Teaching Examples

Three good things I read this week
June 29, 2007, 1:15 pm
Filed under: blogging, journalism, maps, online, video

Google Maps Is Changing the Way We See the World
Evan Ratliff, June 26, Wired magazine

Since Google relaunched the software in June 2005, the stand-alone Google Earth program has been downloaded more than 250 million times. The program’s seamless zoom-in feature has become ubiquitous on television news shows. And there are dedicated sites — such as Google Sightseeing and Virtual Globetrotting — built for scouring and saving odd and interesting finds from not only Google Earth but also competing 3-D globes like NASA’s World Wind and Microsoft’s Live Search Maps. Scientists, students, and government agencies use Google Earth layers to display their data to the public … (via Journerdism)

Quest for Maps, in which intrepid multimedia reporter Ron Sylvester relates his newsrooms forays into use of maps.

‘Get to a Newspaper,’ at Gangrey.com:

Dicker: “… You can take a look at these newspapers blogs. The bloggers seem to me, Pete, to be basically opinionated stenographers, writing basically for shut-ins. I can’t imagine who would spend their time reading these things except a very rarefied, small group of people.”

Hamill: “I don’t read them, because life is too short. But I advise the young journalist, don’t waste your talent on blogs. Get to a newspaper, no matter how small, where there’s an editor who will look at your copy and say this will be better if you do this. Go somewhere where you learn the craft. Most blogs are therapy. But they’re not journalism. People who write them, except for the professional propaganda blogs, are there for therapy.

“Writing for shut-ins”? Wow, where does that come from? So the 80-year-olds reading the printed newspaper — they are the vibrant lifeblood of society? And all you blog readers out there — you’re a bunch of lumps on a log, do-nothings, hardly worth consideration.

Just last week, I was e-mailing some student I’ve never met and telling him to start a blog rather than waste his time trying to sell his travelogues to established online media. It would be great to have the tutelage of a good editor, no doubt about it. But I have to wonder what your chances are, nowadays, of getting a good editor at a newspaper. Maybe there is a good editor, but will he or she have any time to work with you?

Plus, one really great list of resources and sites (from Mashable.com): Video Toolbox: 150+ Online Video Tools and Resources — I love/hate lists like this, because it will take me some time to explore all the leads! Lots of stuff here I haven’t seen before.

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Easy maps that are easy to update too
May 14, 2007, 10:04 pm
Filed under: data, journalism, maps, online

Wouldn’t you like to make maps of your local restaurants and other favorite spots? I don’t mean you, the private citizen (but maybe you too), but rather you, the newspaper. I know, I know — updating is the thing that scares you. It would scare me. How are you ever going to be able to keep those maps up to date?

Well, what if you could just keep the data in a spreadsheet? An online spreadsheet that could be edited by several suitable people in your newsroom?

Google has your candy. Thanks to Andy Dickinson for finding this.

You haven’t used Google Docs & Spreadsheets yet? (Help files here.) What are you waiting for?

Update (May 15): Andy has a couple of new links to help you out if you’re using WordPress.

Cool uses of Google’s MyMaps: America’s Highway: Oral Histories of Route 66 and Charleston Voters’ Guide 2007.

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Maps, mashups and storytelling
April 3, 2007, 11:58 am
Filed under: data, graphics, maps, online, storytelling

In a very thoughtful post, Simon Waldman (director of digital strategy and development for the Guardian Media Group) mulls over “the current frenzy with mash-ups.”

When is a map useful in storytelling?

I suppose it only works when the spatial difference between two points really matters. Or when you start to see clusters of similar activity….

A map works only if the location of events is the key story that you’re trying to get across — and it’s either going to be the similarity or dramatic difference in location of comparable events/information.

Waldman links to a bunch of interesting online maps, including a few I had not seen before. It’s interesting — and also useful, I would argue — to think about how maps help us to understand.

Sometimes it’s just a matter of where (e.g., where exactly is the U.S. state of Montana? People from outside North America are not likely to know). Sometimes “where” includes proximity: Were the crime scenes close together? Is there a pattern to be discovered?

One of the coolest things I’ve seen on a map recently was an animation of the roaming habits of one tagged elephant in Africa. This animation is part of a fantastic story from National Geographic and MediaStorm that integrates still photography, video, and information graphics in a tightly edited video format: Ivory Wars: Last Stand in Zakouma. What you realize as the map animation progresses is exactly this: Nothing else, in any format, would tell this segment of the story as effectively as the animated map (starts at about 5:33).

That’s the thing we have to learn so we can really grow and excel in this medium: Which form or format or media type is the best — the absolute best — for telling the story? Each part of the story might have a different answer to that question.

Maps can really help clarify and simplify many stories. But they are not always the right choice, because they’re not always the best choice. A case in point: College Debt Advice from Recent Graduates, from USA Today. Take a look. Why is this a map?

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Interactive map: Islam in Europe
April 2, 2007, 3:10 pm
Filed under: design, Flash, graphics, interactive, journalism, maps, online

This map from MSNBC.com is a great example of a clear, easy-to-understand interface. You don’t need any instructions at all to figure out how it works.

Islam in Europe

I’m a huge fan of the single-screen, no-scrolling approach. This package fits on my 1024 x 768 screen with absolutely no scrolling, and even the text blocks that open up are short enough that no scrollbars are required. That is writing for the Web at its most savvy. Plus, the whole package loads like lightning.

What’s missing? A date. When was this package last updated? How current are these numbers? That’s the only flaw.

Taking it to the next level: Hook this graphic up to the live news database and show us, when we click on an individual country, the latest stories that mention BOTH that country and either Islam or Muslim. And offer an RSS alert too, while you’re at it.

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U.S. population change since the 2005 hurricanes
March 26, 2007, 5:17 pm
Filed under: data, Flash, graphics, interactive, journalism, maps

An interactive map graphic from USAToday.com: “Sun Belt’s population grows as Gulf Coast suffers.”

Make sure you click the Louisiana area and roll over the counties. This is how a graphic tells a story!

It’s relevant, it’s important, and who else but a newspaper would ever do this much work in the public interest?

Read about how they did it.

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Spring training in Florida, on the map
February 15, 2007, 11:16 pm
Filed under: journalism, maps, online, sports

Even though it’s freezing here in north-central Florida tonight, the Major League Baseball spring training season is about to begin. Boston.com built a neat package for all those die-hard Red Sox fans: Fan’s Guide to Fort Myers.

It includes three Google maps that use the free Atlas application to pinpoint sites of interest. A unique feature is a users’ photo page where the photos are pinned to a satellite photo of the baseball stadium in Fort Myers, Florida.

Get a Bugmenot password if the site throws you a bad pitch.

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Interactive news graphic: Minimum wage
February 10, 2007, 8:17 pm
Filed under: graphics, journalism, maps, online

Did Chris Strimbu — longtime interactive news designer — leave the Los Angeles Times? That appears to be the case from this very well-designed graphic online at Yahoo! News:

Minimum Wages Worldwide

Lovers of factoids will enjoy this graphic a lot. As someone pointed out on the ONA Listserv, though, there isn’t a heck of a lot of context here. For example, what does your minimum wage buy you — in terms of food or housing in the country in question?

Amy Webb likes it and gives her reasons.

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