about the idea of creativity in the curriculum would it be better to have the word creativity on the slide or an image of students being creative?

For example:

flickr photo shared by Sean MacEntee under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license


Image by author, photos by ASB
Image by author, photos by ASB

In this presentation I definitely want parents to know that I believe that learning is a social activity and that students have an opportunity to learn in many different ways including partnerships, groups, and independent practice. It’s important to me that I convey that the learning environment is dynamic and interactive.  An image would serve well to represent what I could talk about in an authentic way to the audience.

Photo by author
Photo by author

I want the overall feel of the presentation to reflect simplicity both in individual slides and the presentation as a whole.  For this reason, I connected with the Kawasaki Method (10 slides – 10 major ideas).  This seems a reasonable number – anymore and I’ve probably tried to include too many ideas in the presentation and may be veering from my initial goals. 10 slides seems to be a good fit for this audience, purpose and time limit (15 minutes).  With respect to including text, I want to ensure that powerful words (perhaps quotes) are used as this will help create a balance between text and images.  I envision a mashup of the Lessig Method and Kawasaki method while at the same time applying some of the other great points I read about this week.

I’m really liking the direction that this new presentation is going and the vision that I am creating in my mind.  I am considering using this for the final course project.  While I don’t see myself adopting one particular presentation style, I do see many elements coming together to form my own style.  Which brings me to this quote which is one that resonates with me throughout the whole COETAIL journey as I am presented with new ideas and choosing what and how much to let into my life.

“You are, in fact, a mashup of what you choose to let into your life.”
Austin Kleon, Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative