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:
- well-designed presentation of interaction data - a matter of substance, statistics and design.
- consists of complex ideas communicated with clarity, precision and efficiency.
- that which gives the viewer the greatest number of ideas in the shortest time with the least ink in the smallest space.
- always multivariate.
- 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
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.
Deliberating in a Democracy in the Americas (DDA), a valuable online resource for teachers interested in helping their students develop skills in discussing controversial topics. The DDA site has all the material teachers will need to support discussion in 15 interesting deliberation questions. It uses the Structured Academic Controversy (SAC) model to provide structure and focus to classroom discussions. Not all issues can be easily distilled to pro / con positions. SAC provides students with a framework for addressing complex issues in a productive manner that builds skills in reading, analyzing, listening, and discussion. And it’s ideal for supporting Common Core close reading skills.
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.
Close reading requires students to consider text (in it’s different forms) through three lenses: what does it say, how does it say it, and what does it mean to me? Here’s a three step process for mastering this Common Core skill using the guided reading of a TV pharmaceutical ad. You’ll have a chance to compare visual elements, narration and musical soundtrack.
My latest multi-touch iBook “Progress and Poverty in Industrial America,” is now available for your iPad – FREE at iTunes. Critical thinking questions based on Common Core skills help students “think and write like a historian.” It’s a great resource for use in the classroom, and serves as a model for teacher or student curation of historic content into interactive digital DBQ’s.
This 18-page iPad DBQ guides students through the historian’s process. “Stop and think” prompts encourage a deep reading of many notables of the Gilded Age – including Russell Conwell, Henry George, Andrew Carnegie and Stephen Crane. Visual source material includes posters, 1908 Sears Catalogue, a gallery of photographs by Lewis Hine and video of one of Edison’s early Vitascope films.
CCSS 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:
1. The right documents.
2. Knowing how to look at them.
3. Letting students discover their own patterns, then ask students to describe, compare and defend what they found.
4. Basing the task on enduring questions, the kind that students might actually want to answer.
My new multi-touch iBook – “Workers Win the War: Toil and Sacrifice on the US Homefront” – embodies that approach. Here’s how.
Too often teachers give students a Venn Diagram and ask them to compare. What looks like analysis on the surface is often no more than re-filling information from the source material into the Venn. Summarizing and comparisons are powerful ways to build content knowledge and critical thinking. But if students are going to master CCSS skills they need to design the model, find a way to express it to others, and have the opportunity self reflect on their product and feedback from peers. Here’s how to teach analyzing.
I will demonstrate how to meet these four keys to teaching analysis with FlipNLearn, a foldable that students design, print and share. It’s an innovative learning tool that students design on a computer, then print on special pre-formatted paper. FlipNLearn is a great way to give students a manageable design challenge that promotes teamwork, self-assessment and reflection. In 30 minutes, or less, they can produce tangible product that blends the best of PBL and CCSS skills in communication.
A step-by-step guide to student writing that demonstrates the power of student choice, authentic audience and self-reflection. Sixth graders are motivated by writing “Traveling Through the Human Body with ABCs” for a third grade audience. The project demonstrates how to help students master content and develop project management and teamwork skills. The power of publishing enables students to think like writers, to apply their learning strategies and to organize and express their learning. It exemplifies the best of the information revolution – students as creators of content rather than as passive audience.
Across the county teachers are looking for lessons and resources to implement new Common Core standards. While some see Common Core skills as something new, most of these skills are exemplified in the well established, document-based approach to instruction. As a long-time advocate of DBQ’s, I’ve re-posted sample lessons (elementary, middle and high school) that demonstrate how to build student skills in literacy and critical thinking, while supporting mastery of the Common Core.