Thursday, March 21, 2013

Taking Learning Into a Visual Experience Through Infographics

Evolving, progressing, developing. Not always an easy task, mainly for very busy English teachers who have heavy schedules, different groups with varied age range and levels of proficiency. But still, they are up to the challenge of after a long day of work to come to a Teacher Development Course to keep improving to become for full-fledged professionals.

That's the context I have with my also challenging job of working with these teachers to raise their level of understanding of Ed Tech issues and help them learn about practical Ed Tech ideas for their classrooms. Challenging not because of the educators I have in class. They are a fantastic, enthusiastic bunch. Daring because of the responsibility of having a full month for Educational Technology in the Methodology part of the TDC program. Until last semester we'd have only a 2-hour encounter with TDC students. So, two hours turned into a fascinating monthly opportunity to inspire, go above and beyond with those teachers.

Of course, it is no easy task for them. Besides the heavy duty of going through many different concepts, ideas and practicalities of integrating Ed Tech in the classroom, they still have to deal with the hybrid format of this part of the course (1 face-to-face class + 1 online class per week) and my pushing them to do more than just average. A bit of pressure, I know, but I'm totally in awe of what I've seen so far, particularly what I had the chance to contemplate, discuss and learn about last class.

I had assigned Mark Warschauer's text "Technological Change and the Future of CALL", part of an ESL & Applied Linguistics Professional Series, "New Perspectives on CALL for Second Language Classrooms", edited by Sandra Fotos and Charles Browne. Besides classroom discussion, I wanted to profit from the elearning environment and the new trends in Ed Tech to explore the possibilities of the use of infographics in the classroom. There was a bit of whining and moaning because of the complexity of the infographics platforms and technical issues that students faced, but the outcomes were simply way more than one could ever expect...
The student-teachers found their own ways to overcome the technical challenges, and the result was a class full of sharing, discussions and considerations about CALL history, its present state and what the future holds. The infographics were the springboard that inspired us all to learn and share. One of the students, a designer by heart and profession, was even applauded by the class when he entered the room with his infographics created in Illustrator that not only visually represented the text but also enticed the readers to consider our pedagogy in the 21st century in his humorous bottom part of the infographic:

by Gustavo Dias

And here's the collective effort of the group that makes me certain that, yes, even with some pain, there was an amazing learning gain that I am super proud of. I hope that these teachers understand the power of such an activity to take their own students to another learning level. Not that they will ask students to create an infographic, but what are some of the creative practices we can adopt to enhance learning in an EFL/ESL classroom and really give choice, purpose and audience to our students' production?

If you are just curious about the infographics platforms that I suggested, here they go:


Just remember that if you want to try them out, do like my students: persist!

For some cool infographics >>>


  1. Thanks so much for sharing these infographics. I really enjoyed them!!

    Since I first wrote that paper, several of these changes have already come to pass, through, for example, the proliferation of portable devices fueled by wireless connections.

    One change, related to these but not discussed at length in the paper, is the movement toward online learning both in higher education as well as secondary education. I'd be interested in hearing more about the growth of online learning in Brazil and what people think of it.

    Thanks again for sharing your wonderful infographics and congratulations on all your great work!

    1. Mr. Warschauer

      Online learning in either higher or secondary education has increased especially after 1996, when the Law of Guidelines and Bases for National Education (Lei n. 9.394/96 or Lei de Diretrizes e Bases – LDB) recognized the Learning at Distance (EAD – Ensino a Distância) as a valid modality for all levels of teaching, such as: basic, secondary, undergraduation and post-graduation school. According to this modality, the student receives textbooks, activity books and has the Internet support. The presence of the student is not necessary in the classroom. There are also the semi-presential programs, with some classes performed in the classroom and also at distance. Look for more information about the Brazilian Educational System here.

      Continuing the expansion of Learning at Distance, in 2005, universities and technical centers in Brazil could offer until 20% of their face-to-face courses in the modality at distance, as long as this course be authorized for the Ministry of Education (MEC – Ministério da Educação). According to the Brazilian Association through Distance Education (Associação Brasileira de Ensino a Distância), in 2007, over 2 million Brazilians toke some long distance course in different levels and fields of knowledge. Furthermore, in 2008 the government put into practice a new project called E-Tec Brazil (Programa Escola Técnica Aberta do Brasil) whose aim is to stimulate youth people living in regions far away from the big cities and with no access to higher level of education to finish secondary school, by doing a technical or professional course. For more information about the evolution of learning through distance in Brazil, you can acess here.

      In 2012, the HSBC Global Research produced a manual for learning through distance in Brazil which showed that 12% of the students enrolled in a private institution of higher education were learning at distance. According to this research, the expectation for the next 10 years is that this percentage will increase to 16%, which means that 1,2 million of people will be learning through distance, in private institutions of higher education. Although I think this percentage of 12% (in 2012) is low, compared to the 88% of people that prefer to attend the classes on the traditional method (face-to-face), I believe the online learning is a trend. In my opinion, most of the people in Brazil are not confident to take an online course because they believe it is not effective as the face-to-face one. So, lack of credibility on the online system of education it might be a problem in our country.

      However, those who believe that online are as effective as face-to-face courses can present some reasons, among others, for that: flexibility of time and place to access the content whenever the student is free; less exposure for those students who are shy and do not feel comfortable when speaking in front the others; and economy of time and money spent with transport (to) and food (in) the local where the class take place. Under the point of view of the institutions of education, they can even decrease their labor force cost and their fix cost (electricity and cleaning stuff, for example) by offering online courses instead of face-to-face ones.

      All in all, I think the online learning has become a trend, taking into consideration that people have looked for convenience, flexibility and less cost when they choose courses that will make them more qualified for the labor market. The Brazilian government has had an important role in the process of technological insertion of the poorest and less qualified people in our labor market. So, people who ever count with opportunities of qualification, in the last two decades have counted with professional, technical and superior courses offered at distance or online. I really expect to see more qualified workers and people with higher level of education (over 15 years of study) in the next generations and I think the access to online courses will be one the main tools used for that.

      Best regard
      Miss Rocha

  2. Wow, thanks for replying, Mr. Warschauer! Yes, the search for online higher education, particularly within post-graduate courses and MBAs, has been increasing in Brazil.

    However, I personally have a feeling that they are not yet full online courses, but actually regular, "by-mail" classes fed to students via the internet. This results in passive learning and observation. We still do not have as much interaction and interactivity as one would expect when hearing about an "online course".

    Then again, just as the new media "starts out" mimicking older media (the first photographs were used to substitute paintings when making family portraits, and the very first movies were merely animated photographs), there is a chance that this will naturally change for the better. Therefore, perhaps in the near future we can hope to have a real interactive online environment, one that takes full advantage of itself in order to maximize students' professional, as well as personal, growth and make its experience unique.

  3. Hello, Dr. Warschauer!

    After reading Gabriel's comment, I would like to quote a very dear classmate: "I agree with him".


  4. Thanks for your reply, Dr. Warschauer

    The Brazilian government have created a few programs in order to encourage teacher and students to use the online environment. When it comes to secondary education, the e-learning is still taking baby steps. Firstly, the government have to make sure public schools have the computers, the internet connection and the necessary training for the teachers to be able to instruct the students. Besides that, the Educational Secretary have provided online resources and courses for secondary teachers and students to expand their knowledge.

    On regards of higher education, most of its audience is the middle class, that have computers and internet connection. We should consider many aspects when it comes to the expansion of e-learning in Brazil, including the audience who can afford or access those courses.


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