Slide 1: Welcome to this webinar with Aimee Howley: Infographics. Maybe “infographics” is a silly word, but what it indicates is extremely important. It covers a major class of objects you can use to provide students with multiple ways of learning as you reinforce a lesson.
Slide 2: An infographic is any kind of graphic that conveys information. It might simply be a picture—but one relevant to a lesson. It could organize just a little bit of information: a pie chart for instance. Or it could be a graphic that organizes lots of information in a concentrated form: a large table, for instance. It could be a series of pie charts or tables. Or it might contain some simple animation to demonstrate how a change in one thing affects something else. For example, if you change some values in a spreadsheet that has embedded formulas, other values also change.
Slide 3: Whatever the graphic might be, the point of using it is to give students another way into the material that a lesson deals with.
Slide 4: Many lessons in school involve teachers talking to students and perhaps also demonstrating an idea to them, followed by practice. This approach is used, for instance, to teach how a bill becomes a law, how DNA works, the relationships among characters in a story, or how to find square roots using a step-by-step procedure instead of a calculator. Maybe you’ve observed lessons like this, and maybe you have been asked to help reinforce the lessons.
Slide 5: When you are helping to reinforce learning, you might think about using an infographic! All of the learning targets mentioned in the previous slide might benefit some students you work with if they were displayed in an infographic.
Slide 6: Sure they might, but where do you get such an infographic? It takes planning.
Slide 7: Planning is organization ahead of time! Often the textbook for the class will have graphs, tables, charts, or images that you can copy and use—quite easily. You can also work with your teacher or instructional team to find existing infographics (in other classroom books, in the library, on the web) that could work as well or better than those in the textbook. Or a small team could be assembled to develop a couple of infographics for a particular lesson or unit.
Slide 8: As you become more and more comfortable with infographics, you’ll find that ideas for these sorts of illustrations begin to occur to you as you listen to a teacher delivering a lesson. Then your planning might become even faster and better. Eventually, you might be able to improvise on your own. Infographics are also becoming popular in news media, so you might encounter some as you read or watch the news. Advertisers also use infographics—so they’re not always sources of information that you can take at face value.
Slide 9: Once you begin to see how infographics are used and get good at distinguishing between those that are illustrative and those that are misleading, you probably will want to begin using them. But how exactly are you supposed to use an “infographic”? There are several main ways to do this. You can review the lesson by illustrating concepts with an infographic. You can ask questions about the infographic that encourage students to share their thinking with you. If appropriate, you can use the infographic as a prompt for writing. And you can combine all of these approaches. Finally, you can work with students to create infographics on their own (for instance, as an alternative to writing a paper).
Slide 10: To review a lesson, you will most likely be reassembling and possibly rearranging the points your supervising teacher made in the original lesson. And you will also connect the points in the lesson to what the infographic shows. So you have to know the ideas in the lesson rather well in order to be effective at re-teaching. In this mode you will be doing most of the talking. That’s not ideal, but for “reinforcement” it often makes sense.
Slide 11: For example, let’s say the lesson was about how the population of the United States grew over the decades and changed from being proportionally more rural to being proportionally more urban. The students might have understood that there were changes over time, but not really grasped the magnitude of the changes. If you were to reteach the lesson, you might use bar graphs to show growth in population over time and percentage gain in urban concentrations over time. Using both graphs, you could even help students calculate (or estimate) the size of urban and rural populations at different points in time.
Slide 12: Another good way to use an infographic is as a prompt to encourage conversation about the material (facts and ideas) in a lesson. In this mode, there are two purposes. The first purpose is to get students to communicate what they think—so you can figure out where the lesson challenges them. The second is to help them deal with the challenges.
Slide 13: Let’s say you are helping with a lesson about the water cycle. The teacher may have asked students to look at the diagram in the book. But perhaps its level of detail confused the students. Using a simpler diagram, you might talk them through each of the stages in the water cycle and ask questions to see which stages they understand and which need to be explained again or in a different way.
Slide 14: You can also use an infographic as a prompt for writing. The writing needs to be structured specifically to accommodate each student’s prior knowledge and writing skills. So the use of the infographic and the writing assignment will need to be planned carefully. You will definitely want to get help from your teacher or your instructional team. Realize, though, that having students write is just another way of holding a conversation with them. It may take more time: but it can help them think more clearly, too.
Slide 15: As an example, imagine an infographic that shows the contribution of several likely causes to an historical event such as the American Revolution. You might share the infographic with the students and ask them to use it as a starting point for explaining the causes in greater detail. Or you might share it and ask them to discuss one of the causes in greater depth.
Slide 16: Teachers often assign “papers” to students as class projects. Sometimes, the point is to teach writing, but sometimes the point is to have students show what they know. Either way, it might be a good option to allow students to have an alternative, for instance to create an infographic instead of writing the paper. You can help them create theirs. Providing alternatives like this fits with the principles of Universal Design for Learning, an instructional framework that accommodates the fact that we learn in different ways. So we don’t all need to do exactly the same thing to learn something.
Slide 17: As you get familiar with using infographics with students, you may discover that you yourself are someone who learns better with graphs, pictures, tables, and charts. If it turns out that your learning is made easier with infographics, it will give you a special incentive to develop infographics to help with your teaching. Perhaps you can attend a workshop to help you do this. Or maybe someone else on the instructional team is particularly good with graphic design. It’s also important to remember that many, carefully designed infographics are already available on the Internet, and there are websites with downloadable templates to help you create certain types of infographics.
Slide 18: As we’ve said before, using infographics helps educators provide instruction that is designed to accommodate all learners—instruction that conforms to the principles of UDL. In the end, using infographics is a tool for doing something sensible: responding to the fact that we all learn differently. A famous math education researcher said that mathematical thinking came in two flavors. Minds that think best in words (he called them “algebraists”) and minds that think best in pictures (he called them “geometers”). The geometers among us learn best with graphic displays like pictures, tables, graphs, and charts. So infographics seem to capture something important for lots of us for whom all that classroom talk is a less effective path to learning.