Datajournalist for a day

Teaching young people about data by making datastories

In our ongoing effort to test and find the best way to teach people about data. We decided to teach people, by having them come behind the scenes and be the ones who made a datastory. Not just the ones reading and critiquing it.

Format and setup

The workshop was made with schoolchildren in mind, both due to the length and content. As such the workshop was offered in our school catalogue, where teachers have the option of reserving the workshop for their class.

The workshop is 4 hours long, from 10 to 14 o’clock, with a short break and a larger dinner break in between. The longer format allows us to expand upon the design proces and allow the students to go through a sped up design phase, before getting to grips with the data.

Program

We begin by introducing the students to data as a larger concept, datastories, and how datastories are used to make sense of large datasets.

After we have explained data and datastories in a larger context, we give them the following infographic from the danish statistical bureau, with data of an average 15 year old boy/girl. We use this particular infographic, as our experience show that data is a lot more interesting if it is quite closely related to the participant.

The students are asked to ponder the infographic, trying to find aspects of it that they would like to expand upon. They are given ten minutes to find ten different aspects they find interesting and would like to expand upon. This is to force them to think broadly about the data blocks in the infographic.

Research and Prototyping

After they have found their focus, the student are asked to research the data behind that particular part of the infographic, and create their won expanded stories.

Then the stories are visually prototyped on paper, with input from the workshop runners.

Final product

After the prototype have been discussed and approved, it is recreated, with the discussed modification, in canva (an online tool for easily creating infographics canva.com).

For more details, the workshop and how to recreate it, will be detailed in our upcoming cookbook.

Infographics for everyone

We held our first workshop teaching citizens how to make their own infographics.

The aim of the workshop was highlighting how the participants could use readily available online tools for creating their own graphically infused stories.

Instead of focusing on the data aspect of the project, we tried in this instance to engage the citizens by helping them create the story they wanted to tell. Be it a CV, an invitation, or maybe a presentation for work visualizing, on a map, where the company’s assets were.

By helping the participants work towards an actual product, and teaching them tools and useful tricks to get there, the proces of creating (data)stories becomes concrete. Our thesis then, is that a future incorporation of data, to corroborate and strengthen your story, is more likely when the proces of creating a data story is less nebulous.

Workshop format

The workshop consisted of three major parts. First an introduction to using data in stories. Then a design- and tool introduction after which we started the work phase.

In the first part we introduce the concept of infographics and data stories; how they are used, different examples, and why they make sense. When data is everywhere making sense of it, quickly becomes a problem. Infographics and data stories are sorely needed if we want to tell or inform about subjects with complexity. We keep this introduction light and short.

after a brief design and tool introduction, we encouraged the participants to start working, relying on the usability of the tool to do most of the heavy lifting.

After our introduction to infographics and data stories, we start up with the design part. This is not a comprehensive design course in any way, but getting around basic concepts used in graphical design is helpful for the participants, in creating good looking infographics. We focus on concepts like complimentary colors and the difference between raster/bitmap and vector formats. Which tools to use, and so on. So, after a brief design and tool introduction, we encourage participants to start working, relying on the usability of the tool to do most of the heavy lifting.

The Tools

We used canva to make the infographics. Canva is a browser-based infographic tool. It is one of many options available online. We mostly chose canva due to the fact, that the non-paid option allows you to upload and output a product, almost hassle-free. There are some restrictions on output formats, but nothing really problematic. Our experience from the workshop is that the tool is easy to use – both for the tech literate and the ones less so. There are many other options out there that provides the same sort of service, and we of course encourage you to find the one that suits your needs the best.

  • Color.adobe is a tool for choosing complementary, monochromatic, analogous and so on colors. Great for avoiding the less fortunate color combinations.
  • Flaticon is one of many sites that offers free icons in different vector formats.
  • Pexel offers free high quality stock photos. Being free and high quality the selection is more limited than you will find at a paid site or a free one with a lower barrier for entry. It is a good starting point though, and will help the participants create more attractive infographics.
  • Vectr & Pixlr browser-based vector and image editors. Great for quick changes.

Takeaways

The workshop went exceedingly well. The participants quickly got to work on all manner of projects. The usability and ease of use in canva allowed almost everyone to get started right away with minimal help from the instructor.

All participants indicated during feedback, that the short introductory parts were very helpful in establishing and understanding the subject. The short timeframe ensured that it did not get too theoretical, while still being informative.

Letting participants start working on their project in canva quickly was uniformly enjoyed. This is likely due to the fact that canva, and other browser-based software, is often very easy to get into for most people.

All in all the workshop went well, and can be easily adapted by other libraries.

Powerpoint used in workshop here (in Danish)