Thinking About Infographics, Visual Literacy, Transliteracy

On Friday, I posted that I had been thinking about infographics. Infographics are sets of data and statistics that are depicted in a visually-appealing format. They can show up in serious journalist publications or just be for fun.

Here’s one I made at Visual.ly’s Labs based on what I Tweet about. (And by “made,” I mean I gave them my Twitter handle and told them that I was a female and picked out my hair color and glasses.)

Me according to my Twitter handle? Screenshot from http://visual.ly/labs

I have no idea why they think I am a gamer. (Unless, by “gamer,” they mean, “person who can only win if she plays Bejeweled because it has no time limit and gives her hints.”) However, I am absolutely, positively the body shape as depicted above.

Anyhoo, I digress … infographics are data presented in a visually interesting, less text-dense way.

I’ve been really struggling with whether or not I think that making infographics is cognitively challenging for students. I can tell they are artistically challenging, and I think they are a cool way to present data to kids, but I can’t shake the feeling that if we’re not careful, making infographics is going to be like “header and three bullet points” from ten years ago … just a list of facts, without giving explicit evidence of synthesis, surrounded by a lot of bling.

And no matter how much metaphorical lipstick you put on the metaphorical pig, well, you get a metaphorical OINK.

Plus, if I could find a way to use infographics as products (maybe there are a lot of stats at the top, and at the bottom, there’s a call to action that synthesizes them?), how would I give my students guidance so they could maximize its artistic potential?

Then I ran into Design Shack’s tutorial for how to make a visually arresting infographic. Aha! Now I, at least, have some vocabulary I can use to help students gain skill in visually understanding and creating infographics. For example:

And that is the part of transliteracy that I think we perhaps underestimate. Transliteracy isn’t just making stuff in different multimedia genres. It’s teaching the skills that allow students to find and express meaning in those genres. A student in my information literacy class talked about how she saw film differently after taking a film class, because she had learned to see. So transliteracy doesn’t just mean, “Look at this video” or, “Here’s an infographic — it’s visual, so we’re doing transliteracy.” It’s explicitly recognizing that, just as we teach strategies for interpreting text-based work, we need to teach those same skills in the other existing and emerging media our students encounter.

Light bulb for me! (Sorry if it took me a while to get there … thanks to those of you who beat me to the punch for being patient.) Check out Kathy Schrock’s extensive infographics links here, and check out the infographic template she found.

What do YOU think?



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