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Visual Storytelling applied to Statistics - Knowledge and Understanding in Education

Gå genast till den svenska versionen http://ncva.itn.liu.se/vise?l=sv&sc=true

Welcome to the VISE visualization research project - Measuring innovation in education geared towards teachers who want to exploit the latest digital society by creating interactive statistical visualizations of "Hans Rosling spirit" in relation to their teaching as well as a training based on Visual Storytelling. NCVA provides the visualization software to the VISE Project.

The VISE interdisciplinary project "Visual Storytelling applied in Education" is managed by two research partners:

  • ISV (Educational Department), Campus Norrköping, Linkoping University Norrköping Kommun
  • NCVA (National Centre for Visual Analytics) ITN Campus Norrköping, Linkoping University (Prof Mikael Jern).


VISE has received financial support for 2015-2017 from VINNOVA (Swedish government agency) 1 milj Skr, Vetenskapsrådet (Swedish Research Council) 4,5 milj Skr, and Norrköping Kommun 1,6 milj Skr.


Our research focuses on learning based on Knowledge Visualization and Geovisual Analytics Statistics applied in education. The VISE project supports the use of learning for these focus areas:

  • Implementation and evulation of applying of geovisual analytics and knowledge visualization in education;
  • Study how visual storytelling methods can improve the student's learning process in development of knowledge and better understanding of statistics data;
  • The students’ experiences when employing geovisual analytics for big statistical data in their learning process;
  • Introducing a geovisual analytics to teachers with the aim to develop their knowledge about visual storytelling methods;
  • Conducting research concerning teachers’ experiences and students learning processes when our visualization tools are used within education;

VISE process



Official statistics are used as a more or less important background for decisions especially in public planning and policy making. However, in education, official statistics are much less recognized and used than they could be and among the informed public they are even less used. Web-enabled Visual Storytelling implemented in Geovisual Analytics is a technique that integrated with Knowledge Visualization can help illustrating spatio-temporal statistical data which for the eye are hard to uncover or even are not possible to perceive or interpret.

The authoring process applied to visual storytelling is implemented through an innovative snapshot mechanism available in Statistics eXplorer developed by NCVA and supports:

  • The capture and storage of interactive events through “memorized interactive visualization views” or “snapshots” ;
  • Can be captured at any time during the explorative data analysis process in Statistics  eXplorer;
  • Represents an important task of an authoring analytical reasoning process;


VISE introduces “Visual Storytelling” based on NCVA's Statistics eXplorer Visualization Platform:


providing means for the educator and students to:

  1. Select spatio-temporal and multidimensional national or sub-national statistical data (World Databank, EXCEL)
  2. Explore and discern trends and patterns (Statistics eXplorer)
  3. Derive insight and understanding (Statistics eXplorer)
  4. Highlight key events as Snapshots and describe Metadata
  5. Create and save a Story 
  6. Share gained knowledge with educational colleagues
  7. Finally publish the Story embedded as dynamic visualization “Vislet” in blogs.

Statistics Publisher is a tool that imports a story produced by Statistics eXplorer and generates the HyperText markup language (HTML) code that represents the story with regions selected and associated indicators. The HTML code is then inserted into a blog or web page (see interactive Vislet below!). The published material is called a “Vislet”. Vislet is short for Visualization and booklet–a visualized digital small book.

World Storytelling


NCVA's software and technology could in many ways change the terms and structures for learning, especially for the young generation. A better understanding of how educators and students can exploit visualization and its associated science of perception and learning is the focus of this VISE project in relation to the use of official statistical data. The first VISE results show that the Visual Storytelling can be effective for students and it is easy for them to understand and control the interactive tools. It is sufficient for supporting the apprehension of connections between different kinds of statistical data. The user satisfaction and learning possibilities are extensive.


Storytelling is based on the "What-When-Where-Why" paradigm 


The World eXplorer visualization with associated storytelling based on statistical national data from the World Bank. A compelling story about the world ageing population problem during 1960-2014; map (age 65+), bubble plot (age 65+ vs. age 0-14) and bar chart (65+); comparing 4 countries Niger, Japan, Sweden and Germany; The story acknowledges the 4Ws concept “What-When-Where-Why” and includes several linked snapshots embedded into the metadata. Users learn that central Africa maintains a high rate for age group 0-14 and low for 65+ ageing, while Japan has evolved from low (1960) into the world highest rate for age 65+ in 2010. Enlarge picture at: Storytelling World When-What-Why-Where.png


For more information about VISE : https://mitweb.itn.liu.se/geovis/portal/#


Här hittar du några bra videos med svensk röst som beskriver hur man använder eXplorer:


Explore this data 1960-2014 below in the interactive "Vislet" below produced with our Storytelling technique:



 The interactive picture below represents several key statistical indicators covering world countries in 1960-2014. For better understanding, we suggest that you start reading the storytelling text below the interactive picture and click on the snapshots buttons or the red story text (snapshots). Statistical data are imported from the World Databank through a direct database in World eXplorer. An detailed geographical map of all world countries are applied and loading could take some time. You can move the map window to the left and get more space for scatter and bar chart






Interactive figure: A Vislet produced with a World eXplorer Story using three time-linked views showing indicators related to countries of the world “ageing population in world” during 1960–2014; map, scatter plot (age 65+ vs. age 0–14) and bar chart; comparing 4 countries Niger, China,Sweden and Japan. Students learn interactively that Japan maintains highest elderly rate, while Niger has the lowest. The students can  interact  and  change  indicators  (many other indicators are available in this story) to  discover  reasons  behind  this  trend  and  gain knowledge.

The tool World eXplorer platform is here applied in social science classes to help educators to communicate progress initiatives, measuring economic, social, educational, health and environmental developments, to young students. we examine,

  • what interaction  possibilities  offered  by geovisual  analytics and knowledge visualization means can be applied to the  learning process;
  • the students’ development of knowledge and understanding through visual storytelling methods;
  • and the students’ experiences when employing geovisual analytics in their learning process.

The Statistics eXplorer platform’s conceptual approach to the authoring and publishing concept is based on three complementary activities: data uploading, storytelling and publishing.  Data are normally preloaded with a set of basic indicators such as demographics, economic indicators, education statistics, etc. but the user can also upload external data the integrated database interface World DataBank, preloaded data or load your own EXCEL data.


The statistics visualizations facilitate information and geographical visualization methods (e.g., choropleth maps, dynamic histograms, table lenses, parallel-axes plots or “profile plots”, scatter plots, scatter matrices, time graphs, and pie graphs, time glyphs and also flow maps applied and customized for statistics data; they also show hidden data or trends. The bubble plot shows trends but, in contrast to the time graph, no details. The distribution plot presents evidence-based facts on regions and allows comparison within countries. Interactive features that support a spatial analytical reasoning process are applied, such as tooltips, brushing, highlight, visual inquiry and conditioned statistics filter mechanisms that help detect outliers.


Storytelling loop

Figure:  The World eXplorer Storytelling mechanism is applied for the teacher to: 1) import statistical data; 2) explore and make discoveries through trends and patterns, derive insight and discovery of the unexpected 3) orchestrate snapshots and describe metadata that is the foundation for 4) creating a story that can be 5) shared with teacher colleagues and reach consensus and trust and 6) finally publishes (html) “tell-a-story” using a “Vislet” that is embedded into educational blogs or web pages providing students with an interactive learning experience.


The tool, “World eXplorer” have been introduced at junior high schools in the municipality of Norrköping, Sweden. The teachers have been acquainted with the tool and they have through the visual storytelling methods been able to create their own stories and become a “Hans Rosling” of their own, in their classrooms. When creating the visual stories they have chosen national up to date statistics and use the multiple linked views to simultaneously investigate the content through:

  • An interactive map: possibilities to different interactive features that support a spatial analytical reasoning process such as tooltips, brushing, highlight visual inquiry and conditioned statistics filter mechanisms.
  • A motion chart: also offer the interactive possibilities to find patterns, connection and discover outliers among the indicators as well as show time series.
  • Time series: give opportunity to show indicators development over time.

They have then produced educational texts in their own words and by the texts they have been able to point out or describe special focus among the content/indicators or ask questions. The tool also allows the teachers to create snapshots in the educational text to highlight different visual content. By this a link is created to the interactive map or motion chart also hyperlinks to other material at different webpages is possible to insert. When finished, these stories have been published at a common blog among the participating schools, as Vislets (short for visualized small story). 

Research Aims 

The project has three different focus areas:

  • Implementation and evaluation of a geovisual analytics and knowledge visualization in education
  • Introducing these tools to teachers with the aim to develop their knowledge about visual storytelling methods
  • Conducting research concerning teachers’ experiences and students learning processes when these tools are used within education (compulsory school)

The projects research aims have includes the following:

  • Teachers’ use and experiences of geovisual analytics storytelling methods;
  • Students’ development of knowledge and understanding when using visual interactive educational material (Vislets);
  • To contribute to further development of geovisual analytics for educational purposes according to the pedagogical findings;
  • Six different junior high schools in the municipality of Norrköping participates in the project since 2011 from where many social science teachers have joined the project;


Research Resources




The tool World eXplorer is available at:  https://mitweb.itn.liu.se/geovis/eXplorer/world/#story=0

Prepared VISE Vislets for education are available at: http://visenorrkoping.blogspot.se/


Demonstrators using Statistics eXplorer or "Vislets":

SCB's Statistikatlas syftar till att utveckla, förbättra och etablera ett avancerat och innovativt interaktivt webbaserat visualiseringsverktyg, kommunstatistik med fokus på att nå även mobila enheter genom senaste HTML5 teknologin. 

SCB Statistikatlas http://www.scb.se/statistikatlasen/

Haldersson Marie (SCB), Andersson Jonas (Göteborg Stad): "The benefits of visualization - how to eXplore a municipality",http://ncva.itn.liu.se/resources/publications/1.542529/ISI2011_Thebenefitsofvisualization-howtoeXploreamunicipality.pdf

Eurostat - Collaboration with Eurostat started 2012 and this web site was published in 2013:


OECD Regional Statistics - Collaboration between NCVA and OECD started already in summer 2008 - The first implementation of a eXplorer OECD web site första versionen "OECD eXplorer" was published in the fall 2008 and immediately gained a lot of publicity. The eXplorer web site had more than 50,000 visitors per month.                     http://www.oecd.org/gov/regional-policy/regionalstatisticsandindicators.htm

OECD Region-at-a-Glance" interaktive report deals with the regional development in OECD countries.  You can study the report in its interactive environment at http://rag.oecd.org/

Göteborg Stad - An early (2008) collaborative partner (2008) NCVA  



Literature about Statistics Visualization:

Litteratur relaterat till projektet:
  • Stenliden, L. Jern, M. (2011). Visual storytelling Applied to Educational World Statistics. EDULEARN 11 Proceedings ISBN:978-84-615-0441-1Depósito Legal: V-2332-2011 http://library.iated.org/view/STENLIDEN2011VIS
  • Stenliden L, Jern M, "How Can We Study Learning with Geovisual Analytics Applied to Statistics?", Future Internet 2012, 4(1), 22-41; doi:10.3390/fi4010022, http://www.mdpi.com/1999-5903/4/1/22  (This article belongs to the Special Issue Geovisual Analyticshttp://www.mdpi.com/journal/futureinternet/special_issues/geovisual_analytics    How can we study learning with Geovisual Analytics applied to statistics - Futureinternet-04-00022.pdf
  • Stenliden, L., & Jern, M. (2011). Visual storytelling – knowledge and understanding in education. The 2nd International Multi-Conference on Complexity, Informatics and Cybernetics: IMCIC 2011, Orlando, US.                                                        Visual Storytelling - Knowledge and Understanding in Education AISE2011 Florida.pdf
  • Stenliden, L., & Jern, M. (2012). Visual storytelling – knowledge and understanding in education. Journal of Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics, 10, (5), 7-13. 
  • Stenliden, L. (2013). Understanding Education involving Geovisual analytics. Published in Journal of Information Technology Education: Research (JITE: Research) http://www.jite.org/documents/Vol12/JITEv12ResearchP283-300Stenliden1248.pdf
  • Stenliden, L. (2013) Understanding Education involving Geovisual analytics. Published in Journal of Information Technology Education: Research (JITE: Research)
  • Stenliden, L. (2013). Visuell kultur – barns kreativa och lärande öga. I Barndom, lärande och ämnesdidaktik, s 129-144. Studentlitteratur, Lund
  • Stenliden, L. (2014), Visual Storytelling Interacting in School. learning conditions in the Social Science Classroom. Linköping University, Educational Science, no 6.
  • Stenliden, L. (2015). Visual analytics in K 12 (education) – Emerging Dimensions of Complexity, has been accepted for oral presentation as well as inclusion in the proceedings of the ICVAIV 2015International Conference on Visual Analytics and Information Visualization, London, United Kingdom, January, 19-20, 2015.

contact: Fil Dr Linnéa Stenliden linnea.stenliden@liu.se

or Professor Mikael Jern mikael.jern@liu.se


Article in Swedish: http://www.lararnasnyheter.se/alfa/2013/09/16/statistiken-bubblar-liv

Read in English:Visual Storytelling applied to educational public statistics Europe 2020.pdf


Important links:

NCVA: http://ncva.itn.liu.se

Statistical eXplorer for World statistics: World eXplorer

Web link to introduction: eXplorer

VISE Norrköping Kommun Blog: http://visenorrkoping.blogspot.se



Page manager: mikael.jern@liu.se
Last updated: 2017-04-24