Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Visualising Data with Gapminder World

Data is an important quantitative tool in many subjects including Geography and Economics and it helps our students understand trends, patterns and the contrasts that exist in the world. Student's ability to visualise and therefore interpret data is becoming an important skill at the intersection of the arts, maths and humanities disciplines.

This blog post, looks at ways to help students interpret data through effective use of the Gapminder Tool. A subsequent post in this series "Creating Infographic Visuals with Easel.lyexplains how to create infographic visuals with Easel.ly which help them showcase their understanding.



Techniques for using Gapminder in the classroom

Gapminder World is the utopia of online statistical tools, that enables students to construct and interpret scatter diagrams with a range of human development statistics. The amazing aspect is that they can drag the data back in time, showing a 4th dimension to the pattern. Our students also have GapMinder Desktop installed on their MacBooks, enabling offline access.



Top Tips for using GapMinder

  • Remember to change the indicator on each axis
  • See this link for the full list of indicators, or to download the raw data.
  • If you like a graph, save the URL into a Google Doc for future reference
  • Click on two or three different countries to simplify the view.
  • Drag the timeline back, and see the trails of data. 
  • Ask students questions about the direction of change, what is the correlation, cause and effect.
  • Hover the cursor over each circle to see the data and to see the axis statistical values.
  • Need a lesson on correlation and causality? See the brilliant Khan Academy.

Going deeper with GapMinder - Skitch

  • Try using programs such as Skitch with students to help them annotate the GapMinder diagram to highlight correlations and the main points. This technique forces students to think more deeply about the data, trends and patterns.
  • Students can save these into their notes or assignment. 


Screen Recording and GapMinder - Quicktime

  • To really push students, you need to make them think more deeply about the connections an trends in the data. Ideally you want to glimpse into their thinking processes (metacognition).
  • You can do this by asking them to use the Screen Recording functions within Quicktime, and to answer a question such as "describe two countries, one that follows the correlation and another that does not and the relationship between the data"
  • The student will record a short clip of them speaking, whilst also clicking and dragging the GapMinder gadget. Whilst you might not access this video explicitly the level of thinking required really pushes students who are comfortable writing something but find it harder to verbalise thier thinking.