Noodle App of the Month: Gapminder (June 2015)

Whether you are looking to collaborate on a 3-D map with someone across the world or add a new language to your repertoire, you can bet that there is an educational app to help facilitate your learning.

The world of education technology is churning out incredible tools faster than we can download them, and it can feel like a challenge to keep up with all of these innovative programs.

Noodle is here to help! Our team of educational experts brings you the App of the Month series, in which we spread the word about cutting-edge technology that makes learning as easy as reaching into your pocket.

This month, we are thrilled to feature Gapminder.

Gapminder

What is it?

Founded by famous Swedish statistician Hans Rosling in 2005, and later acquired by Google in 2006, Gapminder is an interactive graphing tool that looks to advance public understanding of science through statistical analysis. Gapminder takes data from more than 200 countries to create animated graphs that illustrate the relationship between history and human development.

Who would love it?

Gapminder enables students to identify significant changes and trends over the last 200 years, making it a dream for data nerds, history buffs, and budding staticians. It’s also a great resource for students who want to visualize the widespread effects of pivotal moments throughout history (such as the world wars).

The graphing tool has become particularly popular amongst high school and college students studying history and global development — so much so that schools have started to design entire courses around Gapminder. In New York City, the iSchool has incorporated Gapminder into a course that uses quantitative methods to evaluate global developments over the last two centuries. Using data analysis, research, and quantitative reasoning, students test hypotheses using Gapminder’s interactive maps and graphs.

What makes it captivating?

Gapminder is an interdisciplinary tool that’s accessible to students across a wide range of learning levels. The app can take three different types of data (for example, population size, income per capita, and life expectancy) and plot points within a simple interface that can be adjusted to focus on specific geographic regions or time periods. It provides a great way for students to become familiar with graphing functions and explore the relationships among data sets.

Gapminder also enables students to explore how patterns and events have changed the course of global history — from the ways in which decolonization affected global health to the fallout from Industrial Revolution–era carbon dioxide emissions.

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This graph, made on Gapminder, shows carbon dioxide emissions per person over time, with specific emphasis on the United States and United Kingdom.

How is it making an impact?

Within the last 60 years, humanity has made considerable progress in health outcomes, income inequality, education, and climate change, but research shows that much of the world is woefully ignorant when it comes to empirical knowledge in these areas. This lack of knowledge, as Gapminder points out, can be attributed to factors like our exposure to the media, which tends to focus on unusual and sensational stories rather than methodically tracing “slow and steady changes in major trends.”

Gapminder is part of Hans Rosling’s vision to inform the world about macro-trends in the way the world is developing. By administering the foundation’s famed Ignorance Surveys, the Gapminder Foundation has gained insights into contemporary misunderstandings about life expectancy, population growth, income distribution, and literacy rates. By working to draw our attention to common misconceptions, Gapminder makes a targeted effort to provide relevant data that contextualizes widespread assumptions.

Noodle has no ties to or affiliations with Gapminder.