Seminar Redesign

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1) Reduce and insert data viz as a 3-week module into a topical seminar, similar to how I taught an abbreviated version during Ed 308 Cities Suburbs Schools seminar in Fall 2013

  • The students get experience with data visualization


  • The experience the students get doesn’t get to get developed and built upon as much as it would if it were a full semester course

2) Keep as-is with current 0.5 credit seminar combined with 0.5 credit internship.

  • It’s good to get internship experience with a mentor and build a semester long relationship
  • Ability to get fairly extensive data visualization instruction, but still be able to apply it to a community partner internship


  • It isn’t an entirely in depth instruction of data visualization, for example we don’t learn how to code

3) Expand into a larger 1-credit course, with more data viz content and coding instruction during the first half, and pairs of students working on community partner projects during the second half. Also, may count toward Numerical & Symbolic reasoning requirement.

  • Get more focus on the data visualization which can help further understand it
  • Could lead to an ability to do more advanced visualizations 
  • Get numerical & symbolic reasoning credit for it


  • Don’t get the full internship experience, particularly of building a relationship with a community partner throughout the whole semester

Recommendation: My preferred option of these three would to be to stay with the seminar as it is now with it being half credit seminar and half credit internship. I found the internship experience INCREDIBLY valuable, so I think that should definitely remain part of the course.

Redesign Seminar

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My recommendations for this course in a future semester would be similar to the third option. I think the semester the way it was this semester was great, keeping in my this semester was the first and thus a trial and error semester, but I the data viz and coding instruction definitely could seem appealing in the future.

Although there won’t be able to have as much of an internship experience, i think that even just working with a partnership outside of the college is very interesting and a great opportunity while also learning how to create these visualizations with a more in depth learning of the coding aspect.

The community partners are definitely a necessity for a course like this and they seemed to be extremely willing and helpful throughout the semester, but I know in my case, joining so last minute and being only .5 credit, it was hard for my partner and I to really create and maintain a structure for our semester project and partnership. Nevertheless I really enjoyed working with her and very much appreciated her allowing me to do so such last minute.

A12: Redesigning Seminar

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Last semester I took Methods into Environmental Science and worked along the Park River in Hartford, CT on water quality. Mary Pelletier, who runs the Park River Watershed spoke in our class and discussed about our watershed and what her job consisted of. I also took the course Analyzing Schools with Professor Rachel Leventhal-Weiner in the Fall where I was introduced to the different forms of education systems especially in and around the Hartford community. With the combination of these two classes as well as an interest in taking GIS (Geographical Information Systems) I found the course and internship Data Visualization very appealing.

I think starting the semester off already knowing some things, such as who one’s community partner is, what area one wanted to work in, etc. was important to figure out before the class actually began. It was nice having already spoken with Mary even if it was mainly over the phone to establish that initial relationship prior getting down to business. I do agree that since this course was offered for the first time in this way, at times I did feel confused and distracted as Jack was writing the book along the way. I had never heard of GitHub before, and I also never realized how much one could do with a Google Drive. But I also never experienced any huge issues where I was not able to get my questions answered or solved either through Jack, Veronica or by consulting the Data Visualization ebook online.

When choosing between the different curricular models listed, I would recommend option 2. My reasons for this is because I do believe keeping this course as it is makes sense. As long as we sharpen it up a bit — and now that the book is written — students in the future will not feel as though the course is being written as it is being taught. I like the idea of a 0.5 credit class because we are learning a lot of material that I personally will be utilizing in the future. Adding the 0.5 internship with the class credit is great as well. This gives students the opportunity to partner and pair up with a community organization, but students do not feel like the whole point of the class is doing what the community partner wants. I feel as though options one and three might create even greater confusion for future students. Establishing that relationship with Mary early on definitely helped me shape my project idea. I think that meeting and pairing up with a community partner half way through the semester might just make things more chaotic as students may feel awkward or uncomfortable working so closely to someone in such a short amount of time.

The culmination of the final projects and the presentations at the Community Learning event on Wednesday was a perfect way to end the course. I know community learning was not stressed as much throughout the course. But I truly believe a class such as this one is imperative for students to participate in some time throughout their Trinity career. One question, I think Jack asked Veronica, Marissa, and me, was why we thought community learning was important especially incorporating it into an internship like Data Visualization. We all had great responses; but I replied that students usually do assignments for classes because we finish it for a grade in the end. When we work on a community learning initiative, we learn the importance of professional work where everyone will see the things we have done publicly. It’s important to remember that when we work on a community learning project we are involving more than just ourselves.

Data Viz Redesign

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Personally, I have found this class to be very helpful in furthering my understanding of data and visualizing data. Before this class, I had the notion that data was just numbers that was used to show certain statistics, but I never thought about using data as a way of telling a story, or at least how to effectively tell a story with data.

Our class structure, the 0.5 credit seminar had its pros and cons. One of the things I liked about this structure was the time. The class itself wasn’t a huge time commitment, but at the same time, I was able to learn and get feedback from my own work and other student’s works. This was very helpful in terms of allowing me to think about my visualization and how I could make them better. Also, because it was only one hour a week, I was able to put more of my time into my internship which also allowed me to learn the insides and outs about research. On Wednesdays I would give an update on my work at research meetings at the Injury Prevention Center, which allowed me to further explain my project. However, because we didn’t have as much classroom time, I felt like we didn’t have enough time actually learning how to make visualizations. Although we used Google Charts and Google Fusion, I was expecting a variety of different programs or applications to make visualization, but it difficult in an hour long class.

The 3 week course, I feel like would be a little too hectic especially when paired with a community organization or internship. During the middle of the semester when the 3 week course would usually happen, I feel like a lot of students would be turned off by it since the middle of the semester is usually a busy time of the year.

I liked the third option the best since it allows for more variety of different ways to visualize data, but also allows for students to implement their learned skills with community organizations, although they won’t be spending as much time with them like an internship.

One suggestion that I think may work is having a semester long class that is partnered with one organization and using data from that organization for visualizations. During this class, coding and other methods of visualizations can be taught. Then during the next semester, students could take a follow-up class much like the one structure now and be paired with an organization for an internship. This way, students will already have experience with coding, but also have the opportunity to have an internship. Although this requires a lot of time, I feel like this would be a great way for students to obtain a skill and use that skill in the real world.


Redesigning the Seminar

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First off, I think that a data visualization seminar is an incredibly important and relevant course, and it is worth continuing, especially when considering the shift of print journalism to online media. Since there is so much value in data visualization, I think it would be more effective to expand the seminar rather than shrink it into a 3-week module in an existing course. As a fan of the visualizations produced by The Economist and the New York Times, I began the seminar too ambitiously, and thought I would be able to produce similar visualizations. My lack of coding knowledge was definitely a source of frustration. Thus, from my personal experience, I think that option 3, expanding the course with more content and coding, is the best method of redesigning the seminar. This would enable the students to already have a set of tools to create visualizations before working with a community partner. I felt in the first few weeks of the seminar that I couldn’t really begin a fruitful relationship with my community partner because I had very limited data viz skills at the time.

Though, community partners should definitely remain a component of the course, because it offers a real world opportunity to put the skills you have learned to work. At the same time, more emphasis on coding might seem daunting to non-techie people. However, it is probably better to struggle through class with others than struggle alone. Therefore, it might also be beneficial to pair up students and have them work together with a community partner. Finally, I think that the talk from Alvin Chang was helpful in that it enabled me to take a step back from the more technical aspects of data viz, and remember what is the objective or the issue is that I am trying to address through my visualization, and how can I tell an effective story with it.