What Maps Are Not

Calling your attention to two great blog posts by northierthanthou: “A Map is Not a Territory” and “Map Ain’t Time Either.” Both explore the judgments that are made by mapmakers, and how their decisions can mislead readers.

From the first, which discusses differences between a AAA road map that omits “Indian Country” sites and one that is specifically for “Indian Country”:

The issue doesn’t seem to be resolution. The Arizona and New Mexico map has a higher resolution than the one for Indian country. I somehow doubt that anyone hatched a plot to hide Tsaile from Ken. My guess, is that the criteria for selecting what to put on each map simply differs, and that the difference was enough to make Tsaile disappear (along with quite a few other things, actually).

And from the second, which discusses how various maps visualize Native American culture areas:

This placement on teh map isn’t from time immemorial; it begins at the cusp of the 1400s, give or take a bit, and that enables us to place their entrance into a sequence of events for the region. They were still settling into the total territory on this map when the Spanish began exploring the region, arriving well after their Pueblo neighbors. Knowing that helps to put the map in perspective. Not knowing that invites an a-historical reading of the map.

Questions to discuss with students: What do the maps you use in class omit? What do your mental maps omit?  When you’re designing a data visualization, what are the most important factors to consider?  Do click through to read the entire posts, if only to see the maps in question!

So Much Tech, So Little Time

“For me, despite my love of cool new gadgets, I always try to start from a place of what do I want my students to learn and what do I want them able to do. If the cool-to-play-with Google Glass or Apple Watch or other gadget isn’t the most efficient way to answer those questions then I don’t bring it into the class. I can’t promise I won’t get one for myself though.”

— Source: Brave In The Attempt

[A teacher’s blog examining different learning models: SAMR, TPACK, and TIM and how they impact our use of tech in the classroom.  Plus a really beautiful “Graph of Tech Learning”!]

Just for Fun: History in Color

If it’s too hot to think, grab some ice water and coloring pencils and relax by coloring images from historical collections. The #ColorOurCollections initiative of the New York Academy of Medicine was in February, but don’t worry if you missed it: the coloring books created for the social media event are still available online at http://library.nyam.org/colorourcollections/.

There were 120 institutions from around the world participating, including the Smithsonian, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Vatican, the National Museum – The Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania, and Bodleian Libraries.  Be realistic or get as fantastic as you like!

And finally, a small bonus online activity: color in a page of the Gutenberg Bible at the Ransom Center at UTAustin

Page of Gutenberg Bible colored in online.

Resource Highlight: Fragile States Index Data

Data used in the Fragile States Index from The Fund for Peace can be used to create many different kinds of visualizations and explorations: scores and rankings, country dashboards, comparative analyses, trend analysis, FSI heat maps, and so on.  Use it to see which indicators FFP says are getting better or worse in a country, to argue over the political importance/relevance of those indicators, and to spark discussions about methodology.

For example, the United States is a stable country, but according to the index it has been worsening over the years:

Data from the U.S. country dashboard

(One irritating thing about the site is that it’s not responsive, so you will have to enlarge the window until the whole thing fits if you don’t want to continually scroll side-to-side.)

Data Visualization

The featured image is an example of first-rate data visualization. It depicts the totality of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, with a column for the number of people who embarked in a given year, and a column for the number of people who disembarked.  Not only is it clear and easy to read, but the use of a lighter color to denote “embarked” vs. a darker color for “disembarked” means that the difference — those who died during the Middle Passage — looks ghostly.

The graph is part of an interactive timeline from the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database.  The database is an incredible compendium of information from shipping manifests, logs, and so on for over 27,000 voyages.

Learn more about the trans-Atlantic slave trade in WorldView Software’s World History A, particularly Chapter 20: The Age of New World Exploration, and Internet Project: Triangular Trade.

BulbgraphOnOffGuided essays lead students step-by-step through the essay writing process, from selecting the main idea to writing the conclusion.

Preview WorldView Software’s programs for free at company logohttp://www.worldviewsoftware.com/preview/

The Art of Map Making

From the BBC:

With the rise of smart phones, paper maps are among the many things that have seemingly lost their place in many of our lives. One man says relying so heavily on digital maps is detrimental to our geographic literacy.

Dave Imus works alone in his small farm house in rural Oregon, but he is one of the most prolific cartographers working in the US. The geographic illustrator says the way geography is taught in schools “bores even me”.

He says if we think about maps as art rather than science we’ll be able to relate better to our surroundings


video image capture (2 minute video, opens on BBC site)
video image capture (2 minute video, opens on BBC site)

He has a point: people with decent mental maps don’t do things like follow GPS to their deaths.

Global Migration Flow

Human migration has been happening for aeons.  The featured image of this post is a data visualization of the global flow of people.  This circular plot shows all global bilateral migration flows for the five-year period mid-2005 to mid-2010, classified into a set of ten world regions.

It was created by Nikola Sander, Guy J. Abel & Ramon Bauer, (February 2014), and is from their article, “Quantifying Global International Migration Flows.” (Science 343, no. 6178 (March 28, 2014): 1520–22. doi:10.1126/science.1248676.)  For an incredible interactive version, go to: http://www.global-migration.info/ and play with the different time periods.

The data visualization is terrific for getting a big-picture overview of human movement around the planet.  But there’s more to migration than just movement.

How do you teach about migration?  If you’re emphasizing geography, you could use WorldView Software’s World Geography, starting with materials such as Case Study: Human Geography that talks about push and pull factors in the abstract.  You could then move on to materials such as Case Study: Human Migration: Texas that gives concrete examples of the different waves of migration into the state, why they came, and how they changed the culture and landscape.

If you’re emphasizing history, there’s a wide range of examples, from the paleolithic migrations in World History A, Chapter 1: The Beginning of Civilization through to World History B, Internet Project: The Changing Faces of Europe.  Again, you can be very abstract and big-picture in your approach, or you can try a more targeted and personalized approach that puts an individual face on the data.  A great place to get migrants’ stories is from UNHCR, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (scroll down to “Refugee Voices”).

Another way to humanize the subject is to seek out and interview migrants in your community.  For pointers on how to go about such a project, check out the The Smithsonian Folklife and Oral History Interviewing Guide.  You and your students could create a valuable community resource with such a record!

BulbgraphOnOffHave students in your flipped classroom complete the study questions while you’re there to assist and discuss the mini-lesson answers.

Preview WorldView Software’s programs for free at company logohttp://www.worldviewsoftware.com/preview/