Sunday, May 31, 2015

Visualizing The Human Cost of World War II

Source: The Fall Of WWII
We were hoping to have this post ready for Memorial Day last Monday, but with one week of school left, final exams, report cards, etc., the time just vanished. The data visualization used to tell the story in The Fallen Of World War II is an interactive documentary showing the human cost of war. It was written, directed, coded, and narrated by Neil Halloran. The film is a timeline of events that allows viewers to pause the narration to interact with the data.

Source: The Fallen Of WWII
The documentary focuses on the casualties and the pivotal moments in the course of the war when there was a dramatic shift in the numbers. It counts both military and civilian deaths. It blends the use of icons and charts with actual black and white photographs to show the human side of the war, creating a narration that is both a visualization as much as a story.

Source: The Fallen Of WWII
The narrator informs the viewer at the appropriate time to stop the video to interact with the charts. It occurs somewhere in the middle of this 15-minute data visualization, and again just before the end of the film. While it may seem long compared to many motion graphics and explainer videos, it is well worth the watch. We can see how our students would be mesmerized by the continuous tale recounting the huge number of victims of World War II.

It is definitely one for any history teacher’s toolkit. It is a powerful reminder of the tragedy that war inflicts on people.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Benefits Of Good Design - Resources For Community College Learners

Source: ASIDE 2015

Community college students everyday interact with a range of materials: handouts, worksheets, outlines, templates, PowerPoints, etc. From the simplest to the most complex, these resources are sometimes the primary conduits for information and training. The design of these materials, therefore, matters. The visual presentation of instructional tools can make the difference between detachment and engagement, between reticence and retention.

One of the touchstones of the design world is the unity of form and function. This “big picture / small picture” harmony is an equally crucial lesson for teachers and learners of all ages. Whereas art is something we look at, design is something we use everyday. It gives context to content and supports the relationship between the two. Good design of information delivers content that is engaging to the eye without becoming a distraction. It guides the attention through carefully controlled and selected visual components; it retreats to the background, enabling the purpose of the finished product to come forward.

Source: ASIDE, Tommy McCall

In creating both tangible and digital presentations for college learners, educators can ask themselves about the desired purpose, audience, and format of their materials. Similarly, considerations of layout, font, color, and alignment can make positive differences in conveying crucial concepts. A few notions to keep in mind include:
  • Visual media bombard the modern eye
  • Images increase the level of engagement and retention
  • Design creates meaning and relationships
  • The eye reads many types of "texts"
  • Simple tools and techniques can aid understanding
  • Emphasis, typography, hue, layout, and balance are key
Source: ASIDE 2015

We recently had the privilege of discussing these ideas with the faculty of the Department Of Reading And Basic Education at Nassau Community College (NCC) in New York. It was a pleasure speaking to them for their spring professional development. Our session was entitled, "The Benefits Of Good Design: Simple Strategies For Creating Elegant and Effective Materials To Engage Students." All of the slides, links, and resources from our presentation can be found here.

Many thanks to the warm and welcoming educators at NCC for inviting us and for being such gracious hosts. It was a pleasure sharing ideas and exploring the potential of visuals to make a difference in the lives of learners. We look forward to staying in touch and continuing the dialogue about design!
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