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OCTOBER 26, 2010

Maps that tell stories

When I was planning my sabbatical a couple of years ago (!) I asked educators at schools across the U.S. if I could visit. I put their answers into a spreadsheet, and here it is converted into a map:

The map is called a "heat map" because the size and color of the blobs indicate the number of responses. I made it in a couple of minutes using a free online tool called OpenHeatMap.

The process itself could hardly be easier. If your data is in the form of a Google Docs spreadsheet you simply plug the link into OpenHeatMap. If you have an ordinary Excel (or other) spreadsheet, export the data as a CSV file and import that into OpenHeatMap. The software looks for certain types of data, like U.S. Zip Codes, and converts it into the appropriate type of map.

This a two-minute video shows developer Pete Warden explaining how to use OpenHeatMap.

A tool like this makes a sophisticated data visualization technique available to all of us. How can we use it? If you have any ideas or make your own map(s), please share your results by clicking on "Comments" below.


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