Sunday, February 10, 2013

Core 21c Skillset: Data Literacy

A core 21st century skillset is data literacy, meaning the ability to recognize, understand, and manipulate various forms of data. One way is through visualization, using visual techniques to both represent data, and also as an inquiry tool for finding patterns.

Some of the basics of data visualization are being able to distinguish between ordinal (qualitative) and quantitative data, and selecting corresponding plotting techniques. For example, a bar chart may be best for displaying simple quantitative and ordinal values, a scatterplot for multiple quantitative data values, and a shape-based plot chart for multiple ordinal values.

Beyond the basics, the next step is mastering more sophisticated visualization techniques. Some of these build on information visualization pioneer Edward Tufte’s work and include using small multiples (plotting several similar charts to highlight differences in one variable), bullet charts, sparklines, horizon charts, and adding a dynamic element to visualizations.

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