The hardest bit, I’ve found, of creating an infographic is (perhaps obviously) working out how to visualize the data in a meaningful way. The problem with the raw data presented in this competition was that there were 3 SAT scores (reading, maths, writing) and that a meaningful correlation would assume an inverse relationship between this and teacher/student ratio.
In other words I had to figure out a way of plotting something increasing whilst the other decreased.
After a bit of playing around fruitlessly, I settled on the infographic at the top of this post. I’ve a few days left to change it a bit if necessary, but I think that it does, on the whole, do what’s required of it.
I’m never going to win the competition (a copy of David McCandless’ The Visual Miscellaneum) but, like entering a half-marathon or a 5k to focus your running routine, it’s still worth doing! 😀
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I’ve been thinking a lot about the future recently and my career trajectory. I’m not sure I want to stay in schools forever and, perhaps, even in education. To that end, I’ve been exploring other avenues. One such avenue is the world of infographics:
Information graphics or infographics are visual representations of information, data or knowledge. These graphics are used where complex information needs to be explained quickly and clearly, such as in signs, maps, journalism, technical writing, and education. They are also used extensively as tools by computer scientists, mathematicians, and statisticians to ease the process of developing and communicating conceptual information.
Over the last week or so I’ve been playing about with a few applications that can be used to create infographics. Whilst some, such as ManyEyes, are almost self-explanatory and produce results like this:
…it takes something a bit more sophisticated to produce this:
The creator of the above used the (thankfully free and Open Source) software program Processing. However, the words ‘steep’ and ‘learning curve’ spring to mind, so I may have to buy a book to teach me. :-p
Of course, infographics don’t have to be amazingly flashy to convey information effectively. Check out the Wordle created from my Ed.D. thesis (as it currently stands) below:
Finally, programs such as OpenOffice, Powerpoint and Keynote can be used to create infographics. I created the following in Keynote as a practice – it shows average Primary classroom sizes across OECD countries. It took me a couple of hours – the most fiddly part is aligning everything!
The most important thing, of course, is to have reliable data. The above was created after studying Education at a Glance: OECD Indicators. The second most important thing is to represent the data in a way that makes interepretation easy and obvious. The third thing is that it should look pretty… 😉
Have I whetted your appetite for infographics? I hope to publish some more here soon, but in the meantime, check out these excellent infographics-related blogs:
These last few weeks have been difficult for me. Being promoted quickly is great but comes at the expense of very steep learning curves! 😮
That’s when quotations mashed with images like the ones above are useful to spur me on. I’ve just used an online poster-printing service to get a bunch printed for my office. There more images like the one above available at the Flickr group entitled Great quotes about Learning and Change. 🙂
What are YOUR favourite images or quotations relating to motivation/productivity?
I first came across 12seconds.tv last year when it was in ‘Alpha’. It was an interesting diversion at the time, but I didn’t use it much and quickly forgot about it. Recently, I’ve noticed my email inbox filling up with notifications that people were following me on 12seconds.tv.
Thinking it was worth another look I’ve put together this ’12 ways of using 12seconds.tv in education’. Please feel free to add your own! 🙂
I’m not sure whether it was because I was new to the profession, but it was during my teaching practices that I attended two in-service training events that have had a profound inuence on my teaching. The first, about the use of body language and voice in the classroom I shall share in a future post. This post builds on Learning objectives: the basics, and concerns the second: the use of trigger verbs when framing lesson objectives.
It’s important to use these ‘trigger verbs’ – words that relate specifically to actions – when framing learning objectives for (or indeed, with) students. Sometimes, however, it’s difficult to know which trigger verbs to use. Is, for example, interpreting a high-order skill than categorizing?
The document below () is based on an original by Ron Rooney of the Education Development Service and provides some clarification. Let me say in advance that I’m aware that some people believe that Synthesis and Evaluation should switch positions from that given in Bloom’s original taxonomy. I’m just providing the document largely as it was given to me. 🙂
You should have the options to both download this as a Microsoft Word-formatted document and print it using the buttons below the table. ‘KS3’ and ‘GCSE’ stand for ‘Key Stage 3’ and ‘General Certificate of Secondary Education’ respectively. You can remove or change these if they are not relevant to where you are or what you’re doing!
What do you think? Is this useful? Is it out of date? :-p
Although I’m progressing well with my Ed.D. thesis, I do feel sometimes as though what I’m reading is adding epicycles on top of epicycles, rather than cutting (Copernicus-like) to the chase. Take, for example, definitions of digital literacy. For me to be able to deal with these systematically and critically, I need a bedrock definition of literacy upon which to base any criticism. What follows is a draft section of my thesis that aims to deal with just that. The quotation in bold towards the end is the definition of ‘literacy’ I’m thinking of using to base the rest of my thesis upon. :-p
Claire Bélisle (in Martin, 2008:156) identifies three conceptions in the evolution of our concept of ‘literacy’. First is the model favoured by UNESCO, the functional model. This conceives of literacy as the ‘mastery of simple cognitive and practical skills.’ Most theorists in the literature – and especially those who espouse ‘new literacies’ – would see this as a definition of competence, not literacy. Thus, ‘digital competence’ could involve a basic understanding of how the internet works (e.g. hyperlinks) and having the practical skills to be able to navigate it.
The second model in the evolution of literacy cited by Bélisle is the socio-cultural practice model. This model takes as its basis that ‘the concept of literacy is only meaningful in terms of its social context and that to be literate is to have access to cultural, economic and political structures of society’ (quoted in Martin, 2008:156). This seems to make sense: that individuals have to be literate for something. A rejoinder might be that we could conceive of someone who was ‘literate’ marooned in the middle of nowhere. However, as Lemke reminds us:
Even if we are lost in the woods, with no material tools, trying to find our way or just make sense of the plants or stars, we are still engaged in making meanings with cultural tools such as language (names of flowers or constellations) or learned genres of visual images (flower drawings or star maps). We extend forms of activity that we have learned by previous social participation to our present lonely situation. (Lemke, 2002:36-7)
Within the digital sphere, the socio-cultural practice model makes sense. It deals specifically with the disenfranchisement felt by those not literate within a given domain. The model can also explain how hegemonic power can be grasped or maintained by those with access to literacy tools. A good example of the latter would be the Catholic church in Europe in the medieval period. The model is also a useful call-to-arms for those concerned about liberty and equality in society – in other words, social justice. It provides an arena for discourse about the importance of literacy in living a productive and rewarding life.
There are, however, problems with the socio-cultural practice model of literacy. It deals with literacy as an ideology more than as a practical skill. As a result, the constructive, creative and critical elements of the 8 C’s are only alluded to whilst the cultural, communicative and civic aspects are focused upon. The cognitive element is not addressed, nor is the link between literacy and confidence. The socio-cultural practice model of literacy does not, therefore, have sufficient explanatory power to be used as the bedrock for new literacies.
The final stage in the evolution of literacy, according to Bélisle, is the intellectual empowerment model. This deals with the link between new tools and new ways of thinking:
Literacy not only provides means and skills to deal with written texts and numbers within specific cultural and ideological contexts, but it brings a profound enrichment and eventually entails a transformation of human thinking capacities. This intellectual empowerment happens whenever mankind endows itself with new cognitive tools, such as writing, or with new technical instruments, such as those that digital technology has made possible. (Bélisle, 2006: 54-55, quoted in Martin, 2008:156)
This ‘meta-level’ view of literacy certainly deals with the cognitive element of the 8C’s as well as, to some extent, the critical and communicative aspects. The cultural and creative elements are inferred, but no specific mention is given to the civic, constructive and confidence aspects of literacy.
If these conceptions of literacy have indeed ‘evolved’ from one another then they are additive; they build upon one another. If this is the case, then the functional, socio-cultural practice, and intellectual empowerment models of literacy together deal with the earlier-derived 8C’s. Putting them together, we would get a definition of literacy similar to the following:
Literacy involves the mastery of simple cognitive and practical skills. To be ‘literate’ is only meaningful within a social context and involves having access to the cultural, economic and political structures of a society. In addition to providing the means and skills to deal with written texts, literacy brings about a transformation in human thinking capacities. This intellectual empowerment happens as a result of new cognitive tools (e.g. writing) or technical instruments (e.g. digital technologies).
This definition would seem to satisfy the 8C’s outlined earlier, dealing with the cultural, communicative, cognitive, civic, constructive, creative, confidence, and critical aspects of literacy.
Now that a working definition of literacy has been arrived at based on the literature, we need to test it against the four conditions outlined earlier that would make for a valid definition of digital literacy. This is because digital literacy is necessarily predicated upon a bedrock definition of ‘literacy’. To recap:
‘Cash value’ – it must be useful and must be able to make a difference in practice.
Retrospective nature – it must include past (and future) instances of ‘digitally-literate practice.’
Metaphorical nature – its position to other metaphorical terms in the literate practices arena must be explained adequately.
Digital element – advocates must be able to explain to what the ‘digital’ part of ‘digital literacy’ pertains.
The definition of literacy has the potential to deal adequately with the ‘digital’ part of ‘digital literacy’ in that it acknowledges that changes can take place as a result of new ‘cognitive tools’ and ‘technical instruments’. Likewise, the definition can deal with both past and future instances of literate practices, as it mentions the ‘transformation in human thinking capacities’ that literacy brings about. Given that literacy is altered by the aforementioned cognitive tools and technical instruments, changes in the latter produce changes in the former. The metaphorical aspect of literacy is dealt with through its explanation that ‘the concept of literacy is only meaningful in terms of its social context’. The ‘cash value’ of the definition could be seen to be a call to action due to literacy involving gaining ‘access to cultural economic and political structures of society’ .
Lemke, J.L. (2002) ‘Becoming the Village: Education Across Lives’ (in G. Wells & G. Claxton (eds.) Learning for Life in the 21st Century)
Martin, A. (2008) ‘Digital Literacy and the “Digital Society”‘ (in Lankshear, C. & Knobel, M., Digital Literacies: Concepts, Policies and Practices)
You can read my thesis as it progresses here and view notes I’ve made on my wiki here. 😀
I’d love to mark blogs (or even Google Wave) rather than exercise books. In my previous school I used Posterous-powered blogs with my Year 10 History class. However, in some situations it’s just not practical for various reasons. This isn’t the post to go into the ins and outs of why this is the case. This is the post that explains how I mark books with some justification behind my actions. One reason for putting my system online is to get feedback as to how I can improve it.
Let me just say right from the outset that I don’t mark as often as other teachers. Or as often as they claim to, anyway. In fact, during these half-term holidays is the first time I’ve marked my classes’ books this year. I would have ordinarily have liked to look at them before now (after 2-3 lessons) but setting up a new Academy kind eats into any free time you’ve got…
One more thing by way of context. It’s usual, but not universal, in England for Key Stage 3 students – whom I’m talking about here – to get one lesson of History (my subject) per week. Marking their books at the end of the half-term means they’ve got a maximum of 6 lessons work in there.
With that out of the way, let me explain how I go about marking. I do it in two ‘waves’:
In the first wave I’m concentrating on the following:
Completion of work
Understanding of key concepts
Spelling of key words
Factual errors (to correct)
If I notice a pattern across books (either all or a subset of them) then this informs my teaching and/or direction of Learning Support Assistants.
I used to mark in green, after hearing that some students find red a ‘confrontational’ colour. However, after having students in two separate schools complain about this, I’m back on the red. That’s handy, as green pens are more expensive and harder to get hold of!
Sometimes I fall into the trap of ‘ticking’ work. There’s really no point in this, but I do it to reassure students that I’ve seen a piece of work that doesn’t really require any comment. I focus my time and effort on things that are likely to make a difference to their learning. Sometimes this is reinforcing/correcting understanding of a key concept; sometime it’s encouraging a student; sometimes it’s drawing attention to spelling of key words. It depends on what you’re teaching and who the student is.
Once I’ve been through exercise books with a red pen, I revisit them (the ‘second wave’). The purpose of this is to:
Make a summative comment on how each individual student is doing.
Inform the student on work that’s missing from their book.
Highlight 3 ways they can improve.
Enter data into a grid showing homework completion.
Add notes, comments and indicative levels to my (online, Google Docs-powered) gradebook
Before I started to do this (or an iteration of it) I noticed that students wouldn’t read the comments I made on books. Having an obvious bookmark (such as that provided by the full-page feedback) gets them reading what I’ve said. By observing a colleague at my previous school I’ve also realised the importance of building time into a subsequent lesson to let them read what you’ve said. :-p
This marking system takes time. The thing that actually takes the most time is the chasing up of books that haven’t been handed in for marking, students who haven’t completed homework, and monitoring the catch-up work of absentees. Once students get used to the system, however, they seem to like it. After all, they know that I’ve been through their books carefully and given personalised feedback. They appreciate that. 🙂
Comments? Suggestions? Use the comments section below!
I tried to do something very simple yesterday. Surprisingly, it caused me a bit of a headache. What was it? I just wanted to subscribe to some blogs via email.
Why would I want to subscribe to blogs via email? Well, for all I love Feedly, I have to go to a different location to access this. This involves a physical and conceptual shift. Making blog posts (or links to them) appear in my email inbox means I can’t really ignore them. In other words, I’m more likely to keep up-to-date.
However, when I went to subscribe to some blogs the option to subscribe by email wasn’t available to me (necessitating the use of xFruits) or seemed to be available but then didn’t work.
It’s trivial (and free!) to enable readers to subscribe via email to your blog. Here’s how:
1. Go to Feedburner and login using your Google account.
2. ‘Burn’ (i.e. add) your feed to Feedburner (you can find your feed URL by clicking on the RSS icon to the right in your address bar when you visit your blog):
3. Within Feedburner, click on the ‘Publicize’ tab and then on ‘Email subscriptions’ on the left-hand side:
4. Follow the (clear) instructions as to how to proceed. It shows you how you can add the option to subscribe via email to your blog’s sidebar.
5. Click on the ‘Optimize’ tab within Feedburner and then ‘BrowserFriendly’ on the left-hand side:
6. Follow the instructions, enabling the BrowserFriendly service.
7. Make sure all the links to your RSS feed on your blog point towards the new Feedburner feed. If you’ve got a self-hosted WordPress-powered blog, the easiest way to do this is to download the relevant plugin to do this for you!
The result, if you follow these steps, will be that if users click on your RSS they should see something like this:
If you need any extra help or have some tips please use the comments section below! 😀
I don’t usually get involved with things explicitly concerned with education in the USA. But there’s been one issue recently that prompted me to reflect on a wider concern: the difference between ‘crowd-sourcing’ and just being lazy.*
In fact, it’s more than being lazy. It’s taking a concept and twisting it for your own ends to look like you’re doing something you’re not. It’s an attempted shortcut to being seen as ‘innovative’. It’s bandwagon-jumping instead of hitchhiking. 🙁
Crowdsourcing is a distributed problem-solving and production model. Problems are broadcast to an unknown group of solvers in the form of an open call for solutions. Users—also known as the crowd—typically form into online communities, and the crowd submits solutions. The crowd also sorts through the solutions, finding the best ones.
When done well, the results can be outstanding. Take, for example, The Guardian‘s decision to open up and make available the 700,000 documents involved in the UK MP expenses scandal. They received over 20,000 responses highlighting irregularities.
However, crowdsourcing is something that can be done very badly and for the wrong reasons. Take, for example ISTE’s decision to ‘crowdsource’ the Keynote speech for its 2010 conference. On the face of it, and for those involved with ISTE, the idea must look cutting-edge and innovative. It’s got a Digg-like voting system for proposals and has created a buzz about the conference on Twitter and blogs. However, although it looks as if it’s ’empowering’ people, it’s actually doing the opposite.
…I’m tired of hitching my carriage behind some writer’s idea of what could be in business but is designed for education since they’re the chosen keynoter. While research may say something, the fact is, research has been speaking up for years in school change and reform…and you know what? People aren’t listening.
Go and read Miguel’s post in full, but to summarize it briefly here, he says that expecting a keynote to change things at the coalface means putting faith in the following process:
Educators go away and learn how to use a tool to the extent that it becomes part of their practice.
The tool is appropriate to use within the context of their school and educators are free to use it as they wish.
Educators are able to get their school leadership onboard and stay at the institution long enough to make a difference.
Parents offer little or no resistence to flattening the walls of the classroom through the use of Web 2.0 tools.
Put in that way, it’s clear that ISTE’s decision is far from revolutionary. As Miguel states, it’s time for a ‘radical reboot’ in national and interational approaches to innovation in education. Isn’t it ironic that we use a lecture format to encourage teachers to be innovative and move away from such a format? 😉
So if you’re a leader and are looking to be innovative, please do look about you to see what others are doing. But once you’ve done that, go back and think about what the objectives of your organization/business/conference/whatever actually are. Then see if the process/innovation/tool that you’ve come across is appropriate. Ask yourself if you’re going through the process/using the tool for the right reasons.
Do you know of any other examples of thinly-disguised laziness?
***Ewan’s gone back and added some clarification to his blog post. I’ve still got issues with points 3 and 4, but I’m pleased that we’re more in agreement than I initially thought. I thought about deleting this post, but I’ve learned that once something goes online, it should stay online!***
I like Ewan McIntosh. He’s a great guy: extraordinarily innovative and has worked hard for innovation within the educational community. However, I think that having moved away from the education sector he’s perhaps become a little out-of-touch with the realities of the classroom.
Normally that would be fine, but there are literally thousands of people who read his blog and are influenced by him. That’s why I want to take issue with a recent post of his entitled Why backward social-network-banning education authorities are wrong. I agree with the main thrust of the post about the folly of local authorities blocking access to social networking sites. However, Ewan concludes with the following:
What do I reckon could be done (only my tuppence worth, I add…) In a recent interview for Merlin John’s new Innovators series I outline how I believe things could change:
design tools and learning spaces that entice and delight young people, rather than tools we have to mandate them to use – if the kid had a choice, would they use that or the competition?;
plan less, creating time and room for movement as innovations come up;
stand still and do nothing: look at what is working in the world around you and steal, steal, steal (and give credit where it’s due);
if there’s a bandwagon, jump on it and see if it goes anyhere (a Coulterism);
don’t do pilots, just do the real deal from the start.
As educators, we should be using the best tools for the job. There are two ways to conceive of ‘best tools.’ The old thinking was that the ‘best tools for the job’ were those prevalent in industry. Hence we have schools teaching Microsoft Office to students in ICT lessons. That’s wrong.
But the opposite of that isn’t designing our own tools and learning spaces. It’s using the best tools for the job. Those are tools with a pedigree, a user base and enable us to get data out as easily as we put it in. That’s why I’m a big fan of Open Source Software. Designing our own tools and learning spaces can often lead to the creation of ‘creepy treehouses’, stripped-down versions of what’s available elsewhere and clunky functionality.
Knowing what Ewan usually says about these things, I think we’re probably actually in agreement about this. I just don’t think he’s put it very clearly in what I’ve quoted above.
2. Plan less
I actually think we need to plan more than we do currently as educators. Instead of planning in isolation, however, we need to plan in collaboration. We should be planning not only with other educators (in our own educational institutions and further afield) but with students. This is where real innovation occurs. 🙂
It’s the learning outcomes that are important, not the tools we use. Yes, students need to learn how to use tools, but that shouldn’t be the focus. So I agree that we should ensure we have time and space to allow for innovation, but we shouldn’t be leaving spaces to be filled with ‘cool tools’. That’s the wrong emphasis.
3. Stand still and do nothing
Granted, reflection is important. I spend a lot of time doing this and encourage my students to do the same as often as I can. But it’s not really a tactic that can be used that much. In fact it’s something that goes against 4iP’s (Ewan’s employer) mantra of ‘Do it first. Make trouble. Inspire change.’
Yes, we need to be aware of what others are doing. Yes, we need to take time to think about how what others are doing can be adapted for our own use. But we also need to get on and do it as well! Looking around you can equally lead to copying instead of innovation. Nothing can be imported wholesale and be expected to work perfectly without modification. Everything requires work.
Ewan sets up a false dichotomy when he states “don’t do pilots, just do the real deal from the start.” Piloting before rolling out can be the ‘real deal from the start.’ Take, for example, my rolling out of e-learning tools and approaches at the Academy. The only reason I was confident in getting every member of staff using Google Apps straight away is because I’d ‘piloted’ it in various ways in other schools. I knew all the features, likely problems, and anticipated training needs.
Without pilots of tools and approaches the person responsible for roll-out is constantly firefighting. That’s a stressful thing to do and not conducive to innovation. Whilst I understand the sentiment about making bold leaps and being uninhibited, that’s not always as possible as we’d like to think. There are other factors to consider, not least child protection and politics. Research is vital.
What do you think? Have I made fair criticisms? Are Ewan and I actually saying the same thing?