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Peer Review


by Nathan Yau


Overall Numeric Rating:

4 stars
Content Quality: 4 stars
Effectiveness: 4 stars
Ease of Use: 4 stars
Reviewed: Jun 26, 2011 by Teacher Education
Overview: FlowingData is the visualization and statistics blog site of Nathan Yau. He highlights how designers, programmers, and statisticians are putting data to good use. FlowingData explores how designers, statisticians, and computer scientists are using data to understand ourselves better - mainly through data visualization. A good place to start is the archives where you will find FlowingData's most popular posts or take a look at the FlowingData beginner's guide. You can subscribe to the RSS feed, follow on Twitter, or fan on Facebook. Topics addressed in the blog have a full range. There are over 30 different categories of data visualization information to be found and explored here.
Type of Material: Combination of tutorials, simulations, and reference
Recommended Uses: Since this is a blog, users can read it often or intermittently and gain information, links, and ideas for teaching content. Junior High through university educators will find a huge array of data visualization topics from pop culture, science, art, statistics, mapping and more to support and enhance lesson content, presentation development, and professional development on data collection and use.
Technical Requirements: Internet access. Some of the links in the postings take users to sites where additional requirements like Flash and video capabilities may be needed.
Identify Major Learning Goals: The intended goal of FlowingData is educate viewers about themselves and their place in the world through data visualization. It can be used to search for graphs, maps, and other visual aids and to interact with other statisticians, programmers, and web developers in an online forum.
Target Student Population: Junior High through university educators; University students in all curricular areas. FlowingData has over 17,700 Twitter followers.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: Some knowledge of statistics and Html code is needed for some links. There are sites which require files to be downloaded. The viewing on some sites is limited to subscribers. Permission from webmaster is required to post visualization. Only subscribers can post comments. A twitter account is needed to access some of the applications. Most visual aids can clicked on to enlarge for viewing.

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 4 stars
Strengths: FlowingDate presents a huge array of significant data concepts in models on a range of topics in a user-friendly, highly accessible way. The site encourages the learning of data visualization for all users. The 32 categories of archived postings on various topics include: the Best of FlowingData, Data Art, Data Design Tips, Mapping, Polls, Social Data Analysis, Statistical Visualization, Tutorials, and more. The information and examples are organized, clear, and available. All of the data posts are references with hyperlinks to the actual data site. Users are able to follow FlowingData via Twitter, Facebook, and RSS. There are discussion forums and latest Tweets on the site to stay current.
Concerns: It does not present skills or concepts. There is no core curriculum. The visual aids and sites are of variable quality ranging from novice to professional. Some references are difficult to find and since material comes from a variety of sources, the format is not consistent.

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 4 stars
Strengths: Nathan Yau, the owner of this blog, it a PhD candidate in statistics with background in computer science and design. The information that is being presented at this site is not trivia or trivial. There is a plethora of information and a range of examples of data collection that can help students understand how data might be collected and how it might be analyzed. The intersection of visual literacy with data remains constant. Materials at this site could be integrated into lectures and presentations.
Concerns: None.

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 4 stars
Strengths: The blog web site is clear and systematically organized. Links for About FlowingData, Archives, Forums, Projects, Tutorials, and access to Twitter, FaceBook, and RSS are on every page. At the bottom of every page About, Contact information, Sponsorship, and Subscribe to Feed are available. Since it is a blog, the site is continually updated and refreshed. Although there are ads on the site which are from the sponsors, they do not get in the way of the actual content.
Concerns: While the site is not organized by subject matter or type of content, it is a blog and there are tutorials available for users.

Other Issues and Comments: This is a blog that focuses on data visualization. It posts information on a range of topics and provides links to the actual data sources. Educators can use this site in a variety of ways for themselves or their students depending on the need and given situation.