Media Literacy: Bars & Pie Charts, Oh My !

Last semester, as part of my teaching assignment with the Assisted Study Program, I was providing an English Business Technology course for students who were enrolled in a Construction program.  EBT4O is intended as an open level course. The students in the construction program ranged in level from essential to college bound. They received a total of four credits. Two credits for their construction work, building a house/cottage, one credit was for in class construction training, and the last for the EBT4O.

I modified the content and assignments to better reflect their range of ability and the subject matter.  In order to provide them with some practical application I used  Open Office to introduce bar graphs and pie charts. The content came fromEasy, No-Brainer 3-Step Roofing Estimator to relate it to their work in construction class.

One of the problems I faced was making sure that the bar graph and pie chart wa easy to apply.  The default setting on the Open Office graphing graphics is confusing for those unfamiliar with  such application. After checking with a math teacher I was able to determine the basic setting that most people would require.  I saved that setting in the lesson so that all the student would need to do is copy and past the sample graph and then insert the correct information.

In learning a range of computer and media literacy skills, I have found students acquire skills and knowledge more effectively when you use a template. If the content can be related to specific knowledge and skills that are subject related then it re-enforces those computer & media literacy skills.  Note that that this lesson  and instructions on pie charts can be adapted & applied to different subjects.

I have included download links  both the lesson and the instruction sheet. Open Office is free. It can be used at home and at school  ( students will need to have it loaded on their personal laptops or the school board needs to install it on their network).

graphing-instruction-pie-graph1    EBT4O_L4 Pie Charts


AIDA for Brochures

One of the common media assignments given students is the brochure. it shows up across grades, levels, and subject areas. The student is required to present information they have acquired over the unit in a brochure format or they are expected to demonstrate their research skills and present it in the form of a brochure.

What I have noticed is that there are assumptions made by students and teachers  in regards to this activity.   It is often seen by both students and teachers as an easy assignment. Both sides seem to think that it is a simple matter of pouring the wine into the bottle. Brochure templates are pretty straight forward.  While this is true I found if you add a bit of AIDA that the results can be more satisfying.

I provided my students with a Standard Six Panel brochure that includes tips based on AIDA – Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action. These are the basic elements of advertising and creating a strong consistent media message.

As you can see in with these visuals, each panel is associated with some aspect of AIDA. The student can check both content and purpose as they complete the assignment.


If students have been taught the AIDA formula, and they have a clear understanding of who is the intended the target audience  and the purpose of the message being delivered by means of the brochure, they will do a better job. Evaluation of the finished product is easier. Use the AIDA criteria to determine the effectiveness of the brochure. Use the tips & guidelines for content to evaluate specific content. If you require a full colour brochure and a colour printer is not available, then have the student save/export the document as a PDF.



Open Office, Open Learning

Open Office software has some great advantages for teachers and students. First it is free. For many students and their families  the digital divide is a matter of money. Anything that equalizes the educational playing field is a welcome relief.

The next advantage was pointed out to me by my son. He found that Open Office makes  it easier for him to handle spelling and grammar errors. Like many with Learning Processing Challenges, he found Word Perfect and other programs listing and auto correcting features didn’t always help him identify the correct choice the way Open Office did.

The next advantage is that Open Office can save in a wide range of file formats it reduces the problems students have with completed documents that won’t open either at home or at school.

Two useful features  for are the templates and ease of converting to PDF. I created some templates to assist students and  staff .  The Standard Six Panel brochure identifies what type of information is required on each panel.  Each panel is set up using AIDA – Attention, Interest, Desire, Action. Another useful template is the Standard Magazine Layout.  This template is set up as a Tabloid size. This makes it easier to insert  larger photographs and other graphics. Open office does not become as unstable as Word Perfect when inserting graphics and images. Not all students understand file size, resolution, and print size. Nor are they necessarily familiar with how to properly choose and size an image or a document.

Once the document is finished it can be printed, but an easier way is to have the student save it as a PDF. Here is a Standard Magazine Layout sample .

While students are part of the digital generation they are not all equally adept or comfortable with a variety of programs.  Students with limited background or Special Needs are more successful if templates and examples can be provided.

When they can produce a printed or digital product that looks real/professional their self-esteem and confidence increases and they are more likely to hold on to those skills and produce more.