Infographics as Readings

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Detail from Communicating in the Modern Workplace: How Millennials and their Managers CompareI believe that students’ reading styles have changed. There is still a place for textbook chapters and journal articles, but students have become accustomed to short, fast-paced texts like Tweets, Tumblr posts, and YouTube videos. They’re more likely to share a pin on Pinterest or a gif on Imgur than recommend a textbook reading.

Given the chance, students can easily apply these literacy skills in class, and that is why I have been assigning relevant infographics this term as part of the course readings. The first week in my business writing classes and my technical writing classes I asked students to consider the following infographics, which present details about writing in the workplace:

After reviewing the infographics, students considered whether they agreed with the ideas, how believable the research behind the infographics is, and what information they might add to improve them. The result was a vibrant conversation on our Slack site. Rather than generalizing about the readings, students pointed to specific claims that the infographics made and addressed them from personal and professional perspectives. The infographics seemed to add something to the class dynamic that traditional readings didn’t always provide.

My guess is that the readings were successful because they were short and direct. Students didn’t need to search around for the important tidbits. Everything was clear and obvious. Further, the visual aspects of the infographics allowed them to communicate with words and images. The detail shown above, for instance, not only states “nearly 3 in 4 employers rate teamwork and collaboration as ‘very important’” but also illustrates that idea by graying out one of the human icons shown. Whatever the reason, the infographics worked, so I have continued to include at least one infographic each week along with the other readings.

Some days I daydream about creating an infographic-driven text for these classes, but I am not arguing that infographics should completely replace more traditional readings in the classroom. There’s room for both. What do you think? How would you incorporate more visual texts, like infographics, in your writing classes? Please leave me a comment with your ideas.


Credit: Detail from Communicating in the Modern Workplace: How Millennials and their Managers Compare

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About the Author
Traci Gardner, known as "tengrrl" on most networks, writes lesson plans, classroom resources, and professional development materials for English language arts and college composition teachers. She is the author of Designing Writing Assignments, a contributing editor to the NCTE INBOX Blog, and the editor of Engaging Media-Savvy Students Topical Resource Kit.