Gapminder is an interactive data-based resource that enables students to explore the world’s most important statistical trends. Data is available for hundreds of variables, from population to health to wealth to CO2 emissions!
Go to the gapminder website for a general sticky beak or simply Gapminder World straight away. It can take a minute to load but once it has loaded it is generally pretty quick with a normal ADSL/Broadband connection. It will look like this:
You will see a chart with life expectancy on the Y axis and Income per person on the X axis. Each country is represented by a circle. The colours represent wold regions and the sizes represent population. You can change what is represented on the X and Y axes using the dropdown menus. You can select only certain countries if you wish, and there is a really neat feature that allows you to press ‘play’ and see how the statistics have changed since 1800. Below is a snapshot from the Gapminder Guide which can be downloaded in PDF.
Gapminder has some teaching resources online, but I prefer to design activities that are tailored to our unit of work. For example, my year 9s are doing a unit on population in the Asia-Pacific region and I needed them to understand how the Human Development Index worked. I set them the task of plotting the HDI against certain variables like income per person, Life Expectancy, Mean years of primary schooling, access to sanitation, maternal mortality, CO2 emissions, employment and so on. From this, students began to see patterns emerging in the relationships between these constructs and the HDI. This gave them a hands on experience in understanding the different measures that make up the HDI (health, wealth and education) and the ones that don’t seem to be related at all. The interactive nature of the graphs also enabled students to quickly determine which countries were high and low on the HDI and to see how HDI rankings have changed over the years for various countries.
I have been using Gapminder World in the classroom for about three years now and find it to be an invaluable tool for engaging geography lessons, enabling motivating hands on learning and opportunities for differentiated instruction. I would highly recommend it as a terrific teaching tool.