A few months ago, I discussed the role of data visualization in learning. Recently more tools have been developed that make it easier for one to create clear graphics to visualize relationships. I have been exploring one tool that is in beta development called Easelly--www.easel.ly. This tool provides a canvas and a selection of "Vhemes" like those shown below which are different templates that are ready to edit.
I experimented with the Venn diagram and created this graphic in a few minutes. But I did find that there were some small glitches using the tool in the Chrome browser(the textbox pop-up for editing opened last remained on the screen and the delete key would sometimes not work). I switched to Firefox and these small (but annoying) problems disappeared. So in a few minutes I made the following venn diagram about learning communities.
The share options included download, url, and embedded code. It was easy to work with and I think this program has great potential.
My next experiment was to work with the grapic of the US map with percent circles. I was hoping for some numerical control over the size of the circles and did not find that. This is not Excel and the graphics are not proportional and there is nothing to help you scale them. I did work on using the size of circles and the size of text to give a visual representation of the the current presidential polling data. This graph took a bit more time, but well under an hour to create. I found that I could figure out all of the graphic commands without needing to read any instructions. When I needed to change something or adjust the size, I could easily find the way to do it lookin up at the tool bar. I especially liked the easy way of moving the graphics forward and backwards with arrows under the word position. The hand icon for moving the graphic with the line and arrow for adjusting size does just what you expect them to do.
So this is my mapping of polls results in the presidential campaign. Once I got started, I wanted to change the states colors to blue and red. But I could not do this. The states were not individual graphics. So while this program worked well, we always want more for what we don't pay for. I have to say I was impressed with this tool and remained amazed at what is available for use without cost. The editor of Wired predicted this cycle of "free" tools on his TED talk a good number of years ago and I was skeptical. But I am a happy believer these days.
I tried a second tool that also looked promising. This one is called infogram (inforg.am). I used the same polling data and chose the theme/template that looked most promising. The program was difficult to figure out. I had to enter the data a number of times as the choices were not transparent to me. Simple things like changing the color of the people in the chart was also very limited and not at all clear. Even harder was to figure out the ratio. The data I put in was in three rows: Obama, Romney and Undecided. I put in the percent for each of the categories. The representation looks right but the number of people on the screen far exceed 100. If I could get them to 100, the data would be clear but I saw no options to change this. The ability to ability to interact with the chart--even through it was minimal- could be helpful. But it also makes it hard to see the data in one screen. So for visualization purposes, this was not as successful a tool. The embed code was not apparent on initial sharing choices but after viewing it on the web, you have the option to get the code.
Finally, Gliffy (http://www.gliffy.com/) is a really useful tool for making grapics that has been around from some time . It is very easy to use. But it does not have the templates for creating data repressentations. I think that the more we can visualize data, the more likely we are to engage in data-driven decision making.