Exhibit and Data Visualization
The kind and brilliant folks at MIT have come out with a new Exhibit API that allows for more flexibility and power. The bonus is that it looks good doing it. I’ve now revised my Google spreadsheet fed history example to use some of the new power. It’s here if you’re interested.
In the end I opted to mimic their new presidents layout (much like I mimicked their old presidents layout). This time I had a better reason than pure ignorance of the API (I now have impure ignorance after all). Their new layout is really right in line with what I’d like to focus on this year- data visualization/interaction. The new layout has the map right their with the time line. I like that. Time and location on one easy interactive page. Add in their option to sort and hide/expand sets based on the data you define and you’ve got something really powerful that will help students make connections.
A simple example is if I restrict my set to show only “explorers” then suddenly in the map and the time line things change. I notice explorers were mainly earlier and than none were born in the Americas (obvious to you and I but maybe the spark some kids need). Then I switch map views and I see that explorers did die in the Americas which leads into a conversation about the dangers of exploration and their root causes, motivations for enduring the dangers etc.
In the end, I feel I’m getting closer to Hans Rosling (I didn’t say I was there). My goal is data that is powerful and interactive. That’s what I feel is most impressive about what he shows. He gets data moving and that helps you see trends. Now if we could manipulate that data it’d be even more impressive. We need things like that for students. Exhibit is a big step in the right direction with the added bonus of being free and driven from a spreadsheet it becomes nearly irresistible. With the multiple authors that Google spreadsheets allows it can basically become a really interesting wiki interface driven by material your students create.
I’m working on re-writing the tutorials to reflect the new version. I’m not quite smart enough to follow the simple upgrade instructions so I figure some others are in the same boat. Maybe there’s a reason I didn’t go to MIT . . .