Written by Lynn Gaertner-Johnston, Syntax Training
After you have worked hard to collect meaningful data, the big challenges are how and how much to communicate. Consider these tips when you work on your next report or presentation that includes data.
- Focus first on your message, not on the numbers.
When planning your communication, focus first on the big idea or points you want to make. Then incorporate the data that will help your audience understand and appreciate your points. Be sure your big idea gets center stage, not the numbers.
- Explain the data.
Numbers mean nothing on their own. They need interpretation. Avoid asking readers or your audience to “review the attached spreadsheets.” Why should they review them? Which numbers should they pay attention to and why? What do the numbers indicate?
- Put data in context.
Make it clear whether numbers are positive, negative, or neutral. If you tell a sales rep that she visited an average of six prospects per day, compare that number to the goal number of prospects. If a client walks 5500 steps in a day, state whether 5500 is the magic healthy number or only halfway there. If expenses are 18 percent over income, say why the reader should care. Explain that the account balance will be €0 by 2018 if nothing changes.
- Paint a picture with your numbers so people can see them.
Even simple expressions like “a tenfold increase” or “a 30 percent drop” can seem vague unless your audience can see them. If numbers have decreased dramatically over a decade, do not use words and numbers alone. In a bold-colored graph, show the deep drop year by year, month by month over 10 years.
If your numbers are so large as to be abstract, paint them in recognizable mental pictures such as an area as large as Italy or a distance of 100 Greyhound buses. (Think of your audience when you choose the image.) How hot is 158 degrees Fahrenheit? Hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk.
Or show the numbers reduced to their essence. Jack Hagley’s graphic “The World as 100 People” (www.jackhagley.com/The-World-as-100-People) presents the world as though it were only 100 people. For instance, 83 of the world’s 100 people are able to read and write; 17 are not.
- Highlight important numbers.
A wall of numbers is as intimidating as a wall of text. Pull out essential numbers and focus on them. If you are presenting financial data, show just a small portion of it at a time on a slide or a page–just the portion you are discussing now. If you refer to and show just a small part, your audience will not say, “Where are you?” and “What are you talking about?” And always render numbers in a large enough font that you do not have to apologize for it.
Make it easy for your readers to find important numbers. If a client has asked for your fee, for example, don’t bury the number in a paragraph. Instead, render the number alone on a line or as part of a short heading, like this:
Your investment: US$19,000
- Prominently display the legends for tables and charts of numbers.
Ensure that your audience will know instantly that 3000 indicates 3,000,000 and that your balance is positive rather than negative. Use abbreviations such as K and M only if you are certain your readers understand them. (To some people, M means thousand; to others, it means million.)
- Use only the essential, compelling numbers in the body of your document.
If numbers weigh down your document, your readers may forget your main point. So move most of the supporting tables, lists, charts, and graphs to the appendices. In a presentation, hold back some slides of data, and show them only upon request. Remember: The numbers are not the message; they serve the message.
If you think of your communication as music, your most important message comes through the soloist. The numbers are the accompanists. They play an essential role, but they should never drown out the soloist. If they do, your communication will not reach and change your audience.
By: Alvina Lopez
Bringing multimedia into the classroom is a great way to engage students in learning. Supplementing lessons, opening up new interests, and offering inspiration, online videos make for an incredible teaching tool.
Educational Video Collections
Specifically designed for education, these collections make it easy to find video learning resources.
- TeacherTube: This YouTube for teachers is an amazing resource for finding educationally-focused videos to share with your classroom. You can find videos uploaded by other teachers or share your own.
- Edutopia: An awesome place to find learning ideas and resources, Edutopia has videos, blogs, and more, all sorted into grade levels.
- YouTube EDU: A YouTube channel just for education, you can find primary and secondary education, university-level videos, and even lifelong learning.
- Classroom Clips: Classroom Clips offers media for educators and students alike, including video and audio in a browseable format.
- neoK12: Find science videos and more for school kids in K-12 on neoK12.
- OV Guide: Find education videos on this site, featuring author readings and instructional videos.
- CosmoLearning: This free educational website has videos in 36 different academic subjects.
- Google Educational Videos: Cool Cat Teacher offers this excellent tutorial for finding the best of Google’s educational videos.
- Brightstorm: On Brightstorm, students can find homework help in math and science, even test prep, too.
- Explore.org: Explore.org shares live animal cams, films, educational channels, and more for your classroom to explore.
- UWTV: Offered by the University of Washington in Seattle, UWTV has videos in the arts, K-12, social sciences, health, and more.
- Videolectures.net: With Videolectures.net, you’ll get access to browseable lectures designed for the exchange of ideas and knowledge, offering videos in architecture, business, technology, and many more categories.
- TED-Ed: From a site that’s long been known for big ideas, you’ll find TED-Ed, videos specifically designed to act as highly engaging and fun lessons.
- Zane Education: Zane Education offers resources for visual learning, including the very popular on demand subtitled videos.
- Backpack TV: In this educational video library, you’ll find a special interest in math, science, and other academic subjects.
- MentorMob: Featuring learning playlists, MentorMob is a great place to find lessons you want to teach.
- Disney Educational Productions: This resource from Disney is a great place to find videos for students at the K-12 level.
General Video Collections
Network TV, inspiring talks, and more are all available in these collections. Check out special categories and searches to find videos that will work in your classroom.
- Hulu: A great place to find the latest TV shows, Hulu is also a source of educational videos. Documentaries, PBS, even Discovery videos are all available on the site.
- Internet Archive: Find so much more than videos in the Internet Archive. Images, live music, audio, texts, and yes, historical and educational videos are all available on Archive.org.
- TED: Share seemingly endless inspiration with your students through TED, a fountain of talks based on compelling ideas.
- MIT Video: Online education giant MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts has an incredible video collection, offering more than 10,000 videos for science, technology, and more.
- TVO: TVO is a really fun and useful online TV station, with great ways for kids, parents, and educators to learn about the world.
- Big Think: Much like TED, Big Think offers videos (and more) from some of the world’s top thinkers and learners.
- @Google Talks: On this YouTube channel, you’ll find talks from creators: authors, musicians, innovators, and speakers, all discussing their latest creations.
- Metacafe: Find free video clips from just about anywhere, offering educational videos, documentaries, and more.
- Link TV: On Link TV, you’ll find videos and broadcasts meant to connect you and your students to the greater world through documentaries and cultural programs.
Featuring higher-level learning, these video sites are great resources for finding education that’s fit for teachers.
- Academic Earth: Learn about science, justice, economics, and more from some of the world’s great universities. You can even earn a degree from this site!
- Teacher Training Videos: Specifically created to teach educators, Teacher Training Videos is a great place to find online tutorials for technology in education.
- Classroom 2.0: Check out Classroom 2.0′s videos to learn about Web 2.0, social media, and more.
- Atomic Learning: Visit Atomic Learning to find resources for K-12 professional development.
- iTunesU: Find university-level learning and more from iTunesU.
- Videos for Professional Development: An excellent collection of professional development videos, Wesley Fryer’s post shares some of the best teacher videos available.
- Learner.org: Annenberg Learner offers excellent teacher professional development and classroom resources for just about every curriculum available.
- MIT Open CourseWare: The leader in Open CourseWare, MIT has free lectures and videos in 2,100 courses.
Put together your lesson plans with the help of these useful video sites.
- Teachers’ Domain: Join the Teachers’ Domain, and you’ll get access to educational media from public broadcasting and its partners, featuring media from the arts, math, science, and more.
- Meet Me at the Corner: A great place for younger kids to visit, Meet Me At the Corner has educational videos, and kid-friendly episodes, including virtual field trips and video book reviews by kids, for kids.
- WatchKnowLearn: WatchKnowLearn is an incredible resource for finding educational videos in an organized repository. Sorted by age and category, it’s always easy to find what you’re looking for.
- BrainPOP: On this education site for kids, you’ll find animated educational videos, graphics, and more, plus a special section for BrainPOP educators.
- The KidsKnowIt Network: Education is fun and free on this children’s learning network full of free educational movies and video podcasts.
- Khan Academy: With more than 3,200 videos, Khan Academy is the place to learn almost anything. Whether you’re seeking physics, finance, or history, you’ll find a lesson on it through Khan Academy.
- Awesome Stories: Students can learn the stories of the world on this site, with videos explaining what it was like to break ranks within the Women’s Movement, the life of emperor penguins, and even Martin Luther King, Jr’s “We Shall Overcome” speech.
- Nobelprize: Cap off lessons about Nobel Prize winners with videos explaining their work and life, direct from the source on Nobelprize.org.
- JohnLocker: JohnLocker is full of educational videos and free documentaries, including Yogis of Tibet and Understanding the Universe.
Science, Math, and Technology
You’ll find special attention for STEM subjects on these video sites.
- Green Energy TV: On Green Energy TV, you’ll find learning resources and videos for the green movement, including a video version of the children’s book Living Green: A Turtle’s Quest for a Cleaner Planet.
- BioInteractive: Find free videos and other resources for teaching “ahead of the textbook” from BioInteractive, part of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Maryland.
- ARKive: Share images and videos of the world’s most endangered species with your students, thanks to ARKive. These wildlife films and photos are from some of the world’s best filmmakers and photographers, sharing stunning images that everyone can appreciate.
- MathTV: Students who need extra help with math can find support on MathTV. This site offers videos explaining everything from basic mathematics all the way to trigonometry and calculus.
- The Vega Science Trust: A project of Florida State University, FL, The Vega Science Trust shares lectures, documentaries, interviews, and more for students to enjoy and learn from.
- The Science Network: Check out The Science Network, where you’ll find the world’s leading scientists explaining concepts including viruses and the birth of neurons.
- PopTech: Bringing together a global community of innovators, PopTech has videos explaining economics, water, and plant-based fuels.
- PsychCentral: Students can learn about what makes people tick through PsychCentral’s brain and behavior videos.
- How Stuff Works: The video channel from How Stuff Works offers an in-depth look at adventure, animals, food, science, and much more.
- Science Stage: Find science videos, tutorials, courses, and more streaming knowledge on Science Stage.
- Exploratorium TV: Allow students to explore science and beyond with Exploratorium TV’s videos, webcasts, podcasts, and slideshows.
- SciVee: SciVee makes science visible, allowing searchable video content on health, biology, and more.
- The Futures Channel: Visit the Futures Channel to find educational videos and activities for hands-on, real world math and science in the classroom.
- All Things Science: For just about any science video you can imagine, All Things Science has it, whether it’s about life after death or space elevators.
- ATETV: Check out Advanced Technological Education Television (ATETV) to find videos exploring careers in the field of technology.
History, Arts, and Social Sciences
Explore history and more in these interesting video collections.
- The Kennedy Center: Find beautiful performances from The Kennedy Center’s Performance Archive.
- The Archaeology Channel: Students can explore human cultural heritage through streaming media on The Archaeology Channel.
- Web of Stories: On Web of Stories, people share their life stories, including Stan Lee, writer, Mike Bayon, WWII veteran, and Donald Knuth, computer scientist.
- Stephen Spielberg Film and Video Archive: In this archive, you’ll find films and videos relating to the Holocaust, including the Nuremberg Trials and Hitler speeches.
- Culture Catch: Students can tune into culture with Dusty Wright’s Culture Catch.
- Folkstreams: On Folkstream.net, a national preserve of documentary films about American roots cultures, you’ll find the best of American folklore films.
- Digital History: A project of the University of Houston, Digital History uses new technology, including video, to enhance teaching and research in history.
- History Matters: Another university project, this one is from George Mason University. Sharing primary documents, images, audio, and more, there’s plenty of historic multimedia to go around on this site.
- Social Studies Video Dictionary: Make definitions visual with this video dictionary for social studies.
- The Living Room Candidate: From the Museum of the Moving Image, The Living Room Candidate features presidential campaign commercials from 1952 to 2008.
- Video Active: Find Europe’s TV heritage through Video Active, a collection of TV programs and stills from European audiovisual archives.
- Media Education Foundation: The Media Education Foundation offers documentary films and other challenging media for teaching media literacy and media studies.
Make it easy to find, share, and view videos with these tools.
- DropShots: On DropShots, you’ll find free, private, and secure storage and sharing for video and photos.
- Muvee: Using Muvee, you can create your own photo and video “muvees” to share privately with your class.
- Tonido: Tonido makes it possible to run your own personal cloud, accessing video files on your computer from anywhere, even your phone.
- Vidique: On Vidique, you’ll find a video syndication system where you can create your own channel of curated content for the classroom.
- SchoolTube: On SchoolTube, you’ll find video sharing for both students and teachers, highlighting the best videos from schools everywhere.
Network and Program Videos
Check out these sites to find public broadcasting and other educational programs.
- PBS Video: Watch and share PBS videos online with this site.
- National Geographic: Find some of the world’s most amazing videos of natural life on National Geographic’s online video home.
- NOVA Teachers: NOVA shares highly organized videos for teachers, with 1-3 hour programs divided into chapters, plus short 5-15 minute segments from NOVA scienceNOW.
- Discovery Education: Use Discovery Education’s videos to inspire curiosity, bringing the Discovery channel into your classroom.
- C-SPAN Video Library: Find Congressional and other political programs and clips in this digital archive from C-SPAN.
- NBC Learn: Check out NBC Learn to find excellent resources for learning from NBC, including the science behind just about everything from the summer Olympics to hockey.
- History.com: Watch full episodes, clips, and videos from the History channel.
- Biography: Get the true story behind peoples’ lives from these videos from the Biography channel.
- BBC Learning: BBC offers an excellent learning site, including learning resources for schools, parents, and teachers. One of BBC’s most impressive resources is a live volcano conversation discussing the world’s most active volcano in Hawaii.
Free Movies and Clips
Documentaries and other educational movies and clips are available on these sites.
- Free Documentaries: On Free Documentaries, “the truth is free,” with a variety of documentary films available for streaming.
- SnagFilms: On SnagFilms, you can watch free movies and documentaries online, with more than 3,000 available right now.
- Top Documentary Films: Watch free documentaries online in this great collection of documentary movies.
- TV Documentaries: This Australian site has excellent documentaries about child growth, historic events, and even animations about classical Greek mythology.
Satisfy students’ desire for knowledge and hands-on learning by sharing how-to videos from these sites.
- 5min: If you’ve got five minutes, you can learn how to do something on this site. Check it out to find instructional videos and DIY projects.
- Wonder How To: Learn everything about anything from Wonder How To’s show and tell videos.
- Instructables: This community of doers shares instructions (often, video) for doing just about anything, from making secret doors to tiny origami.
- Howcast: Find some of the best how-to videos online with Howcast.
- MindBites: Check out MindBites to find thousands of video lessons, how-tos, and tutorials.
- W3Schools: Through W3Schools’ web tutorials (video and otherwise), you can learn how to create your own websites.
- Videojug: Videojug encourages users to “get good at life” by watching more than 60,000 available how-to videos and guides.
Government and Organizations
Offered as a service from government organizations and other groups, these are great places to find top-notch educational videos and often, historical treasures.
- US National Archives: Explore US history in this YouTube channel from the US National Archives.
- National Science Foundation: From the National Science Foundation, you’ll find a wealth of multimedia, including instructional and educational videos.
- NASA eClips: NASA offers a great way for students and educators to learn about space exploration, with clips divided by grade level.
- NASA TV: Tune in to NASA TV to watch launches, talks, even space station viewing.
- Library of Congress: Through the Library of Congress, you can find videos and other classroom materials for learning about American history.
- American Memory Collections: Search America’s collective memory to find videos and other multimedia from the American past, including film and sound recordings from the Edison Companies and 50 years of Coca-Cola TV ads.
- Canadian National Film Bureau: Check out the Canadian National Film bureau to find hundreds of documentaries and animated films available online.
Written by Lynn Gaertner-Johnston, Syntax Training
Send me the tips for taking effective minutes at meetings. Thanks.
Whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, the rules for good writing are fundamentally the same.
1. Express, not impress.
Good writing is not about the number of words you’ve produced, the quality of the adjectives you’ve written or the size of your font–it’s about the number of lives you’ve touched! It’s whether or not your reader understands you. It’s about expression, not impression.
2. Simple sentences work best.
– The only possible option in order to accelerate the growth of the food industry is to focus on the fact that the target market of this business demands convenience, competence and cost-effectiveness.
– Better: The food industry can grow faster if food trucks focus on convenience, competence and cost-effectiveness.
3. Active, rather than passive.
– The offering price was established by the real estate vendor and the negotiation process was initiated by the real estate buyer.
– Better: The real estate vendor set the offering price, and the real estate buyer started negotiating.
4. Know who your target audience is.
Who are you writing for? Who do you expect to read your article, your book, or your blog post? Will they care about what you’re talking about? Will they understand the message that you’re trying to get across? Good writing isn’t generic; it’s specific because it’s targeted towards a group of people with something common binding them.
5. Read it aloud.
Reading your works out loud allows you to notice something that you might not have noticed if you were just reading it silently. Go on, read them out loud now. Also, try to listen to your work objectively as you read it. Are you making sense? Or are you simply stringing a couple of words together just to fill a gap?
6. Avoid using jargon as much as possible.
Not everyone in your audience will know what a “bull market” is. Not everyone knows that “pyrexia” is basically the same thing as “a fever”. And surely you can come up with a better term for high blood pressure than “hypertension”?
7. In terms of words, size matters.
Please, don’t strain yourself by browsing the Internet, looking for complicated and fancy-sounding words. Less is always more.
– The man gave a me look so sharp that I sincerely believed it could pierce my heart and see my innermost fears.
– Better: The man glared at me.
8. Being positive is better than being negative–even in writing!
– I did not think that the unbelievable would not occur.
– Better: I thought the unbelievable would happen.
9. Set aside time for revising and rewriting–after you’ve written the whole content.
I’m not suggesting that you should edit each time you’ve finished a paragraph–that would just be tedious. What I’m telling is that you should first give yourself some time to finish the content prior to editing. Write away. Don’t edit yet. Don’t focus on the grammar yet. Don’t worry about the syntax, the synonym, the antonym or the order that you’re using.
Write for yourself, but mostly, write for your target audience. Write the message clearly and don’t be afraid to express your thoughts. Don’t censor yourself yet. Let the words flow. Don’t erase what you’ve written yet.
Right now, it’s all about expression, about art and about your imagination.
All the editing and the fixing will come later.
10. Write. All the time.
Good writing is simply always writing. Write when you’re sad. Write when you’re scared. Write when you don’t feel like writing.
In English, there are words that sound the same but are spelled differently (such as “their,” “they’re,” and “there”); words with letters that have nothing to do with how the word is pronounced (“brought,” “although”); words that contain silent letters (“gnat,” “pneumonia”); and words that simply don’t follow any spelling rules.
Let’s revisit those spelling rules we learned long ago and the words that break those rules.
1. “I before E except after C or when sounded as A as in neighbor and weigh”
Words that break this rule:
2. “When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking?” (Meaning when there are two vowels in a row, the first usually has a long sound and the second is silent.)
Words that break this rule:
3. Final silent E makes the vowel say its name (such as “rat,” “rate,” “hid,” “hide”)
Words that break this rule:
4. Plural nouns—add an “s” or an “es”
Words that break this rule:
5. If a word ends with an “ick” sound, spell it “ick” if it has one syllable (“trick”) and “ic” if it has two or more syllables (“sarcastic”)
Words that break this rule:
6. “A” versus “an”—if the first letter is a vowel use “an”; if the first letter is a consonant, use “a.”
Words that break this rule:
- an honest
- an honorable
- a unicorn
- a united front
- a urologist
- a onetime
Readers, any other rule-breaking words to share?
Laura Hale Brockway is an Austin-based writer and editor. Read more of her work at Impertinent Remarks.