Big Data - learnometer projectcone showing draft

For BETT 2014 the Central Feature, as usual run inassociation with our team here at, explores BIG DATA. The BETT Central Feature (with kind support this year from European Electronique) has a good track record of highlighting emerging directions in learning technologies that will become important over the following year or two - past features have embraced mobile learning, playful learning, computer science, and more (our original learnometer initiative is at by the way).

Thanks to many pals who chipped in with suggestions for this page via social media too. Hugely helpful and I've kept some of their good ideas back to refresh this page at a later date..

This page offers links to examples of Big Data (cue debate about just what BD really is...) that the students on the stand will be talking about and exploring themselves:


Famously, Google found that by tracking searches for flu related queries they could get an "early warning" of major flu outbreaks.

explore Google's Flu Trends from here

mind the gap

Not sure how useful or insightful this is - but it is a live moving map of the London Underground showing preceisely where each train is now! Often with Big Data we have these vast flows of information but need imagination to see what we might combine them with, or what they might actually be telling us.

view the map here

facebook data

Stephen Wolfram's blog explores the huge data set they have from over 1,000,000 Facebook users who are also using Wolfram|Alpha Personal Analytics for Facebook and my favourite data set here is the "interactive graph of friend ages" for Facebook users and the way it changes as you pass 50. Fascinating!

Stephen's blog is here

plasma blob

Liveplasma is an interesting site that discovers and links information about music, movies and books - great fun for students!

Liveplasma is here

This one is interesting - each day, millions of people check in on Foursquare and these maps show a year's worth of checkā€‘ins in Istanbul, London, Chicago, Tokyo and San Francisco. But they reveal real differences between cities through when and where people check in. Compare the commuters of Tokyo with the New York or London for example.

Foursquare mapped is here


This Guardian Newspaper site maps the places where people were arrested during the London riots of 2011 and then overlays their transport journeys to the crime from the data of their address postcodes. A fascinating look at people's "commutes" to crime in different UK cities.

here it is!

baby feet

Brad Lyon has a doctoral degree in mathematics and does software development. With designer Bill Snebold he has built an interactive simulation map of births and deaths in the world. Not quite "live" data, but a simulation of live data.

view the map here

flu mask

Health Infoscape is a compilation of 72 million electronic records and shows the connexions between one disease and another. If you have X, then Y is maybe nearbye!

have a look yourself from here

alarm clock

Mapumental is an interesting data mass-up of three data sets: public transport times, property prices and geographical location. Choose a house, price and wake up timefor the morning commute!

all from here

phone battery
This one is very indicative of the unexpected opportunities from Big Data. Looking at the telephone battery temperatures of many many London phones James Robinson discovered that there was a correlation with weather temperatures - so suddenly instead of a few weather reporting stations there were millions and great granularity.

good article from the American Geophysical Union is here

sad face

an interesting graph from the last but one set of PISA data suggesting that very high success in science learning doesn't necessarily correlate with students ending up actually interested in the subject. Oh dear.

the graph is here

ship icon

Just wonderful for sailors (!) a world map showing every boat moving everywhere - zoom in to see the speed, destination, name, direction and more. All the data comes from the AIS function on their VHF radios and it is shown in real time.

ship ahoy! the map is here



Until fairly recently, only a few types of organisations like very big companies or well-funded government departments -- could afford or justify the hardware & software needed to collect and to study their own big data. Now, or certainly soon, that opportunity is available for everyone. That might be bad news - with many companies or government departments monitoring and judging us - or it might be empowering as we seize the oppotunity to look at, and to each own, our personal data and make decisions about our lives based on it.

In Health, giving people access to their own detailed data, and allowing us to compare it to the aggregates of others, helps us to decide if we are too fat for our age, have a diet better than the region we live in, or have a health age that is older than our actual age - as for example a smoker would have.

In education big data should similarly be able to help students to decide what their personal priorities are and to arm them to make better choices about better learning.

Probably we are at a moment when we should offer privacy protection to the students' data so that they might chose who else, if anyone, can see their details - again, very much like the way we protect Health data. Government and companies might have access to the aggregates, but the detail is for the students, their parents and their teachers alone, surely?





this page created by prof stephen heppell on January 13, 2014 and last edited on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 1:43 PM