It has been interesting to see the excitement surrounding WolframAlpha . The new “Computational Knowledge Engine” called Wolfram|Alpha has gone through a full media cycle before it has even been unleashed on the world. It has been hyped as a “Google Killer” and denounced as snake oil, and we’re still at least a few days from release. The simple goal behind the engine is to connect searchers with precise information. Wolfram|Alpha’s search magic comes through a combination of natural language processing and a giant pool of curated data. That quote is from Radio Berkman (which is a very interesting podcast out of Harvard Law) and they’ve got an interview with the creator as well. Watch the abbreviated 10 minute version below. I’m not sure how well the idea of a curated semantic web will work (although I can understand that urge). This does really show a different way to think about searching for information. It really takes it beyond search, making it closer to exploration maybe. It’s similar in some ways to one of David Huynh’s Parallax project (of Simile Exhibit fame) which has been out for quite a while now. Video of that is below. Freebase Parallax: A new way to browse and explore data from David Huynh on Vimeo. While the media may be portraying Google as being […]
Well, you know how I love Exhibit and I’m also a poetry fan. So after messing around with it some the other day and seeing some interest from a few people who put in their own poems- I decided to see what other poems might be on there and see if I couldn’t display them in an interesting way. Go mess with it. Add your own wordle poem if you’d like (the css in the embed code will likely mess things up temporarily but I’ll fix it). Now, if I had a class1 I’d get a bunch of these done for a number of poems from the same author and probably the same genre. Then you could sort them by author or genre and do a surface analysis. Do the big words matter? Are the “big words” shared between poems, across authors? Does it matter? Where things could get interesting is creating fake Wordles that do represent the words you think matter most2. Students would falsely elevate the number of words to make them larger regardless of occurrence. Then the explanation of why becomes an interesting conversation- especially when comparing the two. 1 or more free time 2 Oddly, most of my favorite lessons involve faking data, rap, animal attacks or, hopefully, all three
How cool is this? Today, we’re taking the next step in reader involvement with the launch of The New York Times Visualization Lab, which allows readers to create compelling interactive charts, graphs, maps and other types of graphical presentations from data made available by Times editors. NYTimes.com readers can comment on the visualizations, share them with others in the form of widgets and images, and create topic hubs where people can collect visualizations and discuss specific subjects. –source Sure you could do this the hard way for a lot of the data but to have it supported and built into the system is pretty nice and an interesting shift towards a different kind of user interaction. It, as well as the growth of sites like wordle, swivel and manyeyes, really shows how prevalent and important information visualization is becoming. Now we have to start teaching our students how to analyze and how to make these visualizations in ways that matter. The thought behind the construction (or deconstruction) is what’s important. It’d be easy for a lot of this to be the powerpoint animation of data- just a quick way to pretend something crappy is much cooler and more important than it is (but that fools no one). I’m not sure how flexible things will be. Seems like students might be […]
I know, late to the party, but I wanted to do a little more than say “Hey, wordle is pretty cool and stuff. You should use it.” So here’s how I’d use Wordle to attack poetry. Take a few poems from the poets you cover, mash a few of the poems together, and create a wordle for each poet. Then have the students match them to the author. The Stevens one is pretty obvious with blackbird standing out that way but the other two will require a little more attention. The key is to make them identifiable but difficult. Too easy and it’s useless. If you presented these as problems to be solved at the beginning of the unit then you’d be able to get some interesting conversation going1. I’d post them on the wall as big posters and maybe let people put their votes as to the author under each. Then they move their vote each day as students find out more about the poet and their works. So for Wallace Stevens I picked the poems available in Wikipedia – “Anecdote of the Jar,” “The Emperor of Ice Cream,” “The Idea of Order at Key West,” “Sunday Morning,” and “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.” And I did a few Richard Hugo poems as well- “Death Of The […]
Here are the things I’d be working into the mix if I were teaching English, government, math/stats or history in this fine political season. Political Bias? Lifehacker pointed out this cool little Greasemonkey script “Memeorandum Colors script colors sites that usually link to conservative topics red, and sites that generally link to liberal topics blue (the colors get darker or lighter depending on the sites’ linking activity). The result is a quick visualization of what kind of political site a link points to using colors.” Let them read how it works and think about how that might slant things in strange ways (what if I’m conservative but am consistently linking to liberal blogs in order to attack them?) This would be the start of a conversation between the class and myself. What purpose does this script serve? In what ways can we use the data it generates to inform what we’re reading? What happens to readers and the way we consume information as ideas like this become more commonplace? Red vs Blue Book Buying Here’s a chance for some discussion of voting demographics and a chance to really get some good critical thinking going with data and causation. The maps are of “red” and “blue” books and their purchase rate (through Amazon) prior to 2004 and 2008 elections. The great […]
A few odd educational goodies from today’s RSS soup. I lay them out here for your dining pleasure. Mental Floss serves up Monte Python clips referencing all sorts of classic literature. References include- Proust, Wordsworth, Shakespeare, Dickens and others. A great way to start of a class or provide a little levity when things are rough reading. They’re linked through on YouTube for your use but if that’s blocked don’t forget about Vixy.net to download them. Boston.com’s “How to Nap” infographic would be a great way to re-think a project or report. Check out just how much information is crammed in there. You want some deep processing? Get your students creating something this dense in a way that’s visually pleasing and doesn’t feel oppressive. The Pi Crop Circle via the Uri’s Eso Garden Blog makes for some really interesting math related conversations and possible activities. Give them the image and tell them it is a code for pi and see who can figure it out. You could make one about pi or any other significant number or date. There would be lots of hands on measurement (angles, lines etc.) and thought involved (use chalk on the parking lot if you’re fresh out of local barley fields or maybe you’ve got a local field of tall grass).
I’m doing a presentation tomorrow with Jim Groom on how to create mashups without knowing anything about programming. The fun thing is it’s presented using a mashup of communist propaganda posters and that sort of rhetoric. Good clean American fun! It may, or may not, be presented entirely in a fake Russian accent. It will entirely depend on my mood (and Jim‘s). You can also check out the full site here if you’re interested. My example takes a table of information from Wikipedia on Industrial Warfare and steps you through the ways you can change it using SIMILE’s Exhibit. If you bother to look at the actual Exhibit pages you’ll see they link back to the Google spreadsheets to show you what data had to be added to create the changes on the pages. So, you’ll start with this- Step 1 Making this data interactive– so I cut and paste the table into Excel and clean up the data a little bit. I make the html portion of Exhibit. Then I get what’s below- an interesting level of interactivity has been added. You can select/omit/sort the data now. So seeing relationships is a lot easier. Step 2 Adding the visual component– now I felt that we needed something more visual so I added some image URLs and URLs to the […]
Want some really interesting and topical statistics to use? Of course you do. This is a great site for math, stats, and sociology. Seems like Zubin Jelveh is writing things that’d mix into Dan Meyer’s class pretty well. He’s got everything from Pete Rose’s betting stats to the cost of pennies and the economic ramifications of their removal. I thought the stats dealing with the NY prostitution ring were really interesting as well but probably not suitable for most k12 classrooms. The things that’s good about these posts is that they’re all about numbers and stats but they have a real solid tie to our lives and culture. It makes room for some really passionate and interesting conversations and as a result a lot more interest in the numbers. I can’t recall how I ended up here so apologies to whoever I stole the link from.
brianmn Originally uploaded by boyshapedbox Links to a large set of graphics on flickr based on songs. I didn’t recognize some of the songs but there are lots of fun things to think about. In terms of class use – great art projects, great ways to introduce graphing or diagramming flow charts. Even if you don’t use them in class, it’s just worth looking at them as ways to think about things differently. Link via Gawker by way of Information Aesthetics.
I bounced from this O’Reilly post to this Edward Tufte video on the iPhone. It’s a big file but fairly short and worth listening to if just for the last few lines. To clarify add detail. Clutter and overload are not an attribute of information. They are failures of design. If the information is in chaos don’t start throwing out information, instead fix the design. This doesn’t just apply to software or visuals. I know I’ve tried to explain things to people and when I see I’m failing have over simplified. I think that’s a mistake. It wasn’t because I was giving them too much that they weren’t understanding, it was because I was giving them information in the wrong way. Communication can be designed just like a visual. I think our education system is a system that is/was in chaos. Our response has been to throw out information, to standardize everything, to make testing so ABCD simplified that we don’t really have to think about the design. The perfect example is the “sandwich” writing style that students are coming into college with. I can see it as a way to teach introductory writing but because of the way standardized writing samples are graded the style carries right over into high school. Students then end up in college writing standardized […]