As the educational landscape continues to transform, increasingly more instructors are seeking innovative ways to engage their students through technology. A proliferation of tech tools both app and web based will support and inspire creative learning, but which ones to use? There are so many!
Luckily for you, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorites that will help create some amazing projects. Bonus: They’re all free and so easy to use.
The power of a compelling narrative has always been an easy draw for me, particularly in the travel narratives of others. Wanderlust piques my interest, but the story captures my attention, and I’m not alone. Narratives and storytelling are fundamental to human experience. Doris Lessing writes, “A story is how we construct our experiences,” and as products of an increasingly digital world, this sense of construction is nowhere more tangible than in our engagement with social media.
Each time we post, tweet, or snap to impart information to others, we also contribute to and shape the narratives of our lives. In turn, our followers interpret, engage with, and respond to what we’ve shared. As an information student, I am especially focused on the information habits of others: how do other people interpret information, and, consequently, which methods are best to reach the widest audience?
This past summer, I wanted to share my own travel stories easily and instantaneously with family and friends. Before and during my travels, I wondered how best to translate these experiences for others beyond a photo album or the occasional post of media on Facebook.
So I investigated and considered the storytelling capabilities of three social media apps: Instagram, Vine, and Snapchat.
Instagram‘s optional filters and simple editing tools enable users to design a cohesive and aesthetically pleasing narrative. Its accessible interface fuels creativity in its users, and interesting angles, unusual subjects, and attention to details are all hallmarks of Instagram’s most attention-grabbing photos and videos. Videos may last from 3 to 15 seconds, providing for a momentary glimpse into the user’s experiences. I also found the add a location feature helpful to connect with other users, who also linked their posts to my location. In this way, our media becomes a collaborative effort in sharing our diverse perceptions of the landmarks we encountered.
Twitter’s Vine is the app I used least during my travels. Vine videos last approximately 6.5 seconds long and usually require some preparation beforehand, which is not often an option for the on-the-go traveler. However, this length is ideal for followers, who can review posts with ease while scrolling through their feed. Vine also offers little in terms of editing, but the initial planning required before recording combined with the time constraint, challenges Vine users to be innovative in their design. The products are often highly addictive and hilarious, and because they are experienced at lightning speed, it is much too easy to get lost in the Vine vortex.
I had initial reservations about Snapchat. Mostly because many of my friends use it almost exclusively to exchange hilarious selfies. I mean, have you seen the rainbow mouth feature?! Yet, I soon realized that posts on Snapchat or snaps introduce a temporal element in a way that Instagram and Vine posts do not. Videos sent directly to followers may last 10 seconds at the most, and once viewed, they disappear. Users may also post their snaps continuously over the course of 24 hours to be compiled in the “my story” feature. These, too, will disappear after a 24 hour period. This ephemeral in-the-moment quality demands that your viewers follow your stories closely and nearly contemporaneously. But fear not! Users may save their snaps to their device for later viewing. Snapchat’s editing features are less extensive than those of Instagram, but in some ways, the shakiness of the camera and the background noise provide for a more authentic narrative.
Hard to believe it’s been 4 years! To celebrate, we’ve made an infographic detailing our blog’s meteoric rise in popularity and highlighting some blog statistics we found interesting. For instance, we were delighted to learn that our most popular posts are increasingly about undergrad projects. We built this graphic using Adobe Illustrator, and styled it after a modern variant of the Penn colors and modal user interface schemes.
George Hundt is getting his Masters of Environmental Studies. As an assignment for Yvette Bordeaux’s class on climate change, he had to create an infographic, and Dr. Bordeaux suggested using PowerPoint.
George wisely planned the entire graphic out on paper first (see his sketches below) and then came into the Vitale Digital Media Lab for assistance in translating his ideas into PowerPoint. (Having no prior PowerPoint experience, George had also watched the Lynda.com PowerPoint training videos that we make available to Penn students, faculty and staff.) He was here for several hours, but finished the entire thing in one day.
The final info graphic is included here, and you can see what high quality work can be achieved just with PowerPoint and a little elbow grease.
Thanks to George for letting me share his work in our blog!
Infographics excel at several things. One of those is using visual elements to compare the relative size of things.
This awesome Starship chart, created by Dirk Loechel, serves not just as a visual catalog of just about every star ship that ever sailed the seven skies, but also a size comparison chart, labelled with name, length, and universe of origin. It’s got everything you’d expect from your favorite sci-fi books, movies, tv shows, comic books, and videogames, like the Serenity from Firefly, the Star Trek Next Generation Borg Cube and the Star Wars Executor Class Super Star Destroyer (as well as just about every other vessel you can think of from those same universes), as well as the ships from Battlestar Galactica–both the original series and the recent remake–, Robotech, Halo, Stargate, and Warhammer 40000.
It’s also got less well known (and a few that border on esoteric) ships like Matt Damon’s ship in Titan AE, the mining ship from the sci-fi comedy series Red Dwarf, and even the American Airlines Valley Forge Class Agro-ship from the 1972 cult classic Silent Running.
Click for the full graphic at full resolution and spend some time perusing this winning infographic–clearly a labor of love. Thanks to Nick Salvatore for sending it my way.
My fascination with infographics continues. Yesterday, Lindsey showed me a Pinterest board she’d come across that collected infographics specifically about divorce. It’s really interesting to see not just the variety of sub-topics within the “Divorce Infographic” genre (same-sex divorce, celebrity divorces, dating after divorce, child support, and even a holiday guide for divorced parents), but also the variety of ways in which the data itself is conveyed. Most, as expected, are very statistical, but others are quite anecdotal in nature. (Some, like the “Notorious Celeb Divorces of 2011” graphic, are downright gossipy even.) There’s a good mix of charts and graphs, line art, photographs, and well-designed text.
Good infographics have a few common characteristics: First and foremost, they make you want to read them. They’re interesting to read–even if they’re on a not-so-interesting topic. They’re eye-catching. They use color well. They’re usually graphical as well as text-based. And most importantly, of course, they effectively convey the relevant information to the reader.
Most of the 20-or-so infographics on the page have these qualities. Check them over and get ideas for your own infographics, posters, and flyers. And remember we’re here in the Vitale Digital Media Lab to help you out along the way.