Axios Data Visualization on Uninsured

If you’re like me, you’re watching the both sides of the Congressional healthcare debates sling statistics, money, and tweets at one another. So I found last month’s mapped visualization by Axios to be mesmerizing in the way that it did one thing very well: show how the rate of uninsured Americans shifted under Obamacare/the Affordable Care Act. It doesn’t discuss issues of federal costs, personal expenses, or caliber of coverage, but it does a great job of showing one shifting variable over time: percentage of people with some sort of health insurance versus those with none at all.

The screengrab below shows a static image, but click through to the Axios site so you can see the interactive GIF and see the colors change across time.

Then ask yourself some data viz questions:

  • Axios’ graphic measures by county. How might this look different if it measured by state?
  • How does the color palette influence how you feel about the data? Would more emotional colors like blood-red impact your interpretation?
  • Can you track back to the original data source (a division of the U.S. Census) and try out these questions?


Action Research Example

Throughout the first year of our project, team member Susan Ballard has been sharing her vision and experiences with Action Research (AR). She’s graciously agreed to share her report from her district’s AR project on Interactive White Boards (IWBs). I remember when this research was being done and found the results fascinating at the time.

Remember when IWBs were the must-have? But did they work? And why? Ballard and her team found out.

You can read the full study here!.


Decorate photo of silver award cups - publid domain from

Congratulations to co-PI Angie Oehrli!

Congratulations to our co-PI Angie Oehrli, who has been chosen to receive 2017’s LIRT Librarian Recognition Award.

From the ALA press release:

The Library Instruction Round Table (LIRT) of the American Library Association has chosen Jo Angela Oehrli, Learning Librarian at the University of Michigan, Shapiro Undergraduate Library as the 2017 recipient of the LIRT Librarian Recognition Award.  The Librarian Recognition Award was created to recognize an individual’s contribution to the development, advancement and support of information literacy and instruction.  Oehrli was chosen as the 2017 winner based on her contributions at the national, state and local levels in support of information literacy and instruction.  The award will be presented to Ms. Oehrli as part of the LIRT 40th Anniversary Celebration on Saturday June 24, 7-9 PM … during the ALA Annual Conference in Chicago.

Michael Saar, chair of the 2016 Awards Committee, noted Oehrli’s extensive leadership in promoting information literacy, program creation and her strong publication record as determining factors in the committee’s selection of her as this year’s winner.

Congratulations, Angie!

Image: Public domain from


Detail of the book cover to Picturing America: The Golden Age of Pictorial Maps

New Book: Picturing America: The Golden Age of Pictorial Maps

U.S. map showing animals of various states,

H.W. Hill & Co., Map of the United States, Showing the Farm Animals in Each State. 1878. Public domain. Image courtesy to the book by Rare Maps Inc.

Maps are a powerful, time-honored method of data visualization. And pictorial maps are even more fun, because they often superimpose iconography that represents the points of pride, natural wonders, exports, traditions, even the location of bathrooms. Think of historical maps complete with sea dragons or the state maps from the state reports of our youth, decorated with cars and sheaves of wheat.

The Library of Congress and the University of Chicago Press have a new book out to celebrate the decorated maps of our nation. Picturing America: The Golden Age of Pictorial Maps, was out this week, and just from the cover (below and in featured image) and preview pages I saw, I know I’m going to be hooked on these as soon as I can get my hands on a copy!

Book Cover for Picturing America: The Golden Age of Pictorial Maps

Data Literacy at MACUL!

Screenshot of slide deck

Check out our team member Jen Colby’s presentation on data literacy at the MACUL conference this week! She got 60+ converts from this presentation … will you be next?

Speaking of conferences … save the date for the 2nd 4T Data Literacy Conference, coming July 20-21, 2017. Registration opens in a few weeks! Can’t wait? Our parent conference, the 4T Virtual Conference on impactful technology integration, is May 20-22, 2017. Register here!

2017 Conference dates chosen!

Decorative - 4T Data Literacy conference logo

We’re excited to announce that the 2017 4T Data Literacy Virtual Conference dates have been announced! We’ll meet virtually on July 20-21, 2017. This year, we’re focusing our presentations on three (and a half) themes:

  1. Big Data, including citizen science
  2. Ethical data use
  3. Personal data management

Registration and more details will be forthcoming soon. If you registered last year, you’re already on our list and will let you know when it’s time to sign up!

Image of data dashboard. Photo public domain via

Quotable | 9 Ways to Spot Bogus Data

We’re hard at work editing chapters for our Year 1 data literacy book. While we’re rolling around ideas, here are some ideas from Geoffrey James’ “9 Ways to Spot Bogus Data” in Inc., subtitled “Decision-making is hard enough without basing it on data that’s just plain bad.”

If you don’t know what some of these questions are asking, stay tuned … we’ve got you covered. Soon, anyway.

Good decisions should be “data-driven,” but that’s impossible when that data isn’t valid. I’ve worked around market research and survey data for most of my career and, based on my experience, I’ve come up with touchstones to tell whether a set of business data is worth using as input to decision-making.

To cull out bogus (and therefore) useless data from valid (and therefore potentially useful) data, ask the following nine questions. If the answer to any question is “yes” then the data is bogus:

  1. Will the source of the data make money on it?
  2. Is the raw data unavailable?
  3. Does it warp normal definitions?
  4. Were respondents not selected at random?
  5. Did the survey use leading questions?
  6. Do the results calculate an average?
  7. Were respondents self-selected?
  8. Does it assume causality?
  9. Does it lack independent confirmation?

Let us know which of these you’d like to see unpacked in a future blog post!



Team Member Tasha Bergson-Michelson Featured in School Library Journal

We’re delighted that our teammate Tasha Bergson-Michelson was featured in Adrienne Matteson’s School Library Journal article, “Teaching News Literacy? Check Your Own Bias, Says Librarian.” Some excerpts from the article:

If you are like me, the alarm about “fake news” reached a fever pitch in your librarian circles weeks ago … But what about the students who distrust the “mainstream media” and feel their views are more represented in sources you consider untrustworthy? How do we teach the skeptics to be critical thinkers and fact checkers, without alienating them by discounting their beliefs? …

Tasha Bergson-Michelson, a librarian at the Castilleja School in Palo Alto, CA, has been digging into the question of how to teach young people to interrogate what they read, hear, and see. She doesn’t want her students to trust a source unless they have good reason to. Her 10th graders work through a unit on source evaluation that involves them coming up with a shared rubric for the standards by which they will judge whether a source is trustworthy or not. Her students use the standards they’ve identified to argue the validity of the sources they choose moving forward in the project. Bergson-Michelson wants her students to understand that all news sources have a perspective, but they can look through that perspective to assess whether or not the information provided is fact-based and trustworthy …

The best way to begin that cultural change is to face our own biases. Last spring, while Bergson-Michelson set out to teach her students about evaluating the news, she realized that she relied on the same handful of news sources, all of which leaned in one political direction. She sought credible sources from the other side of the aisle …

Her advice for reaching students who think differently than you: practice what you preach …

You can read the complete article here.

(By the way, author Addie Matteson is an alum of the U-M School of Information. Go Blue!)