Here’s a common problem that far too many students and parents have to deal with:
A well-intentioned teacher wants their students to create something graphically pleasing, but that teacher isn’t a graphic designer, nor do they intend to take time out of their curriculum to teach students how to create something that is not only visually pleasing, but visually useful. Something like an infographic. So instead of showing students how to do it, or giving students guidance, they just “gift” them with #studentchoice and throw out a shopping list of possible choices: “Oh just use Pictochart or Canva or Dipity or Photoshop- but make sure it looks good.” Like somehow student choice is magic fairy dust that will make everything great. Giving your students a chance to create something that looks good is important, because after teaching for 25 years I’ve learned:
“The greater the chance that students can make something they are proud of, the more likely they are to do it.” -Me
There is a difference between failure and “working at something.” Failure happens at the end, work is a process. You can sprinkle magic dust all over the word failure, but no one wants to turn in something that looks like a fail, or even hints at a fail. If it’s going to look bad they will self-sabotage so people will have nothing to judge except: procrastination, laziness, apathy, and defiance – all comfortable clothes for teens and students, clothes that look like a blank stare, a shrug, a softly spoken I don’t know or I’m sorry.
Now I’ve been interested in creating pleasing and effective information for a long time. I’ve followed artists and experts in how visuals can support the written word and tell a story more powerfully than text and visuals can do separately. My masters degree thesis was based on the work of Edward Tufte, and others, as it related to the worst, and best practices of using PowerPoint and other slide software.
So when I decided to have my students create infographics for their Topic Talk investigation of U.S. Immigration and Asylum I thought, enough is enough… no sending students to unfamiliar tools. We are going to build these infographics with a tool they all know: Google Slides.
I explained to students the power of infographics using one of the most famous infographics of all time:
Infographics are an incredibly useful tool. You can read about 13 Reason Why Our Brains Crave Infographics or just read the three I shared with students:
- They can make information easier to understand because they combine the power of numbers, words, images, symbols, colors and typography in a way that goes beyond mere writing, or a collection of data.
- In order to create the infographic you must first organize the data and understand your WHY for creating and sharing the data. This helps your audience make sense of the data.
- Infographics capture peoples’ attention. They are very affective in online environments where people crave easy to understand and engaging visual shares.
“If the statistics are boring, then you’ve got the wrong numbers.”
I then shared this Google Slide Deck with my students. If you want to open it and make a copy of it, you can by just clicking on this link: 10 Easy and Interesting Infographics you can Make in Google Slides by David Theriault. (student examples from 2019 are included)
There are a couple of skills you will need to make sure they know how to do:
- Insert an image in Google Slides
- Create a text box and a text box by shape in Google Slides
- Bring a textual or visual element “forward” or send it “backwards” in Google Slides
- Find or turn an image into an image with a transparent background
- Change the color and size of an image, shape, line, or text in Google Slides
- Change the background color in Google Slides
Your students should already know how to do most of these, if not they are a short Google search away, just copy and paste the text from above into the Google search box. I also found it useful to share with students The Noun Project so they could find nice icons to use in their infographics. I made sure to give students time in class to work on these so I could walk around and help them with their topics, ideas, data, and design. The time for feedback and advice is at the beginning, and in the middle of a project, not once it is done.
“Design cannot rescue failed content.”
So how did they look?