SLOAN-C: Changing the Layout of Health Information: Visualizing Trends Over Time

As the last professional development conference stop on this summer tour, I attended the 10th Annual Sloan Consortium Blended Learning conference, both as a participant and as a presenter; I’ll get to the second part later.  These posts aim to keep up with the highlights and will breakout by session topic.

The session presentation was inspired by Hans Rosling’s 200 Countries in 200 Years, a visual representation that helps depict the evolution of global health.  The video is awesome and only takes 4 minutes, so I would check it out.

  • Race, Ethnicity, and Health course (Online+In-person lab)+Instructional Technologies grants = opportunity
  • Review Rosling’s site, but his Trendalyzer focuses more on information at the country level and also uses different demographic data than what is available in the US population
  • Google Motion Charts was chosen instead of Trendalyzer
  • Majority of time spent on prepping –> (data curation and management seems to find me everywhere…..)
    • Are you collecting data or are you using other secondary data sources?
    • Challenges with mixing and matching health data of different sources
    • Used Census Bureau and CDC for stats sources
    • How many time points are you including? What is the whole time frame?
    • Recommendation: Start with small data sample to make sure chart behaves before doing using full dataset
  • Use Google Sheet for data repository – specific layout required in order to play nice with Google Motion Chart
    • Column A=entity (gender, state, etc)
    • Column B=has to be time indicator (year, month, etc)
    • Columns C+D=data points

How To Make a Motion Map

  1. Google Drive
  2. Create New Spreadsheet
  3. Plop data into Google Drive spreadsheet (make sure its cleaned up)
  4. Highlight all data in Google Drive spreadsheet
  5. Insert>Chart>Chart tab>Trend
  6. Chart can be on same spreadsheet as data or provides option for Move to New Sheet
  7. Adjust colors, axes, trails between data points, etc.


  • Flash-based
  • Requires Internet connection to run
  • To publish chart, need to publish on your own webpage (Scripting language doesn’t play well with WordPress)

Here are their items:

And I created one, too!

As a teaching tool:

  • lab setting is in person, approx. 20 students at a time
  • students required training on navigating these information sources – multiple points and encoded meaning requiring information; scaffold up the different components such as same size vs variable size, unique colors vs same colors, etc.
  • for multi-components: Infant Mortality Rate (y-axis)+Mothers Who Smoked During Pregnancy(x-axis) on
    • created confusion regarding cause and effect discussions – can’t completely ID that one factor as the cause-effect versus ethnicity, so how do you articulate what this represents then?
  • using multiple indicators was a challenge – probably took 3 classes before students were comfortable
  • students would ask students to investigate the reasons behind trends
  • To see how they ran the lab, you can review their Leading Causes of Death Lesson Plan

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