It’s hard to imagine a language classroom without text—as a culture, we place a ton of importance upon the ability to read and write. The integration of the four skills—reading, writing, listening, and speaking—is a key feature of successful language teaching. However, with all the emphasis we place on the written word, “it’s an indisputable fact that images are processed in the brain faster than words” (James, 2014). As such, when teachers are presenting new concepts or reviewing them with English learners, they are encouraged to bring in visuals, realia (objects from the real world), or film/video media to illustrate the concepts as well as talking and reading about the concepts.
Visual stimuli are a huge part of creating comprehensible input, a concept posed by Dr. Stephen Krashen in the 1980s to explain the role of input that is understandable to students for the most part, but slightly higher than their current level of mastery to promote further learning. A commonly-used abbreviation for this relationship is “i + 1.” In the input hypothesis, Dr. Krashen asserted that comprehensible input is not just helpful for, but absolutely necessary to, language acquisition.
Technology has enabled teachers to provide new, engaging ways to provide comprehensible input. Applications such as youtube.com, wherein teachers can find videos for almost any topic, to PowerPoint, which allows teachers to outline information and add graphics, video, and animation, have added dimension to comprehensible input in classrooms. Another new way to synthesize concepts to provide comprehensible input to learners is via the use of infographics. Infographics have long been used by authors and educators to analyze or show relationships via maps, graphs, time lines, and so on. Now, with many different free online tools, infographics have a new look and many different options.
I recommend using infographics with future L2 teachers to help them synthesize key concepts or processes in second language acquisition or lesson planning, perhaps in place of the traditional research paper or lesson plan. They are also great summarizing alternatives to article reviews or reading responses. A colleague of mine has used them extensively in an L2 reading and writing class for future teachers, and her students came up with amazing products. I also appreciate using infographics with future teachers because they are an excellent way for teacher educators to “practice what we preach”—if we encourage teachers to creatively incorporate visuals for student understanding, then we should do the same for our own students!
So far, the tool that I’ve seen the most frequently is Piktochart. Educators new to infographic use will appreciate the free templates to get started, and the live chat window if they have questions about the program. There are also video tutorials and online articles about how to create them. The sample I included here was created with a Piktochart template.
Another site, Educational Technology and Mobile Learning, has many infographic examples and other tech tools geared specifically for teachers.
Finally, a site for different kinds of information visualization can be found at Creative Bloq, which lists 10 different tools for visual creation.
If you have other tools or uses for infographics, or if you’d like to share one you’ve created, please add to the comments! Happy visualizing!
James, S. (2014). 10 free tools for creating infographics. Retrieved from http://www.creativebloq.com/infographic/tools-2131971
Krashen, S. D. (1985). The input hypothesis: Issues and implications. Boston, MA: Addison-Wesley Longman Ltd.