Infographic Lesson: Cell Phones in Schools

I spent the better part of the day yesterday exploring infographics on the Digital Buzz blog (see here and here), and in the process, I decided that I wanted to start making infographics.

Here's my first:

Download Infographic_CellphonesinSchools  

And here's a version showing the complete set of 100 students. 

I don't really like the graphic I'm using for the set of 25—I would have rather used the same icon colored differently—but including the whole data set (a John Holland recommendation) probably makes sense.



Download Infographic_CellphonesinSchoolsREVISED

Here's a similar graphic that uses circle icons that was recommended by Paula Naugle in the comment section. 

I like it.  Using fewer circles makes the image more interesting and graphic.  And before you jump all over it, I intentionally left the scale/key off so that I could use this to prove a point in the activity I'm planning:



Download Infographic_CellphonesinSchoolsLargeDiscs

Here's another version that uses a simple pie graph to make the same point:


Download Infographic_CellphonesinSchoolsPie

And here's a final version using circles to make the same point:


Download Infographic_CellphonesinSchoolsCircles

What makes these different versions of the same slide so amazing is that some of them are just plain wrong.  Some communicate the ratio incorrectly and some leave out important labels and/or keys.  Some use colors in a confusing way.  Others communicate the ratio I'm trying to express accurately, and still others are probably more visually engaging. 

That means these slides will make for a perfect lesson on visual influence and statistics with my students. 

I can talk with them about the reasons that authors are turning to infographics when working to communicate information—we do live in a visual society after all—and the tricks that they use to capture attention and to intentionally obscure information. 

We can also talk about what viewers should look for when studying infographics—-and what authors should consider when creating infographics.  

Obviously, I don't have the entire activity shaped out in my head yet—I've been toying with this all morning—-but when I do, I'll post my handouts here. 

Whaddya' think?

Are these the kinds of lessons that we ought to be teaching our kids?  Will my slides be useful in working with kids?  What about with adults?

Looking forward to your feedback—and I hope you can use this slide somewhere in your work.

16 thoughts on “Infographic Lesson: Cell Phones in Schools

  1. Bill Ferriter

    Thanks for the original feedback, Paula!
    It was neat to see this post change based on the feedback that readers gave me. It went from being a simple infographic that I thought I could use in presentations to being a lesson for my students on the different ways to communicate information responsibly.
    I still have to finish up the actual lesson—I got a bunch of mathematical feedback from Matt Townsley that I can use in a final copy. Just havent had time to pull it all together.
    Anyway…thanks again.

  2. Paula Naugle

    Hi Bill,
    I really like how you took my comment and changed you graphic representation based on it. I think it looks great. I hope your infographic lesson went well.

  3. Erin

    I believe Mr. Station is missing the point of the “teachable moment” with these infographics… However, it might be a second lesson to look into the data collection piece to determine accuracy, credibility, etc. on sources. For now, great use of data that is real for the kids.
    What is more applicable and right in front of MS/HS students’ noses than cell phones!? As soon as something the students can identify with is used in a lesson, there is engagement in that lesson. Learning can only happen through engagement, and the cell phone is the hook here.
    It is an effective way to look at how data can be skewed to represent what the creator wants people to see. Nice post!

  4. Nina Morley Daye

    I like the stats presented in different ways. It makes a good start to indicate how form, color and shape influence our thoughts. Have you thought about using one graphic with various color combinations to see if there are differences in understanding? BTW I am on this blog to ask you to check your email…i have a question about google wonderwheels form your book.

  5. gasstationwithoutpumps

    Sorry, I hadn’t seen the little URL in the corner, since I’d not clicked through to the larger image. On following the link, there was no 75% figure on that page. I had to follow another link through to the summary of a report
    to actually get the data. Even then, it was only a summary of a report with no information about how the survey was done, what population was surveyed, or what the margins of error were. That information was still one layer deeper, and it is this deeper report at that should have been cited. The graphic on page 14 of that report is a much more informative way to present the usage of cellphones, and you should include it for comparison (though Tufte would still consider it excessive ink for the amount of data it conveys).
    For example, the 75% figure comes from doing a telephone survey, which immediately introduces a slight skew as those without phones are excluded. (This may not be a big problem in suburban areas, but in areas like ours with a large homeless population and a large population of undocumented immigrant farm workers, being phoneless is not that rare.) There were also biases due to refusal of people called to participate in the survey and language barriers. Almost all these sampling errors would tend to inflate the ratio of cell phone users to non-users.

  6. Bill Ferriter

    Thanks for the feedback, Paula…
    I made a large circle model on your suggestion—-and I agree about the color issue on the pie graph.
    I’m going to leave it that way, though, for the Interpreting Infographics activity I’m planning. It’ll be something we can talk about as a class.
    And I agree about the circles…that was intentionally confusing on purpose for the activity, too!
    Rock on,

  7. Paula Naugle

    Hi Bill,
    I like that you presented the stats in more than one way. I think the first one could have been better represented with a pictograph where each cell phone represents five students with phones. Then you could have used the same image with a red line across it for each five that don’t have a cell phone.
    The colors on the pie graph are somewhat confusing. The blue part of the circle represents the 75 who have cellphones, so I think the number 75 should be blue also. Maybe the numbers could be the same color as their part of the graph and the other words could be in a different color.
    I don’t like the two circles. I think this representation would confuse my fourth graders. They would see a completely colored circle as representing the whole group. Maybe it is just me, but the scale of the two circles doesn’t seem correct. The green circle doesn’t look like it is one-fourth the size of the blue circle.
    Thanks for sharing and I hope my comments helped.

  8. Bill Ferriter

    Wow, Mr. Station: Interesting reaction.
    A few thoughts:
    First, the citation to the study IS included in the slide. Click on any version and find it in the bottom right hand corner, or download the PPT version to find the complete citation.
    Second, while I’ve certainly simplified the concept of 75% in my slides, I actually believe that’s important in conversations about education.
    It was an attempt to humanize numbers. I’ve been involved in a million conversations about digital tools in education, and the first point inevitably made is, “but what about the kids who don’t have access to technology?”
    My point in avoiding percentages and talking about people is specifically designed to call attention to the fact that such comments intentionally ignore the needs of the vast majority of the students in our schools—something that’s easy to do when we talk in percentages.
    Either way, it’s going to make for a fun lesson for my kids: What impact DOES simplifying percentages have on audiences?
    Are there conversations where percentages are more important and/or appropriate?
    Which kinds of slides are more influential—something we could survey and study easily.
    My mind is rolling…

  9. Wstites

    Like the graphics and your thought process for putting them together. Also like the idea of sharing numbers and stats with student in interesting an meaningful ways.

  10. Candace

    I like the lesson idea because we need to teach kids how to think critically about how they present data. It starts in first grade. After I have kids collect data, we plot it in many different ways and have a conversation about which way is “best” (best having many definitions).

  11. gasstationwithoutpumps

    I had the same reaction as the others to the first graphic: “and the twenty-five who don’t”?
    Also, being an academic, my second response was “how do you know? who says so?” I’d want a citation to the study that determined that 75% was the right ratio—it looks to me like a made-up statistic.
    I also find infographics for single data points very annoying. Like Tufte, I regard them as a way o hiding the lack of information, rather than of making information easier to understand. Good graphics show relationships between different data points, in a way that simply stating the numbers would not. This graphic insults the reader, by claiming that they are too dumb to know what 75% means.

  12. The Science Goddess

    The data selected (75 out of 100) is a ratio—so the graphic needs to represent that, not a number. You can still use ppt, but need to do something to show the ratio. For example, use 100 cell phone symbols, but make 25 a different color. Otherwise, there is no purpose in using the visual—the audience cannot see the “So what?” It’s just a pretty picture, not a stimulus for deeper questioning.

  13. Bill Ferriter

    Good point, John….
    If I were using something other than PPT, I could probably make a longer infographic space and put the 25 below the 75.
    That’s a real weakness of PPT as an infographic tool….The height of the graphic is limited—unless I can figure out a way to make a super tall slide!
    But I’m still stuck on the idea of using PPT because it’s a tool we have access to at school—and that won’t require much training for my kids.
    Any of this make sense?

  14. jmholland

    Bill I like it but I want to see the 100 and then the 75. It makes what 75 looks like more powerful. Maybe 25 little faces with the 75 cell phones.

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