Category Archives: Data Visualization

Two Different Time Lapse Experiments

Time Lapse Trip from Richmond VA to Tampa FL from Tom Woodward on Vimeo.

This is my first attempt with the GoPro. I think it’s set to one shot every 30 seconds. You can see me fiddling with the settings a few different times if you’re masochistic enough to watch it through. The battery ran out early in the trip and resulted in me using it without the stand. That helps explain the repeated drifting as the USB cord1 pulls it slowly towards the driver’s side. It is interesting to see a 12.5 hr trip condensed down to 4 minutes or so. I may do it on the way back but pointed mostly towards the sky or maybe at the kids.

Knowing where the stops were makes me wonder if something similar would make for a interesting take on Dan Meyer’s original graphing stories.

On the other end of the time lapse spectrum is this attempt to condense one my attempts to fix a photo from the reddit pic request group. This one is kind of amusing to me in that you can see me googling some stuff for a sick child in the middle and finishing up with some posts to reddit and flickr. There is no sound but it’d be pretty easy to narrate if you wanted to make it more instructional.

The screenshots were generated based on this post. It is a copy/paste terminal command that will take a full desktop screenshot every X seconds.

i=1;while [ 1 ];do screencapture -t jpg -x ~/Desktop/screencapture/$i.jpg; let i++;sleep 4; done

Semi Tutorial

In either of the cases above you end up with a fist full of images. It used to be that you could set default input length for still images in FinalCut. I can’t figure out how to do that in FCP X. There are lots of people claiming (and even showing) other ways to bulk change the length of static images once they are in FCP. Several ways didn’t work for me. What did work is …. drag/drop the images into the timeline then . . .

cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by Tom Woodward

Just click yes or change the settings to your preferred set up.

cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by Tom Woodward
Once things have calmed down a bit, select all the images then ctrl click/right click. You’ll select “Create a compound clip“.

cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by Tom Woodward

Then it’s Modify>Retime>Fast and your choice of speeds. You can also go back and enter a custom speed to get things to around the duration you want.

1 How strange to be able to easily charge USB devices in the car and even stranger to have the need to do so.

A Non-Definition of OER

THe following two photographs of slides are from David Wiley’s presentation on open education (which was awesome). I am playing against his definition for a variety of reasons which may become clear as I progress.


(1) Any kind of teaching materials- textbooks, syllabi, lesson plans, videos, readings, exams

“Teaching materials” are in the eye of the beholder but leading with this phrase puts people in a certain mindset around content and one that is actually harmful. People make fun of “educational” resources for good reason. A large part of what needs to be opened is our ideas around what content might be educational and how we might use that content.


(2) Free and unfettered access, and
(3) Free permission to engage in the “4R activities

I won’t argue much with #2, although I do realize I “pay” for access to some of this content when a 3rd party tracks me.

While I recognize the importance and goodness of #3, I hate to exclude all the content that falls outside that definition. I’d rather have a larger “house” of content and a few rooms that help people decide what they can do with it. I think it’s actually good that content might be ephemeral and might eventually go away. I am ok that I can’t remix certain things. I still find the content worth using. My goal is to first get people to open their eyes to the wealth of really engaging content around us and then the idea of remixing and making that content becomes both more likely and more interesting.

See Food!
I tend to see this as representative of most “teaching materials” only less exciting. The content is pre-chewed and equally unappetizing.

I’ll start with fairly normal media sources and drift outward towards stranger places and tools.

[Invitation to attend the execution of Tiburcio Vasquez]
The Flickr Commons has many good things (and a decent search interface), including this invitation to an execution that I found randomly as a result of subscribing to this RSS feed of the Commons’ photos. Since I knew Jim Groom was teaching a course on crime I passed it on and Jim did the rest. It’s also a decent example of the value of working in the open. If people know what you’re doing they may come bearing gifts. My favorites in Flickr are full of items waiting for uses.

This disturbing film records the successful experiments in the resuscitation of life to dead animals (dogs), as conducted by Dr. S.S. Bryukhonenko at the Institute of Experimental Physiology and Therapy, Voronezh, U.S.S.R. Director: D.I. Yashin.

I found this very disturbing video on specifically wandering around the Prelinger archives which are full of all sorts of odd things. All this content is remixable and the potential is limited only by time and imagination.

XKCD's What if?
There is a cartoonist who specializes in romance, sarcasm, math, language and happens to answer hypothetical physics questions on a weekly basis. I find this interesting in a variety of ways- not the least of which is that there is an audience for this. There is even a Twitter account that documents all the interesting numbers found in the pursuit of these answers.

There are so many beautiful podcasts out there. This one is amazingly well done and a model for how we might teach history- 18th, 19th, and 20th century lenses on the same topic. They interview experts and provide resources that allow people to delve even deeper. This kind of thing starts to get at the idea of transmedia- different media paths with different depths driven, to some degree, by a narrative. The timely nature of the content is also quite useful- this Columbus episode for instance which would go nicely with this Oatmeal comic.1

There are so many things out there, it helps to have other people tell you about them. Eric Hoefler let me know about this one.

I do think it’s worth noting that I’m ok with degrees of “truth” from these sources. I want all information to be suspect.

There’s an endless additional supply of media but from here I’ll start to branch out into the idea that tools have as much or more value. A few of my favorites are below. I like them because they start with plenty of content and plenty of options but they also offer you the ability to fill them with your own data.

(Not sure why Gapminder doesn’t generate a screenshot via the WordPress Snap feature. . . it is a real place. You can click on the 404 image and go there.)

Google Earth/Google Maps- Short version – It’s full of stars.

Many Eyes

Under the tools category also falls all sorts of javascript libraries – Timeline JS, Simile Widgets, Dojo etc. etc.

And then there are people, so many people focused on finding interesting things in various areas of focus. A few content focused examples include2 -

Shorpy Fresh Photons It's OK to be Smart Literary Tattoos Literally Unbelievable

And what’s better than people? Communities. Legions of people working towards your goals is handy.

Like this reddit focused on colorizing historical photos.
Colorized History

1 and some fava beans

2 I would note that content focused blogs should be rounded out. It’s important to look outside education.

Some Elementary Attempts

I’m working more closely with some of our elementary specialists this year. It’s been a good while since I worked with this age group. I’m pretty excited the potential to do some interesting things.


Measurement is a big issue for our students in elementary. It spans math and science standards and kids are not connecting it with their lives. I’m playing around with some graphic ways to get students engaged.

When I tried this out with my own kids (ages 9, 7, 5) they all really wanted to know how big the dog was. I realize it’s not the best sample but they aren’t shy if they don’t like things.

I don’t know that will stick with an apple as the visual reference object. I’d like it to be something they have in their hands at the time and on a regular basis.1 I hope to encourage a lot of measuring against their own bodies. My kids like that- holding their hands up to where on their body the dog’s head would be.

It might also be interesting to run a number line down the wall and have kids move to the numbers to indicate guesses, kid of a kinesthetic graphing exercise. I am pretty sure I saw that someplace.

I’m attempting to imitate some of Dan Meyer’s three act math strategies (guess too high/low, what information do you need?, progressive release of additional information) but may be missing the mark. If you look at the other Flickr photos, the guidance may be way too heavy handed. I’m still feeling my way here and will need to see it live.

Another problem area in English is synonyms and antonyms. I happened to see these two items in the grocery store that day. I have no idea how they’re differentiating chopped vs diced foods. I’m hoping that by modeling capturing media of this type you’re turning on a lens for both teachers and students. It feels like it ought to be so easy to do things like this.2 We are bathed in words every day, we just have to look around.

I saw a number of other interesting language choices in just this one trip in a tiny section. I was told by someone that I looked lost. After I responded “I’m just capturing vocabulary in the wild to use with elementary students.” She opted to move on.

These mushrooms were growing in our front yard. I added the quarter for scale but have one without it as well. That might be an interesting piece for measurement as well. The idea of context for measurement is more and more interesting to me. Strangely, I remember reading in Capstick’s Maneaters about how hard it was to estimate the size of crocodiles in the water because of the lack of visual references, even by experienced guides. This lead to claims of really huge reptiles. There’s probably some interesting way to use that.

1 A pencil might work but I wonder about it changing size as it’s sharpened.

2 Clearly it isn’t.

Screen Shot 2013-06-09 at 9.38.33 PM

Blog Post Stats

I wondered about my blogging patterns given my recent increase in posts. I didn’t bother pulling out Jim Coe’s posts from back when this was a joint blog but the data is good enough for my purpose. Anyway, I started messing with it and am working towards a visual way to represent it in a way that makes sense to me.

Screen Shot 2013-06-09 at 9.38.33 PM
I’m totally unhappy with this graph. Totally. I messed with some color pallets etc. but it just didn’t do what I wanted at all.

Screen Shot 2013-06-09 at 9.38.58 PM
I then went to the opposite end of the spectrum and wanted to see what sparklines might show me. Sparklines are a favorite of Edward Tufte who is on the super minimalist side of the data visualization spectrum.1 At first I didn’t think there was enough data to make the sparklines work. I then tried compressing the horizontal axis and it improved things but it’s still not what I want.
Screen Shot 2013-06-09 at 10.14.30 PM

Here’s another stacked year graph that I might work on some more. I ended up wandering into Adobe Illustrator and found out there are some interesting tricks for making graphs in there. I will explore it more in the near future. I’m learning a lot of things.

Here’s a messy (deliberately) stack of the graphs above with the opacity set to 20% or so. It gives a modified version of a stacked bar chart that I kind of like. It’s not a complete picture but, coupled with the source graphs, it starting to look like what I want.
Screen Shot 2013-06-10 at 10.37.06 AM

1 There’s probably a happier middle ground but he has a number of good points. If you’re in HCPS and interested in checking out some of his books let me know and I’ll bring them in.

Screen Shot 2013-06-09 at 4.27.34 PM

More Storage Visualization

I have meant to play around more with the Google Chart API for a while and I wasn’t happy with what I made earlier to visualize the network storage differences among the schools and users. I thought a treemap would be a more powerful way to show just how much space a few teachers used vs the masses. Knowing your options and picking the right one to help illustrate your point is an important element of data visualization. After all, we aren’t ignorant savages who believe -Isn’t this about visualizations, basically a form designed for those who won’t (or can’t) read? Kinda like remedial explanation for the 99%.

You can see the Google example for this kind of graphic here. This is my first time messing with it so I started by copying their example into my text editor. Their example was pretty close to what I wanted in terms of the structure of the information. They had Location, Parent, Volume, Color as the main variables. I wanted something pretty similar.

Instead of ‘Global,’ ‘HCPS’ was my top category with the schools taking the place of the countries. Pretty simple but I sure didn’t want to write all that data by hand. I already had the basic data in Excel, I just had to come up with the right formula. In this case -


It’s worth remembering how handy Excel is at doing stuff like this. Anything within double quotes is written as is and the rest is just plugging in the cell variables. From there I just needed to cut and paste the column in. Easy and quick.

Screen Shot 2013-06-09 at 4.27.34 PM

The only other small I change I made was to the color scale. It was red/green which tends to indicate pretty specific types of judgement. I wasn’t interested in that so I made a small switch there. Changing the minColor/maxColor variables indicated below. They are hexadecimal color values if you’re unfamiliar with them.

minColor: ‘#0033CC‘,
midColor: ‘#ddd’,
maxColor: ‘#fff‘,
headerHeight: 15,
fontColor: ‘black’,
showScale: true});

I’m still not sure about a couple of things. For instance, I can’t figure out why Glen Allen is darker than Tucker and Godwin on the main view. That seems to be similar to what’s going on the example but I’m not sure why. It’d also be nice if clicking on the parent piece after you drill down would take you back up a level. I think that’s doable.

You can see the full size example here if it amuses you. It’s crammed in below using an iframe which will let you put just about anything into an html page. The code used to embed it below is provided as an example.