Visualizing Data Competition 2011

| March 10, 2011


The Gottesman Libraries is looking for designers that are able to understand the implications of educational data, and will award up to 20 designers an honorarium of $500 for work that visualizes data and potentially connects it to existing or potential educational policy, the effects of such policy upon students, and society at large. We are interested in entries that articulate the breadth of possible approaches to data visualization – from static representations to Processing visualizations, and everything in between.

Some examples of the kind of visualizations we are looking for are available on the Data Viz Challenge site. While Google and Eyebeam are showcasing tax data, we seek to showcase educational data.

The Data

The competition is centered around national education statistic curated by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a center within the Institute of Education Science of the U.S. Department of Education. We believe this data set offers designers some autonomy in choosing exactly which data to work with, from within a large pool of education statistics.

You may choose to work with any data on the NCES site, but we suggest starting with the rich “Elementary/Secondary” section here:

Following the link above, you can choose factors (such as ‘Expenditures’ or ‘Transportation’) within the Elementary/Secondary subheading to view (and download) data you are interested in working with. To get started, we suggest browsing the various sub-topics. Each section includes a narrative, along with premade tables with data available in standard spreadsheet formats.

Your visualization may draw upon any NCES data set you like, just be sure to document exactly what you’re using.


  • The competition begins March 7th, 2011. There will be an application window that runs 8 weeks to a firm deadline at 5pm on April 29th, 2011. Winners will be announced May 10th, 2011.
  • Up to 20 designers will be awarded a $500 honorarium. Recipients of the honorarium are required to share source files and grant Teachers College license to use the works fully or in part, and create derivative works.
  • We will proudly promote the entrants’ work in various media (both print and online).  Any time an honoree’s work is used, it will be fully credited. Among other publications, works will be displayed in and around Teachers College, specifically in a gallery space with projectors and other digital displays.
  • Submissions will be judged by a small cohort of EdLab designers and educational researchers at Teachers College, and 1-2 additional guest judges announced mid-April.
  • Open to students and professionals.


Please email us ( a short description of your project (<1 page) with a link to your visualizations. Or, if you wish, you may submit up to 10 still images of your project (a link to Flickr, Picasa, etc. is preferred). We will send you an acknowledgement of your submission. You will be contacted after May 10th, 2011 if your work is selected.

Can Design Change Educational Policy?

Policy in the education sector can dictate decision-making processes for educational professionals at every level, including administrators and teachers. These decisions govern the kind of education and school environment children in the U.S. can expect, and can have effects that span generations. But how widely understood is Educational Policy? How can we take education research and represent it in ways that are at once rigorous and accessible?

From attendance to financials to demographics to student test scores—every year data is collected from every facet of the schooling system and tabulated to describe its status in empirical terms. Policy makers pour over the same tables you will use in your work to both evaluate current policies and propose changes that will be legislated into new policies.

About The Gottesman Libraries

The Gottesman Libraries engages in work that has the potential to contribute to the improvement of educational institutions today and the broader evolution and reconfiguration of future educational services. Library staff are involved in investigating the ways in which information is assembled and distributed, and believe information should be visually compelling to help this convey meaning at a deeper level—for both researchers and the general public.

Students at Teachers College routinely produce data sets as part of their research, and often have no ways of representing this data other than through common methods. We believe that through smarter design, a much larger pool of people can appreciate the richness of these education data sets. This will help students realize the true potential of their work, while it informs others about how education research can produce positive social change.

Further Collaboration

Opportunities for further collaborations exist for designers whose approach to and work for this competition we feel particularly strongly about. One example of a past collaboration with a designer is Jer Thorp, who used Processing to make a live interpretation of Pressible, a publishing system developed at the Gottesman Libraries. Pressible is a network of sites that are optimized to display and share educational content, which Jer viewed Pressible as an ecosystem. He developed a way to represent the development of Pressible over its first year, which he assembled here.

More Info

If you have any questions about the competition, please contact us using our Support Request system. Good luck!