Archive for the ‘Open Data’ Category

Youth Unemployment in Europe

May 28th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

One of the results of the recession in Europe has been spiralling youth unemployment. VETNET, the vocational education and training network of the European Research Association, is planning a debate around youth unemployment at its annual conference in Seville in September.

As a contribution to that debate, I will be looking at some of the data about youth unemployment.

The main comparative data available is the European Labour Force Survey. and fortunately Google provide access to this data through its excellent Public Data Explorer site. This interactive charts shows the changes in youth unemployment in the different European Member States since 1983.

 

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Open and Linked Data and Mediation

April 13th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

There has been an explosion of interest in Open Data and the potential for linking data to produce new social apps. Yet despite all this attentions, and the growing access to data in some countries such as the UK, the development of new apps has been less than impressive.

Rather than full apps, probably the main use has been the development of interactive visualizations allowing users to explore different data sets and quick visualisations of different data sets. The Guardian newspaper data blog has led the way in the UK and in particular has shown the value of open journalism such as in this discussion on how they got the colours of the maps right.

But the development of more advanced apps has been slower. Probably the biggest take off has been around transport allowing real time timetable tracking etc. But even here the problem of the social purpose and use of data apps is an issue. take this compelling app from the German newspaper Suddeutsche . Its hows graphic representations of train journeys in Germany, providing information on each train’s itinerary and the details of any delay. There is also an interactive timeline, allowing you to watch previous days’ travel play out. Its fun. But I can’t really see that it is much use! Or take this app – available in various forms – using crowd sourced data to find the nearest post box in the UK. Do we really need it? Why not just ask somebody / anybody?

In education there are a number of apps for finding schools etc. But there is little use of open and linked data for learning.

We have been working with a number of organisations to produce open and linked data apps for use in careers guidance. There are now three iterations of what we variously call a TEBO (Technologically Enhanced Boundary Object) or Careers dashboard.

The first was a quick demonstrator which we built to see how it might work. The second works through an API to the Careers Wales beta web site. And the third – more technically advanced – iteration is a database and API developed for UKCES which is not publicly available at present.

One of issues being raised in this work is mediation. In general government / agencies seem to regard data as just standing on its own. Within the TEBO concept we always stressed the need for social mediation and had ideas for a number of ways in which this might happen using social software e.g Question and Answer applications.

In fact mediation takes place at a series of levels – including the selection of data originally collected, and the way data is selected for use and display within an application. Different people will need different apps for interrogating the same data. For instance our Careers Dashboard may have potential interest and use for:

  • Young people thinking about career choices;
  •  Young people applying to further or higher education, seeking an apprenticeship or employment;
  • Adults who are newly unemployed;
  •  Long term unemployed adults;
  •  Adults considering re-entering education and training (e.g. women returners);
  • Adults thinking about a change in career direction (e.g. mid-career changers);
  • Parents and carers supporting young people wishing to enter further education, vocational training or employment
  • Career professionals – careers teachers, careers advisers and subject teachers; and
  • Various others (e.g. educational planners and policymakers, professionals preparing funding applications, researchers).

However, mediation seems to be commonly understood as intervention and then posed as a dichotomy between non intervention or intervention or to put it another way – let end users access to data or only let professionals access to data. This seems to me a misunderstanding of both the potentials and limitations of the data but of the potentially rich ways in which mediation happens and the ways in which technologically can be used in such processes.

It would be interesting to look at mediation within physical communities and through extended web and social media based communities. It would also be interesting to link mediation to the potential quality of careers interventions (i.e. after mediation takes place.)

More to follow…..

 

 

 

 

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What we’ve been doing

April 10th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

the last three months have been pretty hectic. So much that I have been somewhat lackadaisical in posting on this blog. Partly it has been due to the sheer volume of work and also traveling so much. For some reason I always find it difficult to blog when I am on the road. Another reason is that a lot of the work has been developmental and has naturally generated a series of notes and emails but little writing. Its time to make amends.

In this post I will give a short run down on what we have been up to. Over the next couple of weeks I will post in a bit more detail about the different projects and ideas. All the work shares a series of ideas in common:

  • The work is based on the ideas of open education and open data
  • The projects seek to enable practitioners to develop their own learning materials
  • Most of the project incorporate various elements of social software but more importantly seek to utilise social software functionality to develop a shared social dimension to learning and knowledge sharing
  • Most of the work supports both face to face and online learning. However we have been looking hard at how learning and knowledge development is socially mediated in different contexts.

Open Data

Over the last year we have been working with a series of ideas and applications for using open data for careers guidance. Supported by the Mature-IP project, by Careers Wales and Connexions Northumberland and more lately UKCES, we have been looking at how to use open data around Labour Market Information for careers advice and guidance. Needless to say, it has not proved as easy as we thought, raising a whole series of issues around target users, mediation,  and data sources, data reliability and data interpretation, amongst others.

We have encountered a series of technical issues but these can be overcome. More important is understanding the social uses of open data for learning and decision making which is much harder!

Webquests 2.o

The original idea of  Webquests was based around a series of questions designed to encourage learners to search for new meaning and deeper understanding using web based tools and resources. Although Webquests have been used for some time in schools and colleges, we have been working to adopt an updated Webquest 2.0 approach to the needs of learners in Small and Medium Enterprises. These inquiry–oriented activities take place in a Web 2.0–enhanced, social and interactive open learning environment (face to face and/or on–line) that combine at the same time collaborative learning with self–paced learning.

Once more, this work has posed a series of challenges. While we have been pretty successful in using webquests 2.0 with SMEs, it has proved harder to enable practitioners to develop their own online learning materials.

Work based learning

We have been continuing to explore how to use technology to support work based learning and in particular how to use mobile technologies to extend learning to different contexts in Small and Medium Enterprises. We are especially interested in focusing on work practices and how technology can be used to support informal learning and practice in the workplace, rather than the acquisition of more formal knowledge. In order to finance this work we have developed a number of funding applications entailing both background research and (more enjoyably) visits to different companies.

We are fairly confident that we will get support to take this work forward in the near future.

Social media and social empowerment

We have been looking at how to use social media and in particular internet radio, not for promoting social inclusion, but for giving a voice and opportunity for expression to those excluded form access to traditional education and media. Once more, we are confident that we will be able to launch a new initiative around this in the next couple of months.

We will be publishing more about this work over the next couple of weeks. If you are interested in any of these ideas or projects please get in touch.

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LMI for All

March 23rd, 2012 by Graham Attwell

Over the last year we have been working on a series of ideas for using open data in careers guidance. We call these applications under the generic name of Technology Enhanced Boundary Objects.

In the last six weeks we have been working with the Institute for Employment Research, University of Warwick and Cambridge Econometrics on a project for the UK Commission for Employment and Skills on a database, code named ‘LMI for All’.

The Stakeholder Briefing explains:

LMI matters: accessible and intelligible labour market information (LMI) is vital for the effective functioning of the UK labour market. Young people entering the labour market for the first time, and people of all ages re-entering it or seeking to move between jobs, need up-to-date information on the opportunities available. But too often this information is located in a number of places and highly technical, reducing its value to non-experts.

The government has emphasised the importance of careers information to its plans for growth. The National Careers Service’s new web portal, which will launch in April 2012, will provide up–to-date information on occupations, progression routes, wages and employment trends. But over the longer term more can be done to provide nuanced information, more closely connected to the original data sources.

One way in which this could be achieved, which this project will explore, is through the creation of a comprehensive database that pools information from key LMI sources into one place. This database would be accessible to web developers who could develop targeted interfaces: connecting the right information to the right audiences…….

The database will be developed in line with the UK Government’s open data principles3 and will be accessible to web developers from the private or non-profit sectors to use to develop targeted interfaces that provide the information that their target audience requires, in the way that best meets their needs. This will ensure that the data can be used flexibly and creatively to meet real demand for LMI.

The prototype database draws on a number of different data sources including the quarterly Labour Force Survey, O*NET data and Job Centre vacancies. We have developed an API to provide access to the data and last Tuesday UKCES organised a hack-day where, in a one day workshop, developers from Rewired State took part in a competition to develop applications based on the database.  The Rewired State blog provides screen shots and brief details of the different apps developed.

The results of the project will be fed through to the English government with recommendations as to how this work might be further developed.

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Free information

December 11th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

FSCONS: YaCy Demo from Michael Christen on Vimeo.

OK….this is a techy video. But it is important. In an age when large software companies are increasingly controlling the internet, YaCy has been developed as a free search engine that anyone can use to build a search portal for their intranet or to help search the public internet. YaCy developers say:  “When contributing to the world-wide peer network, the scale of YaCy is limited only by the number of users in the world and can index billions of web pages. It is fully decentralized, all users of the search engine network are equal, the network does not store user search requests and it is not possible for anyone to censor the content of the shared index. We want to achieve freedom of information through a free, distributed web search which is powered by the world’s users.”

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Investigating data

November 2nd, 2011 by Graham Attwell

The latest in our occasional series of blogs about data.

Although in education much of the emphasis has been on viualising data as an aid to teaching and learning, or to explore network effects, the use of data can be a useful research tool. This simple visualisation below, posted by Mike Herrity on twitpic, shows the depth and length of the present economic recession and also, I suggest, the total failure of political and economic policies to deal with the recession.

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Th second visualisation also deals with politics and economics. It comes from research by the Guardian Data Blog, following the demands of the #OccupytheCity movement in London for the democratisation of the City of London. The City of London is run as a state within a state at the moment, with its own police force and governance, and with companies allowed multiple votes in elections, dependent of the number of employees. Unsurprisingly the finances of the City of London are less than transparent. however, the Guardian did mange to obtain some details about expenditure and produced the following visualisation using the free IBM ManyEyes tools.

Mike Herrity shared his picture without comment. The Guardian appealed for readers help in further investigating the city of London finances. essentially both visualisations can form part of a distributed and loosely coupled research effort, with materials openly published being able to be reused and repurposed in education and in research.

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Has Open and Linked Data failed?

October 26th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

I am intrigued by this presentation. Whilst I appreciate what Chris Taggart, who has been invo0lved in the development of the opencorporates and openlylocal data sites (and who undoubtedly has more experience and knowledge than me of the use of Open and Linked Data) I would be less pessimistic. I see the use of open and linked data as in very early days.

Firstly, although I appreciate that politicians and bureaucrats do not always want to release data – I think there is still a groundswell in favour of making data available – at least in Europe. Witness yesterdays unveiling of the Italian Open data store (sorry, I can’t find the url at the moment). And although Google search results do not help promote open data sites (and I am not a great fan of Google at the moment after they wiped out my account ten days again), they have contributed very useful tools such as Refine, Fusion Tables and Public Data Explorer.

I still think that as Chris Taggart says in one of his first slides the biggest challenge is relevance. And here I wonder if one of the problems is that Open and Linked Data specialists are just that – specialist developers in their own field. Many of the applications released so far on the UK Data store, whilst admiral examples of the art of development – would seem to have little practical use.

Maybe it is only when the tools and knowledge of how to work with Open and Linked data are adopted by developers and others in wonder social and subject areas that the true benefits will begin to show. Open data applications may work best, not through dedicated apps or sites, but when incorporated in other web sites which provide them with context and relevance. Thus we have been working with the use of open and linked data for careers guidance (see our new web site, www.careerstalk.org which includes working demonstrations).

Bu even more important may be finding ways of combining Open and Linked data with other forms of (human) knowledge and intelligence. It is just this form of knowledge – for instance the experiences and informal knowledge of careers guidance professionals, which brings relevance and context to the data from official data sets. And that provides a new design challenge.

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New website launched

October 3rd, 2011 by Graham Attwell

We are happy to announce the launch of a new webs site, CareersTalk. The site, developed jointly between Pontydysgu and the Institute for Employment Research, Warwick University, provides access to the ongoing research and development we are undertaking into careers guidance and in particular, the use of new technology to support careers guidance. Much of this work has been undertaken with support from the EU Mature-IP and G8WAY projects.

The introduction says: “The web site is designed to provide leading-edge ideas for careers work – including information-advice-and-guidance, careers education, career counselling, mentoring, coaching, personal-and-social development, learning for well-being, for a changing world, portfolio development and individual action-planning. In particular it focuses on the use of technology for careers information, advice and guidance. Technology has already influenced, and will continue to influence, not only the ways in which guidance services are accessed by clients, but how they are used by them.”

The web site also provides links to working versions of our data visualisation tools.

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Data search

May 24th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

Finding data is not always easy. The new data search engine – http://www.zanran.com – promises to make life easier.

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Open Data and the Greek Debt

March 7th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

This is the first of three or four posts on Open Knowledge and Open and Linked Data.

For some time I have been looking at the movement for Open Knowledge, mainly from the viewpoint of teaching and learning. Open Knowledge pushes back at the attempts to privatise knowledge through ever more draconian intellectual property laws. And of course such laws are being introduced precisely because of the capability of the internet from opening up knowledge resources and sharing knowledge and knowledge artefacts. Recently I have been looking at the potential of open and linked data, an idea whose time has come in terms of the ability of machines to collect data and process data, to allow interrogation of that data and to visualise the results.

But this is not just about teaching and learning. Access to data could be central to democracy. Last weeks call from the Jubilee Debt Campaign for an audit of the Greek debts is a case in point. The Jubilee Debt Campaign web site says:

Today, more than 200 prominent Greek and international figures launch a call to audit Greece’s debts. Economists, activists, academics and parliamentarians from across the world are demanding the establishment of a Public Commission to examine the debts that lie at the root of Greece’s crisis. The Commission would look at the legality and legitimacy of those debts, with a view to negotiating better terms and holding to account those responsible for unjust debts.

There is little doubt that any initial examination of those debts will find a tangle of wheeling and dealing, of strange financial instruments and money movements. How better to discover what has been going on than to make this data publicly available. So not just a public audit by reputed financial specialists but an audit by the crowd. If the Greek people are supposed to pay for this crisis why should they not have the full details of what is owed, to who and for what.

And come to think of it, it is not just Greece which needs such an audit. The Ireland economy is in tatters, and in the UK we are constantly told that austerity measures and cutbacks are necessary because of the size of the UK’s sovereign debt. If my taxes are going to pay these debts I want to know who they are to and how those debts occurred. The UK government seems keen on publishing data it wants us to see (like the pay of civil servants), other data it is less keen to see in the public domain.

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    Racial bias in algorithms

    From the UK Open Data Institute’s Week in Data newsletter

    This week, Twitter apologised for racial bias within its image-cropping algorithm. The feature is designed to automatically crop images to highlight focal points – including faces. But, Twitter users discovered that, in practice, white faces were focused on, and black faces were cropped out. And, Twitter isn’t the only platform struggling with its algorithm – YouTube has also announced plans to bring back higher levels of human moderation for removing content, after its AI-centred approach resulted in over-censorship, with videos being removed at far higher rates than with human moderators.

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    Gap between rich and poor university students widest for 12 years

    Via The Canary.

    The gap between poor students and their more affluent peers attending university has widened to its largest point for 12 years, according to data published by the Department for Education (DfE).

    Better-off pupils are significantly more likely to go to university than their more disadvantaged peers. And the gap between the two groups – 18.8 percentage points – is the widest it’s been since 2006/07.

    The latest statistics show that 26.3% of pupils eligible for FSMs went on to university in 2018/19, compared with 45.1% of those who did not receive free meals. Only 12.7% of white British males who were eligible for FSMs went to university by the age of 19. The progression rate has fallen slightly for the first time since 2011/12, according to the DfE analysis.

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    Quality Training

    From Raconteur. A recent report by global learning consultancy Kineo examined the learning intentions of 8,000 employees across 13 different industries. It found a huge gap between the quality of training offered and the needs of employees. Of those surveyed, 85 per cent said they , with only 16 per cent of employees finding the learning programmes offered by their employers effective.

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    News from 1994

    This is from a Tweet. In 1994 Stephen Heppell wrote in something called SCET” “Teachers are fundamental to this. They are professionals of considerable calibre. They are skilled at observing their students’ capability and progressing it. They are creative and imaginative but the curriculum must give them space and opportunity to explore the new potential for learning that technology offers.” Nothing changes!

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