Monday, March 11th, 2013...2:32 pm

Infographics in Legal Education

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Have you noticed that data use and distribution has hit the mainstream lately?  Data visualization is becoming a popular field of study.  Empirical research is gaining greater ground in fields not usually associated with high levels of data analysis, such as law.  2013 has even been declared the International Year of Statistics.  Perhaps more so than any of these previous examples, infographics have spread like wildfire across the internet.  Covering topics ranging from silly to serious, infographics offer a dynamic and visual means of displaying data.

Ask virtually anyone involved in empirical research, and they’ll tell you that you have to let the data tell the story.  I’m relatively new to empirical research, having begun conducting my own studies only a couple of years ago.  And while I heartily display my data results in bar graphs and pie charts, I often wonder if this does enough to truly convey my data’s story?  Infographics are a great tool for doing so (though, admittedly, within a print journal article, a lengthy infographic probably wouldn’t work – we’ll have to reserve the infographic as another means of communicating your findings, beyond the journal article!).

I’ll confess that I consider myself an infographic junkie.  I just can’t get enough!  And while I’ll admit that some of the infographics I enjoy are less than scholastic in nature, I have found so many that are brimming with educational content – I had to keep exploring.  The more I dug, the more convinced I became that infographics are a relatively untapped educational resource in law schools.  My next question was how best to apply them in this environment.

I’d love to say that I was immediately inspired and I have a secret library of brilliant infographics I’ve created for the law school setting, but such is not the case.  Instead, I began by looking for various platforms for creating infographics.  I came across this article on powerful infographic tools, and started exploring.  My personal favorite – Piktochart.  Even at the basic, free account, the designs they provide are very easily manipulated to create the chart you want, and as with similar platforms, paying for the more professional licenses gives you many more themes and allows you to eliminate their watermark.  (Of course, if you’re an Adobe savant or a graphic designer by trade, you could also just create your own from scratch!  Alas, such is not the case for me – I’ll take all the help I can get!)

I’m still in more of the exploring stages now, but I’ve begun creating a few infographics pertaining to legal research, as well as infographics that advertise our library services and social media accounts.  I also quickly realized what a useful tool an infographic is for creating posters for poster sessions, and am currently using Piktochart for a few projects for some upcoming conferences.  Additionally, in my explorations, I have found (and continue to find) several law-related infographics, which I have pinned to our library’s Pinterest account.

It’s no secret that different people learn in different ways – some by rote, some visually, some by teaching others.  Adding to that the fact that the majority of today’s students have grown up with the internet and therefore expect and engage most with quick, visual stimuli, infographics could be a very powerful educational tool.  Is it preferred by every student?  No.  Can it replace a traditional lecture?  Certainly not.  But can it supplement course materials?  I think so.  We’re working in a time that legal education is being reevaluated and renovated.  I am not here to argue that infographics are the way of the future for legal education, but we as legal educators are being called upon to think of new ways to convey legal education to better prepare our students to become lawyers; infographics are not going to create lawyers, but their ability to convey information visually might serve as a powerful tool for helping students see the bigger picture, understand difficult concepts, and better retain lecture content.

(I should note here that there are some obvious cautions that should be noted when working with infographics.  If you create your own, it’s certainly not as much of a problem, but if you’re using someone else’s infographic, first of all you’ll want to make sure and attribute it to its creator, but also you may want to verify its information for accuracy.)

The more I explore infographics that others have created and continue to create my own, the more possibilities I see.  If any of you are creating infographics for your schools, I would love to hear about them.  If you’re interested in learning a little more about infographics and education, here are a few resources:

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