Some Thoughts on Teaching "Interactive Data Visualization"

Lynn Cherny

Visiting Knight Chair, Univ of Miami

2015-2016

Required Background

Web Design: HTML, CSS

Recommended Background

Some Javascript experience

They Come in Knowing....

https://jsfiddle.net/v7k1u49h/1/

The Javascript Part : "interaction."

https://jsfiddle.net/v7k1u49h/1/

What is the teaching goal?

NYT-Level

Custom Work

Clickable

images

1

10

Use a chart

library

3

Photoshop,

Illustrator

Highcharts

D3.js

Custom

code

5

D3.js, WebGL,

Canvas...

"Custom" Code

d3.selectAll("rect")

  .attr("fill", function(d) {

      if (d.name == "United States") {

         return "red";

       } else {

         return "black";

       }

   });

Portfolio Material

Using github and bl.ocks.org viewer for homework 

http://bl.ocks.org/yan2014

Student Projects

Most successful: Factors External to my control

  • Had some programming experience previously
  • Had good design chops (visual, especially)
  • Chased a data story well: Expertise in data exploration, tools
  • Did extra work -- external data, used libraries or tools, tried new things
  • Had enough time to spend on doing it well

The best students....

Teaching Challenges

  • Debugging student problems ALL THE TIME
    •  Doesn't scale!
    • There are no qualified TAs, really.
    • Email debugging is really hard/time consuming
  • Homeworks: Time-consuming to grade, but you need to give a lot.  (Every week, usually multiple.)
  • Time for projects vs. course content: Ideally, could have been 2 semesters (basics, then a project semester)
  • Data mining / analysis: Not in the course, but a critical skill pre-visualization.

Unexpected Pluses

  • Very, very motivated students
  • Lots of women students in a programming class
  • Insufficient web dev classes at the university -- we can fill in the gaps
  • Non-journalism students are now interested in visual data journalism (MFA students this semester)
  • This skill translates to a lot of jobs, not just newsrooms

"Teaching a Semester of D3.js"

http://blogger.ghostweather.com/2016/01/teaching-semester-of-d3js.html

Blog post Went to #1 on Hacker News (Freakishly?)

And it's now being translated for a Chinese data journalism site...

The Materials (on Github)

http://arnicas.github.io/interactive-vis-course/

Last semester:

 

"Best class ever!"

 

 

 

This semester (week 5/15):

 

"It's hard, but it's also kind of fun"

 

"I think I want to do a data visualization project for my capstone"

—a non-journalism student

Teaching this stuff is important, and

hard, but also...

It's actually possible.

http://www.nytco.com/amanda-cox-named-editor-the-upshot/

ghostweather.slides.com/lynncherny

lynn@cherny.com

Teaching Interactive Data Vis

By Lynn Cherny

Teaching Interactive Data Vis

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