Today’s guest blogger is Kim Haimes-Korn, a Professor of English and Digital Writing at Kennesaw State University. Kim’s teaching philosophy encourages dynamic learning and critical digital literacies and focuses on students’ powers to create their own knowledge through language and various “acts of composition.” She likes to have fun every day, return to nature when things get too crazy, and think deeply about way too many things. She loves teaching. It has helped her understand the value of amazing relationships and boundless creativity. You can reach Kim at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website: Acts of Composition.
Writing teachers have always valued research and critical thinking as a primary part of our mission, but research in our world today is a completely new game where we have access to thousands of sources at the click of a mouse. Before, we could engage easily with digital sources, with much of our instruction focused on the location of sources and long hours through the library stacks. Now, teachers shift attention to the selection and critical evaluation of sources and repurposing of information for new rhetorical situations. Student researchers also now consume information and shape perspectives through multimodal sources such as images, videos, podcasts, and other digital texts. We hope that students learn to select and evaluate these sources as well as represent their ideas through multimodal formats.
Over the years, I have included infographics in my classes in a variety of ways. I have used them to help students examine their collaborative processes, generate discussion, compare perspectives, and present complex information to others through visual representation. The human brain processes visual information with alarming speed, which makes infographics a powerful way to communicate information and concepts. Infographics do not have to replace traditional research writing. Instead, they can enhance research practices and challenge students to remix and represent information in new ways. When students follow paths of inquiry they must select, analyze, and synthesize information for their own purposes. The infographic assignment amplifies these skills and draws upon multimodal texts and visual communication.
Background Readings and Resources
Steps of the Assignment
- Have students choose a research subject or question of their own interest. Ask them to locate at least 3 purposeful sources on their subject. This is a good time to review how to find and evaluate sources along with citation and documentation practices. Students can write up their research, paying close attention to how they are locating themselves in their collected perspectives. Take these writings through whatever drafting and peer response you would normally require for this kind of assignment.
- Next, introduce the genre of the infographic. Students can access an abundance of examples through a quick image search and discuss the ways they visually represent information. They can work in small groups to compare, generate ideas, and list conventions and variations in the genre.
- Challenge students to create their own infographics to represent their research. They have to review the information and sources they collected from their generated research and choose what is most important to represent. They also need to consider the impact of their information to understand how they might emphasize certain ideas through information hierarchy and design through size, position, color, contrast, and other forms of visual rhetoric. This assignment asks them to explore the relationship between form and content as they choose particular shapes and backgrounds that further communicate their meanings.
- Although students can design their infographics from scratch, I generally recommend that they use available digital infographic generators such as Piktochart, Canva or other free software. These programs offer students a multitude of choices to express their ideas and allow for easy visual representation of information such as charts, graphs and a slew of images from which to select.
- Once they create their infographics, assemble students into peer response groups to generate feedback towards revision. Have students compose their own criteria for response based on their earlier discussion about conventions of the genre. Include rhetorical and visual components and information hierarchy as part of their discussion. Remind them to include source information through proper documentation practices.
- Students can insert these revised infographics into their research papers or present them to the class (or both) to explain their research. They can also act as stand-alone artifacts. I usually ask students compose a reflective statement to articulate their rhetorical and design choices.
Reflections on the Activity
I am always intrigued with the ways students compose this assignment. Students take on a multitude of subjects, rhetorical stances and approaches. For example, Jordan explored a relevant question regarding career opportunities for English majors. Ari, who is interested in the “inked arts” researched how tattoos are viewed in the workplace and Zach created an historical perspective related to the chronological development of cyberpunk.
Follow the links below to view these student examples: