Erinma Ochu: Crowd Sourcing for Community Development

Earlier this week I went along to an event at the National Museum of Scotland run by the University of Edinburgh’s  Citizen Science and Crowdsourcing group.  There were some fascinating projects and initiatives on display but the highlight of the event was undoubtedly Erinma Ochu‘s engaging and thought provoking public lecture on Crowd Sourcing for Community Development.

Erinma Ochu

Erinma outlined the benefits that amateurs can bring to scientific research; they can help to validate data, fill in gaps in data collected by scientists, bring interesting new perspectives and, if they are not overly trained, they may be better able to spot patterns in data that scientists might miss. However Erinma also reminded us of the reciprocal aspects of citizen science. Citizen science should involve scientists serving the community, not just volunteers collecting data for research. It’s important to balance social and scientific value; the community building process is as important as the data product.  We have a responsibility to make spaces in which social inclusion and engagement can happen. I particularly liked Erinma’s focus on citizen science as a learning opportunity;  projects should give something back to the people who contribute the data and help them to learn.  Along the way Erinma introduced some fascinating and inspiring projects including Turing’s Sunflowers, Farm Hack and Manchester City of Science Robot Orchestra.

For a more comprehensive overview of Erinma’s talk I’ve created a storify of tweets here: Crowd Sourcing for Community Development Storify and Erinma’s slides area available on Slideshare here.

Open Silos? Open data and OER

“Open silos” might seem like a contradiction in terms, but this was one of the themes that emerged during last week’s  Open Knowledge Open Education Working Group call which focused on Open Data as Open Educational Resources. We heard from a number of initiatives including the Creating Value from Open Data project led by Universities UK and the Open Data Institute which is exploring how open data can support the student experience and bring about tangible benefits for UK higher education institutions, and Open Data as OER, led by Javiera Atenas and Leo Havemann, which is gathering case studies on the use of real world open data in educational contexts.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwxUtDCoz8I]

While the benefits of open data are widely recognised in relation to scientific and scholarly research, open data also has considerable value in the context of teaching and learning.  Many governments, non-governmental organisations and research centres are already producing large volumes of open data sets that have the potential to be used as open educational resources. Scenario based learning involving messy, real world data sets can help students to develop critical data literacy and analytical skills. And perhaps more importantly, as Javiera pointed out, working with real world open data  from real governments and communities doesn’t just help students to develop data literacy skills, it also helps to develop citizenship.

“It’s important to collaborate with local communities to work on real problems so that students can help their communities and society to improve social and political elements of their daily lives.”
~ Javiera Atenas

ETA Javiera and Leo collecting case studies about pedagogical uses of open data across the world.  If you have a case study you would like to add, you can join the project’s idea-space here: Open Data as Open Educational Resources idea-space.

Tim Coughlan of the Open University also spoke about his experience of using open data to teach introductory programming to undergraduates. Using open data introduces an invaluable element of realism and complexity as the data is flawed and inconsistent.  Students come up against challenges that it would be difficult to introduce artificially and, as a result, they learn to deal with the kind of problems they will encounter when they get real programming jobs.

Marieke Guy, co-ordinator of the Open Education Working Group, had a similar experience of learning to work with open data

“Authenticity is critical. You get a new level of understanding when you work with data and get your hands dirty.”
~Marieke Guy

Towards the end of the meeting there was an interesting discussion on the effect of Research Council mandates on open data and open education. Although open access, open education and open data have all made significant progress in recent years, there has been a tendency for these domains to progress in parallel with little sign of convergence. Research Council mandates may have had a positive impact on open access and open research data however the connection has yet to be made to open education and as a result we have ended up with “open silos”.  Indeed open access mandates may even have a negative impact on open education, as institutions focus their efforts and resources on meeting these requirements, rather than on getting their teaching and learning materials online and sharing open educational resources.  So while it’s great that institutions are now thinking about how they can link their open research data with open access scholarly works, we also need to focus some attention on linking open data to open education. There’s no simple solution to breaking down the barriers between these “open silos” but exploring the converging and competing cultures of open knowledge, open source, open content, open practice, open data and open access is just one of the themes we’ll be focusing on at the OER16 conference at the University of Edinburgh next year so I hope you’ll be able to come and join us.

Open.Ed

Earlier this week I was invited by Ewan Klein and Melissa Highton to speak at Open.Ed, an event focused on Open Knowledge at the University of Edinburgh.  A storify of the event is available here: Open.Ed – Open Knowledge at the University of Edinburgh.

“Open Knowledge encompasses a range of concepts and activities, including open educational resources, open science, open access, open data, open design, open governance and open development.”

 – Ewan Klein

Ewan set the benchmark for the day by reminding us that open data is only open by virtue of having an open licence such as CC0, CC BY, CC SA. CC Non Commercial should not be regarded as an open licence as it restricts use.  Melissa expanded on this theme, suggesting that there must be an element of rigour around definitions of openness and the use of open licences. There is a reputational risk to the institution if we’re vague about copyright and not clear about what we mean by open. Melissa also reminded us not to forget open education in discussions about open knowledge, open data and open access. Edinburgh has a long tradition of openness, as evidenced by the Edinburgh Settlement, but we need a strong institutional vision for OER, backed up by developments such as the Scottish Open Education Declaration.

open_ed_melissa

Melissa Highton

I followed Melissa, providing a very brief introduction to Open Scotland and the Scottish Open Education Declaration, before changing tack to talk about open access to cultural heritage data and its value to open education. This isn’t a topic I usually talk about, but with a background in archaeology and an active interest in digital humanities and historical research, it’s an area that’s very close to my heart. As a short case study I used the example of Edinburgh University’s excavations at Loch na Berie broch on the Isle of Lewis, which I worked on in the late 1980s. Although the site has been extensively published, it’s not immediately obvious how to access the excavation archive. I’m sure it’s preserved somewhere, possibly within the university, perhaps at RCAHMS, or maybe at the National Museum of Scotland. Where ever it is, it’s not openly available, which is a shame, because if I was teaching a course on the North Atlantic Iron Age there is some data form the excavation that I might want to share with students. This is no reflection on the directors of the fieldwork project, it’s just one small example of how greater access to cultural heritage data would benefit open education. I also flagged up a rather frightening blog post, Dennis the Paywall Menance Stalks the Archives,  by Andrew Prescott which highlights the dangers of what can happen if we do not openly licence archival and cultural heritage data – it becomes locked behind commercial paywalls. However there are some excellent examples of open practice in the cultural heritage sector, such as the National Portrait Gallery’s clearly licensed digital collections and the work of the British Library Labs. However openness comes at a cost and we need to make greater efforts to explore new business and funding models to ensure that our digital cultural heritage is openly available to us all. For those that are interested, my slides are available on Slideshare here: open.ed

Ally Crockford, Wikimedian in Residence at the National Library of Scotland, spoke about the hugely successful Women, Science and Scottish History editathon recently held at the university. However she noted that as members of the university we are in a privileged position in that enables us to use non-open resources (books, journal articles, databases, artefacts) to create open knowledge. Furthermore, with Wikpedia’s push to cite published references, there is a danger of replicating existing knowledge hierarchies. Ally reminded us that as part of the educated elite, we have a responsibility to open our mindsets to all modes of knowledge creation. Publishing in Wikipedia also provides an opportunity to reimagine feedback in teaching and learning. Feedback should be an open participatory process, and what better way for students to learn this than from editing Wikipedia.

Robin Rice, EDINA and Data Library, asked the question what does Open Access and Open Data sharing look like? Open Access publications are increasingly becoming the norm, but we’re not quite there yet with open data. It’s not clear if researchers will be cited if they make their data openly available and career rewards are uncertain. However there are huge benefits to opening access to data and citizen science initiatives; public engagement, crowd funding, data gathering and cleaning, and informed citizenry. In addition, social media an play can important role in working openly and transparently

Robin Rice

Robin Rice

Jim Bednar, talking about computational neuroscience and the problem of reproducibility, picked up this theme, adding that accountability is a big attraction of open data sharing. Jim recommended using iPython Notebook   for recording and sharing data and computational results and helping to make them reproducible. This promoted Anne-Marie Scott to comment on twtter:

Very cool indeed.

James Stewart spoke about the benefits of crowdsourcing and citizen science.   Despite the buzz words, this is not a new idea, there’s a long tradition of citizens engaging in science. Darwin regularly received reports and data from amateur scientists. Maintaining transparency and openness is currently a big problem for science, but openness and citizen science can help to build trust and quality. James also cited Open Street Map as a good example of building community around crowdsourcing data and citizen science. Crowdsourcing initiatives create a deep sense of community – it’s not just about the science, it’s also about engagement.

open._ed_james

James Stewart

After coffee (accompanied by Tunnocks caramel wafers – I approve!) We had a series of presentations on the student experience and students engagement with open knowledge.

Paul Johnson and Greg Tyler, from the Web, Graphics and Interaction section of IS,  spoke about the necessity of being more open and transparent with institutional data and the importance of providing more open data to encourage students to innovate. Hayden Bell highlighted the importance of having institutional open data directories and urged us to spend less time gathering data and more making something useful from it. Students are the source of authentic experience about being a student – we should use this! Student data hacks are great, but they often have to spend longer getting and parsing the data than doing interesting stuff with it. Steph Hay also spoke about the potential of opening up student data. VLEs inform the student experience; how can we open up this data and engage with students using their own data? Anonymised data from Learn was provided at Smart Data Hack 2015 but students chose not to use it, though it is not clear why.  Finally, Hans Christian Gregersen brought the day to a close with a presentation of Book.Ed, one of the winning entries of the Smart Data Hack.  Book.ed is a app that uses open data to allow students to book rooms and facilities around the university.

What really struck me about Open.Ed was the breadth of vision and the wide range of open knowledge initiatives scattered across the university.  The value of events like this is that they help to share this vision with fellow colleagues as that’s when the cross fertilisation of ideas really starts to take place.

Open Knowledge Foundation Glasgow Meetup #2

Last night I went along to the second Open Knowledge Foundation Glasgow meetup.  The event took place in the Board Room of the CCA, which was rather more spacious than the Electron Club that kindly accommodated us last time.  We all got to sit on chairs rather than perch on tables, which made tweeting much easier!  Once again we had a wide range of fascinating lightning talks which generated a great deal of lively discussion.   I’ve posted a storify of the event here: open-knowledge-foundation-glasgow-2

Open Scotland  – Lorna M Campbell, Cetis

I had the pleasure of opening the meeting with a short talk about the Open Scotland initiative, led by Cetis, SQA, the Jisc RSC Scotland and the ALT Scotland SIG, which aims to raise awareness of open education and explore the potential of open policy and practice to benefit all sectors of Scottish education. The initiative hopes to build on existing open education developments to encourage the sharing of open educational resources and to embed open educational practice across Scottish education.  The Open Scotland blog provides a focal point to engage the community in discussion and debate, disseminate news and developments relating to all aspects of openness in education and to further the actions and deliverables discussed at the Open Scotland Summit held in Edinburgh in June.

grainneOpen Badges: What? How?  Why? – Grainne Hamilton, Jisc RSC Scotland

Grainne introduced the concept of open badges and outlined the work of the Open Badges in Scottish Education Group.   Open badges are data infused images that provide an online representation of skills earned.  Badges could provide an important link between informal and formal learning as they enable users to gain recognition for learning that happens anywhere.  The Open Badges in Scottish Education Group, which is supported by Jisc RSC Scotland, has set up three sub-groups focusing on Learner Progress, Technology and Design and Staff Development.

graemeWikimedia UK: Scottish Women on Wikimedia – Graeme Arnott

Only 15% of Wikipedia editors are women, so Wikmedia UK is taking positive steps to address the gender imbalance of editors and remove sexism and racism from posts.  Graeme spoke about a Wikimedia UK editathon run in conjunction with Glasgow Women’s Library.  The event hoped to expose the hidden history of women in Glasgow and provide a way for more women from the Library to engage wth technology.

JenniferThe Digital Commonwealth: digital storytelling and social media archiving – Jennifer Jones

Jennifer introduced the Lottery funded Digital Common Wealth project which aims to support creative community expression in response to the Commonwealth Games.  Digital Common Wealth has three strands: Community Media Clusters, Schools Programme and Creative Voices at UWS.   Developing digital literacies and creating and sharing data are key principals for Digital Common Wealth.  Stories shared by social media are rich source of data and Digital Common Wealth are working with the National Library of Scotland to archive the project’s outputs.

PippaFuture Cities Glasgow – Pippa Gardner

Pippa provided an update on the £24 million Glasgow Future Cities Demonstrator project. Last night the project’s Data Portal had 99 data sets, however this morning they tweeted that they had just added their 100th data set from the Celtic Connections Festival.  The project used the Open Data Handbook to prioritise themes, however some of their data sets are more open than others, depending on their original licences. Where possible Glasgow will make data open by default.  Engagement hubs and links to digital inclusion initiatives are part of the project’s approach and the team will also be running hackathons in the new year.

DuncanOpen Architecture – Duncan Bain

Duncan highlighted some very interesting approaches to open architecture including Wikihouse, which aims to democratise the process of construction, Terrafab which allows you to download and print 3D models of Norwegian terrain maps, and Terrainator, a similar UK based on OS open data.  Duncan’s talk provoked a fascinating debate on lack of openness in architecture education practice, and why architecture has not embraced openness in a similar way that software development has.

bobOpen Street Map  – Bob Kerr

Presented an impromptu overview of the very cool work of the Open Street Map initiative and pointed us to the LearnOSM step by step guide.  Bob highlighted some amazing examples of open street mapping at work, including the humanitarian effort to map Haiti after the earthquake and Map Kibera, a project that mapped the Kenyan shanty town of Kibera revealing the extent of the community and bringing it to life.  Bob’s talk generated a really interesting discussion on the political and social importance of maps.  Duncan pointed out that traditionally the people who have the power have the maps, however initiatives like Open Street Map is changing that.

This meeting was organised by Graham Steel, Graeme Arnott and Ewan Klein with a little input from Sheila MacNeil and I. The event was streamed by Jennifer Jones.

Open Glasgow Data Sets

Open Glasgow, part of the Future City Glasgow project funded by the UK Government’s Technology Strategy Board, has now released 82 84 open data sets covering many aspects of city data. The data sets, which cover a wide range of domains including transportation, environment, health, demographics and education, can be downloaded from a public data platform, http://data.glasgow.gov.uk, where users can search for data sets based on submitting organisation, group, tag, format or license. The individual data sets are available in a wide range of different formats, and while I’d quibble whether pdf data can really be regarded as “open” in any sense of the word, many of the data sets are available in more open formats. The vast majority of the data sets are licensed under the UK Open Government Licence, though some use other licences including the Glasgow Open Government Licence, the Open Data Commons Attribution Licence and Creative Commons licences.

At present there is only one data set relating specifically to the education domain, colleges and universities funded by the Scottish Funding Council, but with the Open Glasgow team encouraging other public, private, academic and voluntary organisations to open and share their data via the platform, I hope that we will see more open data sets relating to Scottish education in the not to distant future.

Glasgow Open Data Platform

Glasgow Open Data Platform