Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Expansive, expressing understanding in new ways

Have you seen the Infographics produced by the JIS HS Graphics/Multimedia class?  If not, I encourage you to check them out here.  Go ahead, it’s really worth the click; the images are informative and engaging and so very contemporary.   Here’s an example – and there are many more interesting ones to explore.

Infographics seem to be cropping up everywhere now, and even though Wikipedia uses such a broad definition of the term Infographic that cave paintings qualify as their earliest example,  the modern Infographic owes some of its current visibility to folks like Nicholas Feltron, Edward Tufte, , Richard Saul Wurman, and Hans Rosling.  Infographics are even transforming the traditional resume. This compelling form of communication seems to have found new relevance in the digital age, offering a way to transform the proverbial fire-hose of online data into a striking information fountain to admire.

The Secret Life of Drinking Water from CNN http://edition.cnn.com/SPECIALS/road-to-rio/secret-life-drinking-water/index.html?hpt=hp_bn7
From HS Graphics to Multmedia Class

See what I mean?

Viewing the HS infographics as a unique and inspiring example of expanding the way our students communicate their understanding beyond the realm of text-only, I wanted to learn more about this project, so I arranged a conversation with the creator, teacher Wendi Ewbank. 

Several years ago, inspired by an infographic published in Newsweek Magazine, Wendi saw the format as a perfect fit for the Graphics/Multimedia class, one that would allow students to develop sophisticated technical skills with valuable Adobe publishing tools and to apply them to a powerful, 21st century form of communication.    Wendi’s unique combination of experience -- teaching in a 1:1 class when that meant one student to a desktop instead of a laptop, using mentor texts in Asian Studies, exploring the possibilities of Moodle, and working with a dynamic and collaborative team (T. Bartlett, O. Jones, and J. Holmes) – provided the perfect foundation for introducing this new project. 

As she described how the project has evolved over the past few years, some highlights emerged that I believe are instructive as we expand 1:1 at JIS:

  • Students can produce sophisticated products with technology. At first many students doubted their ability to generate anything like the mentor graphics (JIS faculty only access) Wendi shared.  By the end, they surprised themselves.  The confidence they gained was as important as the important technical, design and visual communication skills they developed.
  • Quality improves when students learn to give critical feedback.  Students used Moodle forums to share their work and gather specific feedback that enabled them to strengthen their communication.  This feedback can extend across classes and even beyond JIS.
  • Giving students the chance to personalize their work, as well as time to play and experiment then share with others, generates energy and creativity.  When learning a new skill, students would start with a basic foundation, but then add personal flourishes as they explored new ideas and possibilities with the digital tools they were learning.  Wendi held regular “walkarounds” in class, where students would choose their favorite outcome of this play/experiment period then place it on the screen for others to view as they walked about the classroom.  In Wendi’s words, “play time is when students learn the most.”

When you view the HS Graphics/Multimedia Class Infographics (really, click if you haven’t already!), you will see how they are now used to reflect students’ passions for an important global issue.  The global issue is now a thematic component for the course, and the infographic, along with other graphic and multimedia products are combined into a compelling personal portfolio of work by semester’s end.    Wendi also encourages to “double dip,” applying their technical and visual communications skills to projects in other classes.

The Infographics project also helped influence a recent workshop Wendi offered on the PD day.  If you want to learn how to incorporate this kind of work into your own classes, check out the resources here, on her Moodle PD course.  I definitely encourage you to explore infographics with your students. Wendi sees her role in her classes as “giver of possibilities,” a natural stance for a teacher in a contemporary learning environment.

One of those possibilities turned out to be participating in the Student News Action Network, a place for student-driven global issues journalism.  Perhaps some of the Graphics to Multimedia class work will appear there in the future.  

For more Infographics resources, see:

Thanks, Wendi!