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To LOL Or Not To LOL? WTF?

October 17, 2010

An infographic that looks like an x-y graph which plots infographics versus non-infographics. In essence, it shows nothing because there is no frame of reference for the information in the graph. What value do you place on infographics? These clever and sophisticated designs are becoming more and more popular as a means of demonstrating information. Unfortunately, whilst I appreciate many of them, I fear there are too many and they are taking up a lot of space to say very little. Even worse, the power of their visual appeal can sometimes hide the content they are trying to get across.

I find the following one particularly troublesome for some reasons I will get to in a minute… but first, scroll down and see what you make of it.

An infographic showing the impact of technology in the Classroom. It consists of a number of 'facts' accompanied by loosely related images. The last two or three are (perceptually) negative impacts of tech on learning.

Still with me? Good. Be honest, how much of it did you actually read?

Did you notice that three universities have pulled all e-reader promotions because it disadvantages {sic} blind students? If so, I’d point you at this review of the iPad from a blindness perspective, or this surprisingly moving review of the iPhone from Austin Seraphin’s ‘Behind The Curtain’ blog. And the lack of knowledge demonstrated by the universities leads me nicely on to my main point.

For me, the interesting ‘facts’ are those buried at the bottom of the graphic, or Paragraph 19 as Ben Goldacre calls it. These are the ones that the technoglitteratti would prefer we ignored because they hint at the thought that technology in education is not the wonderful thing we hope it might be.

No.10 on the list informs us that some universities are banning iDevices because of bandwidth issues while others are charging to upgrade the servers and bandwidth. This is a problem that we are having to come to terms with everywhere. One of the key factors in enabling tech use in education is the bandwidth issue as we discussed at the #ediff meeting last Friday. However, in the overall scheme of technology adoption, this is really small potatoes and will be a temporary glitch. The network capacity will improve simply because we have a need for it to. What does get interesting is when students are choosing their universities… Are they going to choose the Unis who will forbid them from using their beloved iPads, or charge them extra for the privilege of using them, or are they going to choose the ones who have no restrictions? Obviously, this is never going to be a major factor… but it might just be a deciding one.

However, the truly interesting ‘facts’ are those which wouldn’t look out of place on a Daily Mail frontpage:

    • ‘Students Who Use Laptops Do Worse’ says Professor
    • ‘To LOL or not to LOL? WTF?’
    • Facebook Users Are Dumber
    • 98% Of Pupils Think The Daily Mail Is A Reliable News Source Octopii Live In Trees

Every single one of these statements (the originals, not my variations!) indicates that somewhere along the line, someone has been neglecting the need to teach these pupils and students how to access and use information today. It is easy to blame Facebook, but if we address this as an opportunity to show young people how to use these tools to enhance their learning… if we teach them how to use their laptops effectively… if we simply take the time to explain what is expected in formal writing (and what a great lesson that could be), then we can take these supposed negatives and make them positives. Andrea Lundsford pointed out in the Stanford Study of Writing (2008) that students today are writing more than any other generation before them. They’re just doing it in different places because we aren’t taking the time to show them how to use these spaces well.

One final thought: if the negatives are just the last two points in the infographic (points 10 & 11), what are we to make of the revelation that by Grade 8 (First Year at Secondary school), only 17% of teachers use computers to teach reading when, if my kids are anything to go by, over 90% of their reading is being done on computers… I think I have my answer: Not to LOL 😦

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. October 17, 2010 6:38 pm

    Hi, I saw your article on a ping back to my blog. I couldn’t read your info graphic, so case and point! Interesting article, I don’t fully understand its context, but I understand enough. I agree, younger people just write in different places, but they need some instruction. Also, I can only speak to my own experiences as a college student, but I promise you that I used my internet connection for far more than just education! My crappy college didn’t even have a network, I had to buy my own internet, but so it goes.

  2. October 17, 2010 7:00 pm

    Hi Austin,
    I’m deeply embarrassed that you can’t ‘read’ the graphic. It it shows a series of quotations about education accompanied by some pretty meaningless graphics all designed to (supposedly) shed a light on the subject.

    The original is from, so they should have a readable version of the graphic.

    I am just going to change the alternative text on the graphic as I believe that is what reader software speaks out loud. Please let me know if that is the case.

    Thanks so much for dropping by! I cannot stress how much your original post meant to me. I found it a really human approach to tech and it certainly connected with me.

    Neil W

  3. October 18, 2010 6:35 am

    Hi Neil,

    If you wondered where the infographics craze came from head over to this article:

    Suddenly it’s all a little sinister! That one above seems to be link-baiting to get the ‘online universities’ website it is held on way further up Google rankings than it otherwise would be.


  4. October 18, 2010 11:16 am

    Hi Dan,
    That’s the problem isn’t it. It’s polite to include links, but how does one combat the creation of ‘infographics’ or any other embeddable content which is (albeit marginally) useful, but whose real intent is to drive up traffic?

    I don’t have any answers to that one.


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