Sunday, July 1, 2012

Helping Students Represent Data: The Infographic

The TED Talk that Showed What Was Possible
In July, 2010 David McCandless gave this wonderful TED Talk about the importance of representing data visually.  The best part of the talk was near the end when McCandless talked about how looking at data can change your perspective.  The dataset can change your mindset.  When you change your mind, you change your behavior.  If we want students to be creative, we need to show them how to see the world from different perspectives; creating infographics is one way to see the world through a different pair of eyes. 

What is the Difference Between and Infographic and a Data Visualization?
This article from Business 2 Community breaks down the basic difference between an infographic and data visualization; if you care.

In other words, the real difference between these guys is in the process. For data vis, it’s about visually representing raw numbers and using those visualizations to come to interesting conclusions. For an infographic, it’s about curating already processed data.

Infographics in the Classroom:

Ultimate Guide to Infographics:  Kathy Schrock's website is a comprehensive and invaluable resource of teaching students about infographics.  The part that I liked the most, besides the numerous resources, was that students study infographics, critique their effectiveness and then begin producing their own.  If you only visit one website, this is the one!

5 Great Ways to Use Infographics:  A five step process to using infographics in the classroom.  This site also contains a link to Kathy Schrock's website and the McCandless TED Talk above.

Why Infographics Matter:  The Value of Data Visualization makes a compelling case for how infographics exploit visual clues like color, size, and graphic orientation to help us understand complex stories. Naturally, they use infographics to do it. Without further ado check out there short video.

Getting Started with Infographics:  Media and publishing professionals know that infographics are hugely popular, and are more likely to be shared via social media than a standard blog post or article. By combining images with data, infographics get much more mileage than text or graphics alone. You can use them for news, presentations, or press releases on your company blog or website to attract publicity and show off your expertise.

Consuming and Critiquing Infographics:

Learning Visually:  Another site that offers a number of infographics for students to consume and critique.  This is a good site to use to build up your library of infographics.

Chart Porn:  Alright, so the name of the website is not one you would share with your students but this website contains a vast amount of data visualizations covering more than 20 categories.

Quite Useful:  12 more sites you can use to find infographics and visuals to use in your classroom.

12 Intriguing Uses of Infographics:  "Infographics are everywhere. It seems as if they stormed out of the very recent Internet-connected past.  But if you think about it, the illustrated flow charts cavemen must have drawn on stone walls to demonstrate how to track and kill a wooly mammoth were really just infographics. They just weren’t called that back then. What the latest technology and design allow, however, are many wonderful new uses for these handy, attractive conveyors of data."

Creating Infographics:

8 Steps to Creating an Infographic:  Infographics have been one of the hottest forms of content marketing for quite some time now.  They benefit brands by boosting overall content marketing efforts, and benefit readers by showcasing data and other useful information in a visual format.  Michael Biondo of Mainstreethost has created an infographic on how to make infographics.

How to Create Outstanding Modern Infographics:  A step-by-step tutorial teaching how to use various graph tools, illustration techniques and typography to make an accurate and inspiring infographic.

The Anatomy of an Inforgraphic:  A walk of through the anatomy of an infographic, its different levels and sub-levels and a 5-step process to ensure that your infographic is not only conceptually sound, but accurate and easily understood.

Wordle and other word cloud programs:  Word Clouds are great tool to gather data on your own writing.  Kevin Hodgson recently blogged about using word clouds with his own fiction writing and his students persuasive essays.

 Piktochart:  Have graphics tell a story from your information. With a lite set of professional design tools, Piktochart helps you create presentations to engage your web audience. Combine themes, shapes, icons, vectors, text, uploaded images, chart exporter (8 types of visualizations) to create the story you want.  Create and share visuals online.  vhemes are visual themes.  Drag and drop a vheme onto a canvas for easy creation of a visual idea. is currently in beta.  You can create four basic chart types:  bar, line, pie and matrix.  Use information you have collected in a spreadsheet and upload to your account.  The information will be represented in a customized chart.  You will be able to embed the visual in a website to share with others.  Explore, create and share data visualizations. is building a tool that will allow you to create professional quality designs with your own data. And when you’re ready to show your work to the world, publish it on your profile, your own personal showcase.

Sites that Provide Data Sets for Students to Compare:

Gapminder:  A great tool for visualizing data sets.  With hundreds of economic and demographic indicators, visual learners can see data in context.  Gapminder has support for teachers to help with the implementation of data sets in the classroom.

Datamasher:  Choose two different data sets and then mash them together to analyze trends.

 Better World Flux:  build an ideal composite of what you think matters in life by selecting the indicators, track the progress of countries and the world over the years and find interesting trends and patterns, save and share your most compelling visualization and discover what others are sharing and have a conversation and see which countries need the most help and find the ideal country to live in based on your preferences.

TargetMap:  Create customized Data Maps, locate & see your Excel data on GoogleMaps and share & enrich your knowledge. Just choose a country and a way to create your map by color, type values or by uploading your excel files.

ManyEyes:  Create visualizations based on your own data or use data sets collected by IBM. This is a good site if you just want to view different visualizations or have your students analyze different data visualizations.

Google Public Data Directory:  Google's Public Data Explorer uses data from 80 public data sets. The Public Data Explorer allows users to create visual representations and visual comparisons of data sets. Each visualization is given a URL and an embeddable code so that the data can be shared in blogs and websites.

 StatSilk:   Increasingly government institutions and organizations are releasing data free of charge. Through StatSilk’s StatWorld and the first-prize winning StatPlanet World Bank, interactive visualizations of thousands of indicators can be explored and analyzed. Lack of Internet connectivity does not need to be a barrier, as there are desktop and web versions.

Data and Maps:

Map A List: Map a List is a free tool that turns a Google Spreadsheet information into Google Maps placemarks. If you have a Google Docs account, you can use a spreadsheet to create a map from the data.  Map a List will walk you through the process of turning addresses on a spreadsheet into a visualization on a map.

World Map:  World Map is a free program developed by the Center for Geographic Analysis at Harvard University where you can build mapped data visualizations.  World Map provides more than 1800 data sets.  To create a map you can use these data sets or upload one of your own.  You have a choice of five default base maps to build upon or you can create your map from scratch, layer by layer.  Finished maps can be embedded into a website, printed or viewed in Google Earth.

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