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?

  • THis is much bigger than we think; The entire world of 3D visualization, implemented in thousands of schools in Singapore, Malaysia, Turkey, the Middle East, and Asia speak to this. But it's not just DATA visualization, but all types of 3D visualization: in Caves, Hives, Visualization walls, VR, and so forth. I guess my bone to pick is that you have 3D video listed (which is dead) and you don't have visualization technologies prominently considere din your research base, even though it is a world wide phenomenon.- len.scrogan len.scrogan Apr 11, 2016
  • Education data mining is an area that is most commonly addressed by Excel, if at all. The complex understanding of how we learn, and how we can utilize Visual Data Analysis has been overlooked, in my opinion due to the "piracy" of the discipline by the politicians desring to make fast, simple, cheap standardized tests to show accountability. None of which are accurate or feasible. The rich research into Visual Data Analysis to provide visualizations of student interactions with content, analysis and summaries of data go beyond simple "Infographics". These Visual Data Analysis strategies take Bransford's learning theories & apply interaction analysis to provide the data to support the theory. - jon.k.price jon.k.price Apr 19, 2016
  • I like the expansion on the world of 3D visualization above; I'll offer one on data analysis here. I think that this is an amazing emerging field, however to perform analyses that are "advanced," "complex," etc., users need to understand some basics. I am not convinced that many educators understand the basics of data analysis well enough to be good teachers. Being a statistician myself, I think there is a missing piece here about a culture of understanding and using data. - brandon.olszewski brandon.olszewski Apr 25, 2016

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

  • The statement, "complex social processes like learning..." and the reference to "tools" may already address what I see as a gap, but more clear terminology would be "Cognitive Tutor Technology" that uses interaction monitors and cognitive models to individualize instruction. - jon.k.price jon.k.price Apr 19, 2016
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(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, or creative inquiry?

  • The potential to take huge data sets and deliver Learning Analytics to teachers (many of whom do not think in terms of rows and columns) graphically and intuitively. Facilitates translation of data into actionable information. - mporter mporter Apr 11, 2016
  • visual data analysis use of conceptual methods with graphics to see paternal and structure reminds me of how systems thinking engages to study how and why a system functions as it does. Stock/flow diagrams, behavior over time graphs, iceberg, causal loop diagrams.- jmorrison jmorrison Apr 9, 2016
  • I agree with those above. But think the basis is what I mentioned above, how the technology is now at a point to both explore and illustrate the ideal conditions, that best enable learning. The technology can now help us explore how instructional events affect learning activities and learning outcomes. The challenges however are that the developement, understanding and application of these tools are too complex for the typical classroom and the remain as research topics in education labs.- jon.k.price jon.k.price Apr 19, 2016
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(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

  • Boulder Valley Schools (CO), St. Francis Schools (MN), and over 2000+ schools across the country using tools like zSpace.- len.scrogan len.scrogan Apr 11, 2016
  • Ken Koedinger's work at Carnegie Mellon University in the Learn Lab www.LearnLab.org and Zach Pardos work at Berkely (
    http://www.columbia.edu/~mzs2106/research/JAL2014.pdf )
    are developing methods for exploring the unique types of data that come from educational environments, and how to use those methods to better understand how students learn.- jon.k.price jon.k.price Apr 19, 2016
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