In many geography classes, teachers will assign students a country to help them gain some depth about one particular country as a way to explore economic, demographic, cultural, political, and environmental issues.  These are some data visualization tools that deals with big data; the listed tools are some of my favorite in part because they can easily to incorporated to an ArcGIS StoryMap (especially in the Map Journal template).

  1. Economic (introductory data): Dollar Street from Gapminder

The best comparison and the most relatable thing for students to see in other countries is real people, leading regular lives.  Dollar Street brings the economic realities of other places without some of the of the negative stereotypes or romanticizing far-away places.


  1. Economic (advanced data): Observation of Economic Complexity

Understanding global trade and economic data can feel overwhelming, but fortunately there are online tools that help us to visualize complex economic data. The “VISUALIZATIONS” are my favorite things to see on this site.  The Observation of Economic Complexity is MIT’s companion website to the Atlas of Economic Complexity (Harvard’s version of the same data visualization–here is my tutorial on how to use the Atlas of Economic Complexity).



  1. Demographic (introductory data): Population Pyramid creates interactive, population pyramids that can be downloaded as image with the raw data also available for download.  Simple, powerful, easy.

Nepal PP

  1. Demographic (advanced data): Gapminder Tools

Gapminder is a tremendous resource that I’ve shared in the past and total fertility rates is an ideal metric to see in this data visualization tool.  This is one of the best ways to visualize global statistics.  The world is changing–see how.


5. ArcGIS StoryMaps

This is my principle cartographic tool that I use in GEOG 201 (Mapping our Changing World). Classic Story Maps is the feature that ArcGIS has to make user-friendly platform to share maps along with a rich, multimedia environment with a variety of pre-made templates. The video below is and introduction to the newer Story Builder which combines a variety of the elements of the templates into one that is more optimized for mobile devices.

6. Google Earth (now completely online)

Google Tours used to be a way to present a series of places on a map, with text, pictures, and videos, but that has been de-commissioned and the online version of Google Earth is now the best alternative. Yes, it works best in Google Chrome, and you’ll need a Google account to save it to your Google Drive. The video below is a brief introduction to the tools that are available to you: