In the last lesson of COETAIL Session 3, I was excited to see that we would be studying infographics. It was something I had been interested in doing with my students in my Food Safety lessons. They seem to have been popping up everywhere; Newspapers, Magazines, posters and obviously, online.
Unfortunately, not everyone is so happy with the onslaught of infographics, as with large quantities often comes poorer quality – just think about YouTube!
‘ Over the last year, the explosion of these abominations called “infographics” has gotten overwhelming. The number of design-deficient morons making these is so ridiculous that you can fill an island with them. I’d do that. And then nuke it.’ Gizmodo
But look how great and easy on the eye they can be. In my opinion, its the equivalent of reading a magazine compared to a book. People are visual and now, more than ever. We deal with visual literacy not just every day but many, many times each day. Our brains are processing information non-stop and infographs just make it easier. Click here for in depth blog discussion.
So why are infographics so popular?
It seems to be that the problem is with poorly designed infographics, incorrectly presented data or just a simple lack of aesthetic quality.
Successful graphics should do the following (by Tufte):
- Show the data.
- Induce the viewer to think about the substance rather than about methodology, graphic design, the technology of graphic production, or something else.
- Present many numbers in a small space.
- Make large data sets coherent.
- Encourage the eye to compare different pieces of data.
- Reveal the data at several levels of detail, from a broad overview to the fine structure.
- Serve a reasonably clear purpose: description, exploration, tabulation or decoration.
- Be closely integrated with the statistical and verbal descriptions of a data set.
This all sounds quite straight forward, infographs can be a great way of communicating data, they can also be annoying when not done well.
But where does this fit into education?
The example above shows how they can be used as a visual teaching tool or for reference.
Great! What about as a learning tool for the students?
During our last lesson Jeff set us the task to create an infographic in one hour. After discovering that there was no actual infographic software I felt terribly daunted, even more so than the ‘create a video in two hours’ task! I was looking at a blank Word document thinking, ‘What next?’
I had the idea of using infographics in my class when teaching the food safety unit so it seemed that it would be the best topic for me to explore. I found some shocking statistics about food poisoning as my first task, but then it suddenly came back to me to be creative. I always imagined I was a creative person, but to suddenly make food safety look interesting was completely overwhelming. With only a one hour deadline the task seemed more and more impossible.
Apparently, Word is one of the best programs to use but really it just seemed so hard to make it look attractive and to get the information across effectively. I would be embarrassed to show you what I created (even though I did some of my degree in graphic design!) but it took 40 minutes before I got so annoyed at my apparent terrible lack of creativity that I gave up. Trying to find it now, it seems I must have deleted it out of frustration.
As you can imagine when I thought about the students attempting this I had very mixed feelings. The overriding one was that there was NO WAY I would subject my students to this kind of pressure. But, of course, some students would be fantastic and really get into it. It could even be used in an IT unit with Yr10 or Yr11.
The video below shows the next generation of infographics, and I can imagine some great IT units coming out of animated infographics as it would link in with our students’ long-taught Flash animation units.
With my yr7 – yr9 food tech groups I realised that time would not allow this, and forcing this tech tool would not work at present.
To create a great infographic I would need to teach the students graphics first and I really think Photoshop would be better than Word. So in my opinion, I will not be using Infographics in my yr7 -yr9 classes until some easily navigable and cheap/free infographic software becomes available.
Does anyone know if there is any?