EXP: Collaborative Infographics for Science Literacy (CISL)

PI: Joseph Polman
University of Colorado at Boulder
Award Details

The project builds on an existing citizen journalism activity to investigate how to use collaborative critique and construction of infographics to foster high school students? science literacy and engagement. Foundations are in sociocultural approaches to human action and learning, using the notions of mediated action and identification over time to explain development and preparation for future learning of individuals. Foundations are also in cognitive science work on spatial and visual thinking that has found that spatial metaphors provide a foundation for more abstract thinking, on notions of meta-representational competence development of understanding of the process of representation itself, and on collaborative idea development. Infographic design and idea development around it are distributed across people and tools in the environment, and learners better their own conceptual understandings through collaboratively bettering the representations they are using to communicate. The technological innovation is the socio-technical system that is being created around design of infographics as a way of promoting science learning and literacy and includes (i) the integration of infographics tools into learning activities to promote science learning and literacy, (ii) a case library of annotated infographics that can be used to promote idea development, ability to read and understand infographics, and critique and construction of infographics, and (iii) a case authoring tool that promotes reflection on one’s infographic designs as learners write up their designs and are guided to annotate them with justifications for their designs. Research focuses on design of the socio-technical system that allows infographic design to promote learning and foster scientific literacy.

Drawing in more high schoolers to science, promoting scientific literacy, and promoting deeper science learning among high schoolers are huge challenges to the educational system. This project focuses on addressing those challenges through design of citizen journalism activities that can be integrated with other science curriculum activities. The activities themselves revolve around collaborative critique and construction of infographics. Infographics are visual representations of data and/or information, used to express and communicate science, mathematical, technological, and sociological information and used extensively in journalism today. The project seeks both to help high schoolers learn to make sense of such graphics to use design of such graphics as a way to promote learning. The activities themselves require students to engage in data analysis and synthesis and to use science they are learning to develop visual representations that others can make sense of and learn from. The technology is authentic to what journalists use, and its use and the philosophy around its use could be powerful in drawing high schoolers to the wonders of science and helping them appreciate what scientists do, thus broadly promoting scientific literacy. Activities using the technology for infographic design have potential to engage and draw in not only those who already enjoy manipulating and analyzing data, but in addition, and more importantly, those who consider themselves writers and those who enjoy helping others learn. It also has potential to draw into science and advance science literacy in those who simply want to be recognized as making a contribution to their peer community. This work goes beyond current philosophies of schooling in suggesting that we may help people better their understanding by allowing them active roles in helping others learn and in communicating to the populous.

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