Creating Infographics (using Grafio, easel.ly and more)

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I love infographics and have been experimenting with creating my own for a while.  I have also written an infographics project for Year 7 as part of our KS3 ICT programme, so  I thought I would share a couple of the best ways I have found for making infographics either for yourself or with students.

Most of the design blogs I read in the subject seemed to require significant knowledge of Adobe Illustrator (which I haven’t got) or significant design skills (which I also don’t have!) It also seemed to be difficult to get the feel and authentic look of an infographic in most of the DTP or graphics programs I have used (though this may well be just me) so here are a couple of suggestions..

 Grafio

Grafio (available or iPad and iPhone) is a hugely impressive app that allows you to create infographics (or indeed pretty much any chart or diagram) with a minimum of fuss.  The app would be equally useful for creating system flowcharts or venn diagrams and there are  a number of ways in which it could be used in different subject areas.

The superb design of the app means the user is given a wide set of tools, accessed through clear, simple and uncluttered interface and enhanced by clever use of gestures.

The basic Grafio tools - the Properties section changes according to context (like Adobe Flash, Fireworks et al)

The basic Grafio tools – the “Object Properties” section changes according to context (like Adobe Flash, Fireworks et al)

It contains a decent library of built-in vector objects and is easy to create your own shapes (which can be added to the library) or import others from the your iPad’s camera roll.

The shape recognition tool is particularly clever and the app does an excellent job of working out what you have tried to draw and then improving it!

There is also a neat Tips & Tricks feature built into the app

There is also a neat Tips & Tricks feature built into the app

The app provides some beautifully presented how-to-guides (created with the app itself) and includes some sample documents which you can fiddle about with to see how they were made.  In truth, the app is very easy to learn and most features are easily accessible.

Share Editable

There are a wide range of sharing options (via mail, Dropbox, iTunes etc) and the ability to share an editable Grafio document is particularly useful – it would be straightforward to create a template or outline of a document and share it with students.

Grafio isn’t the cheapest app out there – £5.99 – but  you get what you pay for, which in this  case is a phone/tablet app with the featureset of a proper graphics package.   I would urge you to try the free version first.  It shouldn’t take more than a few minutes playing with it to convince you that it is worth paying for the full version.

If you would like to see the app in action, the publishers have helpfully provided some video tutorials on their YouTube channel and you can check them out here.  Below is an example of my first attempt at an infographic in Grafio – please don’t judge the quality of the app based on my limitations as a designer!  For me, Grafio ranks alongside Phoster as my favourite for creating classroom displays or posters and would also be perfect for student use.

My first attempt

My first attempt

Easel.ly

Easel.ly is a web app, currently in beta, that also does a great job of simplifying the process of creating infographics.  I used this successfully with Year 7 as a part of a  scheme of work and was very pleased with the results.  (I actually think infographics make a great KS3 ICT project – there are all sorts of elements in there, such as the use of data, the importance of good research, graphics design…)

[Disclaimer: At the time of writing easel.ly is FREE but it IS in beta.. so it could easily become a paid service or disappear altogether.  Do bear this in mind when deciding whether you would want to use it in the classroom]

You do need to sign up to (either with Facebook or via an email address) to use easel.ly – our school has full Google Apps for Education integration so we had a secure managed email address for each student to use.

As a web app, easel.ly does not boast the full range of features that Grafio can offer – but it is certainly good enough to produce an effective infographic.  If you’d like to see an example, you can download an easel.ly infographic I created to show the 4B’s (again applying my disclaimer regarding my own skills!)The 4B's infographic

Below is a screencast I created showing how to use easel.ly which gives a pretty good idea of the features it has.

Some of the nice features of this app include..

  • You can upload your own images – this is a nice touch, though the feature  occassionally didn’t work when my students tried it
  • There are a nice range of custom templates provided or there is the choice to use a blank canvas
  • There is a surprisingly good range of vector images included in the image library
  • At the current time there seem to be no limiations on use, other than the fact that only one infographic can be saved/edited at one time
  • It is very easy to use

Alternatives

I am very happy with both these tools at present but am looking to see if there better ones available.

  • Piktochart is a nice alternative to easel.ly (though the free version does seem to have a few limitations) A new version has just been released so I am going to revisit Piktochart.
  • Lucidchart (another web tool) can be used for infographics.  I’m looking very closely at this for next year since it has Google Drive integration baked in – which takes it to another level as far as I’m concerned.
  • Inkscape is an open source vector graphics package which looks to have potential as an infographics tool – and has the obvious bonus of being totally free.  T

I would be interested to know what you think of these applications – and indeed, which other mobile apps, web apps or programs you are using to create infographics yourself, or with your students.

An app episode.. AFL with Skitch

I have a few “Issues” with adding purchased apps to my department’s iPads at the moment (don’t ask!) so I’m not always able to use them in the classroom in the way I’d like. However, today I ran a successful AFL activity using the built-in camera app and a free app called Skitch. Skitch is basically an annotation, markup and drawing tool which allows work to be integrated with Evernote (who now own Skitch)

The students had been taking photos for an e-safety comic that they will be making in Comic Life, which is also installed on the iPads. Each group of students had all their photos on a single iPad. After each group had taken their photos, I drew the class back together to begin the peer assessment activity.

I demonstrated the basic principles of Skitch – skipping the Evernote sign in – showing the students the basic annotation tools of the app. I modelled a photo taken on my iPad and asked the students for some WWW and EBI comments. We had already done some simple work on “good and bad” photography, looking at the basics of close-ups, the rule of thirds, cropping unnecessary detail etc – (apologies to any cringing Photography or Media teachers out there) so the students had some ideas of what to look for.

There are only a few annotation tools within Skitch, so it didn’t take long to show them how to draw, write and add arrows on top of the photo.

I used the annotation tools to add their feedback to my photo and then showed them how to export the finished Skitch image to the camera roll. It was then the students turn.

I gave the students 3 minutes or to evaluate each set of photos – they viewed the photos on each iPad, using Skitch to add their feedback, before moving on to looking at the images on the next iPad. They had no trouble using Skitch and all the students picked it up in seconds. At the end of the activity each group had time to reflect on comments that had been made on their photos. Each group then mirrored their screens using the Apple TV, and commented on the feedback they had received, using this to identify any changes they would make next week. Sadly I can’t share pictures of their work on here because they feature images of the students.

There are ways I could have improved the activity – we could have agreed on a set colours for the EBI and WWW, to help reinforce a consistent “language for learning”

Had I had time, I would have liked the students to Skitch their own work first before moving on to the peer assessment.

Best of all I would have liked to have NOT skipped the Evernote sync – it would have been a much more ideal outcome to have the annotated work synced to Evernote accounts, so that the students could incorporate it into a notebook set up to for their e-safety projects. Sadly the number of iPads available in school (and the fact that our BYOD policy is still.. shall we say.. under development) means that we are some way short of being able to use Evernote in this way. I hope we will get there one day.

Still I like the fact that a simple activity could be extended in such a way should the opportunity arise in the future.

I also enjoyed seeing the students sharing their work using the Apple TV. I was impressed with the comments they made and they were clearly motivated by this method of providing feedback. There is also no reason why this activity couldn’t be applied to other types of student work (as well as photos), or even carried out in a different way, using different apps. For example, a mirroring app like Reflection could be used instead of an Apple TV, and students could record feedback using Explain Everything.

This would also seem to be an activity that you run on an Android device, since Skitch is available on that platform. You can overcome the Apple TV issue on Android with an app called Twonky and there are other ways of mirroring your Android screen, such as the excellent Double Twist & Air Sync and some more methods given here

Overall a pretty good activity, and I will continue to tweak it and will re-post any new or better. Feedback and ideas would be MOST welcome.