5 Rules of Infographic Excellence

» 14 October 2013 » In Commentary, Visualizations » No Comments

txkcd_infographic

xkcd's brilliant mockery of the explosion of "info-junk" (at left) should remind us that the best infographics should efficiently combine quantitative data, prompt pattern recognition and cogent visual storytelling.

Perhaps aspiring infographic designers would do well to revisit the work of the Edward Tufte, the guru of the art form. I've had a chance to attend one of his inspiring workshops, but you easily appreciate his thinking from his books. In his classic “The Visual Display of Quantitative Information," he lays out his principles of Graphical Excellence (p 51) Graphical excellence is:

  1. well-designed presentation of interaction data - a matter of substance, statistics and design.
  2. consists of complex ideas communicated with clarity, precision and efficiency.
  3. that which gives the viewer the greatest number of ideas in the shortest time with the least ink in the smallest space.
  4. always multivariate.
  5. requires telling the truth about data.

In the same book he showcases what he feels to be the best narrative graphic of space and time - Charles Joseph Minard representation of Napoleon’s ill-fated invasion of Russia in 1812. Six variable are plotted - the size of the army, it's location on a two-dimensional surface, direction of the army's movement, and temperatures on various dates during the retreat from Moscow. The comparative sizes of Napoleon’s invading army (in tan) to his meager retreating forces (in black) tell the story with eloquence.

Click images to enlarge
Minard Napoleon's Iinvasion

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PBL: I Come to Understanding by Making

» 11 September 2013 » In Commentary » No Comments

Matthew-Shlian-featured

Watch this short video as Matthew Shlian talks about himself, how he learns and the role that curiosity plays in his work. Then think about the kind of classroom that would foster Matt and learners like him. He states, A lot of my work is about curiosity. I come to understanding by making. If I can see what something’s going to look like when it’s finished, then I don’t want to make it. That would be like filling out a form.

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Get a iPhone 5s Or Switch to Android?

» 06 September 2013 » In Commentary » 7 Comments

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With my iPhone 4s about to go off contract, I’m wondering should I go iPhone 5s / iOS 7 or Android? I pick up a Nexus 7 to test how I’ll move my content from iCloud to Google and stay in sync with my Mac desktop. And I offer some comparisons of programs running on both platforms.

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David Foster Wallace on Water and the Value of Education

» 16 May 2013 » In Commentary, Reflection » 1 Comment

This is water

Sadly, the world lost David Foster Wallace, in 2008. Fortunately, his writings live on. Recently his thoughtful 2005 Kenyon College commencement address was given new life in “This is Water” a video by The Glossary.

Wallace concludes: It is about the real value of a real education, which has almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over. This is water.

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Boston Bombings: Close Reading A Media Frenzy

» 26 April 2013 » In Commentary, Literacy, Social Web, Strategies » No Comments

Suspects Together- featured

Here’s a suggestion for high school teachers. Postpone a lesson you had planned for next week and use the time to explore the cacophonous infosphere spawned by the apprehension of the suspects in the Boston bombings. If that media circus tells us anything, it’s that we need a lesson in digital hygiene and responsible use.

It’s also a good chance for students to hone their close reading skills. The events should be fresh in everyone’s mind. Ask students to reflect back on network news and social media coverage of the manhunt using these three critical thinking prompts: What did it say? How did it say it? What’s it mean to me?

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#Watertown #MITShooting: Unfiltered News vs Speculation

» 19 April 2013 » In Commentary, Social Web, Visualizations » No Comments

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This morning, Twitter broke the story of the events in Watertown MA. Following the hashtags #Watertown and #MITShooting, I selected a few of the early tweets for a Storify. Twitter scooped the major news organizations, but are we ready to curate our own news?

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Imperialists in Flying Cars: Envisioning a Presidential Inauguration

» 17 January 2013 » In Commentary, History / DBQ's » 2 Comments

inauguration featured

With the 2013 inauguration nearly upon us, it’s interesting to look at the Official Souvenir program of President McKinley’s inauguration in 1901. Especially interesting is the two-page prediction of the Presidential Inauguration of 2001. The unnamed writer was caught up in visions of Manifest Destiny and technology – mechanical bands, a president from the state of Ontario, a flying parade of aerialautos, altering the flow of the Gulf Stream to effect climate chance, and an expanded US with 118 states and 91 territories extending into South America. Quite a contrast to the program ad claiming to provide “Fresh Air – No Cinders! No Smoke!” for rail cars of 1901. Here are some excerpts from the program

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Podcast: Reflections on Teaching Strategies That Work

» 11 December 2012 » In Commentary, Ed Tech, Reflection, Teachers » No Comments

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I had a great time recording a podcast with Mark Hofer and David Carpenter for their series Ed Tech Co-Op.

Mark led off by asking me to reflect back on my some of the driving themes in my career. I confessed that as a novice teacher, I mimicked my experience as a high school student and taught primarily via lecture mixed with an occasional “guess what the teacher is thinking” whole-group discussion.

But I recalled an “aha” moment after repeated visits to the art class in the classroom next door. I realized that if the art teacher taught art, the way I taught history, his students would be sitting there watching him paint.

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Animated Guide to 8 Essentials For Learning

» 28 November 2012 » In Commentary, PD, Strategies, Students, Visualizations » No Comments

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This clever and fast-paced 6-minute animation provides insights into how teenagers learn. An “insider’s guide” to the teenage brain, it answers the question – “If you were a teenage speaker brought in to address a crowd of teachers on the subject of how you and your peers learn best . . . what would you say?”

Done in hand-drawn whiteboard / voiceover format it sets out eight essentials for learning, including my favorite – reflection. Share it with your students and see if they concur or use it as a discussion starter for your next faculty meeting.

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Read This Before You Upgrade to iBooks Author 2.0

» 04 November 2012 » In Commentary, Ed Tech, Publishing » 6 Comments

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The optimization routine in iBooks Author 2.0 is well intentioned but the execution of those intentions is quite poor. In addition to bloating the size of your videos and, hence, your iBook, it can also degrade visual quality in dramatic fashion. If you are writing a textbook or any kind of book containing video that requires providing soft subtitle tracks to address accessibility and other important goals or alternate audio tracks to reach a wider, multi-lingual audience, be aware that this optimizer will strip out those valuable assets without notice.

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