Every year I struggle with syllabus day, relating to the boredom students meet it with as well. Fed up with the tedious overview of copious text in a thick packet, I searched for ideas to make the mundane, yet important, syllabus talk more engaging. My search started with aimless internet queries about syllabus ideas. My search stopped when I came across a syllabus for a college class titled “Infographics in Popular Media.” Appropriately, the syllabus for the class was an infographic. Liking the idea of making my syllabus as an infographic, I searched for online infographic generators. The most useful one I found for educators was piktochart.com. Here is why I found this transition to an infographic syllabus valuable:
It’s visually appealing and more impactful.
“Finally, a syllabus that’s not boring to look at,” said a student upon opening the link to the syllabus. Not only did the visual nature of an infographic act as a hook, engaging students with the task, but the demands of infographic as a genre challenged me to significantly reduce the amount of text. Evaluating what information was absolutely necessary to include made the words that were included more impactful, which was valuable for stressing class policies. As a result, I have had less trouble with infractions on class policies than I ever have – If it was stated in the syllabus, then students knew I was serious about it; the policies were not just frivolous information buried in stacks of text.
It’s always available.
Often times I will tell students to reference the syllabus when asked a question to which the syllabus holds the answer; however, after the first few weeks of school, not many students would still have the syllabus, even after being asked to keep it. Infographic syllabi generated online can be published in hard copy or digitally. Syllabi in Word documents can be available digitally through class websites or email as well, but the infographic format is more user friendly on smaller devices such as phones or tablets.
It’s a teachable moment.
I was actually a bit hesitant at times while making my infographic syllabus, fretting I was contributing to the decline of text complexity in society, but ultimately decided that syllabus as a text is not purposed to be complex anyway and should favor clarity. I don’t want my students to rhetorically analyze my syllabus; I want them to remember class policies and grading details in May. In fact, this became a teachable moment, modeling for students how I was meeting the demands of the genre and my audience, which is stressed in the CCSS. Our first class discussion was actually on how the features of the syllabus reflected genre and audience awareness. They will face plenty of complex texts later in the semester, so I am comfortable with my syllabus being simple. Infographics viewed online can even have links and embedded videos. Next year I plan to have educational ones to supplement different information on my syllabus, such as short videos defining rhetorical devices.
Infographics are useful in other areas of practice.
It may be too late to switch your syllabus to an infographic this year, but using piktochart.com has been useful for making assignment task sheets as well. The same value of clarity and engagement has helped improve mine. Infographic as a genre even appealed to some students so much that they asked if we could do one as an assignment. And why not? They can be used to meet several Common Core standards, especially the ones that demand use of visual text or technology, such as: Use technology to produce, publish, and update writing products (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.6). For my next writing, unit I am planning on assigning my students to make an infographic on a topic of interest.
How might infographics be valuable in your classroom?
When outside of the classroom, I enjoy mtn. biking, skiing, running, and grilling good food, but don’t enjoy karaoke or green beans, mainly because I can’t sing and was afraid of the Jolly Green Giant as a kid.