Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

My Review of Designing Data Visualizations

March 3, 2012

Originally submitted at O’Reilly

Intentional Communication from Data to Display

Data Visualization …Visualized Badly

By That Ontology Guy from Fredericton, NB on 3/2/2012


2out of 5

Pros: Easy to understand, Concise

Cons: Not comprehensive enough, Too basic

Best Uses: Student

First with the positives: It is a good introductory read into the subject. An average person could likely read in under an hour and take away some basics. (I read it on the bus on the way home). I would immediately recommend reading some of the many references listed for more detailed information. I did like the distinction between data visualizations that are largely one-off builds that almost require a project in themselves to create versus basic effective visualizations. Most people only have time for the basic visualizations. Missing was a description of how some people “jazz” up graphics bar charts by making them “3-D” but effectively making it too hard to compare the data.

Now the negatives: 1. I received this book as a reviewers copy in hard copy. I wish I would have had the PDF because the 32 pages of color graphics (for only a 93 page book) meant I immediately had to find a color printer to print them off so I could really understand them. The book size dimensions also really limited their size and thus their interpretability.

With the introductory nature of the subject coverage and the color demands and size demands of the figures, I feel this book would have made a great web-site. As it stands, it is a basic primer good for a school or public library.


Reply to George Siemens: Using Technology to Improve Collaboration

December 14, 2009

Read with interest George Siemens post on creating simple information sharing environments I just designed a course for St Thomas University using open source tools like yourself for CCK08 and 09.

I am using Google to make most of the functionality work ie Alerts, a Forum, and WordPress for blogging, posting papers. I went open because STU uses WebCT and is switching over to Moodle and I still have not been officially hired yet so I have little time to learn a new LMS.

This brings me to my second point of your point of simplicity over complexity. You note SharePoint problems. Yes it is complex. But it is a useful toolset when trying to organize complex business and making information findable. The portal aspect of SharePoint may be its greatest strength because it does not require much skill to learn to add sites, lists and libraries with standard navigation elements, thus making it easier to find things. I have found after assisting several organizations cleaning up their SharePoint implementation was that they continue to folder their records, treat SharePoint as a fileserver instead of a portal/intranet, and fail to apply metadata to make documents findable, sortable and viewable (ie usability and findability).

You note that I favour SharePoint for the business, but that is because I have seen the power of integrating Project Management, records management, document workflow and publishing, status reporting, and communications (SharePoint can even issue SMS messages!). At the same time, I can also go open source.

One aspect of my STU solution is no grade book. This is a weakness. Wouldn’t a student love to see a grade at the end of my commentary about their paper, rather than have to go to another system to see this confidential info. I have criticized Desire2Learns LMS because of the difficulty of assigning “grades” to discussion posts (RMC does a combined quality and quality metric for discussion forums).

Ultimatley, you have to decide what the information management problem is, what you want to get out of the solution, and what you can afford. Some days it may be SharePoiunt, other days it may by a Google solution.

Utility Of Twitter and a Networking Analogy

October 1, 2009

I replied to a philosophical posting about Twitter by BlanchManyard. Here is what I said:
I find myself being drawn more to Twitter for finding out about useful [online] reports from my “like-minded” network. I can’t always sign up for all the interesting RSS feeds or email notifications, so it is a useful complement. What is different than the neighbors analogy is that I am privy to conversations, or at least your side of conversation with a neighbor you are talking to over your back fence when I live across the road from you and thus would not tend to interact with your over-the-fence-neighbor. I also find out things about you that I would not normally hear from you becasue I can see everything you are saying 24-7, whereas if I was your neighbor, I might talk to once or twice a day. Twitter may be more analogous to the conversations you have with your spouse when you have 2 young children – burst transmissions of no more than 2 sentences before you get cut off or someone else interrupts.”

POE206 Fall 2009 and New Experiment

September 14, 2009

I am teaching POE 206, RMCs Canadian Civics course. I am doing it completely online compared to teaching it to a live class like I did in  Winter 2009, so students have some essay requirements, discussions in online forums, and some timed quizzes composed of an essay question.

I disagree with the time essay question on two points: 1. Timed testes especially essays, result in regurgitation and not critical analysis. 2. Many of the students are on operations or temporary duty whether home or abroad, and while the quiz can be done anytime during a specific week, they only have 2 hours. Some students will not have connectivity that week, thus forcing me to modify the quiz  time frame in the LMS or accept email submissions based on an honor system. How many students will this happen to? Well its been my experience at least every student has to ask for a modified submission date for at least one assignment per my courses. This makes at least 25 out of 175 assignment submissions have to have negotiated alternate arrangements. So why not go to an honor system like the History department at RMC does for HIE208 and HIE275?

Now for my experiment. In my Winter POE206 course  that I blogged about previous (Post 1, Post 2, Post 3, Post 4), I had the student stake a political orientation survey. I found the majority of the class was conservative leaning last winter, which surprised me because the Military was Liberal leaning in the 1990s. So I suspected in the Winter of 2009 that it had something to do with recent budget increases, purchases of new equipment, and what soldiers don’t love a war, and the conservatives are running one (Despite the fact it was the Liberals that took us int that war.)  So for my fall course, I have decided to ask the next question as ask the students to recollect who the voted for in Sept 2008, January 2006 and June 2004 and why they voted for who they did (local considerations , federal leader, party platform, did not vote, spoiled vote).

Whit this info, I expect to be able to answer the influence of the orientation survey.

The next thing that interests me is if this course will have an impact on how students view politics. Many students report disliking politics or often finding themselves ignorant of the Canadian system, so I wonder if the course will change their views. Thus, I plan on asking them in the last week to retake the political orientation survey to see if their scored change and in which areas that they do. If there is a forced election this fall, then I will have even better information to work with!

Perhaps I can turn this into a combined Masters of education and political science degree? perhaps I can compare how I was able to teach the course in Winter 2009 (live students in the class)  in the Winter of 2009 to Fall 2009 (online versions) to see which course is more effective by looking at grades and studnets qualitative comments to me?

A couple issues come up here: 1. Can I get into a MEd program quick enough to take advantage of the situation. 2. Will RMC get annoyed with me by having students be surveyed without their permission, 3. What ethical questions do I raise not only with my employer (RMC), but by using my own course as the basis of a MEd thesis when the students were taking the course for credit and I am probing them for information? (Do they answer the survey because they fell that to not answer the survey will affect their grade?)

I look forward to your comments.

Results of POE206 Mock Parliament

April 7, 2009

A quick update on the Mock Parliament I ran for my POE 206 Classs this term. My students said they enjoyed the exercise. However, they said they were prefer to be assigned to a political party during the role play that was not of their political orientation. In other words, during the survey at the beginning of the course, if they identified they were of Conservative leanings, they would prefer to have played the role of a Liberal or NDP member of parliament. From a pedagogical perspective, I ahve to agree with them. They would not only learn about their own poltical orientation, but also the opposite point of view. The students also suggested arranging 2 short half hour prepatory sessions to get organized for the Mock Parliament. They felt the online discussion forum I ahd set up was insufficent for real time discussion. Again I ahd to agree. So much of politics is about real time interpersonal communication.
From my perspective, I thought it went well although there was some administrative glitches:
1. The students presented a bill that no-one had actually addressed as an issue.
2. The governing party did not prepare hardcopy versions of their bill, something Parliament requires.
And just like in the real Parliament, the oppositon had a lot to say about the bill but on the governemtn side, repsonse came from a few “leaders”. The back benchers were quite like the real world. The government in this case was Conservative and they kept true to Stephen HArper’s government stance.
Now I am waiting for the students Concept Maps and Final reports based on the issue area they chsoe to discuss this term.

POE 206 Canadian Political System Concept Map

February 18, 2009

My students did up concept maps of the Canadian Political system for the Canadian Forces professional development course as an assignment. Some had difficulty created “network connections” between ideas so I did one up to guide them further as they refine theirs as the course moves into the second half. Here is mine (by the way, the colouration of the political parties in the map is the colours the parties use when election campaigning):