Using Infographics as Creative Assessments

As the old adage goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, and information represented in pictures can be very powerful. Information graphics, or infographics, are visual representations of information, data, or knowledge. Infographics ask for an active response from the viewer, raising the questions, “What am I seeing?” and “What does it mean?” Infographics are easy to read and easy to digest, and the technology to create one is relatively easy to learn.

To continue reading, you must be a Teaching Professor Subscriber. Please log in or sign up for full access.

Related Articles

Love ’em or hate ’em, student evaluations of teaching (SETs) are here to stay. Parts <a href="https://www.teachingprofessor.com/free-article/its-time-to-discuss-student-evaluations-bias-with-our-students-seriously/" target="_blank"...

Since January, I have led multiple faculty development sessions on generative AI for faculty at my university. Attitudes...
Does your class end with a bang or a whimper? Many of us spend a lot of time crafting...

Faculty have recently been bombarded with a dizzying array of apps, platforms, and other widgets that...

The rapid rise of livestream content development and consumption has been nothing short of remarkable. According to Ceci...

Feedback on performance has proven to be one of the most important influences on learning, but students consistently...

As the old adage goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, and information represented in pictures can be very powerful. Information graphics, or infographics, are visual representations of information, data, or knowledge. Infographics ask for an active response from the viewer, raising the questions, “What am I seeing?” and “What does it mean?” Infographics are easy to read and easy to digest, and the technology to create one is relatively easy to learn. However, it is important to note that as “inviting as infographics are, the ability to make them does not replace strong reading and writing skills” (Jaeger, 2012). As educators, we can help guide users to great creation tools, provide assistance in selecting sources of information to display, and work to craft the assessment tools that evaluate both design and information sources. 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 (Jaeger, 2012). Why use infographics for assessment? Using infographics with students who approach information very differently can be a challenge. Some “see” the information by drawing mental pictures, while others “see” it as data, information, or words. Think of your teaching colleagues. Who would draw a map or diagram, and who would make a list or spreadsheet? What would you do? Before launching into using infographics, take some time to analyze an approach and plan. A plan will help students be more successful in creating an infographic to scaffold understanding while offering a formative assessment “window” into their ongoing grasp of concepts and vocabulary. Whether using infographics as summative projects or a formative scaffold, students need the background information or data as well as the online tools to make infographics. As educators, how do we begin? Using infographics entails a five-step process: a skeleton and flowchart, a color scheme, graphics, research and data, and knowledge. The core of an infographic is composed of three parts: the visual, which provides the color, graphics, and reference icons; the content, which provides the time frame, statistics, and references; and finally, the knowledge, which includes the facts and deductions. What students need to create an informative infographic Students might actually be able to learn at an accelerated rate if the pertinent facts were boiled down into easy-to-digest snippets. While this would certainly not take the place of lessons and long-term learning, infographics can help students understand the basic points of a topic such as obesity (e.g., http://tinyurl.com/cd6arur); health informatics (e.g.,http://tinyurl.com/ml37x7s);and leading health indicators such as substance abuse and social determinants (http://tinyurl.com/mgpdo5f). Students, however, need to understand the anatomy of an infographic. Infographics are composed of three vital parts: visual where color coding, graphics, and reference icons are included; content where time frames, statistics, and references are provided; and finally, knowledge where fact and deduction illustrate student knowledge. It is also important to provide students with the different types of infographics. Infographics can either have a theme or they can reference information. A theme infographic defines a visual and is usually included in the statistics. Selecting the right theme graphic tells a reader at a glance what knowledge is being shared. A reference infographic is usually based on icons used as visual pointers. They are capable of making numerous references using the same instance. Often words are not necessary if powerful reference icons are used. Next, students should have a set of guidelines for creating an infographic. The first important step is to ensure that students have an understanding of the information to present. Without the background knowledge of the topic, an infographic can be difficult to create. Have students outline or collect references or data prior to creating the infographic. Some example questions to help prompt students can include: How has the information changed over time? How is the information different based on geographic location? How do the numbers compare? How does information differ or overlap in some areas? Once the background knowledge has been provided or data has been collected, have students create a title to catch the viewers' attention. Use a theme with supporting images and icons. Have students also stick with a color theme. Remember this is a visual. Finally, leave a section at the bottom of the infographic page to include your data or information sources. What tools to try? infogr.am Infogr.am is a free interactive tool for creating charts or infographics that teachers and students can embed in a blog, wiki, or website, or share by URL. Students can choose from one of the themes and can enter information into the existing words and charts. When finished, students can publish and send the infographic to Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest, or use the URL to share or embed on a website. Sign-in using Twitter or Facebook ID is required. Easel.ly www.easel.ly This infographic tool is free. Easel.ly is quite easy—as the name implies. It is a Web-based tool with a drag-and-drop interface with six buttons: vhemes (templates), objects, backgrounds, shapes, text, and upload. The buttons offer more options when clicked. One of the best features of this tool is that it provides a number of themes to get students started. Piktochart piktochart.com Everything works via “a drag and drop.” It features hex colors to make font changes; opacity control; and the ability to rotate, group, multi-select, and duplicate an entire section. Venngage venngage.com Venngage, most likely named for Venn diagrams, is a Web-based tool that lets students create infographics and other data visualizations with one wonderful added feature: Venngage tracks who is viewing the infographic. This is a great way to stir up competition among students to see who can create the most popular infographic. Dipity www.dipity.com Consider using Dipity as a tool to map out the history of just about anything by creating multimedia timelines. Students can research topics, events, or people; create their own timelines; and print them out to hand in as assignments. Dipity is easy to understand and use, but challenging enough for students. Conclusion Infographics provide a unique combination of text and visual design to tell a story. They can be used by students to share their findings from research projects, create thinking maps of their learning, and collaborate with their peers on inquiry-based learning initiatives. Through the use of infographics in the classroom, students can gain an understanding and make a connection to vocabulary, data, and other information. Julia VanderMolen is an assistant professor in allied health science at Grand Valley State University. Contact her at vandjul@gvsu.edu. References: Beth, C. L. (1998). Designing infographics: Theory, creative techniques & practical solutions. Technical Communication, 45(2), 237-240. Byrne, R. (2011). Picture this: Infographics help users gain a handle on complex data. Create your own with these tools. School Library Journal, 57(6). Jaeger, P. (2012). Is a picture worth $2,500? School Library Journal, 58(8), 17. Troutner, J. (2011). Be creative with infographics. Teacher Librarian, 38(3), 48.