Data Visualization and Visual Literacy

Posted on Feb 14, 2013 by Adobe Education Latest activity: Apr 16, 2014

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

Comments (32)

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.

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."

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?