4th Grade Viz-tastic-ness


Last Friday, I had the pleasure of being a guest speaker in my 4th grader, Max's computer class, on the topic of Data Visualization.  They had just started to learn about creating spreadsheets in Excel, and so I used that as the basis for how to communicate effectively with data using Tableau. We started with a table of data in Excel, where we captured very basic data about Gender, Age, Birthday, Favorite Sports, Movies, Games, Foods, etc. and used this to discuss the following topics and build a dashboard all in 45 minutes!:

  • What is Data Visualization?
  • Data as Attributes and Metrics
  • Chart Types and What they are good at communicating
    • Bar Charts
    • Line Charts
    • Pie Charts (icky over 2 to 3 attributes)
    • Histograms
    • Scatter Plots
    • Fun but less effective Bubbles and Text "Wordles"
    • Maps (because they are so cool)
    • Use of graphical elements to communicate data
      • Size (bigger is more)
      • Color (categorical, sequential, and diverging)
      • Shapes
      • Text (annotation and labels)

After the discussion, we had 4 children come up and make the chart they wanted to fit in the overall classroom dashboard which is published below.  I found that although 9 year olds do listen to things like color theory, when given their druthers, they just want to play with data in a way that they want to!  A few times, my snobby Data Fashionista self cringed a bit, but I only let loose when someone mentioned 3D charts and wanted to do a pie with 10 categories.  Other than that, who cares!   As long as they were having fun and discussing what chart type was the best to use, let them have at it!  My favorite was a girl who came up and did the "Favorite TV Shows by Gender".  When asked about color, she went for the categorical, and asked that girls be "turquoise".  When asked what color should the boys be, she let out a barbed "hot pink!".  Booyah!

The best part was picking up my son at the end of the day, who was so proud of what his mom did everyday, and the wonderful thank you notes that his class had written about how excited they were about data and data visualization.  Best training class ever!!!!!!!