We talked a bit about how a good visualization is like telling a good story. It also needs to provide some sense of interactivity with its users. And, it must be a little bit sexy---have some "glanceability." We also spent some time thinking about how to use common tools (like Excel) to improve our visuals (and also the ways in which data could be distorted).
I think improvements in data visualization have enormous promise for schools. As the Harvard Business blog noted earlier this month, the access to increasingly superior visualizations will help us navigate the information ocean we all find ourselves in these days. In particular, there are three major benefits:
- Great visualizations are efficient — they let people look at vast quantities of data quickly.
- Visualizations can help an analyst or a group achieve more insight into the nature of a problem and discover new understanding.
- A great visualization can help create a shared view of a situation and align folks on needed actions.
I did show off my revised report card idea and had some nice feedback. One person asked me on the way out if I had shown it off to any parents yet. I haven't. He was quite excited to run out and get some feedback on it. I really hope he sends me a line about what the reaction is.
Randy Krum from Cool Infographics put together a basic worksheet in Excel (using conditional formatting) for me to illustrate the first idea about grades and a seating chart. I am hoping that we might continue to look for some tools and ways for educators to get what they need from the information that is constantly generated in their worlds.
All of this makes me wonder what other intelligent things we should be doing with school data. Bar charts and line graphs are not evil---and they have their place in the pantheon of visualizations. I am just left thinking about what else we could be doing to get more meaning from the information that we have.