A picture has always been worth a thousand words, but now they are worth $2,500 or more a pop. According to marketingtechblog.com, “infographics agencies charge between $2,000 to $5,000 to research, design, and promote a fantastic infographic.”
The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) ask students to research to build and present knowledge. For years, this knowledge was shared in written form—reports, essays, projects, and concluding paragraphs. Then came technology. The written format was then superseded by interviews, moviemaker clips, wikis, blogs, Animoto flashy packaged images, Vokis, Crazytalk movies, PowerPoints, Museum Boxes, Prezi’s, and more. We have mapped knowledge, created knowledge products, and delivered other educational messages with engaging technology and Web tools.
Now, the newest buzz is about infographics. Infographics, which have been around for years in many formats from graphs to subway maps, are visual images that display information along with a message. Sometimes the message is subtle, while at other times it is stark and compelling. Infographics are easy to read and easy to digest—and the technology to create one is relatively easy to learn. I love them because the level of understanding it takes to condense a vast amount of researched information takes the creator to a new level of comprehension. It’s easy to create a PowerPoint and recall information, but it takes a deep understanding to synthesize and summarize those same facts visually in a graph, image, flowchart, poster, or combination of the above.
We live in a visually dominant society, and research shows that eyes gravitate to images over text. Therefore, any information we can present in picture form is more appealing and more likely to be read. Although infographics are easier to read than text, they are not simple to plan. These images actually hit the top of Bloom’s triangle: build, create, design, develop, devise, generate, compose, construct, adapt, imagine, compile, convince, express, and more! Infographics require deep understanding of the subject, the ability to summarize details and synthesize knowledge, and the creative spirit to wrap that knowledge up in an appealing way.
Strong writing skills required
Please note that as inviting as infographics are. the ability to make them does not replace strong reading and writing skills. The objective of the CCSS is to graduate College and Career Ready (CCR) students, and most students currently lag behind in reading and writing skills upon graduation. Hence the CCSS focus on close reading and writing “drawing evidence from the text.” In our copy and paste world, any assignment that requires students to move away from recall, retell, and rewrite (copy and paste), and instead challenges them to think, is worthwhile. Wrap that up in technology, and you get engagement. One could argue that “drawing evidence from the text” to support a position or point is only slightly better than aggregating facts and rote recall, but, nevertheless, students need to write well.
According to communications scholar Sandra Braman, this hyperconnected generation is losing “the skills associated with print literacy, including the ability to organize complex processes….” Creating infographics gives students the valuable purpose to read closely—to be able to deeply understand the material to represent it differently—visually. When CCSS-aligned lessons are being designed, there must be that element of close reading and research to gather the facts, data, and “evidence from the text” to obtain the substance necessary to plan the visual message.
Venturing down this path of creating an infographic genuinely supports the Common Core Standards for writing 6–10. Not only does it give the students an opportunity to “Research to Build and Present Knowledge,” but it is also challenging in the right way. Students have an easy time drawing that evidence from the text. Placing that evidence into a bigger picture to support a larger cause to convince, debate, or consolidate is the difficult task.
(There are many free and fee-paid tools to create infographics, but two to start with are Piktochart and http://infogr.am/. Piktochart gives 501(c)3 organizations a free account.)
When delivering professional development, encourage teachers to include an infographic in addition to the writing assignments. They each accomplish different CCSS objectives. The writing assignment covers writing standards 1–5 and 7–10. The Infographic will use writing standard six to wrap it up in a nice impressive package–20th-century style.
Jaeger (pjaeger@WSWHEBOCES.org) is coordinator for school library services, Washington Saratoga Warren Hamilton Essex BOCES, Saratoga Springs, NY. To submit an On Common Core opinion piece, please contact Rebecca T. Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.