Now I See!
Resources and Tools • Student Examples • What Students Say
- Ninth grade Academic Biology classes with 1:1 laptops (each student has school issued laptop)
- Teacher Louise Maine
- A teacher colleague at a distance, Candace Hackett Shively, sounding board for occasional visual communication ideas and alternatives
What: A year long project using infographics as a visual and analytical route to learning (and science literacy)
Where: a rural US high school
Teacher wants to improve science literacy, i.e. understanding of vocabulary and connections to and between science concepts. A summer workshop and a book by Mike Schmoker (see Resources) offers visual vocabulary organizer which she decides to extend by having students create infographics to SHOW vocabulary and connected concepts throughout the coming year. An analytical person, this teacher knows that she is not a visual person. She decides to collaborate virtually with another teacher in her PLN who can offer ideas on visual communication.
Fall: Fits and starts
Students are assigned to make individual three column visual vocabulary charts for all terms, then connect the words together with the content they have learned in class, research, and lab, using images to bring concepts together.
- Many unsure despite available help pages on class wiki
- Questions lead to discussions on how to organize the information, use images instead of words, etc.
- Tough time realizing there was no one “right” way
- Have to think differently than they ever had before
- Able to see student thought processes
- Some use great pictures to represent concepts
- Some not comfortable visualizing ways to remember a word (difficult for teacher as well)
- Students unfamiliar connecting vocabulary words with the actual content. Typically occurs as two separate learning events
- Many infographics more like posters with content randomly placed anywhere and no “connections” or relationships
Winter: Transition to success
After reevaluating the approach and talking with her visual colleague, the teacher shifts assignments and changes the rubric. A midyear survey allows students to evaluate the infographic approach. Students complete several infographics as group and individual projects.
To declutter and create more visually navigable infographics, she allows students to remove selected definitions to a separate page and/or simply use the terms within their infographics. To improve the quality and move past “posters,” more social learning is encouraged. She attempts having students comment on each other’s work using the wiki discussion tab and encourages interaction during work sessions. At every assignment, the teacher re-vocalizes the intent/purpose.
Teacher-collaborator provides two PowerPoint tutorials: one, Good to Better, shows improvements that could be made on infographics done by these students. The other offers a step by step approach to visualizing and creating infographics. (Both available in Resources).
- Look at and give/ask for personal feedback during work sessions
- Challenge each other on use of images, graphic elements, colors (and just about anything!)
- Student survey (via Google docs) shows that many believe making infographics helps them learn at least as well or better than other means. See What Students Say
- Wiki discussion tab comments weak. Need modeling and assessment for the commenting process
- Students thinking aloud and talking in real time during work sessions sparks real improvements in products
- Circulating among students and talking with them as they work helps clarify their thinking and, in turn, their infographics
- Good students get better. More good/average kids believe making infographics helps them on the test—and it does. Those who do the minimum continue at minimum
Spring: Pulling together
After several winter and early spring infographics, both group and individual, the focus is on more group Infographics as class work and research is done in groups. A class field experience at a lake collects ample data measuring the physical, chemical and biological parameters of the local watershed for whole-class, collaborative infographics.
- Many seem to realize the value of the Infographics in checking their understanding while some still do not
- Group work gives many students help with their misconceptions
- End of year reflections show strong student support for infographics as a learning tool
- Though a shortcut, some software templates (e.g. Apple Pages) help groups create visually strong infographics with vast quantities of real data
- Many tweaks remain for doing this project again: revising the rubrics again, clarifying instructions, more support on critiquing, better modeling at the start
- Definitely a learning approach worth repeating!
Sample rubric - A Word document you can download and adapt to your teaching situation.