Using Infographics to Teach about Canadian History

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Krista McCracken

As part of my work at the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre (SRSC) I’ve recently been working with a group of colleagues to update some of our handouts, educational material, and brochures. As part of this work we’ve created promotional banners, postcards, brochures, and an infographic.

The infographic we created (below) was designed to discuss the history of the Shingwauk Residential School in a way this is accessible to a wide range of audiences. We aren’t the first organization to consider using infographics to teach about Residential Schools. For example, the Alberta Teachers’ Association created one in 2014 and Athina Lavoie created a “Canada’s Indian residential schools by the numbers” infographic in 2018. Indeed, infographics have become an increasingly popular education and outreach method over the past decade.

Shingwauk IRS infographic

Creating good infographics is challenging. Infographics often condense large amounts of information or statistics and a lot of choices have to be made around content and presentation. Infographics are a type of data visualization which create narratives.

In the case of the SRSC infographic we wanted to communicate important information about the Shingwauk site, but we also recognize that this infographic will work best when contextualized. We intend to use it accompany other educational resources and programming. The legacy of Residential Schools is a complex and challenging topic that can not be neatly summarized by an infographic.

What Canadian History infographics are out there?

While working on the Shingwauk infographic, I looked at a lot of examples of Canadian History infographic that incorporated stats, historical facts, and academic sources. While searching I saw way too many infographics about maple syrup, hockey, and the use of the word ‘eh.’

To avoid you having to also dig through all the proud-to-be-Canadian infographics, here are some of my favourite history related data visualizations:

How can infographics be used in the classroom?
Perhaps the most obvious use is as part of powerpoint presentations or as lecture visuals. An infographic can communicate key facts about a topic while the lecturer provides contextual information and nuance to the information that has been visually presented. Some of the benefits of infographics in the education setting include their flexible structure, the ability to make clear comparisons between data, and their ability to draw connections between events or theme.

Having students create an infographic instead of writing a paper can be a way to emphasize concise communication and research while allowing students to explore creative methods. I would note that this may be a new skill for a lot of students and you should be prepared to provide clear guidelines, links to design tutorials, and provide enough time for students to explore this process.

I can’t find an infographic for my topic, how can I create my own?

There are a range of free design tools that have infographic templates to get you started. If you are more experienced with design tools you could also use Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop to create an infographic.

  • Canva has a range of infographic templates that you can input your information into. To make the graphic more applicable to your work I’d suggest customizing the colours and adding in your images or icons.
  • Sometimes you don’t need a fancy infographic with cute icons, what you really need is a chart or graph to help visualize your data.  For this type of visualization I like using Google charts, which has a huge range of customizable options and can be connected to live data sets.
  • Want to make a timeline? If you’re using WordPress, Moodle, or Drupal I’d suggest using using the free H5P timeline plugin.

How have you used infographics and data visualizations to talk about history? I would love to hear what other folks are doing and how you have or have not used infographics in your teaching and research.

Krista McCracken (They/Them) lives and works on Robinson-Huron treaty territory, in the traditional homeland of the Anishinaabe and Métis. Krista is a Researcher/Curator at the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre and an editor of Activehistory.ca.

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