For those of us who can look back on experience* going through the Swiss school system: could you relate any interesting school projects that involve working with online data and databases, or share any creative ideas of in-school activities that could be boosted with content on this topic?
My question is provoked by a workshop I supported yesterday at the Zurich University of Teacher Education (PH Zurich), for teachers who were preparing curricula on this subject following Lehrplan 21 guidelines. They were very interested in Open Data, in particular the idea of using interesting and accessible public data sources in the classrooms: they asked me to suggest starting points, activities and easily picked up tools.
Excerpt from the Lehrplan21 curriculum on Data Structures
For the workshop, I ran a general introduction to unconditional,basic,data adapted from our 2017 conference workshop, and demonstrated in a hands-on way how data is created, published and republished then found on the Internet; the how and why of open data portals; and demoed several open source tools: WordCounter, OpenRefine, GoodTables, LibreOffice Calc… Further waypoints:
- Swissmap by @philippkueng as a super accessible “drag and drop” way to experience Swiss open data. 3D printed (“tangible”) data being another approach that could work great with kids. The open data community in general as a source for hundreds of open code bases to try and project ideas to consider.
- Schools of Data, DataBasic and Flowing Data as examples of the many world-wide sources of ideas on out of the box approaches to playing with data.
- JedeSchule, Educational pathways, Schooloscope as “opening data about schools”.
- Technical Meetups and Crowdsensing as examples of “opening data in our neighbourhood”.
- Data Expeditions and Hackdays as easy ways to jump into our virtual and offline community in the short-term.
- Sites like schoolmaps.ch and our toolbox.schoolofdata.ch, developed by the data community for schools and classroom projects, as goalposts to collaborate on learning material longer term.
What I did not have time to cover but hope to get some advice on for future sessions of this type are Jupyter and R notebooks: modern mechanisms for showing and sharing data science, and possibly the best way right now to create dataful interactive material for teachers. Integrating with platforms like Moodle and other MOOCs could be a way to make this easier to explain.
In addition to this, I have been recently volunteering in my local school to do some occasional (very basic) IT instruction, and continuing conversations with people from the RaumBildung space where some of our first Data Expeditions took place. New people bring fresh perspective, and workshops like these help sharpen the focus on actual needs. Thanks to Eike and Jörg for the opportunity.
And I would like to keep talking here about hands on activities for kids of all ages, getting them to think about data out in the playground, making databases with sticks and stones, pen and paper, even LEGO™. Do we really need to train teenagers in Pivot tables and SQL queries? They should anyway really learn SPARQL instead, but I digress. I have been thinking about contributing to STEM or starting a Coder Dojo for a while, and carving space and time out for this as an important part of my engagement as parent and professional.
Any other ideas to add, classroom memories of your own to share?
* to be accurate, back in the day I did the Geneva-run IB program while a high school student in Canada. It was a very long time ago, in Internet years, and I’m pretty sure that either Multiplan or VisiCalc was the first spreadsheet I used… just to give you an idea of how much of a dinosaur I am… Yet surely forever indebted to my secondary teachers at Rosedale for encouraging an early fascination with numbers and keyboards.