This is a delightful exercise that everyone seems to love. WolframAlpha will provide you with an extremely detailed analysis of your own Facebook data including visualizations, world clouds, graphs, and more.
Khan Academy Idaho is a grant-funded initiative to help K-12 teachers in Idaho integrate digital devices and the Khan Academy program into their math classrooms. Yesterday I gave a keynote there called “Between a Rock and a Hard Place” about (1) the challenges facing math educators and (2) Data Sleuthing, a way to encourage math curiosity and data literacy in students.
The single most important tool I’ve found for improving Digital Literacy is Wolfram Alpha. At your fingertips, whether on your phone, tablet, or laptop, you have access to all the world’s readily available data. All you have to do is ask. The best thing I can do to improve data literacy is to teach students (and other adults I know) to question the facts they are being quoted as gospel. Here are a bunch of searches I’ve done recently to verify or refute data someone has told me in conversation.
I just finished watching the TED Talk by David McCandless called “The Beauty of Data Visualization” and it is stunningly awesome! In the talk, he discusses the importance of understanding the relativeness of data when it is reported in the news. “Visualizing information is a form of knowledge compression” where we squeeze enormous amount of information and understanding into a small space. McCandless was not trained in graphic design, but “”being exposed to all this media over the years had instilled a kind of dormant design literacy in me.” He says he is something of a “data detective” (see his graph “Mountains out of Molehills” in the talk for an example).
Edward Tufte also discusses the importance of data visualization, but he is something of a technology Luddite. David’s interactive digital data visualization “Snake Oil” is simply awesome and demonstrates a path that “information supergraphics” could take if Tufte were to embrace technology instead of just bashing it (I went to one of Tufte’s workshops last year and I can tell you that the only “good technology” was his iPhone).
If there was ever a video to show a math or statistics class at the beginning of the semester, this might be it. Of course, then you’ll actually have to DO some data visualization during the semester, but hey – it will keep you honest!