Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Gapminder: Statistics in Motion

Teaching human development and population in Geography can be tough when trying to find and then display up-to-date statistical data. I have also found that showing this data in a clear and relevant way that students understand and relate to can also be difficult. In 2007 I discovered the TED site, a site devoted to talks presented at the annual TED conference. These talks are on a variety of innovative ideas and thoughts. One of my favourite talks by a doctor called Hans Rosling, introducing a program he developed called Gapminder.

Hans Rosling is professor of international health at Karolinska Institutet (KI), the medical university in Stockholm, Sweden. He began his career as a doctor and spent many years in rural Africa. He leads courses on global health in both undergraduate and postgraduate programs. To enable students and researchers to make sense of the world development he started Gapminder, a non-profit IT-company. Gapminder aims to dispell common myths about the so-called developing world. He uses statistics from United Nations data that is illustrated by visualisation software to present the data in a way that is clear, and understood. As well as this, he is a very entertaining and funny presenter. His first talk introducing Gapminder at the TED conference in 2006 is below.

The Gapminder website also includes gapcasts, short videos explaining specific types of data and the relationships between this data. A blog, as well as downloads and the ability to upload any of the data used is also available. Rosling also posts flash animations on specific topics such as 'Who has the best teeth in the world?' and 'Who has the most oil?'.

Following the success of Gapminder, Rosling developed Dollar Street. This downloadable flash animation contains complete photo-panoramas from households at different income levels. As stated on the site 'All people of the world live on Dollar Street, the poorest to the left and the richest to the right. Everybody else lives in between'. The current version contains 13 households and 3 school documentations from Mozambique, South Africa and Uganda. The second talk below was delivered at TED in 2007, when Hans Rosling unveiled Dollar Street.

Gapminder is an amazing resource for the classroom. I recommend that you bookmark this site and add it to any resource list you give to your students when studying development. You could also create specific handouts for the students to complete in class.

1 comment:

  1. Yes! A great site and your posts always provide so much info. Your students are very lucky people indeed.