Earlier today Google announced the launch of a new tool for visually exploring public data sets. Google’s Public Data Explorer draws on data sets from the World Bank, the US CDC, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, and other sources of public data. In all there are eighty data sets. The Public Data Explorer makes it possible to quickly create visual representations and visual comparisons of the data sets. Each visualization you create has a unique url that you can direct people to or you can embed the visualization in a blog or website.
The visualization below compares the size of the labor force of thirteen states between 1990 and 2009.
Applications for Education
My first thought when I saw Google’s Public Data Explorer was that I could use it in my civics course. Each year in my civics course I ask students to analyze data and create a public policy proposal based on that analysis. The Public Data Explorer could help students compare data sets.
It’s important to note that the Public Data Explorer is still in Labs. Labs is where Google tests new products and gathers feedback before deciding whether or not they want to make something a permanent product offering. In other words, the Public Data Explorer might not work perfectly in all situations at all times.