Saturday, December 12, 2015

WERA 2015: Data Viz Workshop

I've done several presentations over the years about data visualization within public education. I've talked about graphic representations as a form of feedback, types of tools, guidelines for improving communication using visuals, and more. All have been brief 60 - 75 minute affairs with some very simple sorts of activities and conversations along the way.

This week, however, I had an opportunity to guide my first workshop. I had three and a half hours available to support educators in really digging into telling the best stories we can with our data. Having this sort of space and time available enabled me to think about the content differently. I've posted links to previous presentation materials here, and this post is no exception. For those of you who might be interested in scoping out the slides, materials, or links, head on over to ye olde dataviz wiki to take a look through the stash.

What I wanted most for the audience this time through was an opportunity for self-reflection and metacognition. Educators have relentless jobs. There is often no chance to think about what did or didn't work with a group of students today because they will be here again in the morning...and the tyranny of the urgent is to plan for that. I felt like it was important for our afternoon to be a time where people could become more aware of their own design process---no matter how simple or sophisticated it might be---and, more importantly, be inspired. I tried to bring in many different examples of current projects from a variety of fields. The best way to get out of your bar or line chart rut is to see where others have made departures.

I don't consider myself an expert in any of this. I do consider myself curious about it. I do see a significant need in our field to elevate our visual communications, as well as prepare our students to do the same. I want to continue these conversations and add what I can. I will refine my workshop materials and perhaps have another opportunity to engage in this work at another time. I enjoyed it and hope that it's the start of something bigger and better for our field.

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