Data visualisation, like digital storytelling, is not a single tool, but rather a technique which can draw on a whole variety of different web 2.0 tools. Data visualisation involves displaying data sets in visual formats, which are sometimes static (such as images, charts or infographics, which typically combine text and images) and sometimes dynamic (such as videos or interactive animations). See the example above of the video The Internet 1997-2021 from The Opte Project.
The aim is to reveal patterns, or highlight patterns, by presenting the data in particular ways. Given the growing use of infographics, especially in the media, to communicate key information quickly in an easily comprehensible format, it is important for students to learn both how to read data visualisations (bringing digital literacies like multimodal literacy, information literacy and critical literacy to bear in their analysis) and how to create and disseminate them (though the use of multimedia and networking tools).
While creating data visualisations traditionally required sophisticated technical skills, tools are now appearing which make it possible for non-specialists to create them. The options include:
- Services which provide infographics on a wide range of topics: some of these might serve as good stimulus materials for lessons, such as Mashable’s Infographics Pinterest board, Visually’s Education Infographics, and Elearning Infographics (note that the last of these is of more direct relevance to educators and teacher trainers).
- Services which provide large data sets, along with templates that can be used to create specific visualisations of the data: these include Google Books’ Ngram Viewer, Google’s Public Data Explorer, and the Google Earth Engine.
- Services which provide templates into which you can insert your own selected data: these include Easelly, Flourish, Infogram, Piktochart, and Visme, as well as the Education Infographic Templates on the design platform Canva. Dynamic data visualisations can be created without any need for coding using some of the above services, such as Infogram or Flourish. Other options include the generic multimedia creation and sharing services listed on the social sharing page of this website. For still more options, see The Edublogger’s Educators’ Guide to Infographics and MakeUseOf’s 5 Best Free Tools to Make Infographics Online.
For ideas on the kinds of data visualisations it is possible to create, take a look at the infographic A Periodic Table of Visualization Methods. For guidance on infographics, see Visually’s infographic entitled The Anatomy of a Great Infographic. For more on educational uses, see Kathy Schrock’s Infographics as a Creative Assessment.
Examples of sophisticated data visualisations include the Opte Project video The Internet 1997-2021 (also available on YouTube), as seen at the top of this page, and the dynamic Coupofy infographic showing statistics from Social Media in Real Time, as seen directly above. Other interesting examples worth checking out include:
- Pulse of the Nation: U.S. Mood Throughout the Day inferred from Twitter (Amislove, 2010) (video)
- A Time-Lapse of Every Nuclear Explosion since 1945 (Isao Hashimoto, 2010) (video)
- The Path of Protest (The Guardian, 2012) (interactive visualisation)
- London 24: 24 Hours of London Air Traffic (NATS, 2015) (video)
- The Deep Sea (Neil Agarwal, 2019) (interactive visualisation)
- 2021: What Happens in an Internet Minute (Lori Lewis, 2021) (static visualisation)
- Atlas of the Invisible: Using Data to Map the Climate Crisis (The Guardian, 2021) (static visualisations)
- The Internet 1997-2021 (The Opte Project, 2021) (video)
- Nominal GDP Cartogram (BlueBerry, 2021) (static visualisation)
- We Feel (CSIRO with The Black Dog Institute, Amazon & GNIP, n.d.) (interactive visualisation)
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