Tell your data story visually

Posted by Janice Delagrammatikas on September 23, 2015

Thmubnail of Janice's infographicHave you been in a quandary about how to present data about your school or district?  Do you worry that your stakeholders will be overwhelmed with so much data they will not be able to see the big picture?   You may want to think about creating an infographic to tell your story.

Communicating the story to your stakeholders may be easier and certainly more engaging if you can do it graphically.  Building an infographic is a lot like writing a press release. Once you have all the research and data at your fingertips, determine the most compelling headline for the story you want to tell.  Create a hierarchy with your data.  What is the main idea and what are the supporting details?

Next, choose a template and build a frame for your story.  Each of the online infographic tools has a number of templates that you can use and adapt for telling your story.  If your story is a comparison and contrast there are templates that work well for that purpose. Maybe your story is linear and you want to choose a template that follows a timeline.  Whichever format you choose, this is the step that will provide the structure for your infographic.

Next, you get to become a graphic designer.  Your template will come with a basic layout, colors, and design elements.  However you can add, change or remove anything on the template.  There are options for adding pictures, graphs, charts, weblinks, or embedding video.  In fact, there are so many options you may want to take some time to see what other people have created or watch some video tutorials that most of the online sites have created to support their tool.

Your first one will take awhile.

Be prepared to spend some time planning the layout.  On my first attempt, I built the infographic as I went along and I spent a lot of time redoing and moving things around which was a pretty tedious process.   The first infographic I created took many hours and I did not think I would ever do another, but once it was done and I began using it, the positive feedback inspired me to try another.

Facsimile of Janice's infographic about CBK LCAP
Click the image to see Janice’s full infographic.

Initially you should take your infographic out for a test drive and share it with only a few individuals who can give you feedback.  Allow time for revisions and then make it public to your stakeholders.  The beauty is your infographic lives on the web and you can continue to update and make changes.

Give it a try! Two tools that I have used are Piktochart and Visme.  Other options are, Canva, Infogram.



Posted by Lisa Marie Gonzales on August 25, 2013

Infographic of Infographics
Infographic of Infographics Source: Zabisco

Have you been impressed as I have by the myriad of infographics on sites like Zite, Pinterest and even Facebook? Wow!  So many are impressive, and I assumed professional designers were hard at work designing them. Then I discovered dozens of sites that allow infographics to be made by your average every day administrator, teacher or student.

Not so new

Infographics are those splashy pictures that transform complex principles and data into easy-to-understand graphics. And believe it or not, there is some solid theory around the use of infographics. Go all the way back to 35,000-4,000 BC when cave drawings and other symbols and pictures were used to communicate ideas. Some of these might have looked decorative in nature, but the intent was to prepare training rituals for the young, report the results of daily work (how many deer were killed on the hunt), and other practical purposes. From there, letters emerged that formed language and then graphics. Let’s not forget the work of Leonardo daVinci who worked diligently to chart mathematical, astronomical, and geographical information.

Fast forward to modern technology and you can make your resume come to life in just a few minutes, but let’s not jump head too quickly.


The world of social media, flashy websites, and new apps have pushed us into the information explosion, where some sort of pictorial representations are needed because text overload could do us all in. Think about when you pick up a newspaper (yes, for the sake of this discussion, pick up a newspaper!).  Where do your eyes gravitate?  Headlines?  Article text?  Pictures?  Graphics?  Cartoons?

Research on infographics says that text-and-graphic combinations better transfer meaning than either text or pictures alone.  The combination allows our brains to process information more quickly and are retain it in the long term. Infographics are also great for right and left brain coordination.

Create your own

Ready to try making some infographics of your own to use with with colleagues and students?  Here are some sites I recommend.

Start with, particularly if you have a LinkedIn account. The tool is still in beta, but I have huge expectations for this site as an easy go-to for pictorial representation of a traditional resume.

Simile Widgets ( is an open source tool you can use to design different types of data visualizations from exhibits to time plots.

Many of us know Tagxedo, but might not consider word clouds to be true infographics.  Yet what’s nice about Tagxedo is its easy of use and the ability to manipulate data into your selected shapes and easily save in different formats and sizes.

Finally, just for fun, Intel’s What About Me? can be used to access your Facebook profile and identify the percentages of time spent posting about certain topics.  Here’s the result from my own Facebook data!

My “What about me?” Infographic
Click image for larger view.



Five “Smart” Tech Skills

Posted by Jack Jarvis on December 28, 2011

During the last decade, schools received unprecedented funding through both federal and state initiatives.  For example, in California, we had Immediate Intervention for Underperforming Schools and the High Priority Schools Grant Program.  Together, these two programs alone pumped millions of dollars into California Schools, and many schools tapped these funds to purchase technology in the form of laptops, projectors and “smart” technology.  Projectors and speaker systems were mounted in classroom ceilings and control panels patched into walls.  The “modern classroom” was born—for the moment.

But as we look back almost a decade, what do we have in classroom technology? And what should we do next?

Well, what we have is a lot of teachers equipped with the ability to present content with their laptops.  We have content available in many places.  And we have a majority of teachers who have expertise in one area: using an interactive whiteboard as an overhead projector.

Coming from a district of over 70,000, I have seen numerous elementary classrooms where teachers teach with their laptops.  While there are certainly some gems among the rocks, most teachers I observe use slideshows they download from the web or those created by central office instructional personnel.  While this is a vast improvement over 2001 and overhead transparencies, it’s not the most effective use of the technology. In fact, one could argue downloading these ready-made materials has made teachers less involved in the cognitive planning of their instruction.  (I can’t tell you how many times I heard a teacher saying, “Oops, wasn’t expecting that, ha, ha” when an unanticipated slide pops up.)

What do we do to address this, to enhance the instructional experience for our students, to tap into their world of smart phones and iPads?  What we didn’t do in the last decade!
Train the teachers in the right tools.  I’m sorry, but SmartBoard is not it.

All teachers should be trained in and evaluated on their use of technology to teach.  Just projecting images with an interactive whiteboard or throwing up a presentation they didn’t create should not be deemed proficient.  Instead, we should see a movement towards these basic skills:

  1. Creating and manipulating graphical objects.
  2. Creating and manipulating text boxes.
  3. Using animation, especially the path animation in PowerPoint.
  4. Creating hyperlinks from PowerPoint to websites that support the learning.
  5. Accessing/inserting pictures and video into lesson materials.

Why these five?  Because if you are fluent in them, you can create almost any type of presentation. These five skills would give teachers a cornucopia of strategies that would grab student attention and make content more understandable.  Imagine the difference between reading a core selection with your class while linking in and out of websites connected to the subject.  Imagine creating live moving animations to stimulate student thinking about mundane number sense concepts.  Becoming proficient in these tools should be spelled out in the credentialing process more exactly, and should be the focus point for professional development it should have been back when all that equipment was purchased.


The binder lives on.

Posted by Lisa Marie Gonzales on July 14, 2011

Ever have one of those nights when a friend sends you a “resource you might be interested in” and before you know it, an hour has passed and it’s after your bedtime? I did recently, courtesy of Dr. John White, fellow TICAL and ACSA compadre from Los Angeles USD.  (Thanks, John!)

In all seriousness, John recommended I consider a site called “Live Binders” in my review of sites for an article on the “Top 12 Internet Resources for 2012.”  My work as a coordinator in curriculum & instruction at the Santa Clara County Office of Education focuses on the visual and performing arts.  I took a look at Live Binders from the arts perspective. Hundreds of educational searches are possible on this site where random individuals have created and share online resources organized in digital “binders.”

I started with art and couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard of this website!  More than 7,000 people had viewed specific binders of interest to me.  For example,  in one called “Art: Paint/Draw/Create Online,” organized by a teacher from the Chicago Public Schools, I quickly found enough content for a daylong workshop I was preparing on “the arts and technology.”

For an arts person, the options are endless!  Dozens and dozens of sites are shared where students, using only keyboard and mouse, can quickly get started in that kid-kind-of-way—without reading instructions.   Crayola Digi-Color is a great starting place, and Crayola is known for its kid/family/educator/everyone friendly website and resources so even the youngest of young can get onto this site and start drawing.  ScribbleTown and Magic Paint are easy to use sites that also let you print your creations.

The “More Ways to Create” section is fabulous and allows you to start into the realm of portraits, mosaics, tessellations, and more. PicassoHead provides great opportunities for using imagination and creativity, particularly for English learners.  Looking at LiteBrite, I longed to return to my childhood!   Matisse is another of my favorites, along with ThinkDraw, one that showcases recent student work and prompts thinking for those who need to see a concept before comfortably venturing out on their own.

What can I say? All this in just one binder.  Not looking for art resources?  Dozens of other binders exist.  In fact my next task is to check out the Live Binders on “common core.”  There are 74 of them!  What topic will you explore?


Presentations to Remember

Posted by Thom Dunks on December 20, 2010

Presentation applications, such as PowerPoint and Keynote, are invaluable tools in the workplace and most particularly in the world of teaching and learning.  True, they are often maligned as an impediment to getting the message across, but used well they can help you reach the mind and the heart of your audience and create a truly lasting impression.

Recently, I was impressed with a fellow named David Jakes and his ideas about applying some basic knowledge of brain biology when you are constructing a presentation.  “The optic nerve is constructed of about 1 million nerve fibers; the auditory nerve, about 30,000,” says David.  “There is a tremendous amount of bandwidth associated with the eye, suggesting that presentations should contain a visual component.”  Accordingly, he suggests we should create more visually based materials and move away from too much emphasis on text.

In his hour-long presentation, “Standing Room Only:  How to Create Unforgettable Presentations,” David provides ten strategies for improving visual presentations.  The strategies are constructed around brain-based learning and the principles of visual modalities.  Particularly germane to this discussion are his inclusion of Visual Literacy, Brain Research/Cognitive Load Theory, Locating Images, Understanding Intellectual Property, Design Considerations, and Developing Voice.

David works with high school students in Illinois and is passionate about students approaching the creation of digital presentations with understanding and integrity.

“You first want the kids to write, to write deeply.  Have them make a scholarly argument on paper. Then have them take that piece of writing and create a storyboard.  Plan a presentation. Use visuals. Use emotion.  They should be able to convince me that they are right or their ideas have merit.  You then have a deep backup document that allows you to know that they have a true understanding of the topic at hand.”

Among the important topics David covers is acquiring royalty free images for use in student presentations.  Here are just a few of the resources he recommends for you to check out: