Sunday, March 8, 2015

Three Free Tools for Creating Data Visualizations

Last night I shared the news about Canva's new education site that offers lesson plans the incorporate creating visual representations of information. I realize that Canva is not for everyone as it might be too simple for some applications or there is something else about it that you just don't like. Here are some other tools that I've used over the years to create data visualizations.

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. is an online tool for creating interactive charts and graphs. Soon you will be able to create interactive infographic posters on too. There are four basic chart types that you can create on; bar, pie, line, and matrix. Each chart type can be edited to use any spreadsheet information that you want to upload to your 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 charts can be embedded into your blog, website, or wiki.

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.