Infographics are powerful communication tools. Today, infographic pro, Eileen Lennon, shares how she uses infographics, creates them, and why they’re such a powerful tool.
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Infographics in Education with Eileen Lennon
Link to show: www.coolcatteacher.com/e278
Date: April 19, 2018
So Eileen is on the show with us today, to talk about these powerful infographics and how she uses them to communicate.
So Eileen, how did you get started using infographics to communicate?
How did you get started with infographics?
Eileen: Actually, it was Lisa. She had spoken to a bunch of the students in the city system and asked what would speak to them, what they would want as material to learn about digital citizenship. And they said actually, infographics was what they respond to the best. They don’t want to read books or brochures. They wanted to look at things.
So she started with infographics, and she asked me to help her. So I started with her, creating the social media guidelines for the New York City Department of Education.
Vicki: OK. So, how do you create these infographics?
How do you create your infographics?
Eileen: The website I use is Piktochart. They have a lot of templates, lots and lots of templates, and I get an inspiration from one of them, and I go from there.
In my head, I have an idea that I want this to look like something, and then I just find a template that is close enough to that, and I go from there.
So they give you a starting point — someplace to start from.
Vicki: Now you’ve got to have great content, though, right?
I mean, doesn’t it take a lot of time to research to get the good content for these infographics?
Where do you get your content?
Eileen: That’s where Lisa comes in. She writes incredible articles and blog posts, and then she sends me the blog post. Then I cut as I need to out of it so that it makes an interesting infographic.
Vicki: How do the students respond to these infographics?
Eileen: They love looking around in a classroom at something that’s relevant and visually appealing.
It’s not the teacher’s handwriting plastered all over the walls. It’s something aesthetically pleasing to the eye, and if you’re sitting there staring at a wall for 45 minutes, it’s kind of nice to be staring at something a little more prettier than that.
Vicki: You’ve also gotten an incredible response from educators, because didn’t you make a graphic for some things that George Couros has done? It’s gotten an incredible response. Tell us about that one.
— Eileen Lennon (@eileen_lennon) February 6, 2018
Tell us about your most popular infographic to date
Yes. I read his book, as most people have. I was very impressed. It was a profound change in how I was thinking about things. So I realized that if I was going to keep that in front of me, I needed to have it in front of me as an infographic.
I created the infographic really for myself, but I did want to put it on my blog and things like that. I reached out to George and said, “Is it OK if I do this?”
And he said, “Oh, absolutely! I’m going to use it now, too!”
So he pushed it out even more than I did, and now I’m getting people all over the country “liking” that infographic since then.
It’s even gone past that, that he wrote a blog post about how I did ask permission, and I didn’t steal his material, because that had happened to him very often.
- Read “From ‘Stealing’ to ‘Remixing with Credit’” by George Couros
So that I asked permission, I cite my source, and took it and recycled it to something that I could use on my wall. So now I come into my room every day and I see almost a little book report I did for that book, reminding me what I need to do in my classroom every day.
Vicki: You know, Eileen, you remind me of what Sylvia Duckworth has done.
Vicki: I kind of feel like you are to infographics what Sylvia is to Sketchnotes. What do you think about that comparison?
Eileen: Absolutely. I don’t want to step on her toes. She does amazing stuff.
I’m trying to stay in my lane.
Vicki: (laughs)… which is infographics.
But here’s the thing. We all have ways to share visually, don’t we?
Eileen: Yes. Yes, we do.
And I just found that… I have an art background, so this was helping me “scratch that itch” too.
I was able to be a designer and spread my thoughts about teaching a little further.
Vicki: If a teacher wants to start using infographics, either themself or with their students, how do they start?
Where might a teacher start with designing infographics?
Eileen: I would think that even just going into Google Slides or PowerPoint and just facing a small slide first would be easiest and the least intimidating way to go. Take a quote, take an image, and put it all together on a page so that it looks good.
When you start feeling comfortable about the type being this size, and relating it to the picture, then you’re starting to get a sense of design.
So that’s one piece. Then you add another slide to that, and keep working toward a bigger and bigger piece.
Then you can move over to the infographic courses that are online. Piktochart is one of them. Easely is another one, and also Canva. You can choose any of those, and then they have templates so that you wouldn’t feel so intimidated to use from that point on.
But I would say, start with just a slideshow kind of almost index card image to play with, and then grow from there.
Vicki: It’s really easy to end up with a tacky infographic.
What pitfalls would you avoid?
Vicki: Do you have any design tips, since you have a design background?
Eileen: (laughs) Yes.
I call it the Ransom Note School of Design.
Eileen: Keep your typefaces to about three. You have your heading typeface, an accent or like a caption, and your body text. You don’t need any more than that.
And also colors. It’s not a coloring book. You’re trying to send a message out, and it’s not supposed to hurt the eyes. So keep it to a uniform color so people can recognize the blue is always the headline, or the green is always the captions. You want to give them some visual clues about the information you’re giving to them.
And, don’t cram it all into a menu design. Give the eye a little space to move around. Have one basic focal point as your “catch” and then let the eye drift around the page to find the other information in order of importance.
Vicki: Now just because you use pictures and have text on there doesn’t mean it’s an infographic.
Vicki: What’s the purpose of an infographic? (laughs)
Pictures and text alone do not make an infographic. What does?
Eileen: An infographic is to convey a message. Either doing that with actual graphics or with type depends on what you're trying to say.
But a graphic is always really important on an infographic. It lends some professionalism to it, and you can cram a lot of information into a little graph. So it always helps to have an actual graph on your infographic.
Vicki: You have been doing this for a while. What are some of the top mistakes that you think that educators or or their students make when creating infographics?
What are the top mistakes that new designers make with infographics?
Eileen: They try to cover too much. They put a lot of type on a page.
It’s supposed to be a piece of art, a design. Don’t put paragraphs. Bullet points are really the only way you should go.
And trying to get everything to scream at the same volume is also a big one. Let one thing be what catches your eye, and then as your eye wanders, let each thing be a little bit less important, so that the eye almost knows goes where to go next.
Vicki: Obviously, you’re proud of the infographic that you did for George’s book, Innovator’s Mindset.
Do you have another infographic that you think, “OK, I’m really proud of this…” ?
Do you have another infographic that you are really proud of?
Eileen: Lisa’s blog post recently about school safety. She had gone into a church and reflected on all the things the church was doing to make people feel welcome, and wanted to take some of those ideas and concepts and make schools do the same thing.
So I was thinking of an infographic I could make with a church theme to it. I was thinking of stained glass, and one of the templates on Piktochart had a stained glass feel to it.
That one spoke to me immediately, and it has a peaceful… It got the mood that I was looking for, and not just the information I wanted out. I really like that one.
Vicki: As we finish up, are there any resources that you go to for ideas for your infographics?
What resources would you share for new designers to get inspiration?
Eileen: Like I said, the templates in all three of those websites are really where you can begin and end with inspiration. They have templates for every — education, business, Sweet 16s. They have different categories that you can scour, but they really do provide quite a bit of resources on the sites themselves.
Vicki: Eileen Lennon is an expert on infographics. We are going to be linking to a lot of her resources. Of course Lisa Nielsen does share a lot of these on her blog as well, and we’ll link to that as well.
But I think it’s and important message for us to remember that — people like to say a picture’s worth a thousand words — and you know, an infographic may be worth even more, because it has so much content.
But we are more likely to read things that are more graphically appealing, in today’s modern era.
So if we want to get our message out there, we need to be able to create infographics or Sketchnotes, as we’ve had Sylvia on the show before.
We need to make it appealing and get that message out there. So check out these infographics, and I hope you’ll try it out in your classroom.
Contact us about the show: https://www.coolcatteacher.com/contact/
Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford [email protected]
Bio as submitted
Eileen Lennon is part of the team that developed the social media guidelines and resources for the NYC Board of Education. She is Microsoft, Google, and CommonSense certified and moderates the monthly #NYCSchoolsTechChat. Eileen has also guest moderated national Twitter chats such as #EdTechChat, #growthmindset, and #connectedTL. She has presented at various technology conferences, including the NYCDOE Tech Summit, EduCon, and the Tech & Learning Summit. Ms. Lennon was awarded the NYCDOE Excellence in School Technology Award at the annual NYCDOE Tech Summit in July 2016 and the Most Innovative Use of Social Media Awarded at NYC Technology Forum in November 2017. She teaches technology at the Nathaniel Hawthorne Middle School 74 in Bayside, Queens.
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