ITC and student-centric education with knowledge visualization

Source: IHMC CmapTools

Yesterday Yingqin Zhong, a PhD candidate at the National University of Singapore, gave a very fascinating talk (IS seminars, School of Computing) on the use of ICT for student-centric education.
She provided both a theoretical framework and real life examples of how technology can support better learning. Among the several tools and techniques, including wikis and facebook, she illustrated how knowledge visualization – as mind maps and concept maps- are useful for learning by reflecting and articulating our thoughts. And they also serve as learning resources for others.
I am glad to see that representations are gaining their place as powerful learning and knowledge sharing tools also in Asia!

Yingqin choice of mind map and concept map (as the one in the figure) made me think that indeed these two knowledge representations techniques should be particularly suitable in East Asia, because they emphasize relationships among the elements and are provided in a non-linear structure.
She also presented Second Life as a suitable tool for learning by doing and by collaborating. The issue here is how to exploit the benefit or virtual worlds for education, and not just replicating real life or a chat. This seems a very promising area of research.

Finally she shared a hearth touching story of how an indian girl saved her family’s farm and all the village by identifying through the internet the insect specie responsible for the problems at the farm and the right insecticide!

Very promising topic both for research and for changing the world 🙂

Cross-cultural differences in the reception of conceptual visualization

These days I am conducting an experiment in Singapore to test if there are cross-cultural differences in the reception of various kinds of business visualizations, between Europe and Asia.

Despite the general belief that visualization is an international language, recent research (see The Geography of Thought by Nisbett) has demonstrated that there are relevant differences in the reception of images, between East Asia and Western countries.

It has not been easy to set up this experiment in a foreign institution with a considerably different working culture… it took several months and lots of adaptation but finally I got some data ! 🙂

Infosthetics summary of VisWeek 2009

In the famous infosthetic website you can find a summary of the major and most interesting happenings and talks at the VisWeek conference. It’s very well done and provides several useful links:

I was very glad to see that my talk has been mentioned there (toward the end); despite being probably unusual for the American infovis community (typically very technical), it seems that the results are thought provoking…

…stay tuned for more investigation on the topic!

InfoVis conference 2009 in Atlantic City

This year I had the pleasure to be accepted as a presenter at the InfoVis conference, part of the VisWeek, a IEEE conference, held in Atlantic City, New Jersey. I was pleased to take part to a conference with high quality papers and impeccable organization. The panels and workshops were also very good!

There was a particularly interesting workshop on Collaborative Visualization, organized by Petra Isenberg. It was mainly focus on co-located collaborative information visualization, considering the issues of multi-users interacting at the same time on shared surfaces, such as touch screens and walls (single touch and multi-touch). From my point of view the workshop was very interesting because it has addressed not only technical issues, but also the social side involved in collaboration. Secondly, it helped to spread the interest in collaborative visualization, a topic I’m very interested in, but is thus far not been explored much. The large attendance at the workshop (I suppose around 100 people, from my personal headcount) reassured and motivated me that there is rising interest in the topic.

The conference altogether was very technical, I think I have presented one of the very few papers that didn’t have an algorithm! In my talk I presented the results of my experiment on collaborative knowledge visualization (pdf, presentation, video)

However some of the workshops and panels were much more open to non-technical issues related to Info Vis.
I found very interesting also the panel on Changing the World with Visualization, where it was discussed how to diffuse the research findings to the world, such as in business, industries, education, media, etc.

Next year the conference will be in Salt Lake City, Utha (submission deadline: march 2010).

University of St. Gallen

This week I visited the prestigious University of St. Gallen, in north-est Switzerland. I’ve been invited for a guest lecture about knowledge visualization, in Prof. Eppler’s course of Business visualization.
No, I didn’t post the wrong picture… I took it from the class where I was teaching! The cows had pretty noisy bells that we could here during the class 🙂
The city of St. Gallen is very pretty, small and elegant. The university is right near the center and develops all the way to the top of the hill (where we had class).

Motivation – InfoVis conference

Last week I was at the InfoVis conference and attended a workshop on Putting Visualization on the Web, which gave me the final motivation to start my research-related blog (after having a private one for some years)… and here I am, getting started!

I’ve been thinking about it for some time, but I was in doubt of having anything interesting to say. However both at the workshop and at the Changing the World with Visualization Panel, it was pointed out how we need to bring visualization to the real world, to show the benefits of visualization, and Internet can help!

I’ll be blogging about my research on knowledge visualization, and in particular on collaborative knowledge visualization and cross-cultural visualization.

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