How I Use It
Piktochart proved to be a worthwhile way to inspire student study and presentation on a literary text. Though this could be done for virtually any literary work on the high school level, I used this website application with 12th graders studying Shakespeare’s Hamlet in an advanced class. After our class’ reading and discussion of the play with a focus on thematic universal ideas and/or imagery. I assigned students to create and infographic that explored and presented how such ideas work in the play. Piktochart offers a high-touch array of templates, icons, fonts, and customization features to make a stylish, state-of-the-art display. The quality results able to be obtained from the site as well as the templates to inspire and kickstart the projects served to engage and encourage students. I suggested students make an infographic poster of at least five sections to prompt them to look deeply at their focus idea (e.g. love, betrayal, death, trust, women’s roles, power, light v. dark). The challenge of creating as many visuals to represent the ideas symbolically was both a challenge point and a source of creativity and delight as they overcame an initial block. It helped to have them sketch out ideas on paper before navigating the controls, manipulating the site and trying to make decisions on the fly. Before trying with a class, I recommend that teachers make a model for the two-fold purpose of demonstrating what is possible for visual diagram of a literary text and to become familiar with how the site functions. It took me about two hours to make my model; I provided a six class periods in computer lab workshop. And most students worked on them outside of class as well to finish on time. Students will need to sign up for free account. Remind students to save their work as they go; unlike many apps today, it does not do so automatically. Overall, the controls are fairly intuitive. Students took to them within the first class of working with them. Ultimately, the site lets you download the finished project as an image file. The limitations of specific images that a student might want can be overcome by uploading copyright-free-and-friendly ones they want. Several of my students simply made new ones from mashups of two or more that were offered on the site itself (e.g. adding crowns, accessories or other props to indicate characters).
The format of infographics are designed for the web, which makes this a great project if your class has a blog or wiki. If you want to print them on paper, I recommend downloading the image file and inserting into Excel where the image can be resized to tile on multiple sheets of paper when printed. Students can have finished products that are 8-½” wide but multiple pages in length and paste together to make lively and informative posters for display.
Once students make it through the brainstorming and research phase, they were highly engaged with the webtool and enjoyed making a contemporary infographic. It’s much more exciting and manageable for both teachers and students than traditional posterboard projects. Time on this initial steps may be more important depending on the level of ability and general engagement of your students. If students are likely to experience difficulty, you might suggest specific templates from the start. Moreover the challenge of coming up with numerical “stats,” charts, and other typical graphical representations for a literary work sparked divergent, creative solutions that took the students back to the text and their consideration of their focus topic. Here providing some good models is important (e.g. crunching the number of how many times a word appears in the text, charting which characters say or do what, or pulling key quotes on themes). My students seemed genuinely proud of the professional-looking results. In the end, when displayed, these novel perspectives prompted new ways of looking at the key elements of the text. In the future I would consider whizzing it with a mashup of either QR codes or Thinglink to add more “info” to the “graphic.” Yet, on its own Piktochart infographics can add depth of inquiry to demonstration of understanding as students see and represent.