21 posts categorized "Data and Maps"

March 29, 2011

Data Reveals Stories: Part Three | Boxes

This is one of a six-part series on how to harness data to reveal stories. It represents notes and follow-on links. If you want to take part in an exciting workshop to get your hands on real life data sets, create your own visualisations and learn how to share them, you can join me in Boston at Building Learning Communities for my pre-conference workshop this summer, or ask for it as one of our masterclass sessions. Many of the examples cited are from the information visualiser's Bible, Information is Beautiful: buy the book (in the UK | in the USA) or visit the blog.

Boxes and Bar Charts
Potentially the most boring of all graphing, these can be really entertaining, shocking or thought-provoking. Or all three. Seek the greatest differences in data to make maximum impact. Seek to overlay boxes where relativity is important, or to lay them side to side where you want to compare like for like.
Clay Shirky's Cognitive Surplus explained in a picture
Debtris UK or Debtris USA versions:

Proportionate Circles
Lining up or superimposing circles of proportionately varying size helps emphasise the parts that make up any whole.
How you spend your life and The shocking truth of conviction rates for rape in England and Wales (overlapping circles): Information is Beautiful pp.196-199.
The Sunday Times' News roundup of 2010:

Sunday Times news visualisation

Snake Oil? Are natural remedies all they're cracked up to be?

Snake Oil?

This is a free-to-download application that amasses some of the most authoritative (but dense) information in the world, and helps you spot trends amongst countries and within continents. Look at how Hans Rosling manipulates data to tell stories, in the BBC Clip below, for example, and then set students the challenge of finding their own 'shocking truths' within the available axis:


Data Reveals Stories: Part Two | Words

This is one of a six-part series on how to harness data to reveal stories. It represents notes and follow-on links. If you want to take part in an exciting workshop to get your hands on real life data sets, create your own visualisations and learn how to share them, you can join me in Boston at Building Learning Communities for my pre-conference workshop this summer, or ask for it as one of our masterclass sessions. Many of the examples cited are from the information visualiser's Bible, Information is Beautiful: buy the book (in the UK | in the USA) or visit the blog.

Mountains out of a molehill
Annotated graphing

Take a graph that would otherwise be a boring squiggle and present us with startling or surprising information as annotated text.

Breakups, as monitored through Facebook Status Updates of "… just ended a relationship"
Mountains out of Molehills - column inches presented as a molehill graph.

Contrast image and (in words) story
Images can be used to make us smile, while words portray the deep, shocking truth.
Murderous dictators by facial hair (Information is Beautiful, p.172)

Calligram of the Great Firewall of China

Write a text that takes the shape of the thing you are describing, adding proportionality or geography to add another level of meaning.
The Great Chinese Firewall as shown through websites that are blocked from coming into China and searches that are forbidden within it, in the form of a verbal map.

Proportionate Words
The data cliché of Wordle stops being a cliché when it makes a point.
Try Tagcrowd if you want to delimit the words and have a more accurate representation of the words that matter (i.e. by automatically getting rid of pronouns, articles etc).
Compare political bias in newspapers by TagCrowding the same story across tabloids, right and leftist papers.
Copy and paste speeches by politicians who speak about the same issues, and see what really interests them: Obama's vision for education:

Tagcrowd - Obama Education

versus that of English Education Secretary, Michael Gove:

Tagcrowd - Gove Education


Data Reveals Stories: Part One | Why do data differently?

Sunday Times news visualisation

Data is not boring. Data is not something that's just for math or science class, and it's a whole lot more than just being able to create a bar chart. It's about making more than the humble bar chart to start revealing hidden stories, and creating impact in the minds - and hearts - of those viewing it.

Since 2010 we've never had so much publicly available data about the way our lives are run, the environment, our geography, our history… But most of us don't know how to tap into the PDFs, tables, geocodes and charts to dig out the meaningful stories hidden in there. Learning how is one of the key new literacy skills our youngsters will need if they are to be fully participative members of society.

Over the next series of posts I'll show some ideas for helping students make sense of the world of data around them. In this post, explore some of the rationale behind harnessing data for learning.

There are two main reasons why data has become a hot topic in civic life, and, I think, will become a core area of learning literacies:

  1. The tools are plentiful and easy to use
    You don't have to settle for an Excel bar graph or pie chart to try to make sense of information:
    • Ushahidi has a selection of tools that make soliciting information from people easy, and allow you to present it in a compelling way.
    • CrowdMap allowed us to create our very own fair fuel campaign earlier this month, to get and chart fuel prices across the country.
    • OpenHeatMap allows you to take data and show trends in the form of a heat map. This is the kind of thing newspapers used to present complicated information which, if presented too precisely could have had legal remifications regarding the privacy of the information being used (in charting supporters of the BNP, for example).
    • ManyEyes from IBM is not only a toolset for creating wordmaps, maps, graphing and interactive visualisations of data, but also provides data sets from which to start working. A gift.
    • Freebase is also a data store, covering everything up to what computer games have had most success in the past few years. Like ManyEyes, it also provides some simple means of visualising that information.
    • Tagcrowd and Wordle both allow texts to be analysed by showing words' prominence in a story by increasing their size proportionally. Run a Michael Gove education speech through and compare to one by Obama, or run the same news story from the Daily Express and Guardian to spot political bias in the journalism.
    • Dipity is a timeline tool par excellence, allowing multimedia to feature in your timelines.
    • Google Public Data Explorer is an information source, centring around North America and a few international sources. Match its data with Google Fusion Tables, and you can start to make simple visualisations of complex data.

  2. There has never been so much free data

Data needs to tell stories with emotional impact, so learn data storycrafting literacies.

Charles Minard arguably created the first visualisation when he placed the entire Franco-Prussian war in a compact infographic, one that helps explain the death due to cold temperatures, trechid river crossings and low morale:


In the last decade we've seen students begin to explore data by converting tables of information into fairly static charts. They can be fascinating - this one explains why the UK was always destined for a coalition Westminster Government.

Recently, Google Maps have made data visualisation something that anyone can do in a few clicks, and create impactful stories of their own. For example, this site makes meaning out a story most people otherwise found hard to connect to: an oil spill in a foreign land means far less than visualising it over your own doorstep:

Impactful Google Maps with free data (oil slick)


Over the next five blog posts I'll show how different forms of data can tell different stories, and hopefully offer some inspiration to maths, science and plenty of other subject teachers on how we can move beyond the graph.

February 05, 2011

The United Kingdom: Explained

This is a great video, and hundreds of thousands have watched it to gain an understanding that England is not the United Kingdom which is not Great Britain (alone) and where on earth Canada, Australia and a plethora of small islands fit into the grand scheme of all things Crown and Her Majesty.

My question: why has it just been created when this is the stuff school students the Commonwealth over have studied at some point over the past nearly six YouTubed years. Because an essay whose writing felt like having teeth pulled was somehow better, more educationally sound, showed his or her understanding so much more? I don't think so.

If we're going to assess children on what they know, wouldn't it be more educationally worthwhile to also assess children on their skill at sharing what they know in a compelling fashion? And if we're looking to help children understand how to share effectively this means we have to use the same tools as their audience - the rest of the world - rather than confining their creativity to a class group on a Learning Environment or private, closed down blog that only a relativel handful can see.

And on an assessment note, this video would get some great marks from me. What would it take to get full marks, to improve next time?

October 25, 2010

What if we could see the ingredients of everything around us?

Christien Meindertsma hasn't stopped appearing in my life for the past ten days. The TED Talk, above, and her appearance in FastCompany as one of the designers set to save the world are one thing. But her compelling passion for labelling what is known about what everything around us might be made from hasn't stopped ratlling around inside my head. Over three years her quest was simple: to find out how pig parts make the world turn, and start getting people to realise what goes into every object around them.

From meat to shaving brush hairs to bullets, pigs are some of our dearest economic assets, and what do they get in return?

More importantly, though, bullets?! Those are just one of the surprising things in which a bit of pork goes a long way. Her wish that we perhaps knew a lot more about the ingredients of the world around us is a powerful one, as only by knowing can we begin to have meaningful conversations about what sustainability actually means.

Ingredients of learning Stephen Heppell's use of the word "ingredients" is an intriguing one, too, in reference to learning - he, like me, picks up learning ingredients from all over the world and seeks to blend them into intriguing recipes for those who want to have a taste. But what are those ingredients? Is there a list? A handy set of things that tend to go together well? Other things that have been proven the educational equivalent of basil and coffee (try it - it's awful).

While Christien works on pigs, plastics and plasterboard, I'm going to start compiling my own ingredients lists. You can write your own recipe book with them, and wouldn't it be great if every blog post about good or interesting practice also came with its virtual post-it note of "ingredients used in this learning", and maybe that must-have of "if you can't get hold of this ingredient, then try x - it works just as well".

October 15, 2010

[ #cefpi #tep10 ] The Seven Spaces of Technology in School Environments

The Seven Spaces of Technology in School Environments from Ewan McIntosh on Vimeo.

Matt Locke originally came up with the concept of the Six Spaces of Social Media. I added a seventh earlier this year, Data Spaces, and have played around with how education could harness these spaces, and the various transgressions between them, for learning.

This short presentation tackles the potential of adjusting our physical school environments to harness technology even better. What happens when we map technological spaces to physical ones?

September 24, 2010

Technology's impact on learning: Pecha Kucha

In 6 minutes 40, the 20 ideas I think will affect educators in a big way in the next couple of years. This appears as part of New Zealand Core Education's EDTalks:

20. QR Codes and other smart mobile means of making the real world expand into the virtual world will become commonplace in the pockets of our students. With Layar you could craft a living history of your school transposed onto existing real-world buildings viewed through a smartphone camera.
19. We will gain a better understanding the hype curve, and what types of behaviour with technology can be spotted along it.
18. This gives us a chance to shorten that lead time to get to the learning quicker
17. Anything 'touch' changes the game, not necessarily because of the device itself but because of the way it affects the design of everything else around us, especially websites.
16. More will leave the desktop and go online, whether it's MIT's Scratch heading online next year thanks to the MacArthur funding we awarded earlier this year, or
15. Making real life products that students can feel, touch and use will be where the best learning takes place. Students will stop "doing" stuff at school and will more likely "make" stuff at school.
14. We'll think about how we build more interaction into our virtual spaces but also our physical spaces.
13. Think how engagement of the senses can do something as simple as encourage people to walk up the stairs rather than take the escalator.
12. The last 30% of our planet will get online in the next year as more of the world, south of the equator, gets powered up and online. This will mean an explosion in connections.
11. These connections will nearly all come from Africa and South America initially - most African countries are at the birth of their internet journey.
10. When we start collaborating with all these new partners at scale, we'll find that the ultrafast broadband of which our schools are so proud will become, rather quickly, slow-feeling.
9. This is especially true thanks to our changing TV habits. We'll be watching more television online than we do on the television, which will contribute to this higher demand for bandwidth.
8. We'll actually watch less television, but all of it online. Television choices will start to be made for us, using algorythmns to work out what we might want to watch based on our friends' and our previous selections.
7. We'll also stop just watching the television, and start interacting even more around it, online more than with the people in the same room as us. Maybe education will have a second chance at getting television use for learning right.
6. Understanding open data will become more important than social media has been in the apst five years.
5. This means, in the next two years, we might actually find ourselves with a teaching population that is more illiterate than the youngsters they are teaching, as this basic skill of understanding complex data is mastered by young people quicker.
4. There will be less money for spending in education, and innovation will start to appear as a result.
3. Open Source technologies will increasingly make us question why we spend so much on corporations' pay-for technology when so much else is available for free from passionate communities of practice.
2. The innovation will start to appear not from big industry making big things that do things for people, but from 'small' people in their bedrooms and startups making things that empower people to do stuff for themselves, and that includes learning.
1. And the people we're empowering will come at all ages, all cultures. The lead time for people to understand how they can become collaborators, makers and doers has decreased from the years and months of the industrial age to hours and minutes for new generations. Just see it in the way my daughter reacted to Skype over four minutes, from horror to fear to curiosity to comfort.

September 13, 2010

Visualisation explains why games-based learning gets a hard time at the same time every year

David McCandless' visualisations reveal amazing things. I've been amused, bemused, intrigued and shocked for the past few years by his Information Is Beautiful blog.

There's one example of visualisation that could help explain why my former colleague Derek Robertson has a regular meet with the press each year, at the same time, justifying (again) why video games are great stimuli for deep learning:

In the video above, McCandless highlights that news stories on violence in video games generally peak in huge numbers around November and April. Why November? It's the month that Christmas releases of video games appear. Why April? It was the month that the Columbine shootings took place and, every year since then, this is the point where the media would like to suggest to us that violent video games were responsible (even though, at the time, it was violent film that made the headlines, video games not yet having attracted that unwelcome kudos).

There you go - if we know it's coming, we can get ready for it.

August 05, 2010

HistoryPin shows students how much things have (sometimes) changed

Leith Walk Tram Building HistoryPin
HistoryPin lets users see historical photos placed up against current day street views, revealing how much their local area - or historical places - have changed over time.

The online service brings to normal Joes like you and me the power that we've seen demonstrated in the exclusive confines of TED talks in the past. Now, anyone can take advantage of this superb technology, which matches the topography of the photograph with the real world topography from Google Streetview.

I was amused to take a peak at my local area, seeing that the roadworks we've had lengthen our commutes for the past few years were experienced 150 years ago, for exactly the same reasons: building tram lines. (See the pic above, or explore it in HistoryPin).

June 09, 2010

Bing Destination Maps: Simplifying beautifully

Bing Destination Maps
Bing have offered up some lovely 'sketchy' maps as part of their Destination Maps project. Seemingly covering just the US for the moment, these maps reduce the complexity of a city grid or LA sprawl into a back-of-the-napkin sketch outlining the main routes and turns.

I think these would be great for students (or playful adults) wanting to make pirate treasure maps, 'olde worlde' effect documents or simplified materials for prospective elementary students coming to high school etc etc... If we ever get formalities sorted out (it seems some days like a real uphill struggle) this would be an ace way to map out the BeCuriousTour.

I smile at the juxtaposition between these sketches and the complexity of the 3D-scapes of Bing Maps, the ability to map inside buildings and see user generated photo content and live in-map video streams that Blaise Aguera y Arcas demo-ed at TED earlier this year, below.

About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

What does Ewan do?

Module Masterclass

School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

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