Accidentally misleading visualizations

Today I saw a figure posted on Nate Silver’s website that is a good example of an accidentally misleading visualization. The intended point of the chart is that most men in Glamour Magazine have some form of facial hair.

Instead, what immediately comes across is that most men in Glamour Magazine are clean-shaven. The figure forces the reader to first group facial hair categories before it becomes obvious that most men maintain some form of facial hair.

Here are a couple of different approaches I think are better. By listing the facial hair categories first and using color to help the reader group them, figure A requires minimal changes to the original visualization. Figure B groups the facial hair categories to show that clean-shaven is in fact in the minority. Figure C adds color to really emphasize that the comparison is between facial hair and clean-shaven. In figures B and C I think that the numbers are optional.

facial hair-01


Facilitating feedback and improving learning

This is an app idea I came up with to improve student learning.

Students, who are the customers of education, have little input. Teachers, who heavily influence student learning, lack the data to improve teaching. Administrators, who can promote change, have little information.

The auris app is designed to facilitate feedback and serve as a powerful tool to empower students, enable teachers, and inform administrators.

What do you think? Anyone want to help me build the app?

He was an average student, but was a bold child

AitazazI am touched by the story of Aitazaz Hassan Bangash who sacrificed his life to prevent a terrorist attack at his school in Pakistan. Here is an excerpt from the story on CNN:

A 14-year-old boy is being hailed as a hero in Pakistan for tackling a suicide bomber — dying at the main gate of his school and saving schoolmates gathered for their morning assembly.

Ninth-grader Aitazaz Hassan Bangash was on his way to the Ibrahimzai School on Monday in the Hangu district of northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province when the bomber, dressed in a school uniform, asked him where the school was, the teen’s cousin told CNN.

Aitazaz and his cousin, Musadiq Ali Bangash, became suspicious, Musadiq said. “The other students backed off, but Aitazaz challenged the bomber and tried to catch him. During the scuffle, the bomber panicked and detonated his bomb,” he said.

I find it interesting what Aitazaz’s teacher said of him:

He was an average student, but was a bold child.

Why must Aitazaz’s boldness be prefaced with the revelation that he was an average student? Are only above average students expected to be extraordinary? Let me clarify that I am not blaming his teacher; I am merely illustrating how ingrained academic achievement is in our assessment of people.

In the moment of crisis Aitazaz proved that he was not an average individual. Aitazaz was bold, and it was his boldness that saved the lives of over 400 of his peers.

As a society we are obsessed with smart people. In our love affair with being smart, have we overlooked other traits that are arguably more valuable than dominating a standardized test?

Perhaps part of the legacy of Aitazaz can be that it prompts us to reconsider the merit of using academic achievement to define and predict future success.