Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Lesson plan about visualization and presentation for advanced business English students

A TED lecture by David McCandless (18 minutes) is the basis for this lesson with advanced business English students.


1: the students will consider the power of visualizing data
2: the students will raise their awareness of presentation technology
3: (if applicable) the students will decide on a new medium for their next presentation


Students discuss visuals they used in the first presentation they ever gave (overhead slides, etc.)
Students describe visuals they used in their most recent presentation (PowerPoint?)
If students have not presented, they can compare older and more recent presentations they have attended.


Students and teacher together build up a time-line of presentation visuals

  • Teacher's notes here:
    • 50's-60's: overhead projector and slides (actually 1940 - 3M company, transparencies)
    • 50's: slide projector (ITA, used for home trials, Kodak)
    • 60's-70's: mind maps, Tony Buzan (Porphyry 3AD)
    • 1980's: PowerPoint, developed by Apple employee Rob Campbell
    • 1986: Harvard Graphics - DOS - MS Windows based
    • 90's: Wordle/tag clouds - Flickr/Delicious/Technorati
    • 2007: Prezi, developed by two Hungarians, an architect and a software developer
    • !7500 B.C.: the first Infographic? cave painting of Lescaux, France - data of a hunt
    • Information design is the creation of infographics
    • Richard Saul Wurman, founder of TED, coined the title information architect
This video can be used in small segments, because the presenter, David McCandless, shows the following graphics separately. You could just use one or two of his graphics instead of watching the whole video.
Topics of the graphics:
  1. How billions of dollars are spent by countries
  2. Fear generated by the media
  3. Broken romances
  4. Human senses
  5. Military budgets
  6. Health and food supplements
  7. The political spectrum
  8. The Iceland volcano

Students can listen and tick the expressions they hear. Alternately, teacher can point out some expressions for discussion. Students could implement the expressions in role plays or homework tasks.

info overload
data glut
failing that...
scrape (as an IT expression meaning to collect data from various sources)
mushroom to...
mountains out of molehills
lack of transparency
millenium bug
data detective
milking a metaphor
convey something to somebody
poured into our eyes
exquisitely sensitive


  • Discussion can go on during or after viewing of the various segments. Focus on both the points made and the way they are delivered visually.
  • Invite the students to choose an alternate method for their next presentation (retro to overhead projector or whiteboard! or ultramodern Prezi?)
  • Hold a debate using the rubric: "Information architects manipulate our views for their own purposes." Agree or disagree?
What's next

Students bring in infographics from their company or industry and discuss how well they help visualize the data.
Students recast one of their previous PowerPoint presentations with different technology and present it. Discuss the relative impact.

Lascaux caves, prehistoric paintings: the first infographic?


  1. Hi

    My name is Chenee Marie and I'm an avid subscriber of your blog and I thought you might like this infographics about The Achievement Gap that I recently had a chance to take part of. You can find it here:

    I'd love to know what you think by leaving a comment. I'm always on the look out for interesting conversation. :D


    Chenee Marie

    Chenee Marie

    1. First, I'm embarrassed to realize your comment has been waiting here for me since February 5, 2013! I had turned off notifications, but now they are on again. About your infographic, two things: it is very interesting data, colourful and readable, but I wonder why there isn't a graphic about poorer students who DID succeed, and the conditions they succeeded in (showing the other side of the issue). Secondly, I am curious how you created the infographic itself: did you you use a special program, maybe some open-source tools? Looking forward to your reply!