I am writing this returning from Singapore and the IB Asia Pacific annual conference. One of the keynote speakers was Hans Rosling the statistics guru who makes numbers irresistible and fascinating. Figures seem to be daunting to our students, but Hans Rosling has found a way not only to make them fascinating, but for them to tell a story that engages and then stimulates enquiry. Hans Rosling has spoken extensively about his programme and has been captured by Ted talks in several memorable presentations; two of which are included in this post.

In Hans Rosling’s hands, data becomes real and vibrant; and paints a picture of the world. Global trends in health and economics come to vivid life, and the issues of global development are put into a sharper focus. As Professor Rosling says, the context is the story and understanding the context allows analysis and evaluation to be based on reality rather than perception; data often debunks myths about the world. His presentation tool turns complex global trends into lively animations, with colourful bubbles floating across the grid, leaving trails of progress and success. Gapminder is the programme behind the story and this can be accessed via the web and Gapminder desktop can be downloaded to make access possible offline. An example of one visualisation can be found through this link. Once the graph appears, click on play to see the relationship between life expectancy and per capita income over the years and across many countries (hover over the circles to identify the country).

“I have shown that Swedish top students know statistically significantly less about the world than the chimpanzees.”

“I have a neighbor who knows 200 types of wine. … I only know two types of wine — red and white. But my neighbor only knows two types of countries — industrialized and developing. And I know 200.”

Professor Rosling’s programme is only one of a large number of visualisations which can make business statistics and information more accessible to students and to provide valuable and stimulating resources to support investigation and presentation, such as that conducted for the internal assessment and the extended essay. In this post I shall look at a few more which may support the teaching of a range of business topics. In the same way that a map is easier to assimilate and contextualise than a written set of directions, so these programmes offer a broad and interlinked approach to linking ideas and identifying trends. These may be particularly helpful for students who are second language speakers or have a specific learning difficulty. However, they are also valuable for all students, especially your visual learners. Naturally, what follows is only a subjective selection; no doubt you will have your favourites which you may be prepared to share with others through the comment section on this subject blog.

  • News feeds are a crucial aspect of the Business and Management programme. The subject is never static; its dynamism is produced not least from an external environment always in a state of flux. One way of examining news is using Newsmap; software that allows the student to manipulate the information received and to focus on the areas of most interest to them by selecting countries, topics and the recency of articles to customise their preview screen. The size of the story blocks relates to the number of articles reporting on that news item.


  • Wordle and Tagxedo work by generating word clouds representing the words entered in a text editor. The more times  a particular word is entered, the larger it appears on the final picture. The clouds can be edited by selecting different fonts, layouts, shapes and colour schemes. The final object can be printed or saved to the web database, but simple clipping tools such as OneNote and Jing allow images to be saved to a computer document. Alternatively a website URL can be entered into the text editor and a word cloud produced representing its main components. The following is one for the Triple A Learning site.
  • Student and teacher presentations can be structured and illuminated through the use of Prezi Press the play button to see its functionality.

Class Activities

You can use wordles and/or tagxedo with your students to:

  • select and identify important issues within the pre-seen B&M case study
  • identify concerns about particular topics in the B&M programme that they found difficult and would like to review during the revision period
  • summarise IA and extended essays research findings represented by the size and inclusion of words e.g. motivation and leadership issues. For example, questionnaires conducted with employees may throw up words like autocratic, bossy etc. A word cloud could be placed in the findings section and may be used  as a basis for analysis and  judgment
  • make a presentation to the rest of the group about their business project using word clouds to illustrate findings visually
  • summarise a business topic in conjunction with other tools such as a concept or mind map