As awesome as an infographic about infographics in my classroom would be, I think it will be easier to just write about it. Here goes..
In my undying enthusiasm as a first year teacher, I decided that we should make infographics in my Psych 20 class as our last project before finals. All in all, I’m happy with the result, but I wanted to dig a little deeper so that I can figure how to do it better next time.
My Psych class was not a “testy” class. The curriculum was very broad, so we covered a lot of ground quickly. Each unit left great opportunities for student to dig deeper into a specific topic of interest. I never had two projects on the same topic even. We had four units, and with a couple mini-projects and a major project with each unit, my students did it all. They made commercials, they conducted research, they made posters, they made game boards, some made social networking pages, some made powerpoints,… well you get the picture. For their final project, I was starting to feel exhausted as I was writing up their assignment. I was dreading marking 25 things, and I really didn’t want them to just write an essay. After staring at my computer for probably 30 minutes, it hit me: INFOGRAPHICS! I quickly googled some infographic sites, found a couple great resources that I posted for my students, and found some infographics on making infographics. We had a quick lesson on what an infographic was, and then I set my students free.
The students were pretty open to whatever I threw at the all semester. They were a little leery of this, since it was uncharted waters for all of them. They found a couple of sites online, and hovered over their computers for a few hours over the course of the week. A few students opted to make one by hand (I even received a 3D infographic), but the majority of the students went with the online option.
I could tell that they were happy to not write a paper, but they were frustrated with the technology. The sites were slow to load with our internet connection, and the netbooks we had were a little bit too tiny to work easily on.
On the whole, they were happy to have a new medium to deliver their content, but frustrated with the newness of the task and the technology.
The sites my students used were okay. They were good about getting a basic layout, but they certainly didn’t lend themselves to really branching out. My students didn’t find them overly user-friendly for customizing, and their publishing options were blocked by our school firewall. I would not recommend using pikochart or infogr.am if you have a slower connection. Piktochart had more freedom, but was significantly slower to load. Infogr.am loaded better, but it was more rigid in design.
Since the students couldn’t publish their work, they ended up giving me their username and changing their passwords to the one I assigned the class. That way, I could access them without having the students log in. It was pretty cumbersome, and changing passwords took up 20 minutes of classtime.
Once we got through all the barriers, I have mixed reviews over the quality of the infographics. Since the design was pretty rigid, a few students opted to take the easy way out by throwing down five interesting bullet points and picture.
Several students listed off several interesting facts, a few pictures, and some citations at the end. Good content, but not the execution I was looking for.
A few students really dug into this project, and I got some great results. They included data, pictures, and developed a logical argument visually. They did a great job, despite the tech challenges.
I had one student in particular who was away for the last part of the project. She emailed me her link, and it was outstanding. She chose a topic that was really meaningful to her, and she just went to town. It was outstanding. If I could have, I would have given her 500% over the 100% she received. I could see that I found something that she related to (both the medium and the topic), and she gave it her all. I got choked up reading it, as I was so proud of her.
Marking was a breeze, but frustrating. Since it was a psychology class, I tried to limit what I was marking solely to psychology, but it was hard to not get distracted by the flash that some infographics had. Some of the bullet point/picture mixtures score higher than the ones where the student clearly put in extra time at home to add flash and jazz. I’m glad I stuck to my guns, but it was hard. I know that I wanted my students to learn about psychology with this assignment, but I also wanted them to learn how to make infographics, as they can be a really useful way of getting a lot of information across in a compelling, efficient, and visually pleasing manner.
I’m glad I used infographics in my class. I will do it again. I will definitely keep looking for better creating sites. I will also remember to book the computer lab rather than the netbooks. I think I will also go through more examples of what makes a good infographic (tells a story, follows a logical flow, proves a point, etc.), as well as what a bad infographic looks like (now that I sadly have some examples). Hopefully infographics will continue their rise in popularity so that they will be more common place when I try it again.