Data Storytelling with Fantasy Football

2015-03-14_OhNoLogo22-abby3Before 2010, I didn’t care AT ALL about sports. But, being the extrovert (and PROUD past-time bandwaggoner) that I am, I decided to get into football because that’s what people were talking about. So this Iowa girl started following the New Orleans Saints…a natural choice (former French teacher over here, remember? NOLA was the best I could do!).

In a similar vein, for the past 5 years, Mark, myself, and some of our friends from MiamiU have had a fantasy football league together.**

My team = the Tenacious Trouts

Mark’s (I’m using air quotes here) “clever” team = Co-constructing PAIN (Very student development theory of him…nice, Mark!)

Anyhoo…we use Yahoo Fantasy Football (YFF) and one feature that I’ve enjoyed this year is the Game Recap. Yahoo blends together highlights from the “game”, images, and data to tell the story of (in this rare case) my amazing upset against another team, Handy Mart (no air quotes for that team – she’s won multiple years in a row!).

summary ff

This game data recap makes reading about my fake team’s fake game much more dramatic and interesting than just the bunch of computer algorithms that it is.

sections of ff

It weaves the story of the game data together so accessibly that it makes even the more nuanced highlights and plays from the game exciting for a sports novice like myself. And, in thinking about collecting data and assessing learning, really, isn’t that one of the main goals? Lots of offices collect data – and while that’s by no means easy, I think the deeper challenge is what do you do with that data? And how do you tell the story of your data (i.e., what students learned and were able to do as a result of your efforts) to make it accessible to important stakeholders?

Data storytelling means I need to do more than show what % of students responded “agree” or “disagree” on a survey. I need to use the data to narrate what all those survey responses mean and the overarching story that arose. Practically, here are a few simple strategies Yahoo Fantasy Football uses that can apply to us. When you have a bunch of data:

  1. Cluster information into categories – not only will categories make your data much more digestible to your audience, but the groups in it of themselves will make telling the story easier for you and the audience.
  2. Use interpretive titles – show your data but also give it a title that helps the audience understand what they’re seeing/reading and what it means (the way a headline to an article quickly and succinctly communicates the main point).
  3. Blend images, text, and data together – there’s no need to exile all the graphs to one page and text to another. Instead, put them side-by-side so they can complement and strengthen each other.

Happy storytelling!

**I'd like to note that I have been the league champion ONE time! Again, a rare occurrence which probably was due to my opponents getting too busy to change their rosters, but I'll take it!
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