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OER Festival in Berlin – How An Open Event Inspires Open Educational Activities in Germany

- March 17, 2016 in #openeducationwk, Events, Featured, guestpost, oer, Open Educational Practices, open educational resources, open-education

ber1Last week the OER community celebrated its first OER Festival in Berlin which consisted of an OER Camp and an OER conference/forum (here is the German website). After the successful OER13 and OER14 conferences in Germany, the goal was to broaden and intensify the debate about OER with relevant stakeholders. In this regard, two additional OER projects are worth mentioning as they are funded by the German government and targeted at “Mapping OER” and synthesising affordances and requirements for infrastructure on which OER-related systems can be built and integrated (feasibility study). These projects have then led to a call for proposals from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research for (1) building and establishing a centre for information (and support) related to OER and (2) training for multipliers. The OER Camp in Germany was based on an innovative format called BarCamps: these camps are participant-driven conferences, in which attendees share and learn in an open informal environment. Unlike traditional conferences that pre-schedule a programme, BarCamps rely on input from attendees to create the session programme on the spot and collaborate ad hoc on emerging topics.
Session planning with all OERCamp attendees Photo by “jmm-Hamburg” under CC BY 2.0 Generic

Session planning with all OERCamp attendees Photo by “Jmm-Hamburg” under CC BY 2.0 Generic

Since 2012, several such camps have taken place in Bremen, Bielefeld and Berlin. On top of the ad hoc sessions, some workshops are offered by the members of the emerging OER Camp, who are practitioners and educators in media for education, adult educators, school teachers, researchers, policy-makers, educational publishers, and OER advocates. The main goals of the OER Camp are to:
  • Network and connect stakeholders across diverse educational domains
  • Share knowledge and expertise on OER
  • Spread the word on existing as well as new initiatives
  • Promote open education among educational practitioners and to decision-makers and policy-makers
< p style="text-align: center">

Why did we choose the initiative as good practice? 

The events are very participatory, incubate new ideas and attract attendees with diverse backgrounds.
OER Atlas 2016 - Publication on OER stakeholders and activities in Germany, Austria and Switzerland

OER Atlas 2016 – Publication on OER stakeholders and activities in Germany, Austria and Switzerland

Also, the OER Camp has directly or indirectly produced the following outcomes (there are more that could have been selected):
  • The low threshold to initiate discussions and share knowledge has been the main driver of a growing OER grassroots community in the German-speaking countries. Several established educational platform providers for school education have started to license resources with Creative Commons.
  • The event built on and strengthened an existing community on OER which has had a major influence on the growing political support for the topic in Germany, e.g. the availability of national funding for awareness raising and further education measures.
  • A concise guide for teachers on the objectives behind OER, Creative Commons licenses and the main educational repositories/platforms has been developed by OER Camp participants from Austria and has been remixed and adapted to the German context
  • Plans to issue an OER award were discussed openly during the OER Camp 2015 and put into practice early 2016. Also as a result of the award plans the event grew into a 2-day BarCamp and a 1-day forum involving 7 partners, 30 supporters, 272 registrations, and 109 speakers.. The organisers presented all submissions in a CC-BY licensed publication that gives a good insight into the current OER landscape.
OER Award 2016 Photo under CC0 (Courtesy of Karl Kirst)


OER Award 2016 Photo under CC0 (Courtesy of Karl Kirst)

So it has been an exciting time and a great opportunity to talk about the latest developments of OER in Germany.
  • OER has been established as an important topic in contemporary education. After its slow uptake in German-speaking countries, OER has gained considerable momentum and more and more people from different sectors are now involved. What can be seen in this “OER-socialisation process” is that there is a set of shared beliefs about what OER should be, but less agreement on how we should bring about changes in the educational systems.
  • Although there is growing interest in OER, the discussion on procedures to mainstream OER is at the beginning. It is an interesting process to watch as arguments like “everything that is paid by the public/state should be OER” turn out to be much more complex than initially thought.
  • We are on the verge of reaching a next level as indicated by the afore-mentioned political initiatives.
Overall and to sum up this brief review, it was an inspiring OER event given the diversity of formats and the nicely orchestrated opportunities for discussions. There are exciting times ahead of us and it is in the hands of all of us to keep OER going. — About the authors ACT Anne-Christin Tannhäuser is a project coordinator in technology-enhanced learning and open education programmes and a consultant on educational innovation. She holds a Master’s degree in Educational Sciences and Linguistics from the University of Leipzig and she was trained at the Max Planck-Institute for Human Development, Berlin, in the use of qualitative and quantitative research methodologies. In the past seven years she has managed and contributed to several TEL initiatives at national and European levels, including for the European Foundation for Quality in E-Learning, Cooperative State University Baden-Württemberg, Knowledge Information Centre Malta, Wikimedia Germany, University of Applied Sciences Ruhrwest, Linnaeus University and the Institute of Prospective Technological Studies (European Commission) in the field of open education, recognition of open learning and evaluation/communication of R&D projects. She coordinated the Open Access journal INNOQUAL, the International Journal for Innovation and Quality in Learning, for two years. She is also an associate researcher at the Berlin campus of ESCP Europe, a private business school with six locations in the EU. Dr. Markus Deimann Dr. Markus Deimann, has since September 2013 been Assistant Professor (Akademischer Rat) in the Department of Instructional Technology and Media at FernUniversität Hagen. He completed his studies of Educational Sciences and Political Sciences at the University of Mannheim. Afterwards he worked as Research Assistant on the Project BMBF “Mulitmediales Fernstudium has been Medizinische Informatik (MEDIN)” (Multimedia-based Distance Study Medical Computer Science) at the Technische Universität Ilmenau (Ilmenau University of Technology) and at the University of Erfurt. Furthermore, he was a Visiting Scholar at the Florida State University, Tallahassee (USA) for one year. In 2011 he was a Scholarship Holder at the Open University (UK) for three months.

** (Part of this column was published in http://project.idea-space.eu/2016/03/02/oercamps/)**

OER Festival in Berlin – How An Open Event Inspires Open Educational Activities in Germany

- March 17, 2016 in #openeducationwk, Events, Featured, guestpost, oer, Open Educational Practices, open educational resources, open-education

ber1Last week the OER community celebrated its first OER Festival in Berlin which consisted of an OER Camp and an OER conference/forum (here is the German website). After the successful OER13 and OER14 conferences in Germany, the goal was to broaden and intensify the debate about OER with relevant stakeholders. In this regard, two additional OER projects are worth mentioning as they are funded by the German government and targeted at “Mapping OER” and synthesising affordances and requirements for infrastructure on which OER-related systems can be built and integrated (feasibility study). These projects have then led to a call for proposals from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research for (1) building and establishing a centre for information (and support) related to OER and (2) training for multipliers. The OER Camp in Germany was based on an innovative format called BarCamps: these camps are participant-driven conferences, in which attendees share and learn in an open informal environment. Unlike traditional conferences that pre-schedule a programme, BarCamps rely on input from attendees to create the session programme on the spot and collaborate ad hoc on emerging topics.
Session planning with all OERCamp attendees Photo by “jmm-Hamburg” under CC BY 2.0 Generic

Session planning with all OERCamp attendees Photo by “Jmm-Hamburg” under CC BY 2.0 Generic

Since 2012, several such camps have taken place in Bremen, Bielefeld and Berlin. On top of the ad hoc sessions, some workshops are offered by the members of the emerging OER Camp, who are practitioners and educators in media for education, adult educators, school teachers, researchers, policy-makers, educational publishers, and OER advocates. The main goals of the OER Camp are to:
  • Network and connect stakeholders across diverse educational domains
  • Share knowledge and expertise on OER
  • Spread the word on existing as well as new initiatives
  • Promote open education among educational practitioners and to decision-makers and policy-makers

Why did we choose the initiative as good practice? 

The events are very participatory, incubate new ideas and attract attendees with diverse backgrounds.
OER Atlas 2016 - Publication on OER stakeholders and activities in Germany, Austria and Switzerland

OER Atlas 2016 – Publication on OER stakeholders and activities in Germany, Austria and Switzerland

Also, the OER Camp has directly or indirectly produced the following outcomes (there are more that could have been selected):
  • The low threshold to initiate discussions and share knowledge has been the main driver of a growing OER grassroots community in the German-speaking countries. Several established educational platform providers for school education have started to license resources with Creative Commons.
  • The event built on and strengthened an existing community on OER which has had a major influence on the growing political support for the topic in Germany, e.g. the availability of national funding for awareness raising and further education measures.
  • A concise guide for teachers on the objectives behind OER, Creative Commons licenses and the main educational repositories/platforms has been developed by OER Camp participants from Austria and has been remixed and adapted to the German context
  • Plans to issue an OER award were discussed openly during the OER Camp 2015 and put into practice early 2016. Also as a result of the award plans the event grew into a 2-day BarCamp and a 1-day forum involving 7 partners, 30 supporters, 272 registrations, and 109 speakers.. The organisers presented all submissions in a CC-BY licensed publication that gives a good insight into the current OER landscape.
OER Award 2016 Photo under CC0 (Courtesy of Karl Kirst)


OER Award 2016 Photo under CC0 (Courtesy of Karl Kirst)

So it has been an exciting time and a great opportunity to talk about the latest developments of OER in Germany.
  • OER has been established as an important topic in contemporary education. After its slow uptake in German-speaking countries, OER has gained considerable momentum and more and more people from different sectors are now involved. What can be seen in this “OER-socialisation process” is that there is a set of shared beliefs about what OER should be, but less agreement on how we should bring about changes in the educational systems.
  • Although there is growing interest in OER, the discussion on procedures to mainstream OER is at the beginning. It is an interesting process to watch as arguments like “everything that is paid by the public/state should be OER” turn out to be much more complex than initially thought.
  • We are on the verge of reaching a next level as indicated by the afore-mentioned political initiatives.
Overall and to sum up this brief review, it was an inspiring OER event given the diversity of formats and the nicely orchestrated opportunities for discussions. There are exciting times ahead of us and it is in the hands of all of us to keep OER going. — About the authors ACT Anne-Christin Tannhäuser is a project coordinator in technology-enhanced learning and open education programmes and a consultant on educational innovation. She holds a Master’s degree in Educational Sciences and Linguistics from the University of Leipzig and she was trained at the Max Planck-Institute for Human Development, Berlin, in the use of qualitative and quantitative research methodologies. In the past seven years she has managed and contributed to several TEL initiatives at national and European levels, including for the European Foundation for Quality in E-Learning, Cooperative State University Baden-Württemberg, Knowledge Information Centre Malta, Wikimedia Germany, University of Applied Sciences Ruhrwest, Linnaeus University and the Institute of Prospective Technological Studies (European Commission) in the field of open education, recognition of open learning and evaluation/communication of R&D projects. She coordinated the Open Access journal INNOQUAL, the International Journal for Innovation and Quality in Learning, for two years. She is also an associate researcher at the Berlin campus of ESCP Europe, a private business school with six locations in the EU. Dr. Markus Deimann Dr. Markus Deimann, has since September 2013 been Assistant Professor (Akademischer Rat) in the Department of Instructional Technology and Media at FernUniversität Hagen. He completed his studies of Educational Sciences and Political Sciences at the University of Mannheim. Afterwards he worked as Research Assistant on the Project BMBF “Mulitmediales Fernstudium has been Medizinische Informatik (MEDIN)” (Multimedia-based Distance Study Medical Computer Science) at the Technische Universität Ilmenau (Ilmenau University of Technology) and at the University of Erfurt. Furthermore, he was a Visiting Scholar at the Florida State University, Tallahassee (USA) for one year. In 2011 he was a Scholarship Holder at the Open University (UK) for three months.

** (Part of this column was published in http://project.idea-space.eu/2016/03/02/oercamps/)**

OER Festival in Berlin – How An Open Event Inspires Open Educational Activities in Germany

- March 17, 2016 in #openeducationwk, Events, Featured, guestpost, oer, Open Educational Practices, open educational resources, open-education

ber1Last week the OER community celebrated its first OER Festival in Berlin which consisted of an OER Camp and an OER conference/forum (here is the German website). After the successful OER13 and OER14 conferences in Germany, the goal was to broaden and intensify the debate about OER with relevant stakeholders. In this regard, two additional OER projects are worth mentioning as they are funded by the German government and targeted at “Mapping OER” and synthesising affordances and requirements for infrastructure on which OER-related systems can be built and integrated (feasibility study). These projects have then led to a call for proposals from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research for (1) building and establishing a centre for information (and support) related to OER and (2) training for multipliers. The OER Camp in Germany was based on an innovative format called BarCamps: these camps are participant-driven conferences, in which attendees share and learn in an open informal environment. Unlike traditional conferences that pre-schedule a programme, BarCamps rely on input from attendees to create the session programme on the spot and collaborate ad hoc on emerging topics.
Session planning with all OERCamp attendees Photo by “jmm-Hamburg” under CC BY 2.0 Generic

Session planning with all OERCamp attendees Photo by “Jmm-Hamburg” under CC BY 2.0 Generic

Since 2012, several such camps have taken place in Bremen, Bielefeld and Berlin. On top of the ad hoc sessions, some workshops are offered by the members of the emerging OER Camp, who are practitioners and educators in media for education, adult educators, school teachers, researchers, policy-makers, educational publishers, and OER advocates. The main goals of the OER Camp are to:
  • Network and connect stakeholders across diverse educational domains
  • Share knowledge and expertise on OER
  • Spread the word on existing as well as new initiatives
  • Promote open education among educational practitioners and to decision-makers and policy-makers
< p style="text-align: center">

Why did we choose the initiative as good practice? 

The events are very participatory, incubate new ideas and attract attendees with diverse backgrounds.
OER Atlas 2016 - Publication on OER stakeholders and activities in Germany, Austria and Switzerland

OER Atlas 2016 – Publication on OER stakeholders and activities in Germany, Austria and Switzerland

Also, the OER Camp has directly or indirectly produced the following outcomes (there are more that could have been selected):
  • The low threshold to initiate discussions and share knowledge has been the main driver of a growing OER grassroots community in the German-speaking countries. Several established educational platform providers for school education have started to license resources with Creative Commons.
  • The event built on and strengthened an existing community on OER which has had a major influence on the growing political support for the topic in Germany, e.g. the availability of national funding for awareness raising and further education measures.
  • A concise guide for teachers on the objectives behind OER, Creative Commons licenses and the main educational repositories/platforms has been developed by OER Camp participants from Austria and has been remixed and adapted to the German context
  • Plans to issue an OER award were discussed openly during the OER Camp 2015 and put into practice early 2016. Also as a result of the award plans the event grew into a 2-day BarCamp and a 1-day forum involving 7 partners, 30 supporters, 272 registrations, and 109 speakers.. The organisers presented all submissions in a CC-BY licensed publication that gives a good insight into the current OER landscape.
OER Award 2016 Photo under CC0 (Courtesy of Karl Kirst)


OER Award 2016 Photo under CC0 (Courtesy of Karl Kirst)

So it has been an exciting time and a great opportunity to talk about the latest developments of OER in Germany.
  • OER has been established as an important topic in contemporary education. After its slow uptake in German-speaking countries, OER has gained considerable momentum and more and more people from different sectors are now involved. What can be seen in this “OER-socialisation process” is that there is a set of shared beliefs about what OER should be, but less agreement on how we should bring about changes in the educational systems.
  • Although there is growing interest in OER, the discussion on procedures to mainstream OER is at the beginning. It is an interesting process to watch as arguments like “everything that is paid by the public/state should be OER” turn out to be much more complex than initially thought.
  • We are on the verge of reaching a next level as indicated by the afore-mentioned political initiatives.
Overall and to sum up this brief review, it was an inspiring OER event given the diversity of formats and the nicely orchestrated opportunities for discussions. There are exciting times ahead of us and it is in the hands of all of us to keep OER going. — About the authors ACT Anne-Christin Tannhäuser is a project coordinator in technology-enhanced learning and open education programmes and a consultant on educational innovation. She holds a Master’s degree in Educational Sciences and Linguistics from the University of Leipzig and she was trained at the Max Planck-Institute for Human Development, Berlin, in the use of qualitative and quantitative research methodologies. In the past seven years she has managed and contributed to several TEL initiatives at national and European levels, including for the European Foundation for Quality in E-Learning, Cooperative State University Baden-Württemberg, Knowledge Information Centre Malta, Wikimedia Germany, University of Applied Sciences Ruhrwest, Linnaeus University and the Institute of Prospective Technological Studies (European Commission) in the field of open education, recognition of open learning and evaluation/communication of R&D projects. She coordinated the Open Access journal INNOQUAL, the International Journal for Innovation and Quality in Learning, for two years. She is also an associate researcher at the Berlin campus of ESCP Europe, a private business school with six locations in the EU. Dr. Markus Deimann Dr. Markus Deimann, has since September 2013 been Assistant Professor (Akademischer Rat) in the Department of Instructional Technology and Media at FernUniversität Hagen. He completed his studies of Educational Sciences and Political Sciences at the University of Mannheim. Afterwards he worked as Research Assistant on the Project BMBF “Mulitmediales Fernstudium has been Medizinische Informatik (MEDIN)” (Multimedia-based Distance Study Medical Computer Science) at the Technische Universität Ilmenau (Ilmenau University of Technology) and at the University of Erfurt. Furthermore, he was a Visiting Scholar at the Florida State University, Tallahassee (USA) for one year. In 2011 he was a Scholarship Holder at the Open University (UK) for three months.

** (Part of this column was published in http://project.idea-space.eu/2016/03/02/oercamps/)**

A Scuola di OpenCoesione: Using Open Data in schools for the development of civic awareness

- March 15, 2016 in #openeducationwk, Data, Featured, guestpost, mooc, OEP, oer, Open Data, Open Educational Practices, open educational resources, open-education, opening up education

A Scuola di OpenCoesione ( ASOC), from Italian, translates as Open Cohesion School. It can be understood as an educational challenge and a MOOC (Massive Online Open Course) designed for students in Italian secondary schools. ASOC was launched in 2013 within the open government strategy on cohesion policy carried out by the National Government, in partnership with the Ministry of Education and the Representation Office of the European Commission in Italy; it is also supported by the European Commission’s network of “Europe Direct” Information Centres. The third edition of ASOC was launched in November 2015. While you are reading this post, about 2800 students and 200 teachers are involved in a collective learning experience focused on civic monitoring of public funding through open data analysis, and also by visiting sites and conducting “data journalist” research. A_scuola_logo_quadricromia_png The main objectives of ASOC are to engage participating schools in actively promoting the use and reuse of open data for the development of civic awareness and engagement with local communities in monitoring the effectiveness of public investment. The participating students and teachers design their research using data from the 900,000 projects hosted on the national OpenCoesione portal in which everyone can find transparent information regarding the investment in projects funded by Cohesion Policies in Italy. The portal provides data including detailed information on the amount of funding, policy objectives, locations, involved subjects and completion times: so schools can select the data they want to use in their research, which can be related to their region or city. ASOC’s Teaching and learning programme infografica-new The teaching and learning programme is designed in six main sessions. The first four sessions aim at developing innovative and interdisciplinary skills such as digital literacies and data analysis to support students to assess and critically understand the use of public money. Students learn through a highly interactive process using policy analysis techniques, such as tackling policy rationales for interventions, as well as understanding results and performance. This process employs “civic” monitoring to work on real cases using data journalism and storytelling techniques. During the fifth session, and based on their research projects on the information acquired, the students carry out on-site visits to the public works or services in their region or city which are financed by EU and national funds, and also they interview the key stakeholders involved in the projects’ implementation, the beneficiaries and other actors. Finally, the sixth session is a final event where students meet with their local communities and with policy-makers to discuss their findings, with the ultimate goal to keep the administrators accountable and responsible for their decisions. Here you can find all the video sessions and exercises: http://www.ascuoladiopencoesione.it/lezioni/. The teaching method combines asynchronous and synchronous learning. The asynchronous model is designed following a typical MOOC (Massive Online Open Courses) style where participants learn through a series of activities. Teachers are trained by the central ASOC team through a series of webinars. The synchronous in-class sessions share a common structure: each class starts with one or more videos from the MOOC, followed by a group exercise where the participants get involved in teacher-led classroom activities. These activities are organised around the development of the research projects and reproduce a flipped classroom setting. In between lessons, students work independently to prepare data analysis reports and original final projects. Also, in order to have an impact on local communities and institutions, the students are actively supported by local associations that contribute with specific expertise in the field of open data or on specific topics such as environmental issues, anti-mafia activities, local transportation, etc. Furthermore, the European Commission’s network of information centres “Europe Direct” (EDIC), is involved supporting the activities and disseminating the results. On ASOC’s website there is a blog dedicated to sharing and disseminating the students’ activities on social networks (see here ASOC in numbers). ASOC’s pedagogical methodology is centred on specific goals, well-defined roles and decision-making. This has allowed students to independently manage every aspect of their project activities, from the choice of research methods to how to disseminate the results. On the other hand, the teachers are also involved in an intensive community experience that allows them to learn not only from their own students, but also from the local community and from their fellow teaching peers involved in the project. Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 16.40.52 Ultimately, this takes the form of a collective civic adventure that improves the capacity to form effective social bonds and horizontal ties among the different stakeholders, actors of the local communities. In fact, detailed Open Data on specific public projects has enable new forms of analysis and storytelling focused on real cases developed in the students’ neighbourhoods. This, in turn, has the key goal of involving the policy-makers in a shared, participatory learning process, to improve both policy accountability and the capacity to respond to local needs. Finally, ASOC’s key element is that the pedagogical methodology we have developed can be used as a learning pathway that can be adapted to different realities (e.g. different policy domains, from national to local, in different sectors) using different types of open data with comparable level of detail and granularity (e.g. detailed local budget data, performance data, research data, or any other type of data). If you are interested in learning more from ASOC’s experience, you can read a case study which includes the results of the 2014-2015 edition on Ciociola, C., & Reggi, L. (2015). A Scuola di OpenCoesione: From Open Data to Civic Engagement. In J. Atenas & L. Havemann (Eds.), Open Data As Open Educational Resources: Case Studies of Emerging Practice. You can also watch ASOC’s documentary video of the 2014-2015 edition here: https://vimeo.com/138955671 — About the author Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 16.28.23 Chiara Ciociola Is the community manager of the project A Scuola di OpenCoesione at the Department for Cohesion Policies, Italian Presidency of the Council of Ministers. She holds a BA in Political Science, with a focus on New Media and Journalism at University of Florence and a MA in Digital Storytelling at University of Turin. In 2013 she founded Monithon Italia, a civil society initiative for citizen monitoring of EU-funded projects. Since 2011 she is a contributor of Neural magazine, a critical digital culture and new media arts magazine.  

**Part of this article was originally published in the Open Education Europe blog as “OpenCoesione School” – An example of scalable learning format using OpenData as Educational Resources. We thank Maria Perifanou for sharing this post with us**.

A Scuola di OpenCoesione: Using Open Data in schools for the development of civic awareness

- March 15, 2016 in #openeducationwk, Data, Featured, guestpost, mooc, OEP, oer, Open Data, Open Educational Practices, open educational resources, open-education, opening up education

A Scuola di OpenCoesione ( ASOC), from Italian, translates as Open Cohesion School. It can be understood as an educational challenge and a MOOC (Massive Online Open Course) designed for students in Italian secondary schools. ASOC was launched in 2013 within the open government strategy on cohesion policy carried out by the National Government, in partnership with the Ministry of Education and the Representation Office of the European Commission in Italy; it is also supported by the European Commission’s network of “Europe Direct” Information Centres. The third edition of ASOC was launched in November 2015. While you are reading this post, about 2800 students and 200 teachers are involved in a collective learning experience focused on civic monitoring of public funding through open data analysis, and also by visiting sites and conducting “data journalist” research. A_scuola_logo_quadricromia_png The main objectives of ASOC are to engage participating schools in actively promoting the use and reuse of open data for the development of civic awareness and engagement with local communities in monitoring the effectiveness of public investment. The participating students and teachers design their research using data from the 900,000 projects hosted on the national OpenCoesione portal in which everyone can find transparent information regarding the investment in projects funded by Cohesion Policies in Italy. The portal provides data including detailed information on the amount of funding, policy objectives, locations, involved subjects and completion times: so schools can select the data they want to use in their research, which can be related to their region or city. ASOC’s Teaching and learning programme infografica-new The teaching and learning programme is designed in six main sessions. The first four sessions aim at developing innovative and interdisciplinary skills such as digital literacies and data analysis to support students to assess and critically understand the use of public money. Students learn through a highly interactive process using policy analysis techniques, such as tackling policy rationales for interventions, as well as understanding results and performance. This process employs “civic” monitoring to work on real cases using data journalism and storytelling techniques. During the fifth session, and based on their research projects on the information acquired, the students carry out on-site visits to the public works or services in their region or city which are financed by EU and national funds, and also they interview the key stakeholders involved in the projects’ implementation, the beneficiaries and other actors. Finally, the sixth session is a final event where students meet with their local communities and with policy-makers to discuss their findings, with the ultimate goal to keep the administrators accountable and responsible for their decisions. Here you can find all the video sessions and exercises: http://www.ascuoladiopencoesione.it/lezioni/. The teaching method combines asynchronous and synchronous learning. The asynchronous model is designed following a typical MOOC (Massive Online Open Courses) style where participants learn through a series of activities. Teachers are trained by the central ASOC team through a series of webinars. The synchronous in-class sessions share a common structure: each class starts with one or more videos from the MOOC, followed by a group exercise where the participants get involved in teacher-led classroom activities. These activities are organised around the development of the research projects and reproduce a flipped classroom setting. In between lessons, students work independently to prepare data analysis reports and original final projects. Also, in order to have an impact on local communities and institutions, the students are actively supported by local associations that contribute with specific expertise in the field of open data or on specific topics such as environmental issues, anti-mafia activities, local transportation, etc. Furthermore, the European Commission’s network of information centres “Europe Direct” (EDIC), is involved supporting the activities and disseminating the results. On ASOC’s website there is a blog dedicated to sharing and disseminating the students’ activities on social networks (see here ASOC in numbers). ASOC’s pedagogical methodology is centred on specific goals, well-defined roles and decision-making. This has allowed students to independently manage every aspect of their project activities, from the choice of research methods to how to disseminate the results. On the other hand, the teachers are also involved in an intensive community experience that allows them to learn not only from their own students, but also from the local community and from their fellow teaching peers involved in the project. Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 16.40.52 Ultimately, this takes the form of a collective civic adventure that improves the capacity to form effective social bonds and horizontal ties among the different stakeholders, actors of the local communities. In fact, detailed Open Data on specific public projects has enable new forms of analysis and storytelling focused on real cases developed in the students’ neighbourhoods. This, in turn, has the key goal of involving the policy-makers in a shared, participatory learning process, to improve both policy accountability and the capacity to respond to local needs. Finally, ASOC’s key element is that the pedagogical methodology we have developed can be used as a learning pathway that can be adapted to different realities (e.g. different policy domains, from national to local, in different sectors) using different types of open data with comparable level of detail and granularity (e.g. detailed local budget data, performance data, research data, or any other type of data). If you are interested in learning more from ASOC’s experience, you can read a case study which includes the results of the 2014-2015 edition on Ciociola, C., & Reggi, L. (2015). A Scuola di OpenCoesione: From Open Data to Civic Engagement. In J. Atenas & L. Havemann (Eds.), Open Data As Open Educational Resources: Case Studies of Emerging Practice. You can also watch ASOC’s documentary video of the 2014-2015 edition here: https://vimeo.com/138955671 — About the author Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 16.28.23 Chiara Ciociola Is the community manager of the project A Scuola di OpenCoesione at the Department for Cohesion Policies, Italian Presidency of the Council of Ministers. She holds a BA in Political Science, with a focus on New Media and Journalism at University of Florence and a MA in Digital Storytelling at University of Turin. In 2013 she founded Monithon Italia, a civil society initiative for citizen monitoring of EU-funded projects. Since 2011 she is a contributor of Neural magazine, a critical digital culture and new media arts magazine.  

**Part of this article was originally published in the Open Education Europe blog as “OpenCoesione School” – An example of scalable learning format using OpenData as Educational Resources. We thank Maria Perifanou for sharing this post with us**.

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ESRC Consumer Data Research Centre

- October 28, 2015 in #openeducationwk, Events, Featured, guestpost, oer, Open Educational Practices, open educational resources, open-education

Integral to our activities as part of the ESRC Consumer Data Research Centre, we spent the summer working on a project that would create a searchable catalogue of the various data holdings that we are assembling, including retailer data that we have negotiated access to, but also a wealth of value added open data products. The site is available here: data.cdrc.ac.uk One aspect that we were especially pleased with is the introduction of data stores for each local authority in the UK. These all have a separate URL for their own datastore; so, Liverpool could be found here for example: data.cdrc.ac.uk/lad/liverpool We do not believe in simple replication of data sources available elsewhere, and we have added value to each open data deposit by reengineering these into new formats that are optimized for simple analysis, and which we hope are going to limit barriers to entry. As of 5/10/15 we created 8,738k separate data items for a very wide variety of topics. Not every local authority have resources to create their own datastore, and for those which do, we hope that what we have created will be complementary. We have also linked many of the outputs through to our mapping interface which is available here: maps.cdrc.ac.uk Some Technical Bits…. Given the location of this blog post; for the development we used the CKAN platform as this was open source and was widely used in those other data stores that we were familiar with. Off the shelf we have however made some considerable customisation. The infrastructure we used to develop the CKAN included developing on Docker images for all the services that the CKAN relies upon, including a service management and configuration system. We also were dealing with multiple uploads that had been created using either R, Python and PostGIS, so we also scripted a bulk dataset uploading tool. Some specific customisation: For the products/topics/LADs/National/Regional search tabs:
  • Added support for filters based on products/topics/LADs
  • Added groups/labels for Open/Safeguarded/Secure datasets.
  • Added an interactive map on the front page (based on our maps.cdrc.ac.uk platform)
  • Added a Twitter feed
  • Add a blog proxy to a WordPress blog aggregator
  • Add download tracking
  • Improve efficiency of the CKAN code associated for the group listing
  • Add a geojson preview on the dataset pages
  • Prevented non-logged in users downloading – unfortunately we need to have this functionality to provide usage data to our funding body (sorry!)
  • Add system-wide notification messages
  • Add Google Analytic tracking code
Data blog Customize a WP theme Cerauno to fit into the CKAN Other additions
  • A plugin was developed to improve the user registration form (https://github.com/esrc-cdrc/ckan-ckanext-userextra)
  • Add checkboxes for newsletter options and a dropdown menu for sectors
  • Customized the metadata with a third-party plugin ckanext-schemin
  • Added a commenting system with a third-party plugin ckanext-ytpcomments
  • Improved the user experience of the commenting system by changing the look and feel, and allowed in-place commenting and editing.
We also did some Major bugfixes/improvements to the CKAN including:
  • Fixed the tracking system (broken by latest releases of CKAN)
  • Fixed the type system for groups
Besides these, there were various other small bugfix/improvements on the CKAN and third-part plugins. We hope that these and our continuing contributions have been of use, and that you enjoy our data store: data.cdrc.ac.uk Thanks in particular go to the hard work of Data Scientists Wen Li, Hai Nguyen and Michail Pavlis who have spent much of summer working on this project.

Romanian National Open Education Conference

- March 17, 2015 in #openeducationwk, communication

Adelin Dumitru has written a post for us about the second Romanian National Open Education Conference held in Bucharest as part of Open Education Week. The event was organised by the Open Society Foundation and Coalition RED Romania. Adelin works for datedeschise.fundatia.ro, a Romanian platform that hosts information about open data projects, events and news.
On 10th of March the Open Society Foundation, endorsed by the Government of Romania and the Embassy of the United Kingdom in Romania organised a Romanian National Open Education Conference in order to reaffirm Romania’s commitment to the principles of open education. This year’s Conference, the second to have taken place in Romania, represents a step forward towards cementing this tradition in a country which lacks a culture of openness, a fact which was reiterated throughout the event by some of the panelists. A full agenda for the day is available in Romanian. Afis-educatie-deschisa The discussions at the conference mainly focused on harnessing the potential of open educational resources in education and research and on the convoluted problem of copyright and the challenges this issue poses to the Romanian educational system.

An open framework for education in secondary education

Ovidiu Voicu, the Open Society Foundation’s Public Policy Department director, opened discussions in the panel session on ‘An open framework for education in secondary education’ with an intervention in which he emphasised the benefits of open education. He focused on presenting the case for open education as a change of paradigm. An open educational system would purportedly solve some of the pressing problems of the current state of affairs. It would correspond with a permanent enhancement due to its focus on analysis and evaluation, with easing access to education due to its elimination of institutional barriers and with efficiently and transparently employing resources to achieve its ends. This last point is connected to another characteristic of an open educational system, that it is deeply interwoven with technological advances. Another point he has made is that to enter the open education paradigm would require neither legislative changes nor investments. What is needed, instead, is a change of perspective, which can be accomplished only by conceptually integrating and coordinating the many strategies that currently co-exist but do not interact as they should. Moreover, the open education paradigm does not entail massive investments, though it requires a rethinking of the way we allocate resources.
 Ciprian Fartuşnic, Director, Institute of Education Sciences     Cristian Dinu, Technical Lead, Co-founder, Learn Forward     Eugen Crai, specialist educational policy     Iosifescu Serban, President ARACIP     Tincuţa Apăteanu, President, Association Edusfera

Panelists: Ciprian Fartuşnic, Director, Institute of Education Sciences; Cristian Dinu, Technical Lead, Co-founder, Learn Forward; Eugen Crai, specialist educational policy; Iosifescu Serban, President ARACIP; Tincuţa Apăteanu, President, Association Edusfera

Although open education is not a panacea, international good practice examples show us that it can have propitious effects, such as increasing educational equity by easing access to educational resources, raising standards and improving quality by promoting peer evaluation, increasing community’s interest in education, stimulating innovation and increasing competition and making investments in education cease to be seen as uncertain, and instead become safer bets. One particular field where open education effects could be immediately seen is that of online textbooks, which would effectively implement a proposal mentioned in the National Education Law. This makes reference to an online platform which would host open educational resources at a national level. During the conference this was contrasted with the actual online textbooks, which are neither open source nor legally open, since they do not have any associated license. This makes things complicated for authors, since the lack of a specified legal status represents a disincentive for improving upon the existing textbooks. Another proposal in the spirit of open education would be increasing transparency and integrity of educational institutions. This could be done by publishing budgets and by ensuring that consulting procedures are respected by the Ministry of Education. Interventions from the public have brought up some interesting aspects, such as the fact that parents may be those who oppose change and who pose threats to the shift to an open education paradigm. The conclusion that has been drawn was that teachers should be those to educate not only children, but also parents, presenting the advantages of open education and trying to reduce their incredulity in alternatives to traditional textbooks, for instance. One participant has mentioned that textbooks represent anchors for parents, which preclude them from seeing the real benefits of reforms. Such issues will have to be dealt with if we want a paradigm shift.

Open access and OER in higher education and research

The second panel session focused on open access and open educational resources in high education and research. Nicolaie Constantinescu of Kosson explained to the public concepts such as open access, open resources, licenses, and shed some light on misconceptions associated with these concepts. He elaborated on the history of open education in Romania, focusing on open access via data bases. Radu Atanasiu, Adjunct Lecturer of Critical Thinking at the Maastricht School of Management Romania highlighted the utility of Massive Online Open Courses (MooCs) and also their hidden potential which could be tapped in the future by Romanian scholars and students. Constantin Vică, from the Research Centre in Applied Ethics, talked about the problems encountered by researchers in accessing data, and also about the difficult state of Romanian journals in the context of globalization of knowledge and keeping up with international household names.
Nicolae Constantinescu, Kosson     Marius Nicolăescu CIO Executive Unit for Financing Higher Education, Research, Development and Innovation     Puchiu Radu, State Secretary, Prime Minister's Office     Radu Atanasiu, Adjunct Lecturer of Critical Thinking, Maastricht School of Management Romania     Constantin Vică, Center for Research in Applied Ethics

Panelists: Nicolae Constantinescu, Kosson; Marius Nicolăescu CIO Executive Unit for Financing Higher Education, Research, Development and Innovation; Puchiu Radu, State Secretary, Prime Minister’s Office; Radu Atanasiu, Adjunct Lecturer of Critical Thinking, Maastricht School of Management Romania; Constantin Vică, Center for Research in Applied Ethics

The last panel session represented an extensive debate on copyright and education. There have been put forward two perspectives, one promoting a relaxation of copyright and the other supporting a better enforcement of copyright. While the latter represents the dominant perspective, the debate has shown that the counterarguments should not be easily dismissed. The Analysis Report of the EU legislation, realized by Julia Reda, Member of the European Parliament, has been presented as the main case against copyright protection. Contentious topics such as the status of orphan works have been brought up, proving the numerous lines that can be opened by such a discussion, benefiting from a framework that reunited specialists and practitioners in the field. One proposal has been that the Ministry of Education should put at the public’s disposal digital textbooks in workable formats, without restrictions on their usage, according to the principle “any resource produced with public money shall have open access“.

Conclusions

All in all, the Romanian National Open Education Conference gathered 130 participants, among these professors, inspectors, scholars, representatives of the government, of student associations, of non-governmental organizations. An increased interest can be noticed in comparison to last year’s edition, the number of participants almost doubling, proving that, to a certain extent, the Romanian public has become more intent to learn about open educational resources. This could be a harbinger that the aforementioned paradigm shift is due to happen at one point or another, and it is through events like these that the public becomes informed and from this awareness can emerge the necessary reforms and the necessary change of perspective on education, transparency and integration. More details about the event are available from the datedeschise.fundatia.ro website in Romanian.

OER in Adult Education

- March 12, 2015 in #openeducationwk, adulteducation, Featured

Our next post for Open Education Week is from Sara Frank Bristow on the ADOERUP work to produce a “Note” (short briefing report) to the European Parliament Culture and Education Committee on the use and potential of Open Educational Resources (OER) for Adult Education/Adult Learning. This work supports the POERUP, Policies for OER Uptake previously posted about on this blog. saraSara Frank Bristow, founder of Salient Research, LLC, is a digital education researcher and writer based in Chicago, US. She is presently writing the UK Country Report for the Sero Consulting Ltd ADOERUP (Adult Education and Open Education Resources) study. Recent projects for Sero and other clients have focused on online, blended and open learning, with an emphasis on drivers, business and learning models for OER.

Adult Education and Open Education Resources

Adult learning is a vital component of the European Commission’s lifelong learning policy. It is essential to competitiveness and employability, social inclusion, active citizenship, and personal development across Europe. The challenge is to provide learning opportunities for all, especially disadvantaged groups who need them most. It comprises formal, non-formal, and informal learning for improving basics skills, obtaining new qualifications, up-skilling, or re-skilling for employment. The demand for adult learning is increasing and the Commission is committed to helping all EU countries create adult learning systems characterised by flexibility, high quality, excellent teaching, and an enhanced role for local authorities, employers, social partners, civil society, and cultural organisations. In 2013 the European Commission published a communication on OER and MOOCs. This highlighted the potential of OER in adult learning. OER in fact make use of large scale digital technologies and the aim is to support a radical development of new teaching methodologies based on the use of ICT. The Communication emphasizes that, likewise, in adult learning ICT and OER offers huge potential for structural change. Therefore efficient tools and methodologies will prove decisive in handling future funding needs. In the Communication, the Commission mentions that it plans to create a new network called EPALE (Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe).

Coverage of the ADOERUP report

I am now working on a study to highlight the possibilities offered by the employment of OER with the overall aim to:
  • Review the availability and feasibility of OER in adult learning, and
  • Make suggestions for possible action to be taken.
The study is thus expected to serve three distinct functions: Description, Assessment and Recommendations. With regard to the general objectives outlined above, the following general questions will be addressed and answered in the study:
  • What is the availability and feasibility of OER in adult learning?
  • What possible actions may be taken in order to enhance the use of OER in adult learning?
While answering these general questions, a few more specific ones will be addressed, as well:
  • How can OER be integrated into certified courses provided to adult learners? What is their sustainability (in terms of work and funding)?
  • What quality aspects may be considered in the use of OER in adult learning? What quality assurance issues may be considered? How OER can improve the quality and efficiency of training and education in adult learning?
  • Is management of Creative Commons licenses specific and in what respect?
  • Do OER improve the knowledge base on adult learning and contribute to a better monitoring of the adult learning sector? If yes, how?
  • How OER can contribute to raising participation rates in adult education?
  • What are the implications for educational planners and decision-makers of use of OER in adult learning? In particular what issues of accreditation/validation of skills and competences acquired via OER could be considered?
  • How existing policy tools to support adult learning can best be used for the inclusion of OER?
  • What is the role of educational establishments (particularly universities) to design, plan and implement education based on OER?
The study will focus on: United Kingdom, Spain, France, Sweden, Latvia, Hungary, Romania and Germany.

Asking for help

Sero has been commissioned to do a report for the Education and Culture Committee of the European Parliament on OER in Adult Education in the EU. Obviously we shall leverage on POERUP and on three relevant studies done for IPTS but we want to make sure we are up to date with the last 6 months of information on important projects developing OER for use specifically in Adult Learning (rather than spilling over into Adult Learning) – across all educational sectors: key skills (numeracy, literacy, IT skills, etc), school-level qualifications for adults, Vocational Education and Training, and University Education in a Lifelong Learning context. We are particularly interested in the following Member States: UK, France, Germany, Spain, Hungary, Romania, Sweden and Latvia, but projects from any Member State are of interest. Of course we shall be asking POERUP project staff as well as our network of consultants and advisors but we want a broader range of input. For policy aspects I shall be talking in depth to authors of EU-level and Member State OER-related policy documents, to perform a realignment of POERUP-style recommendations to the Adult Learning/Lifelong Learning/Flexible Learning domain. Please contact Paul Bacsich if you are a local expert or policy expert with relevant information.

Open Knowledge Russia: Experimenting with data expeditions

- March 11, 2015 in #openeducationwk, Featured, OKF Russia, Open Knowledge, open-education, WG Open Education

As part of Open Education Week #openeducationwk activities we are publishing a post on how Open Knowledge Russia have been experimenting with data expeditions. This a follow up post to one that appeared on the Open Education Working Group Website which gave an overview of Open Education projects in Russia.
Anna

Anna Sakoyan

The authors of this post are Anna Sakoyan and Irina Radchenko, who together have founded DataDrivenJournalism.RU.
Irina

Irina Radchenko

Anna is currently working as a journalist and translator for a Russian analytical resource Polit.ru and is also involved in the activities of NGO InfoCulture. You can reach Anna on Twitter on @ansakoy, on Facebook and on LinkedIn. She blogs in English at http://ourchiefweapons.wordpress.com/. Irina Radchenko is a Associate Professor at ITMO University and Chief Coordinator of Open Knowledge Russia. You can reach Irina on Twitter on @iradche, on Facebook and on LinkedIn. She blogs in Russian at http://iradche.ru//.

1. DataDrivenJournalism.RU project and Russian Data Expeditions

The open educational project DataDrivenJournalism.RU was launched in April 2013 by a group of enthusiasts. Initially it was predominantly a blog, which accumulated translated and originally written manuals on working with data, as well as more general articles about data driven journalism. Its mission was formulated as promoting the use of data (Open Data first of all) in the Russian-language environment and its main objective was to create an online platform to consolidate the Russian-speaking people who were interested in working with data, so that they can exchange their experiences and learn from each other. As the number of the published materials grew, they had to be structured in a searchable way, which resulted in making it look more like a website with special sections for learning materials, interactive educational projects (data expeditions), helpful links, etc. russia1 On one hand, it operates as an educational resource with a growing collection of tutorials, a glossary and lists of helpful external links, as well as the central platform of its data expeditions; on the other hand, as a blog, it provides a broader context of open data application to various areas of activity, including data driven journalism itself. After almost two years of its existence, DataDrivenJournalism.RU has a team of 10 regular authors (comprised of enthusiasts from Germany, Kazakhstan, Russia, Sweden and UK). More than a hundred posts have been published, including 15 tutorials. It has also launched 4 data expeditions, the most recent in December 2014. The term data expedition was first coined by Open Knowledge’s School of Data, which launched such peer-learning projects both in online and offline formats. We took this model as the basic principle and tried to apply it to the Russian environment. It turned out to be rather perspective, so we began experimenting with it, in order to make this format a more efficient education tool. In particular, we have tried a very loose organisational approach where the participants only had a general subject in common, but were free to choose their own strategy in working with it; a rather rigid approach with a scenario and tasks; and a model, which included experts who could navigate the participants in the area that they had to explore. These have been discussed in our guest post on Brian Kelly’s blog ‘UK Web Focus’. Our fourth data expedition was part of a hybrid learning model. Namely, it was the practical part of a two-week’s offline course taught by Irina Radchenko in Kazakhstan. This experience appears to be rather inspiring and instructive.

2. International Data Expedition in Kazakhstan

The fourth Russian-language data expedition (DE4) was a part of a two-week’s course under the auspices of Karaganda State Technological University taught by Irina Radchenko. After the course was over the university participants who sucessfully completed all the tasks within DE4 received a certificate. Most interesting projects were later published at DataDrivenJournalism.RU. One of them is about industry in Kazakhstan by Asylbek Mubarak who also tells (in Russian) about his experience of participating in DE4 and also about the key stages of his work with data. The other, by Roman Ni is about some aspects of Kazakhstan budget. First off, it was a unique experience of launching a data expedition outside Russia. It was also interesting that DE4 was a part of a hybrid learning format, which combined traditional offline lectures and seminars with a peer-learning approach. The specific of the peer-learning part was that it was open, so that any online user could participate. The problem was that the decision to make it open occurred rather late, so there was not much time to properly promote its announcement. However, there were several people from Russia and Ukraine who registered for participation. Unfortunately none of them participated actively, but hopefully, they managed to make some use of course materials and tasks published in the DE4 Google group. russia2 This mixed format was rather time-taking, because it required not only preparation for regular lectures, but also a lot of online activity, including interaction with the participants, answering their questions in Google group and checking their online projects. The participants of the offline course seemed enthusiastic about the online part, many found it interesting and intriguing. In the final survey following DE4, most of the respondents emphasised that they liked the online part. The initial level of the participants was very uneven. Some of them knew how to program and work with data bases, others had hardly ever been exposed to working with data. DE4 main tasks were build in a way that they could be done from scratch based only on the knowledge provided within the course. Meanwhile, there were also more advanced tasks and techniques for those who might find them interesting. Unfortunately, many participants could not complete all the tasks, because they were students and were right in the middle of taking their midterm exams at university. russia3 Compared to our previous DEs, the percentage of completed tasks was much higher. The DE4 participants were clearly better motivated in terms of demonstrating their performance. Most importantly, some of them were interested in receiving a certificate. Another considerable motivation was participation in offline activities, including face-to-face discussions, as well as interaction during Irina’s lectures and seminars. russia4 russia5 Technically, like all the previous expeditions, DE4 was centered around a closed Google group, which was used by the organisers to publish materials and tasks and by participants to discuss tasks, ask questions, exchange helpful links and coordinate their working process (as most of them worked in small teams). The chief tools within DE4 were Google Docs, Google Spreadsheets, Google Refine and Infogr.am. Participants were also encouraged to suggest or use other tools if they find it appropriate. 42 people registered for participation. 36 of them were those who took the offline course at Karaganda State Technical University. Those were most active, so most of our observations are based on their results and feedback. Also, due to the university base of the course, 50% of the participants were undergraduate students, while the other half included postgraduate students, people with a higher education and PhD. Two thirds of the participants were women. As to age groups, almost a half of the participants were between 16 and 21 years old, but there was also a considerable number of those between 22 and 30 years old and two above 50. 13 per cent of the participants completed all the tasks, including the final report. According to their responses to the final survey, most of them did their practical tasks by small pieces, but regularly. As to online interaction, the majority of respondens said they were quite satisfied with their communication experience. About a half of them though admitted that they did not contribute to online discussions, although found others’ contributions helpful. General feedback was very positive. Many pointed out that they were inspired by the friendly atmosphere and mutual helpfulness. Most said they were going to keep learning how to work with open data on their own. Almost all claimed they would like to participate in other data expeditions.

3. Conclusions

DE4 was an interesting step in the development of the format. In particular, it showed that an open peer-learning format can be an important integral part of a traditional course. It had a ready-made scenario and an instructor, but at the same time it heavily relied on the participants’ mutual help and experience exchange, and also provided a great degree of freedom and flexibility regarding the choice of subjects and tools. It is also yet another contribution to the collection of materials, which might be helpful in future expeditions alongside with the materials from all the previous DEs. It is part of a process of gradual formation of an educational resources base, as well as a supportive social base. As new methods are applied and tested in DEs, the practices that proved best are stored and used, which helps to make this format more flexible and helpful. What is most important is that this model can be applied to almost any educational initiative, because it is easily replicated and based on using free online services.

Open Education Russia 2

- March 11, 2015 in #openeducationwk, Featured, world

In the second of our Open Education Russia blog posts and the third of our #openeducationwk posts Anna Sakoyan and Irina Radchenko look at how they have been experimenting with data expeditions. The first post gave an overview of Open Education projects in Russia.
Anna

Anna Sakoyan

The authors of this post are Anna Sakoyan and Irina Radchenko, who together founded DataDrivenJournalism.RU.
Irina

Irina Radchenko

Anna is currently working as a journalist and translator for a Russian analytical resource Polit.ru and is also involved in the activities of NGO InfoCulture. You can reach Anna on Twitter on @ansakoy, on Facebook and on LinkedIn. She blogs in English at http://ourchiefweapons.wordpress.com/. Irina Radchenko is a Associate Professor at ITMO University and Chief Coordinator of Open Knowledge Russia. You can reach Irina on Twitter on @iradche, on Facebook and on LinkedIn. She blogs in Russian at http://iradche.ru//.

Experimenting with Data Expeditions

1. DataDrivenJournalism.RU project and Russian Data Expeditions

The open educational project DataDrivenJournalism.RU was launched in April 2013 by a group of enthusiasts. Initially it was predominantly a blog, which accumulated translated and originally written manuals on working with data, as well as more general articles about data driven journalism. Its mission was formulated as promoting the use of data (Open Data first of all) in the Russian-language environment and its main objective was to create an online platform to consolidate the Russian-speaking people who were interested in working with data, so that they can exchange their experiences and learn from each other. As the number of the published materials grew, they had to be structured in a searchable way, which resulted in making it look more like a website with special sections for learning materials, interactive educational projects (data expeditions), helpful links, etc. russia1 On one hand, it operates as an educational resource with a growing collection of tutorials, a glossary and lists of helpful external links, as well as the central platform of its data expeditions; on the other hand, as a blog, it provides a broader context of open data application to various areas of activity, including data driven journalism itself.
After almost two years of its existence, DataDrivenJournalism.RU has a team of 10 regular authors (comprised of enthusiasts from Germany, Kazakhstan, Russia, Sweden and UK). More than a hundred posts have been published, including 15 tutorials. It has also launched 4 data expeditions, the most recent in December 2014. The term data expedition was first coined by Open Knowledge’s School of Data, which launched such peer-learning projects both in online and offline formats. We took this model as the basic principle and tried to apply it to the Russian environment. It turned out to be rather perspective, so we began experimenting with it, in order to make this format a more efficient education tool. In particular, we have tried a very loose organisational approach where the participants only had a general subject in common, but were free to choose their own strategy in working with it; a rather rigid approach with a scenario and tasks; and a model, which included experts who could navigate the participants in the area that they had to explore. These have been discussed in our guest post on Brian Kelly’s blog ‘UK Web Focus’. Our fourth data expedition was part of a hybrid learning model. Namely, it was the practical part of a two-week’s offline course taught by Irina Radchenko in Kazakhstan. This experience appears to be rather inspiring and instructive.

2. International Data Expedition in Kazakhstan

The fourth Russian-language data expedition (DE4) was a part of a two-week’s course under the auspices of Karaganda State Technological University taught by Irina Radchenko. After the course was over the university participants who sucessfully completed all the tasks within DE4 received a certificate. Most interesting projects were later published at DataDrivenJournalism.RU. One of them is about industry in Kazakhstan by Asylbek Mubarak who also tells (in Russian) about his experience of participating in DE4 and also about the key stages of his work with data. The other, by Roman Ni is about some aspects of Kazakhstan budget. First off, it was a unique experience of launching a data expedition outside Russia. It was also interesting that DE4 was a part of a hybrid learning format, which combined traditional offline lectures and seminars with a peer-learning approach. The specific of the peer-learning part was that it was open, so that any online user could participate. The problem was that the decision to make it open occurred rather late, so there was not much time to properly promote its announcement. However, there were several people from Russia and Ukraine who registered for participation. Unfortunately none of them participated actively, but hopefully, they managed to make some use of course materials and tasks published in the DE4 Google group. russia2 This mixed format was rather time-taking, because it required not only preparation for regular lectures, but also a lot of online activity, including interaction with the participants, answering their questions in Google group and checking their online projects. The participants of the offline course seemed enthusiastic about the online part, many found it interesting and intriguing. In the final survey following DE4, most of the respondents emphasised that they liked the online part. The initial level of the participants was very uneven. Some of them knew how to program and work with data bases, others had hardly ever been exposed to working with data. DE4 main tasks were build in a way that they could be done from scratch based only on the knowledge provided within the course. Meanwhile, there were also more advanced tasks and techniques for those who might find them interesting. Unfortunately, many participants could not complete all the tasks, because they were students and were right in the middle of taking their midterm exams at university. russia3 Compared to our previous DEs, the percentage of completed tasks was much higher. The DE4 participants were clearly better motivated in terms of demonstrating their performance. Most importantly, some of them were interested in receiving a certificate. Another considerable motivation was participation in offline activities, including face-to-face discussions, as well as interaction during Irina’s lectures and seminars. russia4 russia5 Technically, like all the previous expeditions, DE4 was centered around a closed Google group, which was used by the organisers to publish materials and tasks and by participants to discuss tasks, ask questions, exchange helpful links and coordinate their working process (as most of them worked in small teams). The chief tools within DE4 were Google Docs, Google Spreadsheets, Google Refine and Infogr.am. Participants were also encouraged to suggest or use other tools if they find it appropriate. 42 people registered for participation. 36 of them were those who took the offline course at Karaganda State Technical University. Those were most active, so most of our observations are based on their results and feedback. Also, due to the university base of the course, 50% of the participants were undergraduate students, while the other half included postgraduate students, people with a higher education and PhD. Two thirds of the participants were women. As to age groups, almost a half of the participants were between 16 and 21 years old, but there was also a considerable number of those between 22 and 30 years old and two above 50. 13 per cent of the participants completed all the tasks, including the final report. According to their responses to the final survey, most of them did their practical tasks by small pieces, but regularly. As to online interaction, the majority of respondens said they were quite satisfied with their communication experience. About a half of them though admitted that they did not contribute to online discussions, although found others’ contributions helpful. General feedback was very positive. Many pointed out that they were inspired by the friendly atmosphere and mutual helpfulness. Most said they were going to keep learning how to work with open data on their own. Almost all claimed they would like to participate in other data expeditions.

3. Conclusions

DE4 was an interesting step in the development of the format. In particular, it showed that an open peer-learning format can be an important integral part of a traditional course. It had a ready-made scenario and an instructor, but at the same time it heavily relied on the participants’ mutual help and experience exchange, and also provided a great degree of freedom and flexibility regarding the choice of subjects and tools.
It is also yet another contribution to the collection of materials, which might be helpful in future expeditions alongside with the materials from all the previous DEs. It is part of a process of gradual formation of an educational resources base, as well as a supportive social base. As new methods are applied and tested in DEs, the practices that proved best are stored and used, which helps to make this format more flexible and helpful. What is most important is that this model can be applied to almost any educational initiative, because it is easily replicated and based on using free online services.