Monday, May 2, 2011

Infographics are Like Graphs only FRIED



Data visualization is an important learning tool today, and what’s better, it’s engaging for students, brings lots of important topics together, and will be fun to teach. Check out this video from Hans Rosling to get a 4 minute glimpse of the power of visualizations for learning.

While the video shows a sophisticated use of a video visualization, the core of the data is displayed in an Infographic: “These graphics are used where complex information needs to be explained quickly and clearly . . . " (Wikipedia). And they are HOT HOT HOT. Check out some of these visually stunning examples from “Design You Trust” and then for a simpler example, check out the Energy Star Graphic below:


We see infographics ALL THE TIME. They’ve taken the place of the static visually underwhelming graphs we’ve been using and teaching for years.

Be honest. Which one do you want to study or create:
Infographic above from this site
Yeah, me too!

So how can we get students busy mashing up mathematics, design, and art in a meaningful way? Well, first you have to have a purpose. Use issues that hit close to home for kids, for example:
  • How many people in my community live in poverty versus wealth?
  • What is the nutritional content of the food served in my cafeteria?
  • What is going on in my school library? How many books are checked out? What percentage of the student population uses the library, etc.
  • What are the hot jobs predicted to be when I graduate from college?
  • How often is that villain used? Check out this creative use of an infographic to explore villain appearances in the Doctor Who series.
All of these topics pertinent to teens could be turned into interesting infographics, but where is the free software to make these projects happen? I was hoping you’d ask! Here are some tools to get you started. My list began with this post. Here’s a compiled list of the free sites listed:
  • Many Eyes: View then create your own stunning visualizations. I put this IBM tool first because you might want to stop here and stay.
  • Google Public Data Explorer: Even if you’re going to use Many Eyes to create, show this tool to your students and watch some of the graphics to understand the stories they tell.
  • Statplanet: A “browser-based interactive data visualization and mapping application. Use it to easily and rapidly create visualizations from simple Flash maps to advanced infographics.”
  • Hohli: Online Charts Builder that could get your base data in order before you spice it up in Glogster, Wix, or some other publishing program.
  • Creately: Collaborative diagramming with templates
  • Tableau Public: Unlike most software I recommend, this one requires a download. However, it looks so cool and powerful, I thought I’d list it anyway. The video on the home page is worth watching. Allows web publishing after the graphic is created. Check out their examples.
  • Strip Generator and Wordle are worth mentioning even if to add another graphic element to a full Infographical display like this.

If you decide to use an infographics assignment in your classroom, please let me know. I’d love to hear how it goes! Check out Daily Infographic for even more inspiration.
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