Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Teaching With Twitter Visualizations

Twitter has evolved a long way from the pop fetish of self-absorbed celebrities. Now, Twitter is on the leading edge of breaking news, sharing resources, and inspiring educators. As a teacher, if you have not yet explored the possibilities of Twitter in professional development, check out our earlier post about "10 Ways Twitter Has Made Better Teachers." Many class lessons now use Twitter feeds as core tools in research and communication. This comprehensive write-up by Tina Barseghian of MindShift, for example, offers "28 Creative Ideas for Teaching With Twitter."

Source: A World Of Tweets
More and more designers are developing clever, graphic ways to interact with Twitter. These visualizations can be utilized as teaching tools themselves. One benefit of these visualizations is that they offer spatial adjacency in considering more information within one visual field. In other words, they remove the cognitive impediment of a linear, scrolling Twitter feed. Edward Tufte notes that "spatial adjacency greatly reduces the memory problems associated with making comparisons of small amounts of information stacked in time."

For example, A World Of Tweets presents a fascinating real-time look at tweets originating around the globe. A heat map (or smoky cloud) unfolds in running time when you open the site. It colors regions of the earth with the most Twitter traffic. A World Of Tweets could yield a simple geography lesson in class, or it could springboard to more sophisticated discussions of urban and rural centers, technology vis à vis superpowers, global trade, or emerging BRIC economies.

Source: "Visualization" search on Tori's Eye
A completely different visualization is Tori's Eye, which provides a search field for terms, hashtags, and users and then displays the results in an appealing, animated image. Origami-style birds float across a green and yellow landscape carrying the fruits of your search. Research through this search engine would easily capture the attention of younger students.

Source: "Visual Thinking" search on The Archivist
The Archivist is another search service that focuses on data and statistics for desired topics. Graphs and figures highlight the top url sources of information and the top Twitter users mentioning similar ideas. The Archivist would offer a good mathematical exhibit or a glimpse at social media volume.

Source: @theASIDEblog density on TweetStats
TweetStats also returns statistics about Twitter, but in this case, it allows users to peer into data about their own accounts. Students could analyze tweet frequency and density, or they could compare charts and graphs.

Visible Tweets blends PowerPoint-style transitions with simple searches, to read Twitter traffic about a given subject or hashtag. The colors and layout change constantly, and Visible Tweets seems to reach into more historic results than other Twitter searches.

Source: "Graphicacy" search on Visible Tweets
Portwiture is a visual rendering of a user's most recent tweets. It culls pictures from Flickr into a checkerboard of metaphoric meaning. For students, Portwiture could help them study symbolism, or it could supply unexpected images for projects, websites, or wallpapers.

Source: @theASIDEblog on Portwiture
Finally, tweetPad seems like an intriguing software to interpret Twitter feeds in a topographic layout. The application must be installed, but the results could appeal to art students or visual geologists.

For some other intriguing Twitter visualizations, check out this list from Flowing Data, one of our favorite sites.

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