What is an infographic? That seems like a good question to start today’s post.
Put simply, an Infographic (information graphic) is a visual representation of a data set or instructive material. It takes a large amount of information in text or numerical form and then condenses it into a combination of images and text, allowing viewers to quickly grasp the essential insights the data contains. I’ve been toying with infographics on and off for the past couple of years and am increasingly convinced as to their place in the contemporary language classroom, hence today’s post.
Infographics are an outstanding tool for learners, as they play a role in allowing them to understand and internalize things such as vocabulary, data, and other information. Infographics are gaining in appeal, as they cater to today’s visual audience, serving to incorporate large quantities of information into small, interactive spaces. Additionally, infographics are becoming a popular assignment for learner research projects. For learners, creating an infographic can enable them to connect classroom concepts to real world data and examples.
So, how might we start using infographics with learners whose approach to information is different from our own? Some see the information by drawing mental pictures, while others “see” as data / information / words. Think about how you and your teaching colleagues do this. Who would draw a map or diagram and who would make a list or spreadsheet? What would you do? Infographics can form a bridge to help teachers to disseminate and learners to internalize new information.
Can infographics be used in the language classroom?
The answer to this is yes, of course they can. The excellent Larissa’s Languages blog offers the following seven suggestions of ways to use infographics in the English classroom (click here to read the full post):
- to teach (or review) numbers
- to teach new vocabulary
- to make predictions
- to retrieve information
- to practice business presentations
- to elaborate
- to collect useful information
As Larissa has done such a good job with her post, I won’t go into this in any more detail here. What I will do is look at some of the easiest free apps out there for all you budding infographicists! I’ll then round off by giving you a list of the best resources for learning the how and why of making and using infographics as a teaching and learning tool. Here we go…
Some of the easiest to use infographic apps
The key components of the following suggestions are that they are all so easy to use that even I managed it and that they all have free options that are good enough for you to be able to make meaningful infographics at no cost.
This is a really simple infographic creation tool that has been around for a couple of years now. Sign up is required to use the free version, although you can do this via social media accounts such as Facebook. I’ve been using this app a lot lately and you can see examples of my work here on this blog. I’ve also used this with my new blog project, EAP Infographics. You can download the finished product in a number of formats.
This is another free, web-based tool with a fairly simple drag and drop interface. You need to register, which you can do through your Facebook or Google Plus account. It includes a range of ready ‘themes’ to get you started. This is the first app I used when I started making infographics and I recommend it as a good ‘entry point’!
Again, you can use this app to create free interactive charts or infographics that you can embed in a blog, wiki, or web site, or even share by url. As with the other tools, you can sign in using Twitter or Facebook.
Vengage is another free, web-based tool for creating professional looking infographics using their templates. Unlike the other apps mentioned, you can’t use social media accounts to sign up, but it is also free.
A list of helpful articles, video clips, books, and blogs about infographics
Read as background or share one or two with students as you approach infographics projects, especially in high school.
This is a series of articles from the ever wonderful Edudemic site that aim to get you thinking as a teacher about how and why you should use infographics.
This is a fantastically useful design-oriented blog post from Spyrestudios that explains how to go about developing effective infographic techniques.
An interesting step by step guide that might have been written especially for me! This is a really good starting point for all those new to the world of infographics.
OK, we’re getting a bit more serious now. This is a full-on, sophisticated tutorial using Adobe Illustrator. While it’s somewhat specific to this particular software, you can pretty much simulate the same steps shown here with other apps and tools.
A professional level site probably best suited to those of you with a bit of experience, or those who have a real interest in graphic design.
Here we have access to Kathy Schrock’s collection of stuff on how to integrate infographics into your curriculum and how to use them as an assessment tool.
This is a BBC article about data visualization versus textual information. It asks, and answers, the question: do images help?
Australian teacher Mark Gleeson has a really helpful blog post on various ways to use infographics.
This is a vast collection for you to trawl through on a wet Wednesday afternoon. Some of the same resources I’ve mentioned in this post are also listed here, but there are also plenty more for you to explore.
I like this one: an interactive ‘comic book’ explaining visual communication; this is useful as a point of reference and help for those who claim to have no artistic ability.
This is a great 2011 TED talk about visual thinking, especially for those teachers who would regard themselves as not being visual.
Finally, we have a Scoop.it collection of ‘Images, lesson plans, ideas, infographics and other resources to use when developing visual literacy in kids.’