Thursday, May 28, 2015

Using Public Data Explorer to show the significance of historical events

Online data visualizations can show things that are interesting.  Watching the life expectancy or fertility rate over time in different countries can bring students to question what was happening in that period of time.

Why introduce students to a topic with a story?  Have students look at the data with public data explorer.  By watching the visualizations of the data you can guide students to ask questions about why data points are moving, then have students find the answers to these questions through the wonder of the internet.

Today, I had students looking at wealth distribution versus GDP over time.  I just wanted students to come up with trends.  Students started by following a country and noting when something interesting occurred on the graph.  They then noted the year and search the internet for events occurring in or around that country.

After all students collected historical and graphical data, students looked for trends across all information submitted by other students, regarding other countries.  Students looked for general correlations.  Nothing that we found would be considered ground-breaking, but through the process students learned about many countries and seemed to understand the idea of distribution of wealth as it refers to the economic health of a country.

It was a fun lesson and a great way to reinforce reading graphs of complex information and data in context.  It was interesting to see that the students following Japan felt that every economic disaster correlated to an earthquake.  They later found out that every event in Japan correlates to an earthquake.

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