Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Creating Infographic Visuals with Easel.ly

A previous post about using Gapminder World to visualise data, highlighted lots of ways to consume and analyse patterns in data. The most powerful way for students to understand a concept is to use data to create a visual representation. This technique encourages deep thinking and forces students to draw out the main points and then convey them to an audience.

This post therefore looks at creating an infographic with Easel.ly. This is the easiest and yet most functional tool I have come across so far. Easel.ly allows you to drop and drag from collections of symbols, change colours, annotate and duplicate. If students log into the website they can save edits and then download a jpeg of their work.

WHAT ARE INFOGRAPHICS?



CREATING AN INFOGRAPHIC

Before you begin a project with your students it is important to step back and look a few infographic examples. Websites such as Visual.ly and the work of David McCandless and his website Information is Beautiful provide some great examples. Ask you students to rate them using the following criteria, which I have borrowed from the following website - Rubric for Effective Infographic (UMW FSEM)

Usefulness: A useful infographic should have a clear purpose present, the data should come from a reliable source, the display of data should be proportional to the values (i.e., it should avoid data distortion), and the graphic should relate to the audience (i.e, it should meet the needs of the intended audience). 
Legibility: A legible graphic should have a general aspect in the areas such as labels, axes, font, and contrast. Font would vary in size depending on the importance of the content and be an appropriate type. Axes and labels generally go together so use them when needed; include a scale when appropriate. Contrast should help with the clarity. So these bring a basis for what makes a legible graph. 
Design: An effective infographic must use most of the available space, utilize color where needed, and present the information in the graph in a useful (containing a purpose), legible (conveys the data clearly) and aesthetically pleasing and interesting way. The choice of graphic needs to be appropriate for the data. 
Aesthetics: In order to make an infographic aesthetically appealing you need to first make sure all of the data is organized. That is, avoid clutter or information overload. The organization of the infographic should have clear purpose to the viewer, avoiding confusion. Once the infographic is organized, it directly correlates with the overall attractiveness. If it’s easy to understand, it is easy on the eyes; in other words the infographic is attractive. Once the organization and attractiveness are achieved, the interestingness comes naturally. Add colors or small images to ultimately make an infographic aesthetically pleasing.

USING EASEL.LY FOR CREATING INFOGRAPHICS

Easel.ly comes with a series of themes, which are either useful starting points for students or they will constrain the students thinking. My feeling is that a clean slate is the best starting point for a creative project. 
  1. Ensure students login with school email address so that their work can be saved
  2. Click on a the first chart to begin and then drag and delete the object
  3. Explore the objects button and explore the different category
  4. Change the colour on an object
  5. Add text boxes, graph outlines, or even maps from objects.
  6. Click on the save button
  7. Then click home button once finished. 
  8. Click on the share button to download or to send someone a link to your infographic.
  9. You could create a Picasa Web Gallery and ask the students to upload thier image, and then use the commenting functions and the above rubric for guiding feedback.

Simple example which I created from this Economist Article on Japan

Visualising Data with Gapminder World

Data is an important quantitative tool in many subjects including Geography and Economics and it helps our students understand trends, patterns and the contrasts that exist in the world. Student's ability to visualise and therefore interpret data is becoming an important skill at the intersection of the arts, maths and humanities disciplines.

This blog post, looks at ways to help students interpret data through effective use of the Gapminder Tool. A subsequent post in this series "Creating Infographic Visuals with Easel.lyexplains how to create infographic visuals with Easel.ly which help them showcase their understanding.



Techniques for using Gapminder in the classroom

Gapminder World is the utopia of online statistical tools, that enables students to construct and interpret scatter diagrams with a range of human development statistics. The amazing aspect is that they can drag the data back in time, showing a 4th dimension to the pattern. Our students also have GapMinder Desktop installed on their MacBooks, enabling offline access.



Top Tips for using GapMinder

  • Remember to change the indicator on each axis
  • See this link for the full list of indicators, or to download the raw data.
  • If you like a graph, save the URL into a Google Doc for future reference
  • Click on two or three different countries to simplify the view.
  • Drag the timeline back, and see the trails of data. 
  • Ask students questions about the direction of change, what is the correlation, cause and effect.
  • Hover the cursor over each circle to see the data and to see the axis statistical values.
  • Need a lesson on correlation and causality? See the brilliant Khan Academy.

Going deeper with GapMinder - Skitch

  • Try using programs such as Skitch with students to help them annotate the GapMinder diagram to highlight correlations and the main points. This technique forces students to think more deeply about the data, trends and patterns.
  • Students can save these into their notes or assignment. 


Screen Recording and GapMinder - Quicktime

  • To really push students, you need to make them think more deeply about the connections an trends in the data. Ideally you want to glimpse into their thinking processes (metacognition).
  • You can do this by asking them to use the Screen Recording functions within Quicktime, and to answer a question such as "describe two countries, one that follows the correlation and another that does not and the relationship between the data"
  • The student will record a short clip of them speaking, whilst also clicking and dragging the GapMinder gadget. Whilst you might not access this video explicitly the level of thinking required really pushes students who are comfortable writing something but find it harder to verbalise thier thinking.