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Enhance your back-to-school coverage with interactive digital tools

It seems like it was only yesterday when both students and teachers were all quietly humming Alice Cooper to themselves as they put away their pencils and books, while parents were scrambling to find the best ways to keep kids entertained during the annual educational break known as summer vacation.

Similar to other certainties in life like death and taxes, the end of August and beginning of September means saying goodbye to camp friends, getting those last-minute dorm room decorations and a sigh of relief from mothers and fathers at the thought of their newfound freedom.

The back-to-school season offers newsrooms a vast number of coverage options, and with those coverage options comes an equally vast number of ways to enhance their coverage through the use of interactive and engaging digital tools.

Map it out

Whether you’re covering the specific start dates of area schools or where your readers can pick up the latest back-to-school fashions, maps are a great way to visually represent data that might otherwise simply go on a numbered list and get skimmed over

Depending on how deep you want to get and the exact map you are using, customization options for map are nearly endless. Google Maps can be built to include multiple layers depending on the type of plots you are featuring, and Knightlab’s StoryMap can be used to visually track the history of your local university.

Compare and contrast it

Back-to-school shopping brings back different very memories for me depending on the specific era of schooling. Elementary school makes me remember trying to convince my mother to buy the 72-pack of colored pencils  as opposed to just the required 12, high school makes me remember the first time I had to go to a bookstore and buy my own copies of Camus’ “The Stranger” and Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” and university makes me remember the shock of having to buy $50 textbooks that I inevitably would never end up opening.

A memory that is consistent through all eras of my education though, is the yearly ritual of shopping for (occasionally tragic) back-to-school clothes. While I supposed they weren’t all bad, I will still never understand the thought process behind the excessively wide legs of the Jnco jeans I wore when I was 12, or the excessively branded Abercrombie & Fitch T-shirts I HAD to have as a high school freshman.  

A great visual embed to include in your coverage of the differences in ever-changing back-to-school fashion trends or of an expansion built onto a school over the summer is by using a tool like Juxtapose to compare different images.

Visualize it

Are you covering the trend of increased tuition or decreased enrollment at your local university, or maybe tracking standardized test scores at area high schools? Data and numbers can add a lot to the story you are telling, or maybe even can be the base of the story, but are not exactly interesting to read.

For these type of stories, especially when you’re publishing them online, finding engaging ways to represent your data is key. Tools like Infogram or Tableau can be used to create visually compelling charts and graphs using raw numbers and data, and similar to many of the available mapping tools, offer a huge amount of customization depending on how much time you are able to devote to building out your graphics.

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