WorldWatcher diagram windows are essentially diagrammatic menus which help users navigate datasets and understand their relationships. They are designed around domain-specific uses.
For example, the Energy Balance diagram (see EnergyBalance.jpg) supports investigations of climate, and the Geography diagram supports investigations of human and physical geography (additional diagrams can be created whenever new data is added).
Diagrams can also be created for other purposes-- for example, WorldWatcher incorporates a Welcome to WorldWatcher (see Welcome&Intro.jpg) diagram which serves as a top-level menu for accessing introductory materials, curricular activities, and data diagrams.
The Rationale Behind the Feature (Specific Design Principle):
Learners who lack sophisticated domain understanding have difficulty both locating and making sense of large databases such as those supported by WorldWatcher. Diagram windows situate WorldWatcher datasets within domain-inspired conceptual schemes. This helps students/teachers to locate data sets efficiently even before they have developed a sophisticated understanding of the domain being represented by the data, and, simultaneously, it helps them understand the domain by presenting a visual representation of the relationships among variables.
Context of Use:
Diagrams are an integral part of the WorldWatcher interface. Careful attention must be paid to the choice of domain representations used as they provide the conceptual and organizational foundation for users interaction with the datasets. Representations used in diagrams must be evaluated based on their conceptual & pedagogical clarity as well as subject-matter accuracy.
In studies of the Global Warming project, the energy balance diagram proved not only to be a useful tool for accessing the data, but also a key pedagogical representation used by teachers and students for talking about climate. In some classrooms it provided the basis for classroom-generated models of climate; in other situations it provided the conceptual organization for the unit.
Edelson, Daniel C.; Brown, Matthew; Gordin, Douglas N.; Griffin, Duane A. (1999) Making Visualization Accessible to Students, GSA Today. 9(2), pp. 8-10
Edelson, D. C., D. N. Gordin, et al. (1999). Designing Scientific Investigation Environments for Learners: Lessons from Experiences with Scientific Visualization. Journal of the Learning Sciences 8(3/4): Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.