Gapminder is an incredibly rich and useful website for examining cross-national demographic data and vital statistics. Its centerpiece is an interactive graphical interface that allows users to select specific variables of interest by nation or U.S. state and then immediately visualize output over historical time. In addition to this powerful tool, the site includes a wealth of ancillaries, including numerous videos, data sets, and instructor guides. The site will appeal to diverse user groups, including those interested in the social sciences, business, economics, and health.
Gapminder promotes the acquisition of knowledge relevant to cross-national demography, economic development, health, and a host of other globally-relevant topics. It specifically encourages historical exploration of relations between demographic variables and vital statistics by country or U.S. state, and in so doing facilitates comparative understanding. The site likewise promotes quantitative-skills development by featuring data visualization and longitudinal analysis. Finally, the site's emphasis on empirical evidence encourages critical thinking as research findings are often contrary to conventional assumptions.
Target Student Population:
Primarily college undergraduate and graduate students. Might be usable in advanced high school courses.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
No necessary prerequisites, although some knowledge about demography and the language of quantitative analysis would be helpful.
Type of Material:
The site is listed as a simulation, but includes a great deal of data, videos, and teaching aids.
In-class demonstrations, homework assignments, and individual exploration of relations between various indicators.
Updated version of standard browser and Adobe Flash. Both interactive visualization tool and data may be downloaded to user computer so Internet connection is not necessary for use.
Evaluation and Observation
Site content is excellent. Visually rich interactive graphics allow users to explore relations between a host of indicators and how these relations may change over time. Data sets on the site appear to be accurate and up-to-date. Users could spend hours there and not exhaust analysis. Videos featured on the site illustrate how the interactive can be employed, and provide informative cross-national findings pertinent to varied issues.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
The interactive visualization tool and the depth and breath of data (the whole world) make this site incredibly effective for vividly demonstrating social change over time. Rich collection of videos and teaching guides further support student learning.
Advanced students would be helped with inclusion of instruction in the use of log scales since that is an option in analyses.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
Gapminder is clearly interactive and its design quality is high. Rich visual presentation is a major strength.
Users may find the amount of data overwhelming. Clearer instructions about which data sets and variables to select would be helpful.
Other Issues and Comments:
Gapminder would be an excellent resource for any course that focuses on global issues.