The Deal with Infographics

I must admit that I find the field of infographics fascinating.  In my Zite reader, I’m excited when one of them makes any of the categories that I follow and, to be sure that I get a daily fix, I have the category “infographics” selected.

What impresses me about the whole infographics concept is that one that is well crafted can convey so much information in one document.  Those of us who do presentations regularly will use pie charts or bar charts to identify data or elements of the data.  However, the conventional wisdom has always been to keep one piece of data analysis on a slide to make it readable.

Infographics take that conventional wisdom for a walk by the river and shoves it in.  In fact, infographics puts it all together in one place.  Unlike a pie chart where the experienced designer stands out by exploding a piece, infographics can share just a tonne of information all in one spot.  They’re not intended to be glanced at and moved on.  They are a work of art and data in themselves.  I’d go so far as to say that they’re another contemporary story telling technique.

Here’s one of the infographics that I spent time looking at this morning.  It’s titled “The pros and cons of social media in education” and was blogged by the Edtech Times who credit the authorship to  Meet me under the infographic.

If we take a look at the infographic for its design, we see:

  • four major categories identified; (there are two number threes)
  • some bar charts;
  • graphic organizer showing relationships between items;
  • logos that we all recognize and are immediately drawn to;
  • sources credited for the resources;
  • identifier of the author;
  • a great deal of work with an image editing tool;
  • elements of design – colour, alignment, attractiveness to the viewer.

So let’s step away from the infographic per se, and think about this in the classroom.

A simple way to use the infographic would be as a resource from which to pull answers.  I’d like to think that we could move much deeper with the concept of infographics.  Why not make it the end result of a project?  Consider what the student or groups of students would do in order to be successful.

  • more than trivial use of their graphic tool; (Photoshop Elements, Powerpoint, CorelDRAW!)
  • the need to design the story they wish to tell;
  • research for facts, details, authorities;
  • design element choices – fonts, colours, graphics;
  • respect for copyright and the use of others’ efforts;
  • collaboration and agreement within their group;
  • choose the most appropriate way to display and tell their story;
  • determination of ultimate filetype;
  • critical decisions made about what information goes into the final design.

There is huge potential for this particular activity.  Not only is the process so important, the final product will display so nicely in the student or class blog or wiki.  Where do infographics fit with your curriculum?  If you are doing infographic activities with your class, please share challenges and successes below.

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Infographics for Careers

I really like infographics.  I keep hearing of people that don’t and yet they keep on appearing.  In my morning reading on Zite, one of the categories that I visit daily is indeed “Infographics”.

I’m amazed at how interesting the creators of them are.

It’s an attractive way to display statistics and potentially big data.  I know that, when teaching Computer Science, problems that were given to students were most motivating when the desired output was graphics oriented.

Today, I ran across two infographics that got me thinking of a use in a Careers classroom – a subject area that’s always a challenge to find engaging and motivating activities.

The first infographic was “Salaries on the Scene at Fashion Week” where the author takes a look at the various salaries in the fashion industry.  Click the link to see the full infographic.

Almost immediately after I enjoyed this infographic, I ran into “What Really Motivates Employees

Taken together, they made for some interesting reading and deeper thought.

Then it occurred to me.  Why wouldn’t activities like this be a genuine research and productive activity in the Careers Classroom?

At the introductory level, you could look at the infographics online and talk about the content.  There’s certainly a great deal of merit to that but I wouldn’t stop there.

One of the things that a good infographic does is cite its resources at the bottom.  Why wouldn’t you take the resource links (find Canadian equivalent ones if possible) and send the students to the links to look at the raw data and have them create their own infographics to summarize and display the results through their lens.  It would be interesting to compare the statistic interpretation through their eyes as opposed to a commercially developed one.

Of course, you’re going to need tools.  You may find right from the get go that students have the skills to dig into Photoshop Elements (licensed by the Ontario Ministry of Education) right away.

For the others, there are wonderful resources on the web.

And away you go!  As indicated above, I love to collect infographics and infographic resources.  They’re all tucked away in my Diigo account.  Help yourself.

As I’m sure you’ll agree, this just screams to be an activity for groups where skills are shared and brainstorming rules.  Pick a career and you’re off to the races.

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RCAC Workshop

We started this tradition a few years ago and it’s caught on nicely.  The Ontario Software Acquisition Program Advisory Committee meets in London two days in advance of the Western Regional Computer Advisory Committee‘s Symposium conference so that they can join us for that Thursday date. Then, on the Friday, a professional development event is held for the Western RCAC.  Due to its unique appeal to those of us in consulting positions, the RCAC has extended an invitation to OSAPAC and COCA (Central Ontario Computer Association) members as well.

In the past, this was an opportunity to embrace new technologies such as the Ministry of Education’s license of Macromedia Studio MX.  Over the years, it has morphed to take upon a more self-directed, high level activities that allow members to delve more deeply into issues of the day.  Last year, WIll Richardson spent the entire day introducing us, hands-on, to blogging and podcasting and other interesting Web 2.0 technologies.

This year, Leslie Fisher spent the day with us and the Ministry of Education licensed Adobe Photoshop Elements.  Now, she’s got her hands full since the currently licensed version if 4 for the Macintosh and 5 for Windows.  More on that in a moment.

It’s always a treat dealing with airlines.  My first correspondence with Leslie and her travel plans had her arriving in London at 9:30ish.  Somehow, through the magic of airline scheduling, she was going to make her way from Dayton, Ohio and an afternoon gig to us in London.  These really aren’t major stops on any airline’s schedule and there sure aren’t any direct flights from Dayton to London!  However, with a little patience and layover, you get to see either Detroit or Toronto.

Then, I get a message from her that she would be arriving in London at 11:50pm.  Gulp.  If you read this blog, you’ll already know that I’m exhausted and expect to be horizontal at that time.  No problem, though, I’ll just grab a little cat nap and be good to go.  After all, we’re the hosts and our guests shouldn’t have to cab around a new city in the dark.

Then, I’m with my friend Bob moving things around the hotel and the phone rings.  I quickly put my box down but the phone had already gone to voice mail.  Argh.  I look at the missed call and see the Southern California telephone number and now the voice mail.  I dial it up and hear “Hi, Doug, got on an earlier flight.  See you shortly, we’re about to take off.”

From where?

Thankfully, the London International Airport has a great web resource that provides flight times to the public.  So, Bob and I whip into the room and fire it up.  The first available flight is just after 8pm coming from Toronto.  If I leave now, I can just make it and so I do!  As I rush into the terminal, I realize that I don’t have any money to get out of the carpark since I’d helped David Warlick with cab fare earlier!  But, plans come together.  Leslie is indeed on that flight and the ATM in the airport works!  Leslie gets to see what $17 worth of change in one and two dollar coins looks like!

Back to the hotel.  Life’s challenges are over, right?  Well, not quite.  Leslie is far closer to the cutting edge than any of us mere mortals are.  She’s got Photoshop Elements 7 on her computer.  We’re still working with 4 and 5 as noted above.  Ever the geek, I go to these things with both my PC and my Mac.  We decide that she’ll take the PC and I’ll work on my Mac for the event.  Life’s current problem solved.

Leslie Fisher at the RCAC Workshop
Leslie Fisher at the RCAC Workshop

My life for a digital camera this date.  Here’s an image screen captured from my RCA Small Wonder.

After actually reading instructions, we did get my computer and the impressive video setup at the London District Catholic School Board working with each other.  We debate whether to leave my Twhirl client active for the day or not and decide upon the least annoying route.

Then, Leslie does her workshop.  And, what a workshop it was.  I thought that I knew Photoshop Elements and maybe I did know enough to get by.  But, that doesn’t cut it in this class.  Throughout the day, Leslie takes us to areas and shows us features both in the software and in digital photography that we never knew existed.  The important thing is that we you now know they exist, what can you do with them?  Even the most Level 4 folks are totally engaged for the entire day.  It was absolutely amazing.  The challenge is obviously to remember things and to apply them as appropriate.  Fortunately, the entire day was capture on video so that we can enjoy the day over and over.

I’ve been to a lot of PD events of varying qualities.  You really know it when you’re in the hands of a genius and nothing short of that descriptor would describe this event and Leslie skills as a professional development leader.  Wow.

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Photoshop Elements Activity Idea

At the Indy Car website, they have an interesting promotion and there’s no promotion like a sports promotion.

They have made a number of blank templates of cars available and encourage visitors to the site to download and “Design your own Indy Car”. (or helmet or bus or uniform or …) It seems to me this would be a great Photoshop Elements activity with huge media literacy and art implications.

Professional racing will take any sponsors and so you have the change to make your own. Check out the one at this link: A really good reason to explain layers, fonts, manufacturer logos, etc.