Monday, December 2, 2013

A picture is worth…

Information graphics or infographics are graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledgeintended to present complex information quickly and clearly. They can improve cognition by utilizing graphics to enhance the human visual system’s ability to see patterns and trends.  – from Wikipedia 

 Have you ever noticed that once something catches your attention you begin to see it everywhere?  And then you start thinking, how long has this really been around and why didn’t I notice it sooner?

Infographics have been like that for me.

It started with How to Land a Jumbo Jet: a visual exploration oftravel facts, figures and ephemera edited by Nigel Holmes.  I blogged  about it in June, I liked it so much.

Then later in the summer I latched onto these new-fangled looking posters from Pop Chart Lab.  They seemed pretty cool, about some interesting or unusual topics or depicted information in a new way.  I ended up buying some of these posters for the Doucette Library’s collection.  I love the one that shows the ingredients of pies displayed as pie-charts.  I can’t say, however, that I’m really all that fascinated in analyzing the names of rappers but the fact that there is a poster that does just that really excites me.  I know there are people (aka students) out there who will love it.

And so it goes.  Here and there, ‘infographics’ keep popping up in all sorts of places.

Most recently, I’ve brought in a few books from a couple of series where the whole book is done as an infographic about specific topics.  Here are the first two:

The Human World: the world in infographics  and Planet Earth: the world in infographics both written by Jon Richards and Ed Simkins are like other information books that present a lot of interesting facts about people and how we live and the Earth and its natural phenomena

The Human World covers everything from the number of people on the planet, where we live, the haves and have-nots, resource usage including water, creation of waste, communication, travel and transportation. The data is presented in a way that allows us to see a visual representation that allows easier comprehension of bigger ideas by comparing and showing relative size of differences.  For example, in the “Dwindling Resources” section 6 barrels of oil that represent 6 countries and how much oil they use.  No surprise, the US consumes the most oil on a daily basis (19,150,000 barrels per day) and gets the biggest picture of an oil barrel.  Next comes, China (9,189,000 bpd), Japan (4,452,000 bpd), India (3,182,000 bdp), Russia (2,937,000 bpd) and last, Island of Niue (40 – yes, forty!, bpd).  This last one, the barrel is so tiny I didn’t even see it the first time I read it.

In Planet Earth we see how the earth is composed of layers of varying depths and temperatures, moving tectonic plates, earthquakes, mountains, volcanoes, oceans and rivers, the rock cycle, the water cycle, which all create and sustain the environment that exists on earth.  Again, lots of numbers are used to help us understand the relative size and differences. Let’s say land versus water.  71% of the earth is water. 29% is land.  Of that 29% land mass, 31% is desert, 33% is grassland and 36% is forest. A pyramid shows how wet or dry and cold or hot each habitat is in relation to each other.  Deserts are hot and dry whereas tropical forests are hot and wet.  Higher up the pyramid, a coniferous forest (subarctic) will be much cooler and neither overly wet or dry.  (The picture works way better with way fewer words.)

These books include glossaries, indexes and web resources to follow up both the statistics about these subjects as well as the infographics.

Overall, I liked both of these books.  They are factoid books at heart but allow us to develop a deeper understanding through the graphics showing comparisons and relations between similar elements.  Bringing these into the classroom allows for cross-disciplinary potential.  Use for math and science or math and social studies with some graphic art thrown in for good measure. Striving readers who struggles with dense text will find these less daunting to read.

I would recommend these for grades 4 to 7.

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