1. Please describe your infographics project.
I often show my students the jewels that I find on Twitter–mostly infographics that illustrate topics that we are discussing in class. They started to really take an interest in infographics. We talked about how many people are visual learners and infographics are a creative way to convey information so that it is easily received, interpreted, and processed by viewers. The students loved this and wanted to make their own!
We started by looking at infographics, from a range of different topics, to see what was effective and ineffective. The students decided that effective infographics included short factual statements, relevant and iconic images, simple color schemes, and had a clear topic and scope that was instantly apparent to their viewer. They also noted that all infographics had their sources cited on the bottom. Once we had our criteria established, we developed a rubric.
I impressed upon the students that infographics can be about anything! After we had some fun looking up some of the more absurd visuals, we started a Google Doc where the students could brainstorm ideas for their own infographics; they had to include questions that would help to focus their topic. After the classes evaluated all of the topics, they elected one that the entire class would study so that we could research and fact-check together.
One class chose social networking and another decided on the plight of the polar bear. We started another Google Doc where the students refined the questions to guide their study. We categorized these questions into subtopics which were assigned to different groups of students to research, collectively. Then, the students used a Google Doc to compile their findings and also cite their sources. Next, the students looked over the collective research and chose what content they wanted to include in their individual infographics. In the social networking class, some decided to highlight comparisons between social networks, while others wanted to show the growing numbers of users and demographics. In the polar bear class, some students chose to focus on the population of polar bears over time, citing what contributed to the falling numbers. Others chose to focus on what is happening to the polar bears and what groups are doing to help. Some chose to simply focus on fun facts about polar bears. I like they they were able to choose a direction within a given topic because it allowed for focus and diversity.
To create their infographics, students chose to use either Piktochart or Easel.ly. I showed a short video about each one and brief demonstration to help them make an informed decision. Using the rubric as a guide, they got started. For two days, the students diligently worked on their projects, asking each other for feedback and questioning research. Finally, we had a sort of gallery walk so the students could look at each other’s finished products. It was exciting to see how they each came up with completely different product from the same topics and research.
2. What was your favorite part of the project?
My favorite part of the project was watching the students take control. They decided what an effective infographic should look like. As a class, without much involvement on my end, they decided what topic they would study. They worked together on their research and made sure their findings were valid, for the good of the class. It was a joy to see them invested in this project, and invested in each others’ success.
3. What was your students’ favorite part of the project?
The students especially loved the collaborative aspect of this project. We have talked about the potential of Google Drive, but through this project, they discovered and experienced the benefits themselves. The students enjoyed the process, but more than that, I observed many of them talking about how they could use infographics in other classes. They wanted to find infographics to share with their teachers and family, to make sense of what they were learning in their classes, and to satisfy their own curiosity. They talked about how they could make them for projects in their other classes and they were interested in how to share them with the Twitter-verse!
Allison Burley teaches social studies at Palisades Middle School. She can be found on Twitter at @AllisonBurley