Use Infographics to Tell Your Story

Posted by Susan Brooks-Young on March 26, 2016

Infographic about why infographics workMembers of the media are more than happy to share tales about what’s wrong with education. This reality makes it even more important for education leaders to share their positive school stories far and wide on a regular basis. In a recent post on this blog, Arkansas TICAL cadre member Susan Gilley wrote about how to use a Google Doc in lieu of a traditional Web page to keep parents and community members up-to-date on events and other school news. Infographics are another web-based tool school leaders can use to quickly and clearly share stories with members of their school community.

You’ve probably seen infographics in newspapers, magazines, or even online. Designed for readers who want to get as much information as quickly as possible, these documents pack a walloping amount of material into a few graphics and minimal text. The idea behind infographics isn’t new—in fact, this kind of visual representation has been around for hundreds of years. But it’s only been recently that free and low-cost tools that are easy enough for almost anyone to use have become widely available.

Not just for numbers anymore

Originally, infographics were used to display quantitative—or measurable—data. This made infographics a great tool for making high level reports more accessible, but recently this has changed. As the public has embraced this format for sharing information, it’s become commonplace for infographics to represent qualitative data, things that can be observed but not measured. This shift in format makes infographics even more valuable for educators.

Recently I’ve taught two online classes for school leaders. Each course includes an activity in which participants identify information they need to share on campus or in their community and then use an online tool to create an infographic that displays the material graphically. Invariably this activity is identified as one of the most useful in the course. Class members develop infographics designed to explain policies, describe instructional programs, share assessment data, and more. Here are a few examples of infographics from the Internet that were created to explain something relevant to education:

Jump in and create

The most effective way for administrators to learn how to design infographics is to jump right in and create a few. There are several websites that offer free accounts and allow users to begin with templates that can be modified for new purposes. Then, with some practice, you can strike out to create infographics completely on your own. Here are four websites that are popular among educators.

  • Infogr.am (https://infogr.am): The free version of this web-based infographic tool is the most basic of the sites mentioned here—limited to 10 infographics and 10 uploaded images—but that may be a plus for users new to designing infographics. If you decide you’d like to access more features, you can contact Infogr.am regarding education pricing or try out one of the other sites listed here.
  • Easel.ly (http://www.easel.ly/): Offering free and pro accounts ($3/month, special education pricing available), Easel.ly users drag-and-drop elements to create infographics. Free accounts offer 60 images and 10 fonts, but users may upload their own images. Tools for adding shapes, arrows, and charts are available to all users. Start a new infographic from scratch or work with one of the free templates provided. The Easel.ly blog offers tips and tricks for creating infographics.
  • Piktochart (http://piktochart.com/): Piktochart is similar to Easel.ly in that it is web-based and provides a drag-and-drop interface. Some features like Charts seem to be more intuitive in Picktochart, but overall, the two sites are comparable in terms of ease-of-use. There are free and subscription accounts with special rates available for educators.
  • Canva (canva.com/): Use the drag-and-drop features of Canva to create your own infographics or other graphic displays such as posters and photo collages. Developed as a teaching tool, the site also provides tutorials. Canva works on the web and there is an iPad app. Free and paid options are available.
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Tell your data story visually

Posted by Janice Delagrammatikas on September 23, 2015

Thmubnail of Janice's infographicHave you been in a quandary about how to present data about your school or district?  Do you worry that your stakeholders will be overwhelmed with so much data they will not be able to see the big picture?   You may want to think about creating an infographic to tell your story.

Communicating the story to your stakeholders may be easier and certainly more engaging if you can do it graphically.  Building an infographic is a lot like writing a press release. Once you have all the research and data at your fingertips, determine the most compelling headline for the story you want to tell.  Create a hierarchy with your data.  What is the main idea and what are the supporting details?

Next, choose a template and build a frame for your story.  Each of the online infographic tools has a number of templates that you can use and adapt for telling your story.  If your story is a comparison and contrast there are templates that work well for that purpose. Maybe your story is linear and you want to choose a template that follows a timeline.  Whichever format you choose, this is the step that will provide the structure for your infographic.

Next, you get to become a graphic designer.  Your template will come with a basic layout, colors, and design elements.  However you can add, change or remove anything on the template.  There are options for adding pictures, graphs, charts, weblinks, or embedding video.  In fact, there are so many options you may want to take some time to see what other people have created or watch some video tutorials that most of the online sites have created to support their tool.

Your first one will take awhile.

Be prepared to spend some time planning the layout.  On my first attempt, I built the infographic as I went along and I spent a lot of time redoing and moving things around which was a pretty tedious process.   The first infographic I created took many hours and I did not think I would ever do another, but once it was done and I began using it, the positive feedback inspired me to try another.

Facsimile of Janice's infographic about CBK LCAP
Click the image to see Janice’s full infographic.

Initially you should take your infographic out for a test drive and share it with only a few individuals who can give you feedback.  Allow time for revisions and then make it public to your stakeholders.  The beauty is your infographic lives on the web and you can continue to update and make changes.

Give it a try! Two tools that I have used are Piktochart and Visme.  Other options are Easel.ly, Canva, Infogram.

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Infographics

Posted by Lisa Marie Gonzales on August 25, 2013

Infographic of Infographics
Infographic of Infographics Source: Zabisco

Have you been impressed as I have by the myriad of infographics on sites like Zite, Pinterest and even Facebook? Wow!  So many are impressive, and I assumed professional designers were hard at work designing them. Then I discovered dozens of sites that allow infographics to be made by your average every day administrator, teacher or student.

Not so new

Infographics are those splashy pictures that transform complex principles and data into easy-to-understand graphics. And believe it or not, there is some solid theory around the use of infographics. Go all the way back to 35,000-4,000 BC when cave drawings and other symbols and pictures were used to communicate ideas. Some of these might have looked decorative in nature, but the intent was to prepare training rituals for the young, report the results of daily work (how many deer were killed on the hunt), and other practical purposes. From there, letters emerged that formed language and then graphics. Let’s not forget the work of Leonardo daVinci who worked diligently to chart mathematical, astronomical, and geographical information.

Fast forward to modern technology and you can make your resume come to life in just a few minutes, but let’s not jump head too quickly.

Value

The world of social media, flashy websites, and new apps have pushed us into the information explosion, where some sort of pictorial representations are needed because text overload could do us all in. Think about when you pick up a newspaper (yes, for the sake of this discussion, pick up a newspaper!).  Where do your eyes gravitate?  Headlines?  Article text?  Pictures?  Graphics?  Cartoons?

Research on infographics says that text-and-graphic combinations better transfer meaning than either text or pictures alone.  The combination allows our brains to process information more quickly and are retain it in the long term. Infographics are also great for right and left brain coordination.

Create your own

Ready to try making some infographics of your own to use with with colleagues and students?  Here are some sites I recommend.

Start with Visualize.me, particularly if you have a LinkedIn account. The tool is still in beta, but I have huge expectations for this site as an easy go-to for pictorial representation of a traditional resume.

Simile Widgets (http://www.simile-widgets.org/) is an open source tool you can use to design different types of data visualizations from exhibits to time plots.

Many of us know Tagxedo, but might not consider word clouds to be true infographics.  Yet what’s nice about Tagxedo is its easy of use and the ability to manipulate data into your selected shapes and easily save in different formats and sizes.

Finally, just for fun, Intel’s What About Me? can be used to access your Facebook profile and identify the percentages of time spent posting about certain topics.  Here’s the result from my own Facebook data!

Lisa's
My “What about me?” Infographic
Click image for larger view.

 

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