Updated: Aug 22, 2021
David McCandless is a journalist who creates various graphs that he calls the "landscape of information." The information he collects is complex and rich, and it is reportorial news.
David is not a designer; instead, he is a man of words. He thinks it is possible to understand the news better when journalists present information visually and within a context.
In the talk, he explains how to make information meaningful, especially when data is visual.
The graphs that McCandless creates use elements of the visual language (color, shape, composition).
If we read these infographics without his explanation and text and place them in an art museum on the wall, we could quickly think of them in terms of a work of an abstract, postmodern piece of art.
The big difference between representing information visually and creating art is in the context and purpose of the creator.
While art expresses the artist's abstract, emotional, and thoughtful ideas and uses a unique language that characterizes the artists' work, data infographics simplify massive data. Thus, this illustration allows comparison and understanding of complex phenomena easily and quickly. For example, the "billion-dollar" graph presented in the video's opening shows the large sums of money invested in various purposes in the world.
Notice some indicators of the correct ways to represent data:
Preserves the relationship between the pieces of data,
Use simple rules to allow further additional data, continuation, and clarity.
Present consistency in all visual cues (such as shape and colors).
Keep these rules to make appealing clear massage others can understand easily.
In a billion-dollar graph (box-type graph), you saw how easy it was to understand the ratio between Africa's expected debt to Western countries and the amounts the world spends for various purposes.
The visual context made understanding easier. We said to ourselves - WOW, this new rectangle is enormous!
It's as big as all the sums we've already seen. It's a lot of money!
One needs to be familiar with the symbolic system of the box graph to understand what each square and what each color represents.
At the beginning of the lecture, we have become accustomed to seeing that each rectangle plotted on a graph represents sums of money.
(Lots of money = larger rectangle), and that comparing rectangles will allow us to compare different amounts of money- we build meaning from the graph quite quickly because we practiced it before in a demo McCandless presented us.
Why is it booming? Why is it easy for us to understand now? It is natural to our brain.
Our brain processes data from text and images naturally.
The presenter tells us what the giant rectangle represents, and we receive that information through text enters the auditory channel.
The image of the graph comes to us through the channel of sight.
The brain has an information processing center called working memory (also called short-term memory), which allows us to process the new information and connect it to prior knowledge. We construct meaning at the center of this processing (yes, it has to do with constructive learning).
(Prior knowledge is required to process information from this graph - knowing the names of the colors and the terms that the presenter says, understanding what a diagram is, and more).
This working memory can only contain 5-7 new items at a time. Furthermore, this information disappears after 20 seconds (!!!!) if it does not repeat or is linked to prior knowledge stored in long-term memory. (Long-term memory holds our expertise and can be retrieved as needed when needed).
Okay. Too little space in working memory is a problem.
Let's say I want to teach my students the content of the graph shown in the video. And I speak to the class for a quarter of an hour and repeat myself. Anyone still awake manages to remember 2-3 numbers from what I said and is not sure he remembers what it means.
What did I do?
I used the audio channel only to convey information to my students. (This kind of communication did not help them build knowledge). And also - I loaded one track. So I delivered a lot of content without practicing, rehearsing, and using the visual cognitive processing medium (another channel).
We know that working memory has two processing centers - a word processing center and an image processing center.
In this case - only one processing center was activated - word processing - and at too high a load.
If I decided to teach this subject in the same class and want to improve my teaching-
(1) I would also bring a picture/graph or (2) create a graph on the board with colored markers while talking.
Every sentence I say changes the representation presented visually to my students while building the graph in front of the learners' eyes.
What did I do?
I activated the learners' working memory in both image processing and word processing and created stimulation of two senses at once. (Words can be processed in the brain in two channels - auditory and visual. But, the human brain only processes images in the visual channel).
The learner heard the words and saw the picture/diagram at the same time. He linked them quickly and managed to understand meaning from them. If he does not know a word - the visual representation assists him. And if he does not understand the relationship between sums - the pictorial diagram helps him understand the relationship very quickly, etc.
Producing meaning from text and image is more efficient, more accessible, and promotes learning.
Unfortunately, not every picture will do the job!
Based on your teaching experience, how would the learners achieve better results in a test that tests memory recall? (1. Visual 2. text)
Studies have shown that learning with text and image (=multimedia) promotes learning more than alone text.
In my opinion,
Intelligent use of representations in any teaching situation can include inventing new graphics as presented in the video.
Use videos, photographs, animations, diagrams and comics, concept maps, and mind maps carefully. Try to elaborate on the context and fully explain the symbol systems to gain better learning outcomes.
These actions hold promise to promote learners' ability to understand a lot of information quickly and easily and even get excited about your lesson!
A problem can arise if students did not understand the representation.
Some diagrams are difficult to interpret. That requires some mediation from a teacher/expert.
Take a second to observe how to deliver complex diagrams in the video above. Most of the graphs presented need an explanation.
Notice- How does the facilitator explain them? Do they become apparent after his explanation?
Not all of us interpret pictures in the same way, there is always the danger that you will bring an image to class to illustrate one thing, and in fact, the students will understand something completely different from it, and you will not even know about it. (For example, children can interpret a graph as a picture).
Next time you enter a classroom, watch how your students learn:
1. Examine how focused/interested they are when presented with a graph or a photograph.
2. Notice which of these make your students understand better-
Presenting then with a ready-made representation and explaining the symbols system or drawing the diagram on the board?
3. Does a discourse makes them more involved?
And before we end this post.
I invite you to explore artist Rotem Agmon's site. She organizes a lot of information about her daily life beautifully and creatively. You can easily see what she has in the drawers, where each item came from, and in which room it is.
Good luck, 21st-century teachers.