Wednesday, 10 July 2013

The Non-Designer's Guide to Teaching Infographics

I have been talking about infographics for the last year or so and they were one of those things that only a few people expressed any interest in.  Enter Year 10 Religious Education. Who would have thought that 14-15 year old, sometimes reluctant learners would revolutionise the way that infographics were viewed at the school?  No teacher had ever given so many As in their religion classes nor had any student, ever, in the history of the school, uttered the words “my RE assignment was too local so I created a second, more global focused one to hand in as well. I hope that’s okay”. 

What are Infographics?

Simply put, infographics are visual representations of data.  On a deeper level, infographics are a means of being able to tell a story; a way to inform, persuade and call to action. Not all of these purposes have to be incorporated into every infographic, however, the majority of those that go viral tend to have these characteristics.

Why use infographics?

What thinking skills do infographics develop? As a teacher in Queensland, both the general capabilities and the Common Curriculum Elements from the QSA
  1. As students need to collect a lot of raw data to make an interesting infographic their research skills, particularly in the use of statistical databases become more developed.
  2. Once the raw data has been collected, students need to interpret, analyse and synthesize the data to select relevant statistics and facts, which they can use to tell their story.
  3. Once the data is synthesized, numeracy skills are needed to create data representations. This does not mean that students create 20 pie charts, rather that they select the most effective means of communicating their information for each statistic or piece of information.
  4. Literacy skills such as the use of correct spelling, punctuation and grammar go a long way in helping a student’s work look professional and authentic (these are made to go online and be shared)
  5. Design skills are also essential for the presentation.  A good understanding of layout, white space, the principles of design, font and colour will go a long way.
  6. The final skill set is reasoning and logic.  The flow of information when leading the reader needs to be logical, paced and  or readers will move on.
I could go on and on here but I think you get  the idea.

How do I teach infographics to my class?

I’m going to make an assumption now that the readers of this blog have research, synthesis and analysis, numeracy and logic skills and focus on how I teach infographic design to students. The lesson I designed for this purpose involved three stages: 
  1. Orientation
  2. Domain Knowledge
  3. Creation
Some additional notes for before we begin the lesson overview:
  •  I like to use a strategy whereby 3 students are assigned the role of note takers for the class (on a collaborative document eg google doc) which can then be easily shared with the class (via google group or by being uploaded to the LMS).  Specific jobs for this lesson included:
    • Student 1 - Links - any websites or references are written in the first column
    • Student 2 - General Information\Content - general facts; any information regarding what types of content should be included etc
    • Student 3 - Design specific information - how should the infographic look
  • I am going to assume that the students have been engaged in a unit of work that has required them to research the chosen topic and have a variety of research, statistics and course of action available to them.

The learning goals for this stage are an understanding of:
  1. what an infographic is
  2. why a person would want to use an infographic
  3. that images are powerful representations and should be chosen carefully
  4. the purpose of an infographic
Some sample opening questions and answers:

Q:  Can anyone tell me what an infographic is?
  • Graphic representation of data
  • One of those really long graphics with lots of statistics and information on it
Q:  Why do you think using a visual representation of data is a good idea?
  • 6 out of 10 people are visual learners – Who learns better from watching a video on YouTube than by reading text ? (Conveniently, it’s usually about 6/10ths who put up their hand)
  • 75% of our brains is used to process visual information
  • Your brains process visual information 60000 times faster than it processes text
  • Visuals are powerful ways to deliver a message
Demonstration Example

Put up an example of an infographic – I like to use one I found on “The Alarming State of SingleParenthood” to use as my example. I start with just showing the top title and image of the infographic to the students and ask them their initial thoughts on the type of message they think this infographic will carry, on what they see when they look at the image.  The types of answers I get are along the lines of:
  • It will be a negative representation.  Why?
  • The title is a powerful message – use of the word “alarming”
  • The kids are all crying
  • The mother is not comforting the children
  • The mother is dressed “skankily”
  • The mother is too busy on her iPhone
From this I lead into a discussion on how students should be very careful in the images they select for their infographic as they do not want to send a message unintentionally.

Q: What do you think the purpose of an infographic is?  (I scroll slowly down the page and let students see the type of content in the infographic)
  • To inform
  • To persuade
  • A call to action

Domain Knowledge

The learning goals for this stage of the lesson are an understanding of:
  1. the variety of data representations that can be used
  2. how information can be organized
  3. the role of colour in design
Some sample questions and answers:

Q: How is information depicted: (another slow scroll)
  • Pie charts
  • Arrows showing rising or falling statistics
  • Bar graphs
  • People (6/10 is 6 one colour and 4 of another)
  • Money bags or $ are used whenever a dollar figure is used
Q:  How is the information organized? (another slow scroll)
  • Red banners with subheadings
  • Coloured boxes
  • Image backgrounds
  • Text boxes


All students to go to the website (or in pairs) and choose any infographic they like (they are on the bottom of the page)
Look at:
  • How is data represented?
  • How is the information organized?
Add to the answers given earlier.

Q:  What can you tell me about the colour schemes used?
  • Monochromatic
  • Only 2-3 colours
  • Usually quite bright
  • Occasionally rainbow type colour schemes are used but these are usually not as effective
Q:  Colours are meant to bring about certain feelings.  What does blue mean? Red? Green?


What type of colour scheme would you use for:
  • An infographic about the environment? Why?
  • An infographic about geological structures? Why?
  • An infographic about cities? Why?


Some other considerations:
  • The meanings of colours are culturally biased.  If you are creating for a global audience it is important to consider alternative colour meanings.
  • Look at information on culturalmeanings of colour
  • What are some colours that could send mixed messages to people from other backgrounds?
Q:  Who thinks that they can create an infographic now? (You’ll only get a few)

Q:  What about if I tell you that you can do it in Powerpoint?


The learning goals for this stage of the lesson are an understanding of:
  1. the simplicity with which an infographic can be created 
  2. the importance of planning
  3. the creation process
  4. how to use the software
I have used three different types of software to create infographics:
  1. Powerpoint (recommended for students with computers)
  2. – this was the best online site I found.  It was quite simple to use and worked well on an iPad.
  3. – this is a website with templates you can use to create your own infographics.  The free version did not seem to have a great number of template choices.  It did not work very well on an iPad.

Why do I like Powerpoint?
  • The students currently in high school learned to use it from birth (well maybe not quite)
  • Clip art is royalty free, you don’t have to attribute your images
  • Shapes, arrows, text boxes are already all there for you to use
  • It comes with built in colour schemes that have been designed by graphic designers.  Once you choose a colour scheme on the Themes\Design tab, the top row of offered colours is from your selected colour scheme whenever you draw a shape or text box
  • There is little or no cognitive load on learning to use the software.

Open up powerpoint
Go to the Design Tab and then select Page Setup – change the page length to 60
Practise creating:
  • Text boxes
  • Arrows
  • Graphs
  • Using clip art
At our school we have a subscription to Atomic Learning.  There are some 1-2 minute videos on doing any of these activities if you are not confident yourself.  Alternatively, you’ll be able to find information on YouTube \ Google.


I like to have a discussion with the students at this point for them to step out the process.
  1. Research
  2. Decide on audience and purpose
  3. Re-search
  4. Analyse information and decide how you are going to tell your story - what information stays in to advance your purpose
  5. Sketch it out (very important tip for powerpoint - an A4 page is approximately 30cm long - add an extra 15cm to the page length as you can't add more later without stretching out the content - it's far easier to crop space off the bottom)
  6. Create
  7. Review, get peer feedback
  8. Edit
Remember Image Attribution

If you are using one of the online options you will need to attribute any images that you use (or if you have used images that are not built into clipart). 

It is a good idea to only use creative commons image searches so that you do not accidently use a copyrighted image.

The format is Artist, Image name, URL, Type of License

Alternatively, you can use the Artist, Image Name (as a hyperlink to the original image), Type of License.

If you need to know more about Creative Commons here are some resources to help you:

No comments:

Post a Comment