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Information … graphically? August 18, 2012

Posted by IaninSheffield in research, Resources, Teaching Idea.
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byod infographic

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo by ianguest: http://flickr.com/photos/ianinsheffield/7803317018/

I outlined in the preceding post the results of a survey of our students; one aspect of the preparation for our forthcoming BYOD programme. But how to reflect the outcomes back for the various constituents? A report for the Senior Leadership Team? A blog post for the staff? A poster for the students themselves?

And that’s when I realised here was the authentic opportunity I’d been looking for to create my first infographic. A single output suitable for all audiences … and therefore a challenge indeed. So what would be my weapon of choice for such an undertaking. Well the data was already in a Google form, which has its own output option; whilst this isn’t too bad for the numerical aspects of the survey, it’s less than good in showing the free-text responses. Of the other tools, Infogr.am has been stealing the march on generating data visualisations just recently, but didn’t quite offer the features I needed to display the two different data types. In the end another imperative drove my choice and nudged me towards the ‘old-school’ approach with an offline application. A good few years ago, I became quite adept in using vector graphic applications and specifically CorelDraw (if I tell you I was using version 8, this article will give you a clue as to when that was!). I’ve allowed those skills to decline, am in great need of a refresher and recently became aware of Inkscape, an open source vector graphics editor. Reasons aplenty then.

Then reality kicked in! My ‘designer gene’ has always been somewhat dormant and inspiration often eludes me, though as I learned on “edtechcc“, having never really studied nor mastered the design process, there’s an awful lot to it (kudos to Design Tech teachers!). In the end then, it was more a matter of synthesising the data, translating into a more visual form and reducing its complexity somewhat, rather than making it as beautiful as David McCandless might. I hope however that I’ve at least started my journey towards making data more accessible by thinking about:

the creative organization, styling and presentation of information with the goal of increasing interest, readability and comprehension beyond that of pure text.

Joshua Johnson

Knowing the time it took to put together even this simple affair, the skills I had to develop with Inkscape, the interpretation and reimagining of the data and especially the creativity (albeit limited in my case!) involved in choosing and deploying a design, making an infographic would surely provide a worthy challenge for our students?

Data … in absentia December 4, 2010

Posted by IaninSheffield in Inspiration, Teaching Idea, Tools, Web 2.0.
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snow depth

How deep was your snow?

School has been closed for three days this week; quite an unusual situation for us.  I’m looking forward to exploring how much the technology we provide has ameliorated the potential loss of learning.  Initial figures from our VLE are encouraging, then there’s the Learning Platform and email traffic to consider … but that’s for a later post perhaps.  Inspired by a post from Tom Barrett, as I often am, and given the uniqueness of the situation, I wondered whether there would be any value in trying to capture a similar snapshot for our little community.

My first concern was that our students don’t necessarily have Google accounts as part of our provision, though they may of course have set up one independently of school.  In order to post on the map in the way Tom describes, I’d first need to guide them through creating an account – not impossible, but perhaps putting in place a barrier to a successful outcome.  So instead, I elected to make the data capture as simple as possible and use a Google form to collect the data.  Only two questions: depth of snow and postcode. I later wished I’d added a third field to capture some aspect of where within our school community the respondent was located – maybe year group or form perhaps. It might have provided a little information about who is likely to act on information presented in the following way.  I considered sending an email to all students, including a link to the form and explaining what we trying to do.  But then I thought it might be more interesting to embed the form in our learning platform home page and see how many students (and staff?) would take the trouble to undertake the task without prompting – another reason for keeping things as simple as possible.  It also meant I could provide the developing Google map together with the form.

You’ll by now have realised that my not so ‘cunning plan’ has a flaw. How does the data get from the spreadsheet behind the Google form into the map?  Well given the nature of the interlinking of Google Apps, I guess it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that data fom the two fields could be fed directly into a Google Map. Not beyond possibility maybe, but certainly beyond my meagre capabilities!  So the transfer was done manually, but this also meant I could ‘shift’ the locations slightly from those provided by entering the postcode into the map search box and thereby offer an extra layer of ‘privacy’ for respondents by providing a more general location for their data.  Locating the form within our learning platform also meant that incoming data could be restricted to our community; perhaps not quite in the spirit of global learning, but for our first tentative steps in crowd-sourcing data, a little more control is perhaps more reassuring.

Was it successful?  Well during the two days since the form was deployed, 75 students and/or staff posted data. I’m quite pleased with that, especially since there was neither fanfare nor publicity.  Is that it?  Although it was an interesting exercise in it’s own right, perhaps we can wring a little more learning from the data?

  • Maths: Plenty of opportunities to refer to the Data Handling elements within various specifications. In addition to manipulating the data, its veracity might be interrogated – to what extent is it likely to be reliable?
  • Geography: Are there any relationships between snow depth and location, terrain etc?
  • English: super idea posted as a comment on Tom’s post from Candace Shively
  • ICT: Data, information and databases – investigate this as a data collection method; strengths, weaknesses, errors etc.
  • Languages: for number practice, display the map large screen, click on a flake and pupils have to respond to “Quelle est la profondeur de la neige” for example.

It’ll be interesting to see where our little snow depth map turns up in lessons … and whether this type of exercise offers potential for future explorations.  Thanks again to Tom for lighting the spark.