Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Mind the Gap

In my World History class I did a  lesson today which I really liked and will review below. After finding the activity on GapMinder , I shared it with my class and we all liked for a lot of reasons: 
  1.  It helped broaden my students' view of the world.
  2. It was interactive and fostered communication and community.
  3. It told a very hopeful story, which is nice to hear in this age of uncertainty. 
  4. It generated a great conversation about how to display data in an interesting, informative and visual way. There are a lot of tools that help with this. This image of Napoleon's retreat is probably the most famous data visualization of which I know. 
After asking students to rank 16 countries from around the world by how developed they were, I showed them the interactive timeline I link to below. We watched the rise of China, saw the effect of the Industrial Revolution and World Wars, and traced the success story that is the world of the past 200 years. A very lively discussion ensued. I then showed students this video. I love the way Robling announces this data with as if he was commentating on a football match or horse race. I like how data, if presented the right way, can tell a story far more powerful than text alone.

This gets me to thinking about the synergy we could and should create between the humanities, the digital humanities, the sciences and the arts. The main media for communication these days are not text alone. We need to be better (myself included) about teaching kids how to highlight their findings via a visual medium. 

If you are looking for a rock-solid, one-off lesson or a solid supplement to a broader lesson, I strongly recommend this lesson from Gapminder.

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