Infographics | Viewpoint

5 Ways to Use Infographics to Visualize Information

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An infographic is a visual representation of information, and it can be a good tool for either formative or summative assessment for students. You can learn more about them by viewing an overview of the FETC12 presentation I made on my support page.

One of the important skills students need to acquire when creating an infographic is choosing the best way to showcase their data. It needs to accurately represent the content of the infographic as well as match the understanding level of the intended audience.

The best way to start teaching how to showcase data is to have students look at the many ways it can be visualized. One of the best sites for this is the Periodic Table of Visualization Methods. By passing the mouse over any of the "elements," the user is presented with a different way data can be presented.

Once students are comfortable with this, the next step is to provide them with a small data set  (a CSV file is best) and let them use various tools to practice with the different ways their data can be showcased. Here are a few of those tools:

1) Chart Chooser provides a number of visualizations to pick from. It allows the viewer to download any visualization as an Excel file or PowerPoint template. Students then simply insert their data in the download file and the visualization is created. Have students repeat this process with their three top choices of chart types, so they have some samples for comparison.

2) The Many Eyes project, sponsored by IBM, allows registered users to upload a data set and pick the visualization type. Students can then download their visualizations to insert into their infographic.

3) Gapminder provides global data sets for students to view and manipulate. They also provide instructions for creation of a Gapminder-like graph using Google spreadsheets and the Motion Chart plug-in

4) Infographics often use pictographs to represent data and, while appropriate for all ages, the creation of pictographs is well suited to the elementary-school level. It begins teaching the process of data visualization for younger students. The Oswego City School District (NY) includes some teacher-created materials for introducing pictographs. There is also an online tool to create pictographs located on this UK site as well as a pictograph game for younger students from SoftSchools.

5) Many teachers are also using Excel for creating pictographs. It is easy to replace the data in the series with images. Kathryn Gordon created a second-grade lesson plan that includes instructions on how to use Excel for making pictographs.

Data visualization is one of the most important aspects of the data literacy skill set. Collecting meaningful data is imperative, but presenting the data in an understandable format is just as important!

About the Author

Kathy Schrock is a featured FETC presenter, instructor at Wilkes University and Arcadia University, an Adobe education leader, and a Google-certified teacher.