Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Design Of Political Cartoons

"Next!" Puck Magazine, 1904. Source: Wikipedia
Thomas Nast
Magazines such as Puck and Harper’s Weekly established themselves as signature publications of the Progressive Era through their opinion-making political cartoons and celebrity artists. A good political cartoon succeeds based on its combination of image design and concise information delivery. The two essential questions to ask students when interpreting a cartoon are:
  1. What do we see in this image?
  2. What do these symbols and words tell us about the artist's opinion? 
Online archives offer great tools to examine past events through primary sources. Cartoons today are also invaluable in comparing points of view about national news stories and teaching perspective and opinion to young learners.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Infographics In The Classroom

An infographic is a visual representation of facts or ideas. Typically colorful and creative, infographics depict details and numbers in easily understood, attention-grabbing ways. Wikipedia points to the ability of information graphics to “present complex information quickly and clearly.”

Infographics are fun to look at, and they are great for teaching. Infographics divide ideas into categories. For example, they can reveal changes in public opinions or chart the popularity of websites.
Bold hues, expressive fonts, and nifty layouts all combine to make dynamic, eye-catching graphics that convey specific messages to the viewer.

Author: Serge Esteves

Monday, June 27, 2011

Signs Of The Times

The New York Times frequently features excellent graphics in its news analysis. Its explanations of the Fukushima plant disaster helped educate readers about nuclear science and radiation risk. Its maps and political charts regularly add insights to daily issues under discussion. Online, the New York Times site offers interactive graphics about topics such as immigration changes or Netflix queues or Olympic medals. In the Op-Ed pages, regular contributor Charles M. Blow delivers astute commentary through his “Op Chart” column.
Source: The New York Times
We find all of these infographics catchy and appealing, and our students do, too. They are a great way to highlight discussions of current events in the classroom. They help make difficult news and economic concepts more approachable.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Current Events Through Graphics

Weeklies such as Time, BusinessWeek, and The Economist all feature full-page infographics to encapsulate the main ideas behind their cover stories.
Source: BusinessWeek
Political platforms, census data, and financial metrics all come to life with vivid colors and easy-to-read numbers that engage the eye. Creative graphics, just like editorial cartoons, emerge from long paragraphs of text to convey quick take-away messages that remain in readers’ and students’ minds.

For example, last month we used the Time storm tracker maps to make sense of the recent devastating natural disasters affecting the nation.
Source: Time Magazine
Infographics are good to share for a quick five-minute opener to a Monday lesson, or for layering into Prezi or SMARTboard presentations. Also, students get used to recognizing infographics and begin to include them in their own reports.

We’ll try often to share graphics in the news that we use in our classrooms.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Visual Immediacy

Regardless of medium or era, education has always been the act of offering information for acquisition. “Learning” is the individual process, where one internalizes new concepts or skills. “Education,” though, is the active delivery – the technique of shaping and structuring ideas by an instructor so they are assumed readily and permanently by a student.

The two most obvious changes in educational delivery over the past 15 years have been the visual representation and immediacy of information.

Communication has advanced along an accelerating continuum from the town crier to the printing press to the telephone, radio, television, and Internet. The change in fact-finding, however, is different from simple communication.
The New Bloom's Taxonomy - Author: Samantha Penney
Information channeling today is other-dimensional compared to the patterned practice of 20 years ago. In 1990, when a student needed to write a report on penguins or General Motors, he or she was dutifully dropped off at the library by a parent and picked up eight hours later with a folder of Xeroxes and microfiche printouts. Today the rapid and overwhelming access to information leads to a host of questions regarding accuracy, propriety, and property. Also, these facts and opinions are typically encountered on the visual screen.

Howard Gardner’s learning styles seem somewhat quaint today now that every child is a visual learner. An updated system should be called “Visual+”, meaning “visual” and then some other intelligence. From infancy, kids are babysat by televisions. They absorb fairy tales from picture books and point to themselves in their own digital photographs. As teachers, we, too, rely on the immediate, pictorial nature of facts when we need to find a quick historical photograph in Wikimedia or search directions on Google Maps or snap a QR code with our smartphones.

We try to remember that if we as teachers aren't using something anymore, it seems strange to make our students use it -- just because "we did it when we were their age."

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Innovation, Design, and Education

After months of research and planning that began with a simple idea of teaching others about designing information, we are launching our first post as the American Society for Innovation Design in Education (ASIDE). Our mission is simple. The underpinning of good design is based on looking at the information available and communicating meaning for a world of learners that crosses over all aspects of education. This is especially true with regard to information today.

We also realized that finding the available resources to support our goal of providing a place for teachers and students to obtain what they needed was not in any one particular place, but scattered throughout the web and not easy come by when searching. Many of the scholarly articles we uncovered regarding education were also dated and provided scant follow through with current curriculum design. In addition, many of the websites were geared to the professional graphic designer or the high school student entering a career in the same profession.

Our decision to start ASIDE is to bring together as much information, resources and supportive scholarship in one place for teaching and learning. Design is not just an aesthetic, but instead is a process of taking a concept from its formative state to its final outcome. Thinking like a designer can transform the way children learn. Our hope is that ASIDE becomes a forum for sharing ideas and best practices with others.

Mission Statement

Innovative design crosses over all aspects of education. The American Society for Innovation Design in Education (ASIDE) seeks to infuse curriculum with new approaches to teaching and thinking. Integrating the design of information into the daily conversation is no different from integrating technology into the 21st-century classroom. It is an essential part of the teacher's toolkit. Design is not just an aesthetic but instead is a process of taking a concept from its formative state to its final outcome. The underpinning of good educational design is based on looking at the information available and communicating meaning for a world of learners. Thinking like a designer can transform the way children learn. ASIDE's goal is to share resources and ideas with citizens, students, and teachers.
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