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All Things Google: Using Google Fusion Tables to Visualize Data

Student infoA few months ago, Google Fusion Tables
graduated from Google Labs. It looked pretty intriguing, so, in the interest of contributing to our ongoing series “All Things Google,” I decided to give it a try.

After perusing the tutorials
available on the site, I tried a couple of brief experiments. You can see the results in the images in this post.

[Click on any image for a larger version.]

I began by inventing some data for imaginary students: class year, major, and hometown [see the lead image above]. Fusion Tables plays nicely with Google Maps; if you hover over the name of a town and click on the globe that appears, you’ll see something like this:

GMaps integration

If you choose “Maps” from the “Visualize” menu, you’ll get a map with locations plotted on it. In this case, the map shows the hometowns of the fictional students in my data source; clicking on a location brings up a caption with the student’s ID, class year, major, and hometown.

Student map

I also tried using some data available from the U.S. Census Bureau. I downloaded their 2008 information on refugee arrivals and asylum claims granted (by nationality). I deleted the information on asylum claims, since I was only interested in refugee arrivals.

Refugee arrivals data

Using that data, I was able to create an intensity map (by choosing that option from the “Visualize” menu). The countries included in the data table are highlighted on the map, with the shade varying according to the number of refugees from each country. Clicking on the country brings up the relevant statistics from the data table.

Refugee arrivals map

These are just two examples of what even an inexperienced user can do with Google Fusion Tables in a relatively short period of time. More sophisticated uses are certainly possible; be sure to take a look at some of the example data available on the site.

I’m still brainstorming about potential classroom uses for Fusion Tables; one possibility for my Human Rights course is visualizing data from Ciri.

What about you? What use have you already made of Google Fusion Tables? Or, if you haven’t used it but are thinking you might, how do you think you might use it? Let us know in the comments!

[All images by Flickr user cavenderamy / Creative Commons licensed]

 
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