Fall 2021 Syllabus
Our course meets in-person, wearing face masks in compliance with the campus Covid policy, on Tuesdays & Thursdays 2:55-4:10pm in Seabury S205 with Professor Jack Dougherty at Trinity College, Hartford CT. Email me a quick question or schedule an in-person or Zoom appointment on my calendar.
Course description: How can charts and maps tell meaningful stories? How can they mislead us from the truth? In this introductory hands-on course, we will create data visualizations in order to better understand design principles and develop a critical analysis of the field. Students will learn skills in both quantitative reasoning and digital storytelling as we advance from beginner tools to editing code templates. For the community learning component, our class will build interactive charts and maps on a public policy issue with a Hartford-area partner organization. No coding experience is necessary, but curiosity is required.
Fulfills requirement in Numerical and Symbolic Reasoning (NUM).
Cross-referenced with Community Learning, Public Policy & Law, Writing & Rhetoric, Urban Studies.
Enrollment limited to 19 students.
Community Learning Partners
This semester we will create data stories in partnership with two Hartford organizations that focus on housing. While we will work virtually with our partners on their digital projects, there may be optional opportunities for you to visit their public events or building sites in person.
Course Materials and Tools
- Two open-access books are freely available online (or you can purchase print editions).
- Bring a laptop computer (Mac, Windows, or Chromebook) to every class. Install more than one browser (such as Firefox, Safari, Chrome) for testing purposes. Tell me if you need a temporary laptop loaner.
- You will need to sign up for several free web services (such as Google Drive, Datawrapper, GitHub). See my list of recommended free digital tools in this course.
Learning Goals and Assessments
In this course you will demonstrate the knowledge and skills you have developed to meet 12 broad learning goals (with more specific sub-goals listed in the schedule further below):
- Strengthen Your Spreadsheet Skills
- Find and Question Your Data
- Clean Up Messy Data
- Make Meaningful Comparisons
- Chart Your Data
- Map Your Data
- Embed on the Web
- Edit and Host Code with GitHub
- Build with Leaflet Map Code Templates
- Listen, Tell, and Show Your Community Partner’s Data Story
- Transform Your Map Data
- Detect Lies and Reduce Bias
Your progress toward these learning goals will be assessed in three ways:
A. Open-Book Weekly Quizzes
- The purpose is to demonstrate your knowledge and skills through questions that emphasize conceptual understanding and how to apply it in new contexts. You will have more than one opportunity to successfully complete each quiz while working independently with your notes, readings, and any web resources.
- Each week, select any 2-hour period during the 2-day window (typically from Sunday 12 noon to Tuesday 2pm) to complete a Moodle quiz of 5-10 questions on the designated learning goal. You may see different versions of questions than other students, but all address the same goal.
- Short-answer questions will be scored automatically for quick feedback. Longer-task questions require you to show your work by pasting a link and/or explanation, and these will be scored manually by the instructor on a completed/non-completed basis.
- If you respond incorrectly to an auto-scored question, the quiz will offer advice, but not the correct answer. Instead, the quiz will give you a second chance to answer the same question, or a different version of the question. Furthermore, if you incorrectly answer a manually-scored question, the instructor may re-open that portion of your quiz for a second attempt with additional time.
- After the quiz closes (typically on Tuesday 2pm), if you still have not successfully completed it, you can meet with the instructor to discuss your learning and request another opportunity to retake the quiz before the next window opens (typically Sunday 12 noon).
- Before you start the quiz, prepare by reading assigned chapters, doing practice exercises, and discussing the material with classmates who have not yet started it.
- When you start the 2-hour quiz period, you may use your materials (including your notes, the online book, and the entire Internet), but you must work independently and you may not communicate about the quiz content in any way (except with the instructor) until it has closed (typically Tuesday 2pm). You are responsible for following the Intellectual Honesty policy as described in the Trinity Student Handbook. If doubts arise, the instructor may require you to retake a quiz under direct supervision and/or refer the issue to the Honor Council.
- 12 broad learning goals x 5 points (based on 5-10 questions) = 60 points
B. Building Data Stories
- The purpose is to show your work in building different stages of data visualizations and written narratives that explain why and how it matters to our community partners.
- The instructor, your peers, and data visualization guest experts will evaluate stages of your data stories, based on a rubric.
- 6 stages worth 5 points each = 30 points. For any overdue assignments in this section, a 10 percent late penalty will be deducted for every 12-hour period beyond the deadline. Exceptions are granted only for documented health or family emergencies.
C. Class Participation
- The purpose is to encourage active learning and accountability. Each student begins the course with 10 participation points. During class, you may be randomly called on to discuss a concept in our reading, or to share your computer screen for everyone to view while we learn tools and build data stories. You do not necessarily need to know the correct answer. But if you are not present or not able to participate when called, a point will be deducted from your participation score. Exceptions are granted only for documented health or family emergencies, or scheduling conflicts where you have notified me at the beginning of the semester (such as religious observances, etc.)
If you are quarantined or isolated due to Covid, or if you have concerns about your health, contact me in advance to request permission to participate remotely via Zoom during a specific class session. Last-minute requests may not be granted permission.
60 points quizzes + 30 points data stories + 10 class participation = 100 possible points, plus any bonus points. In this course, unsatisfactory work (below 70%) falls in the D or F range, adequate work (70-79%) in the C range, good work (80-89%) in the B range, and outstanding work (90 to 100%) in the A range. Each range is divided into equal thirds for minus (-), regular, and plus (+) letter grades. For example, 80 to 83.33% = B-, 83.34 to 86.67 = B, and 86.68 to 89.99 = B+. Access your individual assessments on the password-protected Moodle site for this course at https://moodle.trincoll.edu.
Academic accommodations: please notify me before our third class session, and schedule an appointment on my calendar to discuss how we will implement your approved plan. For those students with accommodations approved after the start of the semester, a minimum of 10 days’ notice is required. For Student Accessibility Resources, contact Lori.Clapis@trincoll.edu or SARC@trincoll.edu.
Religious observances: please notify me before our third class session regarding any scheduling accommodations.
How to Succeed in this Course
- Bookmark this online syllabus and check it often for updates, which will appear in bold.
- Keep a calendar (paper or digital) to manage your time and meet deadlines.
- Bring a laptop (with a fully-charged battery) to every class, and turn off distractions to help you (and others) focus on learning. On a Mac, set Notifications to “Do Not Disturb.”
- Use a password manager to keep track of your digital accounts. See my introduction to Bitwarden, an open-source password manager with free core features for Windows/Mac/Linux computers, all major web browsers, and iOS and Android mobile devices.
- Take initiative and ask questions: during or after class, via email, or by appointment on my calendar. If you don’t understand something, other students probably are puzzled, too. Go ahead and ask.
- Meet up with other students outside of class. Create a small study group to review the course material and work together. The secret to success in college is teaching yourselves how to learn new material.
- If anything is interfering with your learning, email or talk with me about it. I care about how you’re doing in life, not just in our classroom.
Always look for important updates from the instructor, which will appear in bold.
Thur 9 Sept
- Welcome to class: Create name cards and tell me how to remember you
- Syllabus overview and how to succeed in this course
- 1-point bonus sample quiz about syllabus, due in class on Moodle
- Presentation: Why data visualization matters in the “disinformation age”–see HODV Chapter 1 https://handsondataviz.org/introduction.html
- Tell us about yourself and what sparks your interest in this course in this Google Form
- Overview of Learning Goal #1: Strengthen Your Spreadsheet Skills
- Copy, Share, and Convert Google Sheets
- Geocode locations
- Sort and filter data
- Calculate with formulas
- Summarize with pivot tables
- Start reading and doing sample exercises in HODV Chapter 2 https://handsondataviz.org/spreadsheet.html
- Prep for Spreadsheet quiz, to be taken during any 2-hour period from Sun 12 Sept at 12 noon to Tues Sept 14 at 2pm (extended to Thurs Sept 16th at 2pm), on Moodle
Tues 14 Sept
- Start reading Data Feminism, chapters 1 and 2 https://data-feminism.mitpress.mit.edu and finish prior to the quiz
- Start reading HODV Chapter 3 at https://handsondataviz.org/find.html and finish prior to the quiz
- Overview of Learning Goal #2: Find and Question Your Data
- Challenge power & privilege in data
- Clarify levels of data
- Recognize public vs private data
- Mask or aggregate sensitive data
- Explore open data repositories
- Source your data
- Recognize bad data
- Question your data
- Prepare for Find and Question Data quiz, to be taken during any 2-hour period from Sun 19 Sept at 12 noon to Tues 21 Sept at 2pm, on Moodle
- Prepare for next class Zoom meeting with Hartford community partners (see below)
- Review your progress toward Goal #1: Spreadsheet quiz. What strategies helped you to learn?
- Additional practice with spreadsheet skills
- To share your screen in our classroom, go to my Zoom Room https://trincoll.zoom.us/my/jackdougherty and mute your audio and video
Thur 16 Sept
- Before class, read short background stories about our community partners and topics of interest:
- Rebecca Lurye, “New Housing Code in Hartford Would Keep Slumlords from Hiding Behind LLCs,” Hartford Courant, May 31, 2019, https://www.courant.com/community/hartford/hc-news-hartford-housing-code-20190531-hcke2jo2x5fpdgz75xf4hlv2ki-story.html.
- Rebecca Lurye, “Hartford Prepares for Start of Rental Licensing Program Aimed at Uncovering Negligent Landlords, Hires New Blight Director,” Hartford Courant, April 7, 2021, https://www.courant.com/community/hartford/hc-news-hartford-blight-housing-changes-20210407-cnhdbpon4jfqxgri3jn53rroz4-story.html.
- “Greater Hartford Interfaith Action Alliance” (web page and short video), Center for Leadership and Justice, https://cljct.org.
- “Hartford Area Habitat for Humanity” (see Jan 2021 newsletter, especially “Tolland County Expansion” section), https://hartfordhabitat.org.
- Zoom meeting in class with Hartford community partners on data stories we will build this semester, which will be video-recorded. Be prepared to ask questions to clarify their ideas and write up Collaborative Notes in this Google Doc.
- 3-3:20pm with Center for Leadership and Justice on their ideas:
- 1) Greater Hartford Interfaith Action Alliance (GHIAA) members map
- 2) Housing Code Accountability: Location and Ownership of 40+ Apartment Units Required to Apply for Hartford Rental License
- 3) Housing Code Cases: Location and Ownership of Apartments with Complaints or Violations in Hartford
- 3:30-3:50pm with Hartford-Area Habitat for Humanity on their ideas:
- 1) Building Neighborhoods: Where has Habitat built homes in North Central Connecticut over time?
- 2) Increasing Home Ownership: In what kinds of neighborhoods is Habitat building?
- 3) Generating Tax Dollars: How much property tax revenue do Habitat neighborhoods produce for local governments?
- Assign Build Stage 1: Find and Question Data, with Spreadsheet Skills, for Hartford Community Partners, due by Thurs 23 Sept at 2pm on Moodle
Tues 21 Sept
- Discuss key passages from Data Feminism:
- Review Find and Question Data quiz
- Overview of Learning Goal #3: Clean Up Messy Data
- Smart Cleanup in Google Sheets
- Find and Replace with Blank
- Transpose Rows and Columns
- Split Data into Separate Columns
- Combine Data into One Column
- Start reading HODV Chapter 4 at https://handsondataviz.org/clean.html
- Prepare for Clean Up quiz, to be taken during any 2-hour period from Sun 26 Sept at 12 noon to Tues 28 Sept at 2pm, on Moodle
- Continue working with groups on Build Stage 1, due by Thurs 23 Sept at 2pm on Moodle
Thur 23 Sept
- Overview of Learning Goal #4: Make Meaningful Comparisons
- Precisely describe comparisons – practice in this Google Sheet
- Normalize your data
- Beware of biased comparisons
- Start reading HODV Chapter 5 at https://handsondataviz.org/comparisons.html
- Prepare for Meaningful Comparisons quiz, to be taken during any 2-hour period from Sun 26 Sept at 12 noon to Tues 28 Oct at 2pm, on Moodle.
- Two quizzes are assigned this weekend in order to avoid scheduling a quiz during Trinity Days.
- Review work from Build Stage 1: Find and Question Data for Community Partners; Geocode Data
Tues 28 Sept
- Review Clean Up Data quiz and Meaningful Comparisons quiz
- Overview of Learning Goal #5: Chart Your Data
- Chart types
- Chart design principles and rules
- Create bar/column, histogram, line, area charts
- Create annotated, range, scatter charts
- Start reading HODV Chapter 6 at https://handsondataviz.org/chart.html
- Prepare for Chart Your Data quiz, to be taken during any 2-hour period from Sun 3 Oct at 12 noon to Tues 5 Oct at 2pm, on Moodle
Thur 30 Sept
- Assign Build Stage 2: Make Meaningful Comparisons, Chart and Map Your Data, due by end of Thursday 7 Oct
Tues 5 Oct
- Review Chart Your Data quiz
- Overview of Learning Goal #6: Map Your Data
- Map types
- Map design principles and rules
- Choropleth colors and intervals
- Normalize choropleth map data
- Create point maps
- Create symbol point maps
- Create choropleth maps
- Create maps with current data
- Start reading HODV Chapter 7 at https://handsondataviz.org/map.html
Thur 7 Oct
- Work on Build Stage 2, due by end of day
- Prep for Map Your Data quiz, to be taken during any 2-hour period after Trinity Days from Sun 17 Oct at 12 noon to Tues 19 Oct at 2pm, on Moodle
Tues 12 Oct
No class (Trinity Day)
Thur 14 Oct
- Zoom meeting with Hartford community partners on Build Stages 1 and 2
Tues 19 Oct
- Review Map Your Data quiz
- Overview of Learning Goal #7: Embed on the Web
- Static images versus interactive iframes
- Embed on the web
- Overview of Learning Goal #8: Edit and Host Code with GitHub
- Copy Edit and Host a Simple Leaflet Map
- Start reading HODV Chapter 9 https://handsondataviz.org/embed.html and Chapter 10 https://handsondataviz.org/github.html
- Prep for Embed and GitHub quiz, to be taken during any 2-hour period from Sun 24 Oct at 12 noon to Tues 26 Oct at 2pm, on Moodle
Thur 21 Oct
- Assign Build Stage 3: Advanced Maps, due TBA
Tues 26 Oct
- Overview of Learning Goal #9: Build with Leaflet Map Code Templates
- Leaflet Maps with Google Sheets
- Leaflet Storymaps with Google Sheets
- Leaflet Maps with Open Data APIs
- Start reading HODV Chapter 12 https://handsondataviz.org/leaflet.html
- Prep for Leaflet Maps quiz, to be taken during any 2-hour period from Sun 31 Oct at 12 noon to Tues 2 Nov at 2pm, on Moodle
Thur 28 Oct
- Work on Build Stage 3: Advanced Maps, due TBA
Tues 2 Nov
- Overview of Learning Goal #10: Listen, Tell, and Show Your Community Partner’s Data Story
- Listening to community partners’ data needs
- Build Narrative on Storyboard
- Draw Attention to Meaning
- Acknowledge Sources and Uncertainty
- Make Labor Visible
- Start reading HODV Chapter 15 https://handsondataviz.org/story.html
- Prep for Data Story quiz, to be taken during any 2-hour period from Sun 7 Nov at 12 noon to Tues 9 Nov at 2pm, on Moodle
Thur 4 Nov
- Assign Build Stage 4: Story, due TBA
Tues 9 Nov
- Overview of Learning Goal #11: Transform Your Map Data
- Identify and find GeoJSON boundary data
- Edit GeoJSON data
- Join CSV and GeoJSON data
- Start reading HODV Chapter 13 https://handsondataviz.org/transform.html
Thur 11 Nov
- Prep for Transform Data quiz, to be taken during any 2-hour period from Sun 14 Nov at 12 noon to Tues 16 Nov at 2pm, on Moodle
Tues 16 Nov
- Prep for final meetings with Hartford community partners
Thur 18 Nov
- Zoom meeting with Hartford Community Partners on Build Stages 3 and 4
Substitute class meeting day/time TBA
- Additional time with Hartford Community Partners on Build Stages 3 and 4
Tues 23 Nov
No class session (see substitute class meeting above)
Thur 25 Nov
No class (Thanksgiving break)
Tues 30 Nov
- Overview of Learning Goal #12: Detect Lies and Reduce Bias
- How to Lie with Charts
- How to Lie with Maps
- Recognize and Reduce Data Bias
- Recognize and Reduce Spatial Bias
- Start reading HODV Chapter 14 https://handsondataviz.org/detect.html
- Assign Build Stages 5 and 6 for expert review, due TBA
Thur 2 Dec
- Prep for Detect Lies and Bias quiz, to be taken during any 2-hour period from Sun 5 Dec at 12 noon to Tues 7 Dec at 2pm, on Moodle
Tues 7 Dec
- Prep for final presentations with expert reviewers
Thur 9 Dec
- Prep for final presentations with expert reviewers
Tues 14 Dec
- Course wrap-up
Mon 20 Dec
- Final presentations with guest experts to be assigned during 9am-12pm exam slot, or individual students may voluntarily agree to earlier time slots.