Imagequilts, with Edward Tufte and Adam Schwartz

September 5, 2013

These are pretty cool.

Can you use them in a classroom?  Some of these Imagequilts pack a lot of information into a small space — such as the one for Cézanne.

Here, “Subatomic Particles“:

Subatomic particles, by Tufte and Schultz; click image for a larger version

Subatomic particles, by Tufte and Schwartz; click image for a larger version

Paul Cézanne“:

Paul Cezanne, Imagequilt by Tufte and Schwartz

Paul Cezanne, Imagequilt by Tufte and Schwartz. Useful in art history? European history?

Super Advanced Placement (AP) history teacher John Irish created outstanding PowerPoints showing off art of European eras, or American eras, for use in introducing a unit of history (see a smattering of examples here).  Could these Imagequilts substitute, or do it as well, and — especially — faster?

Here’s another, “Pablo Picasso“:

Imagequilt, Pablo Picasso, by Tufte and Schwartz

Imagequilt, Pablo Picasso, by Tufte and Schwartz

This one could be particularly useful in a physics course, or a unit on the history of science.  Richard Feynman may be most famous, pedagogically at least, for his invention and use of Feynman Diagrams.  Most discussions simply mention the things, though a few attempt short explanations.  Rare is to find a good example of a Feynman Diagram, to see just what they are and how they work.  Tufte and Schwartz offer a bunch:

Feynman Diagrams, an Imagequilt from Tufte and Schwartz

Feynman Diagrams, an Imagequilt from Tufte and Schwartz

Imagequilts is a Chrome App, available for download so you can make your own.  Of course, you’ll need to use Google Chrome to get full effect.

Got any Imagequilts you’d like to share?

More:


Edward Tufte channels Richard Feynman

August 6, 2013

Tufte writes at great length — well, writes and demonstrates — about yellow warning signs.  (Yes, that Edward Tufte.)

In one of his demonstrations, the art comes from the ideas and sayings of Richard Feynman.

Edward Tufte makes art out of Feynman's ideas.

Edward Tufte makes art out of Feynman’s ideas. Sorta. Edward Tufte, Nature Cannot Be Fooled, print on canvas, 78″ x 27 ½”, edition of 3

This guy makes money doing that? What kind of charmed life is that?

More:

Just how fitting is it that Tufte uses the words of Feynman, probably more famous for Feynman diagrams than the work that got him a Nobel?

English: Picture of a Feynman diagram, inscrib...

“Picture of a Feynman diagram, inscribed by Richard P. Feynman to me [who MFB has not identified], in my copy of Volume 3 of his Feynman Lectures on Physics (Quantum Mechanics). Picture taken by self. if you can’t read the symbols, they are \gamma_\mu to \gamma_\mu and 1/q^2 .” Wikipedia image

English: Edward Tufte giving a class and holdi...

Edward Tufte giving a class and holding a scanned copy of a first edition book by Galileo. Wikipedia image


No more than 3 points in your presentation!

February 28, 2013

Interesting video from Ethos3, a company that works on presentations and helping others make better presentations.

Um, no, I don’t think they aim at teachers and educators — it’s a for-profit group, not a charity.

That’s also one of my concerns.  Here’s one of a series of short videos Ethos3 prepared, to help you with your next presentation or, you hope, the woman or man who will be making that presentation you have to watch next Wednesday morning at Rotary Club, or at Scout leader training next Saturday, or kicking off the budget planning exercise next Monday (at 7:00 — coffee provided so don’t be late!):

98 views

Generally, I’d agree.

But what about teachers, who have to slog through 150 specific items for the state test?

Observations:

365 Project - Day 29 - I *hate* Powerpoint

Borrowed caption: “365 Project – Day 29 – I *hate* Powerpoint (Photo credit: mike_zellers)”

  1. Teachers could benefit greatly from learning presentation secrets, and making their in-class presentations much more effective.
  2. No school district in America, public, charter, parochial, or homeschool, will give you time to put together such an effective presentation.
  3. Most teachers get no coaching on presentation effectiveness, and their students lose out.
  4. Just because the administrators won’t cut you slack to do it, doesn’t mean a teacher shouldn’t learn about effective presentation techniques, and use them.

In a world of bad bosses, it’s almost impossible to get a really great principal at a school.  Teachers gotta slog on anyway.

You won’t have the time to do the presentation your students deserve, but you should try, anyway.

Dreaming for a minute:  I wish I could get a team like this to help out with designing a curriculum, figuring out where presentation work, how to give them real punch, and where not to use them at all.

What do you think?  Can you tell your story in just three points?  Can you reduce a lecture to three key points that would be memorable, and that spurs students to learn what they need to learn?

More:


Economic history of the world in 4 minutes, from Hans Rosling at BBC

November 27, 2011

I would have sworn I had posted this earlier.  I can’t find it in any search right now.

So, here it is:

Hans Rosling does a program on BBC showing, among other things, great data displays.  In this one he shows how the development of trade and free enterprise economics lifted most of the world out of dismal, utter poverty, over the course of 200 years.

“200 countries, 200 years, in 4 minutes – the Joy of Statistics”

How can you use this in the class, world history teachers?  Economics teachers?  Does freedom mean you can get rich?  Or does getting rich mean you get freedom?  Can a nation achieve riches without freedom, or freedom without riches?

You need to know:

Uploaded by on Nov 26, 2010

More about this programme: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00wgq0l
Hans Rosling’s famous lectures combine enormous quantities of public data with a sport’s commentator’s style to reveal the story of the world’s past, present and future development. Now he explores stats in a way he has never done before – using augmented reality animation. In this spectacular section of ‘The Joy of Stats’ he tells the story of the world in 200 countries over 200 years using 120,000 numbers – in just four minutes. Plotting life expectancy against income for every country since 1810, Hans shows how the world we live in is radically different from the world most of us imagine.

Tip of the old scrub brush to The Tufted Titmouse.


Fight the Nerd Loop – science education and communication for a troubled and troubling world

October 14, 2011

See Hank Roberts’ comment in the post on another repeat of the old DDT/Rachel Carson hoaxes.

Clearly, performing the science and writing the journal articles isn’t getting the messages out that need to be gotten out, not on the continuing destruction of our environment, which leads to the continuing destruction of our climate, nor on health care, nor sex education, nor the destruction of public education in the name of “teacher accountability, nor evolution as the vastly superior and more accurate portrayal of life than creationism, nor the failure of supply-side economics, nor on a number of other issues.

Remember Flock of Dodos?  Andrew Revkin at Dot.Earth, a New York Times blog, interviewed Randy Olson about the Nerd Loop.  Specifically, Olson thinks we need to avoid it.  I like Olson’s use of graphics in this interview.

You should read Olson’s post at his blog, too:  “The Nerd Loop:  Why I’m losing interest in communicating climate change.”

Alas, Olson doesn’t offer us any pixie dust.  Maybe we need to stop waiting for pixie dust, eh?

What do you think?


Radiation dose comparison charts from XKCD

March 20, 2011

No, there’s no humor in this thing — just good, solid information.

XKCD put together a chart that shows in geometric terms how various radiation doses work. With a tip of the pen to Bob Parks, the chart notes that cell phones don’t count here because cell phones don’t put out ionizing radiation, the type that causes cancer, but just radio waves.

The chart won’t be easy to read here — click on the image and go to the XKCD site for a bigger, more readable image:

Radiation Dose Chart from XKCD

Radiation Dose Chart from XKCD

It’s a good, clear graphic in its full size.  Go see.


Nuclear weapons: History and policy, in a poster

December 23, 2010

Wish I knew who created this poster, and how.  Some minor inaccuracies — can you find them?  Could you prevail on the Big Format Printer person at your school to print one of these full size for your U.S. history, world history or government class?

Nuclear Weapons, a poster

Nuclear Weapons, a poster

How about a similar poster for the Cold War?  Vietnam War?  Civil Rights Movement?  Gilded Age?

Tip of the old scrub brush to Kenny, cold in Pinggu.


Wow (in metaphor)

August 7, 2010

You should be using this tool, don’t you think?

(WordPress doesn’t support embedding this player — you’ll have to go see for yourself — it’s worth the click.)

One more way to make outstanding presentations; one more way to get students involved in rationally-active, brain-intensive, graphic organizers.

One tool I picked up in a session with Learning.com earlier this week.

(See also “Thoughts on using Prezi as a teaching tool.”)

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Watch my presentation or I’ll shoot this dog . . .

May 20, 2010

National Lampoon once ran a cover of a nice, spotted mutt, tongue out, looking sideways at a pistol pointing at its head.  There was a sort of a caption:  “If you don’t buy this magazine, we’ll kill this dog.”

That’s one way to try to boost circulation!  I first saw the magazine on the rack in a small pharmacy in Colorado Springs, across the street from Colorado College, between rounds of the Colorado College Invitational Debate Tournament.  Being short of cash and in sore need of eye drops, I looked at the magazine but put it back on the rack.  The woman at the cash register watched me carefully.  When I got to the register, she said, “You know, they’ll do it, too!  They’re just the sort of people who will kill that poor dog!”

(I imagine that woman has led Colorado Springs’ dramatic move to the right in politics.)

The publishers got that woman’s attention, didn’t they?

Cartoon by Mark Goetz, on the failure to heed Edward Tufte

Comes an article in The Scientist, “Pimp your PowerPoint.” It’s a news story based on a book by Michael Alley.

In the middle of the 19th century blackboards were all the rage. According to Pennsylvania State University engineering communication professor Michael Alley, it was common for universities and research institutions to proudly advertise that they had the only slate writing board in a 100-mile radius. Scientific lectures became more engaging than they’d ever been.

More than 150 years later, there’s still room for improvement. “People are not anywhere close to tapping the potential that a PowerPoint presentation offers,” Alley says. “We have a tool that can do an incredible amount, and people just waste it.” Who hasn’t been lulled into a somnolent state by some well-intentioned scientist presenting his research to a captive audience by reading a seemingly endless stream of bullet points?

Any media, done well, can be wonderful.  P. Z. Myers’ paean to Prof. Snider and his color chalk artworks reminds us that even a chalkboard can be a place of art, in the eye and hands of someone who gives thought to the work and practices the skills necessary to communicate well.  Looking around my classroom today, I note that better than half the whiteboard space features paper maps held to the board with magnets (which the kids like to steal).

Sometimes a flipchart is all you have, and sometimes a flipchart is all you really need — again, with thought to the ideas to be presented and a bit of polishing of the skills.

The piece in The Scientist relates useful ideas to help somebody who wants to make a better, less sleep-inducing, communicative PowerPoint (or better, maybe, KeyNote) presentation.

Unplug, think, and write
According to Galloway, using PowerPoint to make a great presentation starts with powering down the laptops and writing out an outline on index cards or a legal pad. “People have to shut off their computer and go away as they’re writing their PowerPoint presentation,” he says.

Establish your assertion
Alley says that he starts planning each slide by writing down a single sentence stating the idea he wants the audience to take away. “You have defined what it is you need to support that statement,” he says. “That’s where it starts.” Alley adds that the sentence should only take one or two lines, should consist of only 8–14 words, and should appear in 28-point font when inserted in the final PowerPoint presentation.

Assemble the visual evidence
Let the assertion sentence for each slide guide your decision as to which visuals should accompany it. Use “explanatory images”—not decorative or descriptive images—to support each assertion, says Joanna Garner, assistant professor of psychology at Pennsylvania State University. When describing the context or methods of your research, photos and movies are ideal pieces of evidence; when presenting your results, elements like graphs, tables, or charts (appropriately highlighted to emphasize key points) will do the trick.

Read more: Pimp your PowerPoint – The Scientist – Magazine of the Life Sciences http://www.the-scientist.com/templates/trackable/display/article1.jsp?type=article&o_url=article/display/57186&id=57186#ixzz0oSXiXCT6

Two things you gotta have first:  Something to say, and a desire to say it well.

Resources:

The Craft of Scientific Presentations: Critical Steps to Succeed and Critical Errors to Avoid, by Michael Alley, Springer-Verlag, Berlin, 2003. $39.95.

Presentation Zen Design: Simple Design Principles and Techniques to Enhance Your Presentations, by Garr Reynolds, New Riders Publishing, 2010. $31.49.

slide:ology, by Nancy Duarte, O’Reilly Media, Sebastopol, Calif., 2008. $34.99. (She’s got a blog, too.)

The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, by Edward Tufte, Graphics Press, Cheshire, Conn., 1983. $40.00.


Watts falls victim to Monckton’s voodoo

October 19, 2009

Among those who call themselves “skeptical” of claims about climate change, Anthony Watts has distinguished himself from time to time for often using solid science and raising good questions.  His campaign to look at the placement of weather reporting stations indicates an understanding of the way science should work (though we haven’t seen results).

So, what’s Watts doing repeating Monckton’s hysterical, inaccurate rantWe already know Monckton’s testimony is impeached.

Is Watts so politically naive as to think any nation would cede sovereignty on an issue of climate change? One more indication that people should stick to their knitting, and not venture into areas where they have no expertise.


World’s best graphs

May 14, 2008

I miss Headrush.  Here’s why — and if there’s not a graph or other good idea here you can steal, you’re not thinking.  Get another couple of cups of coffee.


WikiMedia’s appropriate pic of the day

April 30, 2008

Well, it woulda been more appropriate in April 25, perhaps — though the species is not a malaria-carrying mosquito.

Still, you gotta love it, Wikimedia’s Picture of the Day for April 30, 2008:

 

Culex spp., larva, near the surface of a body of water.

This would make a great background for a PowerPoint presentation with just a bit of work, I think. The browns are about the same intensity as the blues and greens. Nice background for a presentation on mosquitoes — outstanding background for slide of a chart on mosquito populations or somesuch.

Warm up for biology class:  Invert the photo, ask kids to explain what it is.


Designers correct: Font choice affects grades

January 12, 2008

Put your paper into Georgia, a serif font, and your grades may rise.

Some enterprising fellow at Fadtastic did the research (now available here in archives), and discovered Georgia-fonted papers tend to get A grades, Times Roman-fonted papers get A- grades, and Trebuchet-fonted papers get B grades (“The Secret Lives of Fonts).

Of course, that’s what the type designers, book designers and web designers have been telling us for 20 years — a serif font is easier to read, and makes the reader feel more at ease. When graders feel good, the paper gets a good grade. That’s logical.

Georgia Font examples, from Wikipedia

Georgia Font examples, from Wikipedia

I also discovered that when faxed to news editors, sans serif fonts get better play. If the press release is legible, it goes farther.

And, when I was taking broadcast courses, my grades rose significantly when my IBM Correcting Selectric II arrived, and I started doing all my scripts in Orator font. The teacher, an active newsman at the time, graded higher when he recognized the font more — it was roughly the same font on the teleprompter at his station.

Pick your font and your transmission method accordingly.

The author of this non-scientific study is a web designer, of course.

I’ll bet you’ll find that conclusion, backed with some sort of research, in the book design and web design texts.

Remember when we all used typewriters, and such choices were not options at all?

Tip of the old scrub brush to Graceful Flavor.


Worried about plagiarism? You don’t know the half of it

November 24, 2007

 

Larry Lessig, speaking at TED, makes the case for kids who use stuff borrowed from others in their classroom presentations.

First, this speech should open your eyes to the danger of our only preaching against plagiarism to kids who borrow copyrighted stuff off the internet (see especially the last two minutes of his almost-19 minute presentation). What’s the alternative, you ask? See what Prof. Lessig says. What are the alternatives?

Second, Lessig shows how to use slides in a live presentation, to significantly increase the content delivered and the effectiveness of the delivery.

Wow.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Presentation Zen. Go there now and read Garr Reynolds’ take on Lessig’s presentation.

Who is Larry Lessig? You don’t know TED? See below the fold.

Read the rest of this entry »


Effective presentations: Door knocking, phoning

October 9, 2007

It doesn’t matter what your politics are — Rob Reiner’s got a great little film here on effective presentations (the one at the campaign site is better quality than the one on YouTube). He’s pushing for Hillary Clinton for President. What he says applies to anything — selling Girl Scout cookies, selling Boy Scout popcorn, raising money to fight breast cancer, recruiting people to your organization, talking about the hero’s quest in Beowulf for your English 3 class, making a case for more computers for your classroom, whatever.

“She’d rather do laundry than talk to you.” That’s an acid test. If your audience would rather do laundry, you need to listen to Rob Reiner.

[Gee, I hope the Clinton campaign leaves that video up for a long time . . .]


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