Monday, November 21, 2011

Edsign: Infographics As Literacy

For magazine subscribers and blog aficionados, infographics may seem ubiquitous these days as fads for the design intelligentsia. For our students, however, infographics are brand new. The notion of a dynamic visualization, riddled with appealing facts, is almost too-good-to-be-true for our modern learners. Infographics can dazzle children with their neon hues and wry caricatures, and when expertly constructed, they can provide an innovative glimpse at complex data.

Putting together an effective graphic is difficult, especially when the audience is under 18 years old. Crafting images and ideas to educate young learners involves a full complement of teacher skills. We call this approach "edsign."

Edsign is the design of information for education. It is the shaping of concepts for the most successful delivery to learners. Edsign involves filtering the "need to know" from the "nice to know." It requires careful planning about what elements to present, in what order, and in what lingo. Edsign applies the talents of the teacher to present details in a logical, dynamic, permanent way that grabs the student's attention and internalizes the key take-aways.

A great resource about the benefits of data visualization is this short video from Column Five. It's been making the rounds of some excellent blogs, but it's worth a look if you haven't seen it - and our students most likely haven't.

The Value of Data Visualization from Column Five on Vimeo.

Infographics can be the epitome of edsign. Good infographics are amalgamators of charts, graphics, icons, symbols, and fonts. They are arresting ways of uniting visual and analytical tools to broadcast clear, data-driven messages.

Bad infographics, however, rely on spash over substance. They ignore the lessons of rigorous graphs and instead blur analysis in the name of pop appeal. Attention to detail is absolutely necessary in creating a quality graphic. Hastily assembled images can lead to misinformation and inaccuracies.
Source: Think Brilliant

We try not to rely on flashy visuals without also emphasizing the analytical skills that students should be developing across every grade level. Ideally, we would be able to infuse daily lessons with examples of graphics that shed light on modern technology or popular consumerism. Teaching learners how to decode infographics is crucial to understanding facets of meaning.

Our students are accustomed to seeing percentages in their textbooks and arrows on their PowerPoints. These are the building blocks of edsign. High quality visuals provide an easy progression from children's comfort zones to more layered, analytical interactions that at once excite the eye and engage the mind. They can enlighten learners through a form of literacy that emphasizes critical thinking, communication, and creativity.

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