Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Infographics... The 21st Century King of Graphic Organizers
I'm sitting at a meeting trying to explain to teachers how Suzy's visuo-spatial processing disorder impacts her ability to understand graphs and spatial relations with regards to math reasoning. This is after exemplifying her significant strengths in verbal reasoning and vocabulary development. Her mother is next to me nodding her head in agreement. She contributes "Yes, I have always know she has trouble with directions as well as scanning and sequencing visual information. I wish we could find a way to combine and organize visual and verbal information to help Suzy understand concepts and processes." DING DING DING DING, the bell in my head rings. I immediately say, "well, Infographics have taken over social media as a way to quickly organize and present complex information in a short period of time."..... Crickets.
I go on my computer and immediately get denied by the schools firewall. After a few more attempts I am allowed on a website that has the above example of what an infographic is. I explain to the folks at the meeting that the pre-organized information and color coded nature of the info-graphic may help to lessen the visual processing burden that Suzy has every time she is presented with a page of paper or assignment to read. The reason infographics are so efficient is that they organize and sequence information for us, rather than having to rely on our own executive functions to do it. Its kind of like touring a city. You can try to tour a city yourself, map and guide book in hand, all while trying to read about each landmark and neighborhood. Or, you can get on one of those double-decker tour buses and have a tour guide tell you what to look at and what to think about it. Infographics are the double-decker tour buses of reading comprehension and math reasoning.
Infographics are an extremely effective way of quickly disseminating large amounts of information in a organized and easily digestible manner. The reason this works so well is that they utilize Preattenitve attributes, or visual cues to guide our attention to what is important. These can be size, orientation, color or contrast. By using these "visual cues" infographics are eliminating the need for focused attention and utilizing the brain's natural visual proclivity of observation and processing (Treisman, 1985, Treisman, 1986). Its like we have our own airplane Marshaller that guides our attention to the "information terminal." By eliminating the focused attention necessary to process an unorganized visual field, concepts and ideas are readily available for storage and digestion.
This is especially important for students who have disabilities or learn at a slower rate than their peers. These students spend so much attention and cognitive energy on decoding words, keeping ideas in their working memory and organizing concepts that they often miss the big picture or idea being taught. Infographics can serve to reinforce or remmediate information that gets lost in the cognitive processes of learning. Teachers can use them to teach vocabulary, show hierarchy or stress chronology. It is even helpful for students to create their own infographic as a project to exhibit skill mastery. By relying on preattentive attributes and dealing directly with content, infographics can increase the fluency of comprehension and analyzation necessary for high order skill development . The following links may be helpful for further information regarding infographics and how to incorporate them into a classroom:
A. Treisman, Preattentive Processing in Vision, Computer Vision, Graphics, and Image Processing, 31(2):156-177, August 1985.
A. Treisman, Features and Objects in Visual Processing, Scientific American, 255(5):114-125, 1986.