“In class” assignment: Collaboration

We’re going to try something different this week: A collaborative online journalism project. Many professional blogs have staffs that rarely see each other face to face; instead, they do their daily business via instant messaging and collaborative tools like the Google suite of applications. We’re going to integrate the skills from last week’s mapping project with this week’s location readings to produce a collaborative visualization project based on government-provided data.

Instead of going to Martin Hall at 6 p.m., you’re going to each sign on to eCampus, click the “chat” link and enter the chatroom (I’ll be signed on at 5:30 to help troubleshoot, but it’s your responsibility to make sure you can get on). Once there, we’ll have attendance and discussion as usual. We’ll be discussing Adrian Holovaty’s EveryBlock project, so if you get the chance have a look beforehand (the site’s “about” page is here). What does this site do, and what value is there to it?

After that, we’ll begin our project. You’ll need to sign in to Google Maps like you did last week and log in to your MIX account. I’ll be sending a “collaborate” invitation to each of your MIX accounts, and you’ll need to accept this to do the project. We’ll be producing a collaborative map using the U.S. government’s Medicare website for West Virginia, which we’ll access via this address. We’ll complete this group map by the end of class (the directions are at the end of this post).

Despite the settings, this will be a typical class in terms of attendance and participation – to get credit, you’ll need to show up and be heard. This should be a unique and (I hope) exciting way for you to experience how online journalists in the real world use collaborative tools to get the job done and see how visualizing data produces new information about relationships between the data. I look forward to seeing you all at 6!

The project:

  1. Go to the Medicare Nursing Home information site
  2. Click the “Find and Compare Nursing Homes” button
  3. Select “Find a Nursing Home within a County”
  4. Select “West Virginia” in the drop-down menu that appears and click “Next Step”
  5. Select your assigned county from the drop-down menu and click continue
  6. The menu you get will list addresses and ratings for each Nursing Home in your county. You will map each nursing home in your assigned county or counties.


  • The color of the pointer you use is based on the Overall Rating of the Nursing Home: 5 stars (green), 4 stars (dark blue), 3 stars (light blue), 2 stars (yellow), or 1 star (red)
  • Pointers for For-profit Nursing Homes should have a dot; Non-profit Nursing Homes should have NO dot.
  • Include the name, address, and ALL ratings (overall rating, health inspection rating, staffing rating, and quality measures rating) for each home in the info box for its pointer. Extra information is up to you (but is helpful!)
  • I have already mapped the five nursing homes in Monongalia County as an example for you.

County Assignments:


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