What is Visual Data Analysis?

Visual data analysis blends highly advanced computational methods with sophisticated graphics engines to tap the extraordinary ability of humans to see patterns and structure in even the most complex visual presentations. Currently applied to massive, heterogeneous, and dynamic datasets, such as those generated in studies of astrophysical, fluidic, biological, and other complex processes, the techniques have become sophisticated enough to allow the interactive manipulation of variables in real time. Ultra high-resolution displays allow teams of researchers to zoom into interesting aspects of the renderings, or to navigate along interesting visual pathways, following their intuitions and even hunches to see where they may lead. New research is now beginning to apply these sorts of tools to the social sciences as well, and the techniques offer considerable promise in helping us understand complex social processes like learning, political and organizational change, and the diffusion of knowledge.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • With the amount of data the various sectors of education plow through each day, the ability to easily showcase the information in a visual way can help schools move ahead with whatever they are analyzing.- kathyschrock kathyschrock Jan 30, 2015 - drjrankin drjrankin Feb 22, 2015
  • I made a similar comment on another page, how are we defining data? The description above seems to imply quantitative, but data can be qualitative or even artifacts, at least the way I see. And using artifacts as an example, that is the ultimate data visualization. We just need to be clear about this issue because when data is interpreted as quantitative, then many people think we are then talking about numeric assessment scores.- bobmoore bobmoore Feb 21, 2015 - drjrankin drjrankin Feb 22, 2015
  • This technology is not only relevant for student users, but it is also relevant (on a daily basis) for other stakeholders such as educators and parents. Educators are expected to use data regularly to inform their decision making, and most of the tools educators use to do this (e.g., computerized data systems and data reports generated within these data systems) employ visualization for numeric data but also other information such as descriptions and feedback. The way information is visualized has a significant impact on how easily and accurately educators understand the data. Edtech tools that employ information visualization should follow Over-the-Counter Data (OTCD) Standards in order to follow best practices (informed by extensive research) for proper information visualization. The “Package/Display” OTCD Standards are particularly applicable. Some resources giving the basics include:
    http://www.eschoolnews.com/2014/01/07/better-data-systems-345/? - drjrankin drjrankin Feb 22, 2015 - digitalroberto digitalroberto Feb 22, 2015

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • Perhaps a note about the ways visual data analysis allows the user to see the results, hence realizing when the search has been incorrect. With the older number-only analytic engines, it was hard, especially for the casual user, to know when the data was incorrect.- kathyschrock kathyschrock Jan 30, 2015 - drjrankin drjrankin Feb 22, 2015
  • I would add something like this as a last sentence:
    Research has also informed best practices for data visualization, so data can be easily and accurately understood. - drjrankin drjrankin Feb 22, 2015
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(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, or creative inquiry?

  • I truly believe that data analysis (hand-in-hand with data visualization) will become a skill that is necessary for our students for the work world. Since the social sciences are now being included, it is hard to imagine a job that students will have in which they are not asked to both visually analyze data and then create a information visualization to explain the results to the intended audience.- kathyschrock kathyschrock Jan 30, 2015 Thanks, Kathy...yes, a skill NECESSARY for students...and data analysis and data visualization can go hand-in-hand. - michael.lambert michael.lambert Feb 7, 2015 - drjrankin drjrankin Feb 22, 2015Exactly. All the more reason the infographics piece is essential to begin introducing at the early grades. - digitalroberto digitalroberto Feb 22, 2015
  • Since educators regularly use data tools (which employ data visualization) to better understand student performance and needs, these tools must employ information visualization most likely to render understanding of the data’s implications. Right now, most inferences educators draw when using data are flawed (see https://www.edsurge.com/n/2014-06-28-when-data-systems-actively-support-data-analysis). However, when information is presented following Over-the-Counter Data (OTCD) Standards (e.g., best display practices), educators’ data analysis accuracy can be doubled, tripled, or quadrupled depending on the standards employed (not to mention the gains from following all the standards). See www.overthecounterdata.com/s/OTCDStandards.pdf for more information. - drjrankin drjrankin Feb 22, 2015
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(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

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