/ learning

011 #scoda

It has been an interesting first year for soda camp. Many people stepped in to support this initiative along the way, and to them I wish to express my thanks, as well as to pose the question of: where do we go from here?

That was the subject of our February 2016 meet-up taking place at FabLab Bern, and over Internet video. @jobe @sarapeeters @julochrobak @jp @nicole @loleg were in the room. We plugged in and said "Ciao!" to Francesca De Chiara and Maurizio Napolitano from the Center for Information and Communication Technology, who have been involved with School of Data Trento and Open Knowledge in Italy, as well as Chiara Ciociola, community manager of the OpenCoesione School. They were joined by Serena Cangiano, doing research and courses in southern Switzerland, recently a speaker at Lift and host of our workshop with SUPSI interaction design students.

We listened to their stories, looked back at 2015, and discussed several ideas: joining the School of Data as an official chapter, repeating youth data+code camps, working with institutions like SUPSI, and other plans and proposals. This meeting helped me to put additional substance and thought into the concept, the working document which has been in progress since last spring and hopefully will soon turn into a fully operating community project.

School of Data Trento

To better understand what other initiatives similar to ours are doing, we reached out to the people who ran School of Data Trento two years ago to leverage new open data from Trentino.

Francesca just came back from New York where she works as Visiting Research Fellow at the Govlab, a think-and-do tank based at New York University. She runs a project called OpenData200 Italy, focused on the social and economic impact of open data. As a govlabber, she had the opportunity to join the team behind the Govlab Academy, initially funded by the Knight Foundation, and focusing on topics around civic tech and how to develop an impactful project.

Maurizio runs a Digital Commons Lab within the ICT centre, which interestingly is a collaboration with Impact Hub. Within the Lab they organise a summer school for young scientists with a challenge: use data to respond to a topic. They also organise a popular OpenStreetMap Academy in the Trento area, and host Maptime meetups to teach people about maps. As Maurizio wrote to me about the result of their successful experience:

In Italy, a lot of people are now ready to organize a event like the School of Data divided between the learning of new skills and the discovery of stories from data.

At a national level the experience was an inspiration for a lot of activities in Italy. The most famous is the project A scuola di opencoesione, a partnership between the Ministry of Education and Economic Development. Students from different Italian schools have the opportunity to learn how understand and manage the open data on the portal opencoesione.gov.it (where you can find the data of the european fund distributed in Italy) and how to turn it into stories.

He suggested we look into the book Open Data as Open Educational Resource (especially page 26), and to check out the scriptorivm: a hackathon that ran last summer as part of the project Open Pompei, which resulted in several mapping/archiving/data mining projects. This sounds somewhat like the OpenGLAM hackathon we are planning to repeat - and run workshops around - this summer.

It certainly sounds that there is a lot of drive and enterpreneurial spirit in this group, and we were glad to get their inputs on our project!

School of OpenCoesione

What is this OpenCoesione we keep hearing about? We were very fortunate to have Chiara Ciociola, the community manager of @ascuoladioc join to give a first-hand account. It is a similar type of platform as the recently launched opendata.swiss, a portal with a focus on financial data of the type we have previously experienced in OpenSpending projects and the open finance hackdays:

On the national OpenCoesione portal, everyone can find transparent information on investment projects funded by Cohesion Policies in Italy. Open data on more than 900,000 projects has been posted so far ... A Scuola di OpenCoesione builds on the OpenCoesione portal to actively promote the use and reuse of data by participating schools for the development of civic awareness and engagement of local communities in monitoring the effectiveness of public investment.

Starting in 2013, they have already run hundreds of projects around the country based on a set of highly interlinked online materials and a skeleton crew. They had support from the European Union, and many motivated teachers were involved - the impact of their Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) is very impressive.

Screenshot of ascuoladiopencoesione.it

They took us through their five-step program, explaining and translating key components and sharing sample content like this introductory Brief Guide to Open Data and homework exercise. Using the Ushahidi-based Monithon.it platform, reports of their activities have been filing in from around the country. This is something they call "civic, bottom-down, collective data storytelling".

Worth watching: a web series mixing student videos and results for extra inspiration. Thanks to Chiara for sharing these goals with us to aspire to!

Next steps

We closed the meeting with a roundtable about next steps for soda camp. As Francesca said, the Moniton movement is about solving issues: trying to bridge the gap in the policy and be more in contact with institutions. What is our focus? Which gap do will we fill as a new entity?

  • @julochrobak: we should be a provider of support for people with needs and objectives, especially to teachers at the frontlines.
  • @jobe: I would like to facilitate young people to participate in society, to think for themselves and not to be too dependent on public media.
  • @nicole: let's start running workshops for schools, for teachers and spread the idea and then built on that.
  • @sarapeeters: what inspired me is a friend of mine doing CoderDojo Belgium, who are overrun with interest.
  • @loleg: I maintain my conviction that there is a need for data literacy as a meeting of cultures, and you have shown me that soda camp is a good model for this.

Meanwhile, the School of Data has recently released a blog post series on Our Data Literacy Research Findings, a look back at their own first years and vision ahead. These posts summarise the collective intelligence of the community with insights which could really help our efforts to get started:

We are continuing to work on a concept document and welcome your comments as we articulate the vision, kick off the process with the School of Data worldwide and ramp up activities in Switzerland. Many thanks to everyone for joining the call, for putting in your valuable time and sharing helpful feedback. See you again soon!

A little knowledge that acts is worth infinitely more than much knowledge that is idle. — Khalil Gibran