World’s Worst Session Title

It is with enormous pleasure that I will be part of the American School of Bombay’s 2014 Un-Plugged event in Mumbai, India.  It is also an even bigger privilege to be working with International educators again.  I’ve said many times that if I was in the beginning of my career, this is where I would be, expat’ing in some exotic land, making great friends, teaching great students and growing in educational institutions where innovation is part of the currency of success.

Even though my workshop, on Friday and Saturday, will be about visual literacy, and contemporary literacy will be part of the underlying theme of the day, this workshop will primarily and overwhelmingly be about something that I believe is the

Coolest thing on the Net,

Infographics and Data Visualization

Of course this, and most all of what we do in our classrooms concerns basic literacy, “The skills involved in using one’s information environment to learn what you need to know to do what you need to do.” (my definition)

As a teaser, here are two word clouds.  The first is taken from the descriptions of ASB Un-Plugged pre conference and hands-on workshops from 2012.  The second comes from the same category of sessions to be held next week in Mumbai.

2012 Preconference & Hands-On Workshop

2014 Preconference & Hands-On Workshop

Of course, this is a small sampling of the themes that are part of the conversations hosted by the American School of Bombay.  However I found a couple of things interesting.  First of all, might it be that we are finally getting over this whole 21st Century craze.  After all, we’re good and there.  Also, design seems a little more prominent and create and maker/making have emerged.

I’m so looking forward to next week and counting on the journey being less challenging than last week.

I got a 35, I reckon!

?

It shouldn’t end with a question mark. It should end with an exclamation point.

I’ll give myself a 35 for the infographic (815KB) that I posted the other day (My First Stab at Infographics..) for your consideration. I get that many points for the effort, probably about ten hours of work. The effort was good. Each time I scrapped the whole thing and started again, it was because I learned something. It was because I realized that I was going down a wrong path — a path I will not take again. Each path, never to be taken again, is worth at least 5 points.

Some of the 65 points that I didn’t get was explained to me by Steve Ruddy, who commented..

An infographic usually uses the info to convey a point, I cannot figure out what you want me to deduce by all of this information. Most importantly I don’t see what the top half has to do with the bottom half at all. Hope this feedback helps you make better infographs.

He’s absolutely right.  All that I did was to convey individual chunks of data as blocks of images and then stack those blocks in a way that made sense to me.  There was a story there.  There was a purpose to the sequence of blocks.  But I didn’t tell tell story.  There was no mortar to give the blocks substance and meaning.  To Ruddy and others who viewed the graphic, it was just a stack of blocks with no exclamation point.

Thursday’s IGAD usually points to a data source that teachers or learners might use to craft their own infographic or data visualization. Today, however, I add an extra post about “breaking news” infographics, which are explicitly designed to tell a story. The examples are graphics, telling the story of the raid on Abbottabad.

As a result?  Well, I’m scrapping my current infographic and starting over again.  But it’s not so much to reshape the blocks, but to mix the mortar.

My point in sharing this is to say that I’m still proud of that 35.  I didn’t fail, because I learned from that experience and will do a little better next time.  But, as a learner, it makes me wonder…

Is it wrong to expect a 100?  Does that emphasize the wrong thing?

Shouldn’t we wait until the end of the course for something near 100?  ..or the end of the term? ..or graduation? ..or a long time after that?

Reflections on NCTIES 2011

Early Registration at NCTIES in Raleigh

Last week was the NCTIES conference.  NCTIES (North Carolina Technology in Education) is the ISTE affiliate for my state.  They use to be NCAECT, and I understand that there was another acronym before that.  But Thursday they launched their 40th conference, and I do not remember being a part of any anniversary conference with a number that high.

Before the conference, I lamented on all the people I’ve worked with from across who I’d miss because they have certainly retired.  But I was surprised at the number who were still at it, mostly informing me that they were retiring in May or August  or some other of the next 9 months.  But it was also trilling to see the folks who were back for the 40th anniversary.

But on to my reflections.  It occurred to me this morning that I can tell when I have been fully engaged in an education technology conference by the number of times I remember asking, “But why?”  Here’s a typical exchange.

“We’ve bought iPads for our alternative school kids.”

“Cool!  But why?”

“We’re trying to get them to read more, and we believe they will read more if its on an iPad.”

“Why do you think they’ll read more with an iPad.  Is reading what’s cool about using an iPad?”

“UUUUH!”

“Why do you want the students to read more?”

You get the gist — and I know that I am doing a lot more reading since I got my iPad.  But it’s not because the text glows.  But that’s a different blog post…

Another thing that was interesting about this conference was my ongoing and often playful quest for the next cool thing — the next “buzz.”  It’s more of a game for me, a cool hunting sort of thing.  After all, most cool things in educational technology grow cold, hopefully before we start to integrate and effect instruction.  Anyway, I got an inkling of two cool things here at this conference. One was the topic of my session on infographics and data visualization.  Of course, in my preparation for the session, I realized that there is nothing new about this stuff.  We’ve been doing data visualization for years through geographic information systems or GIS with products like ArcGIS.

It was my first planned presentation on this topic, and it did not go as smoothly as some of my more practiced topics — as a number of demos didn’t work out as well as I’d hoped (starting to justify the purchase of Camtasia for my Mac 😉.  What got me wondering about the impact of this is the fact that Kathy Schrock, one of the other featured speakers of the conference, was in the audience and she told me that she is planning a similar (better) presentation on the same topic for an upcoming large conference (A Picture is Worth 1000 Words: Using Infographics as a Creative Assessment”).  If I think it’s cool and then Schrock sees it’s pedagogical value as a learning tool, well, you’ve got something there…

Jason Standish Timothy Smith
Talking about QR-Codes

The other cool thing that seemed to be buzzing throughout the conference was QR-Codes.  Part of it was the interesting way that the presenters, Jacob Standish and Timothy Smith of Charlotte Mecklenberg Schools preceded the conference with QR-Codes in their conference wiki page and their YouTube video introduction (blogged about here).

QR-Codes have actually been around for more than a decade, and I have used them on presentation slides for over year, though, until recently, only recognized and used in Singapore and Hong Kong.  But the buzz in Raleigh was palpable and it was contagious.  During their session, you could feel the excitement in the packed presentation room, and the scurrying of educators rushing up with their smart phones held up, and seemingly bowing down to this new great thing.

It was exciting and more than a little funny.  It’s like I told my son (who attendeed the last day of the conference), “You’re going to be with people who are passionate about what they do.  They don’t have jobs — they have a mission.  You don’t see this everyday, and I double you’d see it anyplace else in the field of education.”  And it was certainly true NCTIES.

As for QR-Codes and infographics, only time and our capacity to innovate will tell.  I have some big questions about QR-Codes, and one of my next articles will likely take a more critical, but certainly not a dismissive look at this application.