Putting research into practice: Training academics to use Open Data as OER: An experience from Uruguay

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View from the lecture theatre after the storm (by me under CC_BY_NC)

Post written by Javiera Atenas  (@jatenas)

Last week Chiara CiociolaManuel Podetti  and myself – with the help from OD4D and ILDA that  supported us on developing this project- ran a three-day workshop in Montevideo, in which we trained a group of academics, secondary school teachers, librarians, public sector professionals and postgraduate students in using Open Data as Open Educational Resources, and by working in groups they projected a research, explored the data and communicated the results using data journalism techniques.

40 (amazingly motivated) people attended the course during the 3 days despite the weather (torrential rains I brought all the way down from London). With the academic support and expertise of Manuel Podetti and Virginia Rodés from Núcleo REA (Universidad de la República) and with the invluable collaboration of Carolina Veiga and Daniel Carranza from Data Uruguay,  the participants achieved so much, leaving us amazed by setting up the bar so high.

The course design was a team effort, I had my very own ideas, taken mostly from the research Leo Havemann and I have done on Open Data as Open Educational Resources (book + paper), but it was inspired by the methodology developed by A Scuola di Open Coesione, and in the work Chiara Ciociola and Luigi Reggi  do on Open Data for civic engagement. Also, we had lots of support from Silvia Sanjuan to develop the materials in Spanish and got lots of ideas for this course from Nelson Piedra, Annalisa Manca, Francesca de Chiara, Mor Rubistein, Carla Bonina, Tim Coughlan and Fabrizio Scrollini.

To develop the course content, I looked into best practices on Open Data related literacies, and got some great content from Escuela de Datos and Open Knowledge International to introduce the participants to Open Data. But also, got help gathering resources, tutorials, ideas and good examples from Mariel García, Camila Salazar, Hassell Fallas, Juan Manuel Casanueva, Silvana Fumega and many other friends from Abrelatam, to all of whom I’m really thankful.

The course was outlined in three stages [project, explore and narrate] using a critical pedagogy approach to develop – in a short period of time – the skills needed to use open data as teaching and learning resources in formal and informal learning environments, working in multidisciplinary contexts and involving the civil society in the projects, to work with students into solving real life problems towards developing critical thinking and citizenship skills.

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Image by Manuel Podetti

On the first day [project], during the morning, the participants were introduced to the world of Openness (Open Licenses, Open Data and Open Educational Resources) and its basic tools. The afternoon started with the group work, setting up the first challenge: To work in groups and find a real life problem and to project a research question out of it which could be answered by using open data as core research element. So the participants gather up in multidisciplinary teams in which each participant had a specific role (project manager, designer, principal researcher, journalist or analyst) and by the end of the day, they all had a research problem, a research method and potential open data portals and documentation to gather information.

On the second day [explore], during the morning we reviewed tools to create datasets and to visualise data. During the afternoon, the participants started to report into the research problems and – with the help of lots of Mate to keep us warm and awake – presented the initial results of their research. Also, we had an interesting discussion about their views and perceptions on the pedagogical value of their projects, with a focus on the challenges they have faced and what they have achieved so far, looking into ways to embed these new data-led practices for teaching students or for training communities.

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Image by Chiara Ciociola

On the third day [narrate] on the morning session, we looked into Data Journalism techniques and examples, we reviewed the news from traditional newspapers and compared them with news from Data Journalism portals, and discussed ways to embed data journalism techniques into teaching and learning to improve students’ communication skills and numeracies. During the afternoon, the groups worked into reporting the outcomes of their research in the READA-UdelaR Blog and finally presented the results of their projects.

As can be seen in the READA blog , the groups chose a diverse range of themes and topics, and also, chose different approaches and methods to analyse the data and to present the outcomes. One of the things that most surprised us, it was the speed in which they became empowered and started trying to access to public data that was not yet open, dealing with FOI requests and contacting the organisations that must have provided with the data.

Every group dealt with a different issue, from access to food to road accidents, they all used different research methodologies and reported and various and diverse ways. All their projects targeted real life problems, and in three days, every group was able to came with a research outcome and proposed solutions, they all presented nice and insightful infographics and participated in a panel where they discussed with the rest of the course the lessons learned, the challenges faced and sought for ideas to embed this practice into the classroom.

Also, it was interesting to see the landscape of opportunities they described as potential pedagogical uses of open data in formal and informal education, such as “provide the students with a different perspective to access information widening their panoramas“; “to empower students as citizens by giving them innovative tools to collect information and data“; “to explain the students the laws that allow them to get the data they need and to use it as an act of civic responsibility” and also, “to work with my colleagues to help students to work in multidisciplinary projects“.

From my side, I did learn a lot, both as a researcher and as a trainer, I loved the experience, the group of collaborators and participants was amazing, we were happily exhausted by the end of it, the motivation was contagious. I know there are some bits to improve in the course, but for being the first experience of this kind, I could not ask for more, I am really grateful for this opportunity and I’m looking forward to run this workshop again, as it was an incredible experience.

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Organisations that supported and or sponsored this project

 

Why Open Data is key to teach democracy and citizenship

It has been taking me few days to put into words  what has happened in the country I called home for the last few years, it has been sad, confusing and overwhelming.

Not long ago, with my colleague Leo Havemann (@leohavemann) started doing some research about the value of Open Data as Open Educational Resources, and with a little help from our friends, we published a book and a paper, but until this point this was just an idea in our heads, Open Data is key to teach citizenship skills and to understand democracy, and we did lots of research about it, and we still do (with Chiara Ciociola, Fabrizio ScrolliniTim Coughlan, Francesca de Chiara and Annalisa Manca et al.) and we saw its value at theoretical level, but when I woke up on Friday, in despair, I noticed that as Open Data and Open Education community we haven’t done enough to educate others, because the voters in the UK have been misleading with false claims and manipulated by the right to believe that the root of evil were the migrants (EU, non EU & Refugees) and the axis of evil was European Union.

How could this happen? well, there are certain indicators that can explain this, those who voted for Brexit were mostly over 40 years old, and, Brexiters grew accordingly with age, the eldest were more prone to vote for leave, but, within this group, only 34.8% of the population completed tertiary education (Source: OECD Data), which means (for me) that the most vulnerable and illiterate group of the population were maliciously (mis)led to vote against the migrants and the EU, and were used as an instrument to promote a rather xenophobic agenda and to lead the country into a political and economical crisis, so the politicians can now have another scapegoat to blame, the illiterate and elderly people of Britain.

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But as they say here, we need to keep calm and carry on, however, this carry on, put us, and by us I mean people working in the fields of Openness (Education, Data, Science & Access) into promoting global citizenship, working closer with the civil society  (as the friends from Abrelatam, ILDA, Open Knowledge InternationalSchool of Data and SocialTIC are doing)to create spaces for capacity building for students, teachers and academics towards developing data literacies so people can understand numbers, graphs, statistics and can critically assess the information.

I firmly believe that Open Data is a key resource to teach critical thinking, and used as Open Educational Resources allows us to showcase phenomena and to build understanding of it by critically evaluating and assessing a problem. Since the referendum campaign started we have seen far too many graphs, but graphs are misleading, people cannot read them, and stats are manipulated by the media as big red numbers and letters and shocking images are to construct newspapers headlines, and the illiterate people are terrorised by fake facts and they cannot assess truth from lies.

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I know this is a sad time for many of us, scary for lots of us and probably uncertain for most of us, but I also see an opportunity for the Open Education community to collectively build a more democratic society because today promoting openness is key.  The more Open Access research is published the more people can read evidence-based information. If Open Data is used  in teaching and learning, students will be able to critically assess the media, to question their governments and their policies, and by embracing Open Science principles, students will be able replicate studies to critically construct their opinions.

We need to support the development of a more critical society  to prevent politicians creating a new scapegoat to manipulate the society, but mostly to make sure that the darkest hours of Europe  won’t repeat, because as Niemöller once wrote

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

 

Use of Open Data in Higher Education – Uso de datos abiertos en la Educación Universitaria

Are you an academic? Have you used open data for your teaching? Can you please share your experience?
We (@leohavemann, @ErnestoPriego and myself, @jatenas) are conducting a mini “research” to understand which portals, tools or repositories academics use to retrieve open datasets and how this information is being used in teaching and learning in Higher Education.
If you have any questions, please contact me in Twitter (@jatenas), I will publish the results of this survey as a blog post as soon as possible.

To let us know how you use open data in your academic practice, please fill this 5 minute survey https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1usWcey78Yr1kiB5-g-IlBWOQIKu1h271WfMscgS4DJo/viewform

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¿Eres académico/a? ¿Has utilizado datos abiertos en tu docencia? ¿Puedes por favor compartir tu experiencia?
Estamos (@leohavemann@ErnestoPriego and yo, @jatenas)  realizando un mini “investigación” para entender que portales, herramientas o repositorios se utilizan en la educación universitaria para recuperar conjuntos de datos abiertos y cómo esta información es utilizada por docentes universitarios.

Para contarnos como usas los datos abiertos en tu práctica docente, por favor contesta esta pequeña encuesta https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1usWcey78Yr1kiB5-g-IlBWOQIKu1h271WfMscgS4DJo/viewform

Si tienes alguna pregunta, por favor contáctate conmigo en Twitter (jatenas), publicaré los resultados de esta encuesta como una entrada en el blog tan pronto como sea posible.