19 December 2010

Mixing It Up

Earlier this month, I debuted a presentation on data mashups. I have presented on data visualization tools before (and will again at the ASCD Conference in March), but this newest incarnation is really more focused on ideas for advanced users. It is a response to inquiries I've had over the past year where an administrator, district data guru, or assessment director says, "I really need a tool that will let me do x with my data." So, I've been keeping an eye out for new things that might fit the bill. Meanwhile, as I've talked to vendors about their product offerings, I've been continually disappointed that no one is putting together a package that educators really want. Sure, schools are buying stuff---but doesn't mean that they like what they're getting.

So, let's have a look at some of the collection I introduced this year...

Regulars here are already familiar with my interest in the Excel Sparklines add-in and building digital gradebooks that communicate a variety of data. You might also be interested in having a look at BeGraphic, which allows you make all sorts of visualizations in both Excel and PowerPoint. There is a free "lite version" available. Lots of opportunities here for design and communication.

We looked at a variety of tools in Google. Google Fusion allows you to take the data you upload into GoogleDocs and create a variety of visualizations. You can see a variety of applications in their Example Gallery, but for my purposes, I wanted to show the same data set in different settings. On this map, each dot represents a school district in Washington which has 10th graders. Not all districts are represented, due to FERPA restrictions. If you click on a location, the popup box will contain a variety of information about the district---all of it pulled from the GoogleDoc.



In addition, we looked at the same data as a motion graph. I am not able to embed it below (I just have a screenshot), but if you follow the link, you can play with it to your heart's content. Again, you have the same data options as in Fusion, the information is just represented differently and we can watch how things change over time.


You might also be interested in Google Refine, for cleaning data sets or even the Public Data Explorer to look at your data from a broader angle. While not a Google tool, the DataMasher also has some nice options for mixing and matching data sets.

I have shared MapAList on this blog. Here is the same data set as above, but using this tool:



There are some reasons why a school or district might prefer this over the maps Fusion can draw. MapAList will allow you to use different pins based on certain types of data (Fusion only allows for heat maps) and is much better at pinpointing location; however, it will not display as many types of data as Google Fusion. However, these are meant to be visualizations. So, if you can't adapt the appearance of the map to reflect data points, I'm not sure how useful a communication you can build.

The big winner of the day? Hands down, it was Microsoft Pivot. I showed only the first half (~3 minutes) of the TED talk below, and I swear I thought half the audience was going to sprint out the door to go try it.



The examples shown in the video are not school-related; but it is not a big leap to picture students (instead of Sports Illustrated covers), data, and the ability to sort and visualize what's happening. We're going to try getting a users group together. I find that very exciting.

Do you have new tools you're using or ideas you're implementing? Share them in the comments!

    1 comment:

    Joe said...

    Thank you for posting these. I need to just sit down and play with them all, but I can see they would make very powerful tools for both teachers and students. Ironically, last week I was looking for something to make a blog post I put together about my 2010 reads more snazzy. My office has been building some IWB resources using Multimedia Learning, Visible Learning, and Presentation Zen as resources. The tools you posted provide a nice way to display data in a variety of formats.