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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Text to Text: A Strategy for Common Core Close Reading

» 26 September 2013 » In How To, Literacy, Strategies » 5 Comments

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The NY Times Learning Network has just launched a new series of lesson plans called “Text to Text.” It’s a simple approach that pairs two written texts that “speak to each other.” I think it’s a Common Core close reading strategy that could be easily replicated by teachers across the curriculum – great way to blend nonfiction with fiction and incorporate a variety of media with written text.

Each lesson includes a key question, extension activities and additional resources to expand the basic lesson. Here’s two graphic organizers to help student organize their “Text to Text” thinking.

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Best Sites for Primary Documents in World History

» 16 September 2013 » In History / DBQ's, How To » 1 Comment

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Common Core offers an incentive for teachers to use historic documents to build literacy skills in a content area while empowering students to be the historian in the classroom. But document-based (DBQ) instruction in this context requires four key elements to be successful: The first is finding the right documents.

Here’s links and descriptions of a dozen great websites for finding interesting historic documents in World history. Sample images for each site are included.

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Best Sites for Primary Documents in US History

» 16 September 2013 » In History / DBQ's, How To » 3 Comments

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Common Core offers an incentive for teachers to use historic documents to build literacy skills in a content area while empowering students to be the historian in the classroom. But document-based (DBQ) instruction in this context requires four key elements to be successful: The first is the right documents.

Here’s links and descriptions of 11 great websites for finding interesting historic documents in American history. Sample images for each site are included.

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PBL: I Come to Understanding by Making

» 11 September 2013 » In Commentary » No Comments

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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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Think Like a Historian: Close Reading at the Museum

» 22 April 2013 » In History / DBQ's, How To, Literacy, PD, Strategies, Students » 4 Comments

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The Common Core encourages students to more closely read a text (in all it’s multimedia formats) by answering three critical questions: What did it say? How did it say it? What’s it mean to me? Here I model a Common Core close reading of my visit to a museum exhibit. I’ll dig a little deeper into the three questions with a few more prompts and provide answers as if I were a high school student reflecting on their experience.

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Haiku Deck – Free Presentation App for iPad

» 13 March 2013 » In Ed Tech, History / DBQ's, Visualizations » 2 Comments

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I’m prepping for an “iPad in the Classroom” workshop and I thought I’d try Haiku Deck – a free presentation app for the iPad. It’s an impressive and easy to use tool for creating a knock-out presentation on the iPad – a great way for teachers and students to quickly share their ideas with the classroom and the digital world beyond. Here’s a deck I created in a few minutes.

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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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Calling Teachers, Lessons, Animators! TED-Ed Wants You

» 12 March 2012 » In Ed Tech, Events, Social Web, Teachers, Visualizations » 3 Comments

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The folks behind TED talks have just launched TED-Ed to serve the mission “of capturing and amplifying the voice of the world’s greatest teachers.” TED-ED has put out a call to teachers everywhere to submit lesson ideas for inclusion in the new YouTube Channel – TED-Ed: Lessons worth sharing. Right now there’s a gifted educator delivered a great lesson to their class. TED-Ed is looking for your help to find that educator, team them with animators, and amplify that lesson for all to see. Nominate an educator | Share a lesson | Nominate an animator.

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Mental Mapping: Video Game Maps Drawn From Memory

» 13 January 2012 » In Strategies, Students, Visualizations » No Comments

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Games are interaction with rules. They mimic the scientific method – hypothesis tested to overcome obstacles and achieve goal while operating inside prescribed system of boundaries. Video games provide failure based learning – brief, surmountable, exciting. While failure in school is depressing, in a game it’s aspirational.

Josh Millard recently began curating a growing collection of video game maps drawn from memory at his site Mapstalgia. Submissions range from detailed rendering to sketches on the back of a napkin. But they all demonstrate a great way to teach mental mapping skills – spatial relationships, sequence, causation, scale, location, and measurement.Use Mapstalgia as an example for your students. Then give them a chance to have fun while demonstrating their ability to translate gaming worlds into two dimensional representations. Let them compare maps of the same game to design their own mapping rubric. Explore different representations of game elements for clarity and design.

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