Sheila B Robinson

Reflections of an everyday educator/program evaluator/professional developer…LEARNER


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The Future of Dataviz: What’s in Store for 2015?

Happy New Year!

Forbes claimed in early 2014, “data visualization is the future.” Microsoft called 2014 “the year of infographics.”

And a few weeks ago, my friend, fellow evaluator, blogger, and dataviz aficionado Ann K. Emery  proposed that a bunch of bloggers write out our predictions about data visualization in 2015. According to Ann’s invitation, The only rules: Nobody gets to discuss their predictions/wishes ahead of time. It’ll be fun to see how our predictions overlap (or don’t), and then we can have live discussions via the comments section of our posts.

With that, I invite you to read not only this post, but also Ann’s Blog to see what she has to say, and to check out a few others as well.  Continue reading


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Data Visualization: Sail Forth – Steer for the Deep Waters Only (Part II)

Either you decide to stay in the shallow end of the pool, or you go out into the ocean.

-Christopher Reeve

In an ongoing quest to improve my data visualization skills, I recently ventured out from the security of the shallow end and took a stab at the next level of sophistication with some basic charts. In Part I of this series I describe the process I used to create my first back-to-back bar chart. Once again, I learned most of the skills I applied for these from Stephanie Evergreen and Ann K Emery, both wonderful dataviz artists and great teachers.  Continue reading


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Data Visualization: Sail Forth – Steer for the Deep Waters Only (Part I)

Sail Forth- Steer for the deep waters only. Reckless O soul, exploring. I with thee and thou with me. For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared go. And we will risk the ship, ourselves, and all.

-Walt Whitman

I consider myself a novice, for now, staying safe in the shallow waters of data visualization. I’ve learned to create clean and modern-looking bar, column, and {gulp!} the occasional pie charts. I follow basic safety rules, dispensing with the unnecessary – gridlines, tick marks, superfluous axis labels and legends. I avoid default colors, and proudly leave 3D charts to the real amateurs. To venture beyond that, into the deep current of dashboards and interactivity, I would need a life jacket and tow rope. Recently, though, I waded a bit deeper, and experimented with two variations – back-to-back bar charts and small multiples. In this post, I share how I created my first back-to-back bar chart. Part II will tackle the small multiples.  Continue reading


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#Eval13: #omgmqp, ESM, DataViz, Program Design, Blogging, and the Great Big Nerd Project

Here it is, less than a week after returning home from Evaluation 2013, and I’ve already used what I’ve learned in all three workplace settings. I’ve also enjoyed reading other bloggers’ conference highlights (see below for links) as they in a sense, let me peer vicariously into sessions I didn’t attend, or they enhance my own experience by offering a different perspective on sessions I did attend.

Here’s a recap (in a “longform” post, which, I’m told, is an effective blogging strategy) of what resonated most with me: Continue reading


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Unconventional Wisdom: Putting the WHY Before the WHAT of Presentation Design

There’s really not much good on television anymore. So, I enjoy some down time outside of work and entertain myself by designing slide decks. I just uploaded my second to SlideShare. While it’s all fun, there’s a purpose here too, and for me, it’s to practice what I’ve been learning about data visualization, information design, and presentations. There’s certainly no paucity of engaging, compelling source material available out there.  I’m so excited that just as I finished this project, the newest issue of New Directions for Evaluation (a publication of the American Evaluation Association (AEA)) – a Special Issue on Data Visualization – was released online and features the work of some of my favorite evaluators, data visualization experts, and information designers. You can read all of the abstracts hereContinue reading


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Data Visualization & Information Design: One Learner’s Perspective

I’ve been reading a lot on these hot topics and, ever the teacher, I know that applying my new learning, and teaching it to others is the best way to deepen my own understanding. With that in mind, I’ve created a slide deck and branched out to another social media outlet – SlideShare – in order to be able to share this content with you!

Once you’ve enjoyed this slide deck (or perhaps before doing so), check out my “before” slide below it. I originally had no intention of sharing this, but happened to stumble upon a PowerPoint presentation I had created for my dissertation defense. Yikes! What a dramatic illustration of what NOT to do on a PowerPoint slide! And I assure you, I presented it to my committee exactly as you see it here, and most likely read aloud what is on the slide (and the many others that complete the “show”). My only defense (pun intended!) is that it was 2007, and much of the information I share with you today was not yet “out there,” and quite frankly, I didn’t know enough to be looking for it!  Continue reading


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Declare YOUR independence (from bad PowerPoint) today!

It’s Independence Day here in the US and today, I’d like YOU to declare YOUR independence from bad PowerPoint. No more traditional title and content slides. No more endless bulleted lists. No more sentence after sentence slides that push the limits of slide boundaries. No more cheesy clip art “artfully” placed in the bottom right-hand corner of each slide.

Soon after I published “What NOT to Present” after attending a course at the American Evaluation Association Summer Evaluation Institute with evaluator-turned-information designer Stephanie Evergreen, another evaluator, Excel guru Ann Emery posted a link to economist and dataviz specialist John Schwabish’s slideshare: Layering: A Presentation Technique. As soon as I saw these slides, I knew I had to share them too.  Continue reading


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Is education (finally) joining the dataviz movement?

Poor education field. Why is it we always seem to be the last to know? As a career educator, I get excited hearing about new ways of thinking, knowing, or doing. Often I’m disappointed to find out that in fact, that what is new to us has been used in business or other fields for years. Such as it is with data visualization. Journalists and evaluators (among many others) have ridden the dataviz bandwagon for years now.  Continue reading


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What NOT to Present

A couple of weeks ago I had the honor of teaching and learning at the American Evaluation Association (AEA) Summer Evaluation Institute in Atlanta, GA. I taught a course entitled “It’s Not the Plan, It’s the Planning: Strategies for Evaluation Plans and Planning.” I’ll write about that course another day.

On Sunday June 2, I had the pleasure of taking a full-day pre-institute course from information designer Stephanie Evergreen, called Presenting Data Effectively.

Stephanie is to presentation design what Stacey and Clinton are to fashion (if you’re missing the analogy, click here). She’s the “What NOT to Present” guru. Show up with bad PowerPoint design and she will teach you “the rules.”  Continue reading


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Chart Changin’ Cha-Cha

As mentioned here, I’m learning about the art of data visualization and presentation, and am currently enrolled and engrossed in Alberto Cairo’s Introduction to Infographics and Data Visualization MOOC*  and loving it.

Professor Cairo has shared a wealth of information graphics for my 4,999 classmates and me to study and critique as he enlightens us on principles of graphic design. New York Times Infographics  is one great site to explore the variety of graphics designers use to convey information.  Continue reading