Monday, June 4, 2012

Infographic-ophile – that’s me.

I’m a very visual kind of learner and this translates into using lots of visual aids (posters, maps, diagrams, books, kits, etc.) when I’m presenting a classroom workshop. When I’m thinking through an idea, I’ll usually start with a mind map of some sort. For instance, when I was developing ‘bibliographies’ for curriculum topics like geographical thinking, I knew I didn’t want to only make a list on piece of paper, which was going to be stuffed into a binder and forgotten. I wanted something that would offer content or ideas connected to the books.  I came up with mind maps that explored ideas and questions related to the Alberta curriculum and linked to a website with the recommended books. If you’re interested in what these look like, click on Books for Big Ideas.  My whole point being that combining facts with graphics can be an interesting and useful way to explore ideas.

How to Land a Jumbo Jet: a visual exploration of travel facts, figures and ephemera edited by Nigel Holmes (910.202 Ho 2011) is my kind of book.

So, what do learn about the world from this book?  Places to go nude, countries with the most airports, active volcanoes in the Ring of Fire, recommended vaccinations for different regions of the world, who is proud of their nationality and by how much, which country consumes the most coffee per capita, world’s most visited destination, what to take when backpacking, wettest and driest places on earth, which cities are recommended for the food, etc., etc., etc. – it’s all here. Lots of information, from the obscure to the arcane to the obvious.

But they are far from being dry, boring, clinical.  Each topic is displayed using some form of illustration with colour, pictorial elements, and varying fonts. Some are brilliant yet simple such as Fast Food, Fast Facts (shown here) or Top Trails , giving you easy to follow, interesting, pertinent and comparable facts.  Top Trails looks at five of the world’s most popular hiking trails (Colorado, Kungsleden, Haute Route, Mount Kilimanjaro and the Inca Trail) and compares the distance, maximum altitude and starting altitude for each.  The graphic used for comparing the distances also conveys how much walking up and down a hiker would do, as well as the steepness.  Comparing the altitude for each of the hikes is very easy to understand as they are all plotted on the same mountain with Mount Kilimanjaro at the very top(19,336ft.) and Sweden’s Kungsleden hike at the bottom, a mere 3,773 feet.  Look how many words it took me to explain just these two components of this infographic.

Some of the charts are not very readable or appear too cluttered, which turns me off.  This won’t be the case for everyone. A colleague pointed out that if the book had been printed in a larger format, these illustrations may have been much more legible.

What I’m taking away from this book is the method of displaying information in a pictorial way with lots of zing for interest’s sake. If you’re into travel – great – you’re going to enjoy perusing the information contained within each graphic.  If you’re not, that’s ok, too.  This book can be source of inspiration for you and students when coming up with new ways of presenting information.  Some of these infographics are pretty sophisticated but with so many graphic organizer packages available (commercial and free) students may surprise you with how far they can go.  The possibilities are endless, as How to Land a Jumbo Jet demonstrates.

Today is Nonfiction Monday.  Hop on over to True Tales & a Cherry on Top to see a roundup of reviews of nonficiton children's literature.


Jeanne Walker Harvey said...

Hi Tammy, Interesting ... the topics of the book were not what I expected when I read the title. But all the travel related information and graphics sound like good topics, too.

Thanks again for joining the Nonfiction Monday round-up today!

Playing by the book said...

Sounds like a useful book for teaching maths too!

Roberta said...

What an interesting idea for a book! Sounds like it would be perfect for a unit on graphing/ statistics.

Tammy Flanders said...

Thanks for your curriculum tie-ins. I love books like this as they offer many possibilities.

Books4Learning said...

I like that this book depicts fun facts in a creative manner. I am adding this book to my to read list. Thanks for sharing.

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