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Friday, August 16, 2013

Ten Places to Find and Create Data Visualizations

Following yesterday's post about ChartsBin I received a request from a reader for suggestions for other tools that students can use to create data visualizations. The reader that asked thought Charts Bin might be a little confusing for some of her students. Here is a list of other places that you and your students can browse for data visualizations and or create your own data visualizations. Some of my favorite ways to have students use these kinds of tools is to create visualizations for the purpose of comparing datasets and trying to draw correlations between physical geography information and human geography information.

Map a List turns Google Spreadsheet information into Google Maps placemarks. The finished product is a Google Map of the information you've selected from your Google Spreadsheets. To create a map from your spreadsheets you need to register for a Map a List account and give it access to your Google Docs account. Map a List then walks you through each step of selecting a spreadsheet, defining the parameters for your map, and choosing placemarks. Just like in Google Maps you can customize the placemark icons that are used in your Map a List displays. Your maps can be shared publicly or privately. Your maps can be downloaded as KML files to use in Google Earth.

Heat Map Tool is a tool for easily creating heat maps or incident maps from a CSV file. To create a heat map all you need to do is upload a CSV file then specify your desired display attributes like scale, colors, and opacity. You can edit the display attributes of your map whenever you like. If you're wondering how to create a CSV file you can do so by exporting from a spreadsheet in Google Documents or exporting from an Excel file. Click here for directions on exporting from Excel. The free version of Heat Map Tool allows you to have up to 100 data points on your map and up to 500 hits per day on your map.

Spreadsheet Mapper 3 is a Google Spreadsheet script that will allow you to create KML files based on your spreadsheet data. Spreadsheet Mapper 3 allows you to map up to 1,000 placemarks based on your spreadsheet data. And because Spreadsheet Mapper 3 is a part of Google Docs you can share your spreadsheets and maps for collaborative editing. Click here for complete directions on how to use Spreadsheet Mapper 3.

StatSilk's StatWorld contains more than 400 world maps of data on topics in economics, education, health, environment, the digital divide, and much more. You can explore the maps by selecting a data set and then a display format. You can also choose to display the data for all countries or only the countries that you wish to compare.

MapStory is a free tool for creating mapped displays of data sets. Data sets that are time based. For example, the travels of Genghis Khan can be set to play out in a timeline style on your map. Creating a MapStory might look complicated at first glance, but it's actually quite easy to create a map. To get started select a data set or sets that you want to display on your map. You can choose data sets from the MapStory gallery or upload your own. After choosing your data set(s) select a base map. After that you can customize the look of the data points on your map and or manually add more data points to your map. The notes option in MapStory lets you create individual events to add to your map and timeline. Lines and polygons can also be added to your projects through the notes feature in MapStory.

Knoema is a huge collection of data sets and maps for public use. Knoema offers data maps and charts for almost every country in the world. There are dozens of data categories to pick from. Some of the data categories that you will find include GPD Per Capita, Government Debt, Migration, Housing, Energy Consumption, and Agricultural Production. To find a data map or chart on Knoema to use with your students first select a data set then choose a country from the drop-down menu tied to each data set. Each data set, map, and chart can be exported downloaded and or embedded into a blog post or webpage.

GeoCommons provides excellent tools for creating and sharing map-based data visualizations. Users can select a from twelve base maps to build upon. After choosing a base map users can select from more than 49,000 public data sets or upload their own data sets. Map creators can add more than one data set to their maps. To complete the visualizations users can specify colors, shades, shapes, and apply numerous filters to determine what is or is not displayed from their chosen data sets. Completed maps can be shared as KML files or embedded into blogs and websites.

Better World Flux is a free data visualization development tool that was created for the World Bank's Apps for Development Challenge. The purpose of the challenge was to encourage app developers to create products that could be used to highlight the development data hosted by the World BankBetter World Flux allows users to create animated visualizations of development data. To use Better World Flux (no registration required) all you have to do is select a data set from the menu provided and select a country or countries from the menu provided. From there Better World Flux creates an animated data visualization for you. The visualization will change as the years on the timeline at the bottom of the visualization change. This way users can see growth and recession of a statistic over time.

Gapminder is a great tool for creating data visualizations. Gapminder gives users the ability to create graphs of hundreds of demographic and economic indicators. I like Gapminder because it provides a good way for visual learners to see data sets in a context that is significantly different from standard data sets. Gapminder has a page for educators on which they can find thematic animations, graphs, quizzes, model lessons, and a PDF guide to using Gapminder. For teachers working in schools with slow Internet connections or very strict filtering, Gapminder has a desktop application that you can download and install for Mac or Windows computers.

Infogr.am is an online tool for creating interactive charts and graphs. Soon you will be able to create interactive infographic posters on Infogr.am too. There are four basic chart types that you can create on Infogr.am; bar, pie, line, and matrix. Each chart type can be edited to use any spreadsheet information that you want to upload to your Infogr.am account. The information in that spreadsheet will be displayed in your customized chart. When you place your cursor over your completed chart the spreadsheet information will appear in small pop-up window. Your Infogr.am charts can be embedded into your blog, website, or wiki.

Economics In Plain English - Atlantic Video Series

Thanks to Lee Lefever this week I learned about the Atlantic's new video series Economics in Plain English. The series currently contains three videos and three more are planned for release in the near future. The videos available now are Are Machines Really Taking Our Jobs? Are Bottomless Drinks Good Business? And Why Is Bottled Water So Expensive?



Applications for Education
With the exception of Are Bottomless Drinks Good Business? The Atlantic's Economics in Plain English videos could be useful in helping high school students understand some basic economics concepts in the context of real-world scenarios.

Another excellent place to find short economics videos is The Open University's 60 Second Adventures in Economics series.

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