My STEM Units

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Infographics for STEM: Part 1

Infographics might just be a perfect link between all the subjects in STREAM.

Science: Many infographics focus on science concepts.
Technology: Most infographics are found online.  A growing number of infographics are interactive.
Reading: The "reading" of multimedia is encouraged in Common Core Standards.
Art: Infographics are visually appealing and have a great deal of design built into them.
Math: Most infographics have some form of graph or math concept represented.

What is an infographic?

Before we go any further, you may be wondering, "what is an infographic?"  An infographic is information presented visually (info + graph).  Another way to say it is that infographics are a visual representation of data.

This slideshare does a great job of explaining infographics:

Why are infographics so popular now?

Common Core State Standards have perhaps created a perfect opportunity for teachers to bring infographics into the classroom.  "Analyzing text structures is a major theme of the common core literacy standards.   It’s more than just reading in science, it’s looking at data, charts and information presented as pictures." (Biology Corner)
To be ready for college, workforce training, and life in a technological society, students need the ability to gather, comprehend, evaluate, synthesize, and report on information and ideas, to conduct original research in order to answer questions or solve problems, and to analyze and create a high volume and extensive range of print and non-print texts in media forms old and new.  (Common Core State Standards)

Common Core Standards for Literacy in Science and Technical Subjects 6–12

5. Analyze how the text structures information or ideas into categories or hierarchies, demonstrating understanding of the information or ideas.
7. Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., quantitative data, video, multimedia) in order to address a question or solve a problem.
Despite the arguments of Common Core detractors, what students are “expected to learn” are not facts so much as argumentation, logic and how to vet and interpret informationThe goal of the system is to help students distill the most important pieces of information from any given text and form a conclusion. Allison McCartney

What does this look like in a classroom?

Instead of telling you what infographics look like in a classroom, let's look at an example! (If you are viewing this on a mobile device, you may need to click on the images to enlarge them)

In this screenshot, you can see that we are in the infographic lesson for the Wind Energy Unit of our Energy Resources STEM project.  Just as good readers make predictions before they read novels, good readers of infographics scan the text and make predictions.  Since we want to make students aware of their metacognition, we ask them questions about what clues they used.

Since most infographics include data, writing Math questions is a perfect fit for Math in STEM.  Common Core and the new digital assessments (PARCC and Smarter Balanced) prompt students for more justification of their answers.  Build that in to your use of infographics with prompts such as "why did...?" and "what strategies did you use?".

Infographics typically use multiple types of graphs/charts within the same infographic.  It's a great opportunity to spiral back to prior learning.

This particular infographic included seven (count them, seven!) different graphs/charts.  Analyzing this one infographic could taken an entire class period.  Instead of using worksheets with naked equations, you can use an infographic!  The added benefit is that using an infographic in Math, also uses literacy skills to read about science content by using technology.  (Imagine the possibilities once students begin to create their OWN infographics based on research!)

Subscribe to this blog (on the right) to receive notification when I post the next article in this series, where we will explore:

  • more examples of infographics in STEM lessons, including interactive infographics
  • how to use infographics in your classroom
  • professional development opportunities

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