5 Rules of Infographic Excellence

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

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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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#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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Four Keys to Teaching Students How to Analyze

» 07 November 2012 » In Ed Tech, How To, Literacy, Publishing, Strategies » 8 Comments

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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.

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Multi-Touch iBook – Experience the US Homefront in WWII

» 13 September 2012 » In Ed Tech, History / DBQ's, Publishing, Strategies » 2 Comments

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My iBook Why We Fight: WWII and the Art of Public Persuasion is now available at iBookstore. Designed as multi-touch student text, it focuses on the American response to WWII – especially the very active role played by government in shaping American behavior and attitudes.

It features 13 videos including rarely seen cartoons like “Herr Meets Hare” (1945) starring Bugs Bunny, government films “What To Do in a Gas Attack” (1943) and Hollywood wartime flicks like the “Spy Smasher” cliff hanger series (1942).

View naval deck logs detailing the attack on Pearl Harbor. Listen to FDR’s “Day of Infamy” speech while you read his handwritten notes on the first draft of the speech. Listen to man-in-the-street interviews recorded the day after the Pearl Harbor attack. Swipe through an interactive timeline map detailing early Axis victories of the war. Use an interactive guide to interpret over 40 wartime posters. Students can use an iPad-friendly historic document guide to analyze all the documents and share their observations with peers and teachers.

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What is Writing For?

» 15 August 2012 » In Commentary, Literacy » No Comments

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What is writing for? The answers seem obvious — communication, persuasion, expression. But the real answer in most classrooms is this: writing is for making assigned writing. Throughout their education, students everywhere are asked repeatedly to write papers that are inherently insincere exercises in rearranging things they’ve read or been told — papers in which their only stake is a grade.

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Common Core Skills: Deeper Reading and Critical Thinking

» 31 July 2012 » In Ed Policy, History / DBQ's, Literacy, Strategies, Teachers » 2 Comments

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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.

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Reflections on Working with iBook Author

» 27 June 2012 » In Ed Tech, History / DBQ's, Publishing, Reflection » 18 Comments

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At the core of the creative process is the willingness to step back, reflect on what you’ve accomplished, ask how it’s going and then get back to working on it some more. So after a few weeks of using iBooks Author (IBA), I thought it was time to practice what I preach. I’ll use this post to explore my initial reaction to working with IBA framed with by thoughts on the reflective process. As I took a closer look at IBA, I realized that while it presented some interesting opportunities, IBA had some notable shortcomings. On the plus side, it’s very easy to create an engaging mix of text, images, recordings, and videos. Perfect for my first IBA project – a document-based history iBook.

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Learning Catalytics: BYOD Managed Student Centered Learning

» 09 April 2012 » In Ed Tech, PD, Presentations, Teachers, Web 2.0 » No Comments

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I’ve long held that staff development should model what you want to see in the classroom, and for that reason I wouldn’t do a workshop without using a student response system. (SRS). Learning Catalytics is a powerful “bring your own device” SRS system that has an array of powerful response monitoring and reporting tools. It’s a stand out at fostering peer discussion. Here’s my observations from my experience with Learning Catalytics. I encourage other educators to give it a try. Learning Catalytics is currently running a free trial subscription good for up to 100 students for 30 days.

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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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Following the Backchannel at COSA 11

» 04 August 2011 » In Events, Visualizations » No Comments

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Here’s your backchannel resource to the 2011 ODE / COSA Summer Assessment Institute in Eugene Oregon. August 3-5, 2011. It features both Wiffiti visualizer and Storify social web curating tool.

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