Data Visualization and Visual Literacy

Posted on Feb 14, 2013 by Adobe Education Latest activity: Mar 24, 2015

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How can your students' data visualization projects build their visual literacy and why does it matter?

Comments (99)

Alma Godoy

Posted on Mar 22, 2015 9:20 PM - Permalink

How do you respond to data visualizations that you encounter in your daily life? Do you find data visualizations to be helpful or harmful in your interpretation of the information you consume through social media, news outlets and other channels?

If done well, data visualizations draw my attention to the data. They make it easier for me to understand technical or challenging ideas and large amounts of data. It definitely peeks my interest in a subject.

How would you rate your students' current ability to interpret visual representations of data? Their ability to create data visualizations? How might you support the development of their visual literacy skills in this area?

I don't teach in a classroom but often query my son as to elements in design. I don't find it easy to translate huge volumes of data and reduce that to an understandable design. I think it takes a lot of studying the content and understanding the connections with other data in order to create a design that is comprehensible, correct, and pleasing to the eye.

Timothy Cutler

Posted on Jan 10, 2015 4:29 PM - Permalink

  • How do you respond to data visualizations that you encounter in your daily life? Do you find data visualizations to be helpful or harmful in your interpretation of the information you consume through social media, news outlets and other channels?
    • I find that creative visualizations often trigger me to explore a news item more thoroughly. The Washington Post often has some pretty insightful graphics to put news or current topics into perspective but they seldom (or never) represent the whole story. They are usually helpful but one has to avoid misleading conclusions.
  • How would you rate your students' current ability to interpret visual representations of data? Their ability to create data visualizations? How might you support the development of their visual literacy skills in this area?
    • I'm working with mid-level college students. They respond very well to data visualizations both simple and more creative. Their ability to create the visualizations is limited but growing. One issue I've encountered is the tendency to over-complicate the graphics and thus obscure the essential message. This can occur in both interpretation as well as generation. I spend a lot of teaching time on the use of critical thinking and context development to enhance their use of meaningful data visualization.

Becky Reiter

Posted on Jan 9, 2015 4:52 PM - Permalink

Data visualization projects, as with any other type of learning, help students to understand visual literacy because they have gone through the process of creating. As the world becomes more visual and we find more ways to present information in visual and simplified formats, students will need to have a basic understanding of this powerful tool for exchanging knowledge, data, thoughts, and ideas. The ability to draw accurate and valid conclusions from this method of knowledge, data, thought, and idea transfer will be challenged at every corner. Their ability to transfer knowledge, data, thoughts, and ideas will also be challenged as society is going to expect this more and more as we refine and use this process. Currently, my students write an essay, and then they create four additional infographics to enhance their message. Many students simply restate the information, yet others create visual interpretations that bring additional meaning to their work. Students must have the opportunity to practice these skills if they are going to become proficient at interpreting and creating infographics and ultimately mastering visual literacy.

Beverly Tate

Posted on Dec 27, 2014 5:50 PM - Permalink

Students should know how to read the graph chart, but using color codes would help them in time. Unfortunately some of them don't, but the ones that do, will know how to perform critical thinking, and the ones that do not will need to learn how to read chart that will make it simpler for them to learn the remaining portion of data visualization. I think it should be incorporated in, for both class of students.

Joshua Smith

Posted on Dec 22, 2014 9:09 PM - Permalink

I get very excited by data visualizations, and it inspires me to try my own. However, I notice that the TED speakers have come to data visualization relatively late in their lives. They already have expertise, and analytical ability as well. I am not sure the typical undergraduate can embark on meaningful data visualization, without first mastering basic writing and thinking skills. In my mind there is a certain tension between the written word and data visualization. I would like to know where a typical North American student learns how to 1. read/interpret visual data and 2. create visual data. It is in some sense a "new literacy," and I think many educators are profoundly uncomfortable with it.

Becky Reiter

Posted on Jan 9, 2015 5:19 PM - Permalink

I agree that meaningful data visualization must be part of a larger movement aimed at helping learners to think analytically. However, educators need to begin bringing in data visualization to their classrooms whether they are comfortable with it or not. As for me, my seventh grade students already integrate data visualization into their projects to enhance their message. I do, however, need to flip this around and bring in more infographics for them to analyze to balance out the process. Digital technology will play a major role in allowing educators to promote data visualization literacy, and this is where the divide lies, between students who have access to the necessary digital technology and students who do not and between students who have teachers who are comfortable with digital technology and teachers who are not.

Katherine Yamashita

Posted on Dec 12, 2014 5:35 PM - Permalink

  • How do you respond to data visualizations that you encounter in your daily life? I like to see data represented as graphics or symbols because I am a visual learner. It also translates the numbers to visual masses that can make for better understanding
  • Do you find data visualizations to be helpful or harmful in your interpretation of the information you consume through social media, news outlets and other channels? I find it helpful - however it is just a snapshot - and it often does not illustrate the context or the finer aspects of data and its interpretation.
  • How would you rate your students' current ability to interpret visual representations of data? I think their ability to interpret in broad strokes is pretty good.
  • Their ability to create data visualizations? Their ability to create visualizations lags, with the exception of this student animation about green house gases.
  • How might you support the development of their visual literacy skills in this area? I will be bringing in a doc filmmaker and the maker of the above video will be do a workshop for the students too.

Aurora Ramos

Posted on Dec 6, 2014 2:31 AM - Permalink

Students like to look at innovative ways to discuss data. However, not all students have learned how to read graph charts. Without this skill, it is difficult to read -- with innovative ways to create and inform data it would be more beneficial to students and readers.

Lisa Isselnane

Posted on Nov 30, 2014 5:48 PM - Permalink

I can build my students' visual literacy by first introducing the concept of the symbol. I teach first grade so one easy introduction to that is recognizing street signs. Another early example is teaching the texting language of LOL and OMG. We use these text messages to communicate our responses to what we've read. It surprised me to see how quickly they understood what the symbols meant and how to use them. It is important to teach visual concepts because they represent a universal language and it just makes sense to do so.

Lisa Isselnane

Posted on Nov 27, 2014 10:24 PM - Permalink

Students are drawn to information they encounter visually. Highlighting information in colorful ways, presenting interesting fonts and animating designs really make the data more meaningful. More connections between data can be formed and greater understanding and analysis takes place. It seems to be the quickest and most accurate way to communicate large quantities of data.

Jessica Gauci

Posted on Nov 26, 2014 1:54 AM - Permalink

Infographics allow for information / literacy to be arranged and designed in meaningful ways. This benefits both the creator and the audience of the infographic.

Samuel Dance

Posted on Nov 25, 2014 6:37 AM - Permalink

I think it can be used to simplify and make sense of information.

Essentially all language, written or pictures is used to represent meaning. Illustrated ideas help make sense of the information that is saturating our world. We can quickly glance and understand and engage with it; its a time saver, and great for visual learners.

kiesha poole

Posted on Nov 16, 2014 8:56 PM - Permalink

First and foremost it does two things it forces the students to problem solve andit gets their creative juices flowing. They are forced o look at the data in new and imaginative ways. So they become engaged with the information and are required to analyze it in order to produce quality finished product. As the world becomes more engaged with visual information and information available at our fingertips students will find it necessary not only to be able collect data, but know how to interpret it. We are preparing our students for the future when we introduce visual literacy projects in the classroom.

Kendal Warkentine

Posted on Oct 27, 2014 3:22 PM - Permalink

I think that helping students visualize the data is extremely important. Too often decisions are made just on what appear to be "logical" choices but when the data is put into perspective it becomes obvious that the data really tells a completely different story. Students (and the rest of us) are bombarded daily with images and information, it is important to help students build the skills necessary to help them interpret everything they are presented with.

pam garritt

Posted on Oct 23, 2014 5:46 PM - Permalink

Many students are visual learners. They make sense of information, especially large amounts of data, visually with greater fluency and accuracy of their comprehension. If they can learn to create visual data, I believe it will help them with their own literacy when interpreting visual data. In our computer driven, data saturated world, students must be able to create and interpret with ease.

Mandi Wyndham

Posted on Oct 22, 2014 8:35 PM - Permalink

How do you respond to data visualizations that you encounter in your daily life? Do you find data visualizations to be helpful or harmful in your interpretation of the information you consume through social media, news outlets and other channels

Data is everywhere! The way it is presented to us can be received well or not. I usually take data in well. I am more of a visual person, so visual data sticks better for me. I find visualizations of data more helpful. It is more relatable.

How would you rate your students' current ability to interpret visual representations of data? Their ability to create data visualizations? How might you support the development of their visual literacy skills in this area?'

I think they have a good grasp on interpreting data. I think using visual data in class would help support this.

Patricia Bouveng

Posted on Oct 8, 2014 2:38 AM - Permalink

Well planned and design data visualisation makes it far easier to make sense of that data. On the other had poorly planned and designed data visualisation is off putting and confusing. So I see there is a delicate balance between communicating the intended message well and becoming too caught up in overdoing it.

I don't know that the students i work with would be able to 'interpret' anything other than quite simplistic data visualisations. This of course means that they also do not have the skills to create them. Clearly this is an area that needs to be developed by me, especially as many students have a preferences for learning through visual means.

judith schwartz

Posted on Sep 13, 2014 3:13 AM - Permalink

It's easier to understand data when they are organized into a graphic. I'm a visual learner and I would like to design some infographics. There is a trend for infographic resumes, but I'm wondering if they are useful. I enjoyed the Information is beautiful Ted Talk and I purchased the book.

Sonje Jackson

Posted on Sep 7, 2014 1:26 AM - Permalink

How do you respond to data visualizations that you encounter in your daily life? Do you find data visualizations to be helpful or harmful in your interpretation of the information you consume through social media, news outlets and other channels

I like visuals. I think that there are a lot that can be learned from visuals. I think that are helpful because give a lot of information you can easily answer questions without spending a lot of time trying to read the information. I like facts and from visuals they give me the information that is needed to prove the point they are trying to make. I think that visuals for companies are the most important and beneficial for me. When I am looking to work or do business with a company I want to know what they can offer me. A good visual on their site can either make me want to do business with them or push me towards another company. Therefore, visuals are very important to me.

How would you rate your students' current ability to interpret visual representations of data? Their ability to create data visualizations? How might you support the development of their visual literacy skills in this area?

I do not work in education.

Stuart Bishop

Posted on Sep 6, 2014 10:33 PM - Permalink

•How do you respond to data visualizations that you encounter in your daily life? Do you find data visualizations to be helpful or harmful in your interpretation of the information you consume through social media, news outlets and other channels?

I am a visual learner so when presented with data visualizations I respond in a positive manner. I find data visualizations to be extremely helpful when interpreting information. For me, data visualizations organize and essentially "clean up" information. They make the processing and understanding of information easier. However, if not presented properly data visualizations can be misleading and harmful in the interpretation of information consumed through social media, news outlets, and other media sources.

•How would you rate your students' current ability to interpret visual representations of data? Their ability to create data visualizations? How might you support the development of their visual literacy skills in this area?

I am not currently working in education.

Amy Alford Takacs

Posted on Sep 6, 2014 9:27 PM - Permalink

Having my students create their own visual data is a great way for them to understand that how they study affects what they know and it that I am not just giving them a grade. For my student we are working on bar graphs currently. Once we have more data recorded I would like for them to explore other ways to view their data. Visual data is a way that my students who have a very touch time understanding what they are reading like visuals. It takes the stress off of reading.

Ammon Smith

Posted on Sep 6, 2014 6:00 PM - Permalink

•How do you respond to data visualizations that you encounter in your daily life? Do you find data visualizations to be helpful or harmful in your interpretation of the information you consume through social media, news outlets and other channels?

I respond differently to some data visualizations, some of them I feel are easy to follow and understand, while others seem to complex and it becomes confusing to me, or at a minimum hard to follow. An example would be when information wraps around in a circular or swirl patten, or if there is a huge amount of information crammed into a single visualization. In general I feel that visualizations are extremely affective and they truly do allow a viewer to learn or take in and process a great deal of information more effectively and rapidly than it if was simply text being read on a screen.

•How would you rate your students' current ability to interpret visual representations of data? Their ability to create data visualizations? How might you support the development of their visual literacy skills in this area?

I currently do not have any students to teach at the moment, however I do believe that the younger generation of students currently coming into college are pretty familiar with seeing data visualizations and have grown up around them so they are probably not as inept at creating or understand data visualizations as one might think. I do believe however that students will need to receive additional direction and guidance from a educators standpoint to have their work be as effective as it can be in accomplishing the visual representations true purpose.

Gailey McGuire

Posted on Sep 6, 2014 1:44 AM - Permalink

When students can understand how a visualization is used to convey specific information they will have an easier time interpreting other peoples ideas and turn it into knowledge. They can also be strategic themselves in the way they present their own information using visuals as to sway a particular audience.

Thomas Lerch

Posted on Aug 30, 2014 7:29 AM - Permalink

  • How would you rate your students' current ability to interpret visual representations of data?

I am a visual person, so I respond to data visualization well. Given that our word is moving into a more images based environment, I think it is also important to teach how to understand and critically assess data in infographics or data visualizations.

  • How do you respond to data visualizations that you encounter in your daily life? Do you find data visualizations to be helpful or harmful in your interpretation of the information you consume through social media, news outlets and other channels? Their ability to create data visualizations? How might you support the development of their visual literacy skills in this area?

I would rate the ability of my students to create data visualizations rather low, but I find it more important to stress that we almost discuss and make the students understand the presented data and how it relates to each other. We must equally teach them to assess and to reflect on the date. Given that there is an overload of data today; it is also concerning that we often share data without really knowing if it is true or not. We need to teach our students even more today then in the past to critically assess and be cautious with data and assumptions about it.

tannizia anthony

Posted on Aug 28, 2014 5:07 PM - Permalink

How can your students' data visualization projects build their visual literacy and why does it matter?

Data visualization is another form of infographic representation. The use of Data Visualization help students to analyze data collected faster by being able to see them illustrated visually. It help students to compare and contrast data faster also.

Janette Wotherspoon

Posted on Aug 11, 2014 12:15 AM - Permalink

How can your students' data visualization projects build their visual literacy and why does it matter?

The use of data visualisation projects enhances the speed in which they are able to analyse collected data by seeing it as an illustrated figure rather than the figure itself. The use of colour, shape and info graphics is far more interesting and attracts attention. It has more impact quickly and shows comparisons easier for marketing and sales for instance.

Christia Bowden

Posted on Aug 5, 2014 7:50 PM - Permalink

Data visualization is another form of graphic representation and when students create or find images/graphics to represent data or information they retain the information better and longer. This builds their visual literacy and it all goes hand in hand. Visual literacy is necessary for students' literacy.

Karen Ellis

Posted on Aug 4, 2014 10:21 AM - Permalink

I love the concept of data visualisation. Infographics work well to visually show data that has typically been presented in an Excel spreadsheet. I think building skills in data visualisation is essential for students as data is represented all around is in many different formats. It is like the saying that a picture tells a thousand words and it is so true especially with complicated data that is turned into a visual image and it like fog clearing .. it all becomes clear and makes sense.

Frank Vandenburg

Posted on Aug 3, 2014 6:45 PM - Permalink

Visualizations, like data itself, can be used to educate or to mislead, and I encounter both in the run of a typical day. When its intention is positive, I can get a better understand of a problem or its scope, or the impact of a variety activities. Unfortunately, because visualizations can also mislead so easily (impact of colour, sizing, choice of images, etc.) it is essential to understand the source of the visualization and use the reliability of the organization as a measure of how much to trust the image itself.

I think this is essential to communicate to students in the same fashion as other media literacy. If this is done, then emphasizing visual literacy can be tremendously productive and fruitful for students, both in terms of their learning and in demonstrating their learning to others.

Jarvis Grant

Posted on Aug 3, 2014 6:02 PM - Permalink

How do you respond to data visualizations that you encounter in your daily life? Do you find data visualizations to be helpful or harmful in your interpretation of the information you consume through social media, news outlets and other channels?
I find data visual very helpful. While most of it is related to social media or creative professional issues, I find that it allows me to quickly understand the data that’s being presented. Especially once I’ve verified the data source of the information being presented..

How would you rate your students' current ability to interpret visual representations of data? Their ability to create data visualizations?
They are very good at “interpreting” visual data when it is presented to them. However, they aren't very good at creating it. That is the challenge of teaching the media arts when they first start. They are so use to consuming media, it’s difficult for them to understand the work it takes to create it.

How might you support the development of their visual literacy skills in this area?
I’ve been introduced to how Adobe Illustrator can create charts using data in an Microsoft Excel file or any CSV data file. This looks to be an interesting way to help them to create visual data as infographics.

kent thompson

Posted on Aug 2, 2014 2:14 AM - Permalink

The eye opening apples to apples comparisons when visual data is properly used is appealing to me. My students in my seventh grade classes are just beginning to understand how to interpret and assign worth to what they are hearing and seeing. I can see the value of helping them get used to this type of presentation, although those in power would rather that they didn't get to good at thinking.

Manish Tripathi

Posted on Aug 1, 2014 1:36 PM - Permalink

I think students' data visualization projects help them interpret, evaluate, and synthesize their data and help them become more literate when it comes to becoming critical thinkers. The projects still require them to examine things in a critical manner and use the skills necessary to become literate individuals when it comes to interpreting and making sense of information or data.

This matters because in order to have adults who are using critical thinking skills to deal with complex world issues, they need to use and practice their visual literacy skills as students. Visualization projects can help break down or help a person interpret data and make sense of the world around them.

Janet Wentum

Posted on Jul 30, 2014 11:53 PM - Permalink

Data visualization is a nifty idea. I tend to shy away from data, may be partly due to the overload of data present. My students range from preschool through 5th grade. Using data visualization is one great way of making it easy for them to understand math concepts and how to manipulate numbers.

Mara Manning

Posted on Jul 30, 2014 9:50 PM - Permalink

I love the concept of data visualization and would like to explore it with my students. I find info graphics to be enlightening and entertaining and look forward to seeing what my students know about them and what they think of them.

Exploring this concept in the classroom would be an effective way to individualize a unit by giving students the freedom to select the type of data that would want to develop into a visual graphic.

Henry Sandoval

Posted on Jul 30, 2014 5:47 PM - Permalink

Data visualization is what leads our economy, just think about it.....advertisements for example and how the consumer spends his or her money>

Laurie Myers

Posted on Jul 29, 2014 5:04 PM - Permalink

How can your students' data visualization projects build their visual literacy and why does it matter?

Students who build their visual literacy have a step up on those who don't. The world is now and is becoming more and more visual. If a person can interpret as well as create and develop visualization projects, they will be prepared for almost anything.

Siobhán Murphy

Posted on Jul 28, 2014 4:43 PM - Permalink

I think Data Visualisation offers great opportunities to develop skills in not only presenting data, but interpreting it. Tremendous opportunity to get students to engage more with 'facts and figures'.

Halle Cisco

Posted on Jul 22, 2014 8:16 PM - Permalink

I find them really helpful. Seeing complex information formatted in a way that is visually interesting and easy to read is not only important, but engaging. I don't find it harmful, definitely more helpful. Sometimes a better way to understand what an article is about rather than reading it. Currently my students seem to have a high level of understanding on how to interpret info graphics. They haven't had the opportunity to create their own, but I see this as a future project.

Lana Powers

Posted on Jul 23, 2014 5:13 PM - Permalink

I agree with the helpfulness of info graphics and that my students can interpret the information, but I do think a lot of people are guilty of accepting absolute data and not critically thinking about relativity. I see this as a way to challenge students to think critically especially when creating their own info graphic.

Maria Moraima Jacobacci

Posted on Jul 21, 2014 7:24 PM - Permalink

Hi! I found a video that I would like to share that may help to think if we all have the ability to think visually, so there it is :

Are you a visual thinker?

Mara Manning

Posted on Jul 30, 2014 9:52 PM - Permalink

Thanks for the video share. A good way to introduce the whole concept.

Jan Hunsicker

Posted on Jul 18, 2014 6:23 PM - Permalink

I think most people are visual by nature. By having students convert table data to visual data, the student may be able to understand the data much better. Our society appears to be obsessed with data. Therefore students will need to understand how to visualize data so it can be understood and used.

Rachelle Wooten

Posted on Jul 8, 2014 8:11 PM - Permalink

I think students use of data visualizations will help build their literacy. However, it cannot stop there. Students should also have the opportunity to create data visualizations. In doing so, they are able to create, communicate, (possibly collaborate), research, demonstrate understanding of the information researched, and do some critical thinking and problem-solving while using technology. What a great way to incorporate many 21st century skills.

Renea Jaeger

Posted on Jul 1, 2014 10:00 PM - Permalink

Data visualization is a way of taking information and making it easier to understand. Having students create a data visualization project is a complex task. It involves students having to research and understand data. After understanding the information, they need to present it so that others (audience) can easily interpret and understand it. They need to be able to think critically about how best to present it, arrange it, and compare it. All of these elements are challenging students to do more with data than simply read a graph.

Denise Martinez

Posted on Jul 1, 2014 12:34 PM - Permalink

Data Visualization is certainly a growing area, and people are relying on it more than ever, to help simplify complex ideas. My worry is that, like with any kind of date, and its representation, it can be easily manipulated. Visualized data requires that we trust the visualizer. Have they done their research? Have they been selective in the data they choose to represent? Have the represented relative scale correctly? Do they provide the relevant context? As an artist, and visual thinker, I appreciate visualizing data, and understand, as an educator, that the ability to students to create, interpret, and examine visual date critically, is a vital skill I need to be teaching in my classroom.

Aaron Davis

Posted on Jul 1, 2014 1:53 AM - Permalink

Very powerful presentations on data and visual literacy. The telling of a story with statistics is very powerful. High school students look at the very obvious, the highest/lowest, the largest/smallest. Trends and extrapolations are something they cannot comfortably do without assistance as to how to manipulate the data.

Julie Golledge

Posted on Jun 30, 2014 4:52 AM - Permalink

I find that most people and students react to the visual stimulation of info graphics. Some then take the time to understand what the graphics are actually saying. To this end, some info graphics can be manipulated and don't really show the whole picture. Students often look at the info graphics in a simplistic view, as educators we need to encourage them scratch beyond the surface and understand all aspects of the data.

Gail Dunn

Posted on Jun 22, 2014 1:12 AM - Permalink

Infographics tend to make data more attractive and simpler to understand. This can be a double edged sword with possibilities for oversimplification as well as overuse of data making the graphic too complicated to be easily understood. The concept of allowing the data points to interpret the relationships between the data seems to be a good one that could be translated to a variety of topics both in education and other places. As others have pointed out, data should be free from bias.

I believe students expect to see data in a visual format. We live in a visual society, and students today are visually literate. While I believe the ability to read and interpret data is a necessary skill, seeing data in a graphic format helps maintain motivation and interest for students.

Rachelle Wooten

Posted on Jul 8, 2014 8:08 PM - Permalink

Good points, Gail. I wonder though, if data (especially in infographics) can be communicated without bias? Colors and fonts convey certain moods and feelings.

Sarah Ali

Posted on Jun 18, 2014 3:40 PM - Permalink

I respond better to visuals than written data. I find I can process the information much quicker, if the graphic is clear and not overloaded. The danger is though, that the data may have already been interpreted (as David McCandless touched on in his creation of the left and right politics graphic).

My students are able to read visual data and point out the main trends and ideas. However, they have problems interpreting the data and seeing the subtle information. I think it would help them if they worked with (and created) a variety of visual data, so they could see how data works and inter-relates. Perhaps starting with small amounts of data and increasing the amount as time/lesson(s) progressed would also help: as they become more confident with handling data, they begin to work with more.

Rachelle Wooten

Posted on Jul 8, 2014 8:06 PM - Permalink

Me too, Sarah. I really enjoy infographics because they give me a good amount of information in a visually appealing, engaging, and memorable way.

Simon Blackmore

Posted on Jun 18, 2014 1:26 PM - Permalink

As Hans Rosling’s TED talks show, data and facts are not static - they constantly move and adjust. Samuel Arbesman, mathematician and fellow of Harvard University, states that everything we know has an expiration date, the so called, "The Half-Life of Facts".

If this is the case, then the facts contained in our infographics have to be box-fresh and up to the minute.

The problem of producing clear, concise and accurate data laid out in a simple but engaging presentation is all too evident. What may be more difficult, is the task of removing our own biases when we collate and analyse the data. Or with ideas and concepts, as David McCandless saw when creating his Left vs Right Political Spectrum infographic. His own left leaning wanted the political left side of the infographic to be "better" than the right. Only after tackling his conscience did he recognise that aspects and qualities of the political right could be found in himself, and that a better more balanced and fuller image of the political spectrum could be created.

Anbarasi Subramanian

Posted on Jun 18, 2014 3:32 AM - Permalink

In order to present a data visualization, students have to read up, collect information and sort them out meaningfully. After sorting the information that they need, they can start designing their project. However, for the beginners, it will be helpful if they start with simple graphs, pie charts or bar graphs. Then slowly, we can get them to combine information and present like ones we saw in the TED video. I think there's a misconception that when we say data presentation, it usually refers to graphs and pie charts (the traditional charts in Microsoft Excel). So, once the students master the 'traditional charts', they can further their creativity into creating other types of data visualization presentation.

I think it matters because they are not just putting some numbers into data visuals. The students actually have to read, skim and scan information before they start gathering the relevant datas. Indirectly, it will help them to improve other learning skills as well.

Candie Witherspoon

Posted on Jun 18, 2014 2:38 AM - Permalink

I think infographics are great, but sometimes they can appear too cluttered with data making them difficult to follow, which turns the viewer off and causes them to loose interest immediately. Even the well-balanced one in the TED video which had one side red and one side blue, though well designed, was TOO much visual data. I am a visual learner, and I didn't even want to look into it to try to decipher any of it. The slide show was great however. It was limited on visual and text data with simple structure and design, these types of infographics are far better for the educational environment than the more elaborate and extensive ones. Kids will not stay focused on the more detailed ones. I am an art educator, I live in a visual world, and I was immediately turned off by chaos of too much information. I do think assigning infographics in any subject could bring a more creative element to the lesson and project of study, but I would not push them to the level of elaboration and complication of some of those in the TED video. Keep it simple, or they will become overwhelmed and will not do their best work.

Elyse Diamond

Posted on Jun 17, 2014 7:59 PM - Permalink

For data sources, I use the following sites and use applications such as Adobe Illustrator in the classroom:

Associated Press: “Information about the world's oldest and largest newsgathering organization. Also featuring products and services offered by The Associated Press” (Google, 2012)

Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Data gov: Official U.S. government site providing increased public access to federal government datasets. Includes metadata, how to access the datasets, and tools:

NASA “brings you images, videos and interactive features from the unique perspective of America's space agency. Get the latest updates on NASA missions” (Google, 2012)

Candie Witherspoon

Posted on Jun 18, 2014 2:38 AM - Permalink

Thanks for sharing these statistics and data links! What a great resource!

jc barone

Posted on Jun 17, 2014 7:49 PM - Permalink

By using Adobe Photoshop, Premiere, and After Effects in our pre-recorded news packages and live news shows my students are increasing their visual literacy by viewing & critiquing existing news media and creating their own. I'm going to explore if Illustrator can be another tool we use.

john figliulo

Posted on Jun 17, 2014 4:52 PM - Permalink

I love the idea of changing data into information that is visual. I would really like to teach my students how to do this. So, how do you do it? Where does all this data come from? How do we get access it to it without spending hours of time Binging and Googling? Once we get some data, what are the lessons or steps that you go through to actually teach students how to interpret the data? Finally what are tools can they use to implement their vision and change the data into a visualization? Seems like this could be a whole class....not a unit or chapter.

Timothy Allen

Posted on May 29, 2014 3:52 AM - Permalink

My experience in teaching design in high school as an elective is that you have a wide range of students. Ranging from students with an art background to those who are just taking the course for credit. It is obvious in the first few weeks of design assignments who has an idea of visual literacy and who does not. After spending some time introducing, demonstrating, and modeling of what visual literacy is, looks like, and how it is applied you can see an almost instant 360 degree turn around in how students apply their creativity. It appears that students have more fun and put forth more critical thinking when they are challenged to analyze, tell a story, and send a message.

Damien Soukhavong

Posted on May 25, 2014 9:30 PM - Permalink

Data visualization is a core skill I teach to my students. In order to exploit raw data, it needs to be filtered out, ordered out, and put it in a way you don't have to dig deep for 10,000 hours to find out what you wanted to find. When I introduce Information Systems to my students, I show them some Business Intelligence tools (Excel Power View for instance), that a table with close to 1 billion data is way much easier to understand when it is represented visually: graphs, maps, bars, pies... and filtering/ordering out all those things. Giving a sheet with 100 values is already a hard task for students if they have to find out what's behind it (regressions? time series? ...). Software are an interesting way to input those values and plotting them to find out you can do with. But it makes them learn by instinct what to do in front of a database. Self-granting independence is the key in visual literacy: you see what you see, others may or may not. Crossing them is the synergy of 1+1>2, thus giving the ability to find hidden relations from the data we may not think about. This applies in real life, when you have too many things to do, sort out and filter out what you need to do, their priorities, if it's essential or not, what are the consequences... Data is not only quantitative!

Mark Ingrey

Posted on May 25, 2014 11:18 AM - Permalink

The process of building data visualisations makes students think more deeply about the data and to see interrelationships that would otherwise be hidden. Using this to then construct infographics makes them think more about what the data means and how to summarise it and portray what it is saying to others. In an age where more and more data is available in incomphrehensibly large sets these are skills that will be needed for the future - just the amount of data they need to process in their daily lives is increasing dramatically.

Matt Hankinson

Posted on May 14, 2014 11:52 AM - Permalink

By building data visualisations, students build their capacity to understand and interpret other data visualisations in much the same way that reading and writing texts support the understanding of the written word. It matters because dealing with big issues and large numbers can effectively be representing quickly and with a greater impact than text alone. Relationships between concepts and issues can be easier to understand and interpreted in a visual format.

Jennifer Hunter

Posted on May 1, 2014 2:51 PM - Permalink

Giving students assignments to build infographics will help them take their data and put it into a visual. Visuals can tell a story that is much more entertaining than straight stats. In this manner, students will apply (Bloom's Taxonomy) learned knowledge and gain a new skill.

Megan Nicolas

Posted on Apr 25, 2014 10:57 PM - Permalink

I think I most students are learning to interpret visual data effectively however their ability to create data in a visual form is the more difficult task for them. Giving them some simple tools to be able to represent data in an exciting and engaging way will be great. Seeing the range of representations shown by David McCandless was inspiring as was the types of data he was representing.

Will McDowell

Posted on Apr 23, 2014 4:13 AM - Permalink

Looking beyond the numbers is hard without some graphic help. Even when someone explains the data verbally, it is so much easier when a graphic is keyed to a specific outcome.

Tom Myers

Posted on Apr 16, 2014 1:08 PM - Permalink

"How can your students' data visualization projects build their visual literacy and why does it matter?"

It matters. It is literacy in the basic sense of the word. Empowering the students to disseminate information in a clear, concise manner allows them to express thier ideas more efficiently

L. Camarena

Posted on Apr 15, 2014 9:20 PM - Permalink

Literacy of any kind is important to be able to make informed decisions. In creating data visualization projects, not only do students make the data meaningful for themselves but also practice deciphering research and traditional data models which is very important for students to be able to perform.

Tom MacIldowie

Posted on Apr 15, 2014 6:18 PM - Permalink

The key is the journalism element and being able to spot a story within the data. The vast amount of data online, where do you start and do you have time to check the validity? Our students would struggle to spot a story.

I am planning to start an infographic project and I will be issuing the students with a pre-selected selected dataset. The UK government has produced a very good resource for anyone to use this will be the start of my project.

I have recently watched a video that has given me ideas to use the tools of illustrator in a way that I have not thought of before.

Ariel Elinson

Posted on Apr 13, 2014 9:09 AM - Permalink

"Do you find data visualizations to be helpful or harmful?"

Obviously data visualisation is very helpful but it can also be very harmful. The maker of the data visualization is presenting this data in accordance with his own subjective thinking. I'm not talking about lying or deception. Its can be a way of presenting true data in a misleading way. For example an investment bank can show its performance in the last 4 years. He intentionally wont show its performance since 2008 for instance because it will reduce its performance results significantly.

The viewer will then get a true but misleading impression of this data.

jorge barrigon

Posted on Mar 28, 2014 4:38 AM - Permalink

I think that data visualization can give us a better understanding of the information we are trying to communicate, i think its a great way for students to present information, visual literacy is very important at this moment, we live in a world where images are everywhere and a lot of this images have been manipulated and are use to manipulate us, the more we understand about visual literacy the better understanding we will have about our world and the things in it .

Missy Scott-Lorentz

Posted on Mar 26, 2014 6:06 PM - Permalink

I appreciate what David Candless had to share about data visualizations. They really are easy to take in and digest. I think they are beneficial. However, it's important to look at data in a larger context. If we don't bring in various aspects of the entire picture around a data point the data itself can be misleading. One of the pitfalls and something I'd like to help my students do is to continue to think critically about data and information coming their way.

Cameron Hughes

Posted on Mar 24, 2014 5:05 AM - Permalink

Data visualization can be an extremely effective method of portraying information that may otherwise be overlooked. The problem that can occur though is the reader not digging deeper to be able to effectively interpret and then use that information effectively.

Loree Nalin

Posted on May 8, 2014 6:44 PM - Permalink

This comment by Cameron got me to thinking that information (or too much information) can be on a superficial level like the Trivial Pursuit approach - a collection of somewhat related facts, stories, names and date but in the end what does it all mean and who care? Using visualization would be a start for examining and creating value with perhaps enables crossovers and connection not immediately apparent. I like the mental image of digging (buried treasures)! Thanks Cameron.

Robyn Gibbes

Posted on Dec 26, 2013 1:28 AM - Permalink

I think that data and the visualisation of data is one area which primary teachers and students struggle with when complexities are added. There are now so many tools to support students in making data visual, we need to support them in learning to use these tools and to discuss and analyse the meaning of the data produced by these tools. Students also need to understand how data can be manipulated and affected by the person selecting the data to be used and the form to visualise it.

Phil Feain

Posted on Nov 22, 2013 12:11 AM - Permalink

Three years ago we had a unit on teaching data visualisation introduced to our Year 11 Information Technology course. The timing of it was just after completing a fair amount of spreadsheet work creating graphs, etc and I found that the students really liked it. They had a good sense of how to find, use and format data for traditional charts and this added another dimension to it. To start off I introduced a range of data visualisations that I found on a Google search as well as David McCandless' TED talk. Students then searched for an infographic and then presented its message to the class. After this the students searched for data on an issue in sites such as the WHO, ABS, UNESCO, etc and then put that into a spreadsheet to convert graphically via the use of colour. They then transferred this to create an infographic in Illustrator. It has turned out to be a popular unit, particularly the problem-solving side of it in getting them to consider numerical data in a spreadsheet visually. This has also helped them to use these skills in other subjects in other ways. I am now thinking of writing my course outlines as infographics and getting students to write their resumes as infographics.

Ana Laura Toledo

Posted on Nov 12, 2013 9:26 PM - Permalink

As we know, we rarely read important information in a poster o in a brochure, we have a terrible deficit in reading whatever it is. I believe this kind of projects are changing the way we understand data, they are useful, colorful, interesting and summarized. The information stays in our mind... no matter what.

Blanca Cruz

Posted on Nov 11, 2013 7:37 PM - Permalink

I am currently working in the area of distance education and I found this information very useful for the development of some topics. It is also very important the research process to obtain accurate data that look good and are appropriate in content development.

Imelda Hernández

Posted on Oct 15, 2013 1:29 AM - Permalink

I consider essential reading for understand visual literacy is "The Syntax of the Picture" book by designer and American professor Donis A. Dondis. She wrote a text methodological primarily useful for students and professionals who are dedicated to the field of design.

For topics Data Visualization and Visual Literacy is essential to read this book.

Tom Marshall

Posted on Aug 26, 2013 4:00 AM - Permalink

I'm certainly going to make use of these concepts as a marvellous way to engage students in a valuable exercise in graphic appreciation. I can see myself creating tasks and learning paths based around graphically representing data and other information in a pleasing graphical form, such as info-graphics. I will devise student tasks that require converting cold hard facts into well-devised graphical forms that help communicate concepts more readily. I can see the application in both vector graphics lessons as well as animation lessons using Flash and Edge Animate. I'm inspired!

Deb Joseph

Posted on Aug 25, 2013 1:48 AM - Permalink

Last year one of my 9th graders created an infographic as his "Social Issue Collage" in Adobe Photoshop. He chose obesity in the US as his topic. After completing his data research and using the basic layer blending tools I showed him, he created a map of the US, indicating with color along with a color key side bar the level of obesity occurring state by state. It was clever and more than a little informative. And for him - synthesizing the information in this manner made it all the more personally valuable.

I'm intrigued with graphic visualization in general - in my classes students create maps, signs, symbols. I plan to incorporate the creation of infographics more this year. I'm personally fascinated with them - they are beautiful.

Phyllis Kaupp Seas

Posted on Aug 20, 2013 7:03 PM - Permalink

I'm always drawn to visual data in magazines, internet newspapers, since it is communicating in an easy to relate and understand a great deal of information for me to remember or draw my own conclusions from....and I would never read all the text / pages necessary for that data....would be too boring and DRY!

In my opinion, whenever a student actually builds a data visualization project, he not only researches the information, but first must command an understanding of the materials he want to present; he has to decide how he will creatively format the materials he has gathered in order to best communicate to others the results / ideas he wants them to know. Basically, he is actively engaged in the entire process himself and as always, when you teach, or present material to others, one always understands it much better than before....just in insuring the presentation of materials meets expectations. He not only gains a greater insight into the topic and all the relationships associated with it, but has learned communication skills, graphic analysis and presentation skills as well.

The whole process in this realm is multi-dimensional levels of learning for the individual and much more interesting for the learner.


Posted on Aug 19, 2013 10:26 PM - Permalink

Developing lectures with visual content that is clear and appropriately annotated. Too often science/data graphs are created using default settings in programs such as Excel, which result in poor communication of the content/results derived from the data and perhaps as a result missing the appropriate conclusions.

Dena Wilson

Posted on Aug 16, 2013 2:07 PM - Permalink

It can help by opening their eyes (figuratively and literally!) to how useful data visualization can be. In this day of instant information so many people do not take the time to read an article or description, much less explore or research information. They do a cursory 10 seconds to read the first and last sentence of something and make a determination on whether it is worth their time. And never so true as with potential clients. We are vying for our intended audiences attention and we need to do it fast/instantaneously -- and hopefully accurately and truthfully. Data visualization becomes the tool of choice!

How visual data can help change your attitude about something was very beautifully presented in the video. Loved it!

christina conquest

Posted on Aug 16, 2013 2:34 AM - Permalink

Too much information about too many things has bewildered children and this new approach to visual literacy will help them to sort facts and information to find meaning and make sense. They need clarification and logic to reason with their natural world. We had time, and an uncluttered reality, to build and link concepts.

Shelley Ortner

Posted on Aug 8, 2013 3:02 PM - Permalink

I am a Visual Arts and Communications teacher so I rely on visuals everyday. I find data visualization an excellent tool to help visual people like myself understand and digest large quantities of data. It presents a unique design challenge to students in my class to create interesting and meaningful designs that will both engage and inform their audience.

Sharon Hastings

Posted on Aug 7, 2013 6:56 PM - Permalink

I think that data visualization is very helpful in quickly getting information out to the public in a way that is easy to understand; however, I also believe that, like any information, one cannot just take it at face value. Teaching visual literacy is a must for educators today because our students do encounter so much data. Too often, they do not question the source or look deeper into what the data really is saying. Like many adults, if it fits into their worldview, they accept it at face value and redistribute it. As powerful as information is, misinformation is even more powerful. I think it is really easy to manipulate data to serve your purpose, and I would like my students to be able to discern what is accurate data and what is skewed data. One thing that I teach my students is to ask what is the agenda of the person distributing the data and what is the source of the numbers. That being said, accurate information distributed in a visual format is an amazingly powerful way to grasp the big picture of complex problems.

Martha Clark

Posted on Jul 25, 2013 5:11 AM - Permalink

Having taught elementary math I agree that visual is a great teacher. The Math-u-see curriculum is very effective because it employs visuals (manipulatives) to help show not just tell students the concepts of math. Also, having taught students preparing for the GED I've learned every section also seeks to make sure students can accurately read all types of visual data from charts, graphs, etc. How much more this skill is needed in the information overload world. Helping us figure out ways to help our students make sense of the data is great. I think the speaker was great to help us realize that without a context for our data it can be used to manipulate the truth and make things appear one way or another--my words, not his. I really liked how he challenged us to not just take the first data but to contextualize it (example of military budgets and numbers of soldiers). I think as teachers we MUST help students to think deeper and see relationships and context. Without that they will fall for any person/politician's data without asking the deeper questions. Excellent at spurring on ideas for more thought.

Chad de Kretser

Posted on Jul 22, 2013 6:56 AM - Permalink

Students build their visual literacy everyday, via TV and Youtube. They are continually and immediately making meaning of such. The challenge is to enable students to THINK about the meaning: is it true? is it relevant? how does it affect me? what will i do about it? Playing the game 'Data Dealers' students are building their visual literacy and understanding the impact of data and information in their lives and realising the importance of keeping data private and secure. This has lead to students building thier own data visualization projects and realise the importance of such.

marcia blanco

Posted on Jul 22, 2013 10:12 PM - Permalink

What is the game "Data Dealers" that you refer to?

Chad de Kretser

Posted on Jul 25, 2013 6:01 AM - Permalink

Hi Marcia,

See the following description as per the website (

"In Data Dealer players take on the role of unscrupulous "data dealers", collect personal data all over the internet, and learn how to turn this information into cash. They run all kinds of companies and online ventures - from dating sites and mobile apps to search engines and their own social web. On the way to becoming the world's most powerful data tycoon, they obtain data from a variety of sources – whether legal or illegal - and ruthlessly sell it to insurance companies, human resources departments or governmental agencies. Their growing data empires have to be defended against hackers, complaining citizens, critical media and pesky privacy activists."

Candie Witherspoon

Posted on Jun 18, 2014 2:40 AM - Permalink

Great point! Thanks for sharing the "Data Dealers'" resource!

Janet Hartman

Posted on Jul 18, 2013 9:02 PM - Permalink

Visualization of data allows students to more fully understand and process the information being presented, most especially in mathematics. Since the majority of students are visual learners, teachers have been presenting math in a much more visual manner. For example, Singapore Math employs the use of bar models to represent data in word problems visually to ensure the learners understanding. Explaining Algebra with the use of colored shapes representing variables and numbers is an effective way to present information visually and allows the learner to attach meaning to the process.

marcia blanco

Posted on Jul 17, 2013 8:45 PM - Permalink

Teaching visual literacy is akin to teaching media literacy. I have found that my students are impressively skeptical that they are being manipulated by the media that surrounds them at all times. They are convinced that their tastes and opinions come solely from their own character and viewpoint on the world. I find this frustrating and as a result, I've struggled with teaching them visual literacy with any deeper meaning than just repackaging information into visual chunks. The reading that I've done for this workshop has confirmed this frustration. I can go so much further with this on many levels if I can get them beyond that to look at the underlying manipulations that they are subjected to. I enjoyed the TED talk the David McCandles did. It will be easy to take that and break it down into discussions. I think that may help to bring on the ah-hah! moment that I'm looking for.

Jorge Cantu

Posted on Jul 16, 2013 9:33 PM - Permalink

Visual semiotics is an important tool that posses a basic body of knowledge giving us the ability to interpret visual information. Therefore it is useful for students to have at least a brief introduction to terms like, signifier-signified, connotative - denotative, syntax, semantics and pragmatics, to mention a few.

In my opinion data visualization is an excellent example for synthesizing information, but we should also take into account that in some cases it can present it in a very "cold" manner.

Robin Pence

Posted on Jul 16, 2013 7:07 PM - Permalink

I find that so much is thrown at our students visually these days. Some have the ability to see things, break them down, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate. If we hope for them to interact well with the rest of the world, they need to be able to comprehend what is in front of them, but also be able to interpret it for themselves and others, as well as be able to interact with others about it.

Willie Moore

Posted on Jun 14, 2013 12:33 PM - Permalink

Students will not only learn more about the world in general through visualization projects, but they will be able to have a deeper appreciation for the learning experience.

Dan Gaygen

Posted on Jun 13, 2013 3:27 AM - Permalink

I always tell my students that if they can teach the information to someone else then they can be sure that they understand it themselves. So projects where students create data visualizations will force them to confront their understanding of the data. They will need to know the relationships and subtleties in order to succinctly display them graphically.

Sjaani van den Berg

Posted on Jun 5, 2013 3:16 AM - Permalink

I think visual literacy exists strongly in today's students already. With the widespread availability of visual technology, immersion is a constant in their lives. Creation of their own visualization projects will help them to understand the processes of creation and break down the contents seen in the creations of others. Giving them a fuller understanding of the information.

Tim Chase

Posted on Mar 19, 2013 1:46 PM - Permalink

In the GET INSPIRED video, the TED Talk, the professional infographer mentioned spending a month working on a single high-research data visualization. The most fun visualization (break-ups on FB) required an enormous capacity both technically and creatively. My students want to make meaningful infographs, but I fear we'd just get back the same bar charts showing favorite brands of breakfast cereal--graphed in slightly more creative formats.

Meaning is everything. Can kids K-12 make meaning?