The importance of open data in education

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Open Data Handbook version 1.0

The following article is largely based on a talk by Andy Pethan and Colin Zwiebel, "State of Open Data in Education," at the LinuxCon 2010 education mini-summit.

What happens when you open data?

Six months ago, the MTA in New York released a dataset under GTFS, a format for transporation timetables. Timetables themselves aren't very interesting. What is interesting is what you can do with the data.

ExitStrategyNYC is one such example. Have you ever gotten off an unfamiliar subway and been unable to figure out where to go next? ExitStrategyNYC doesn't teach you how to use the subway--it helps you figure out what to do when you get out of the station.

The world is increasingly data-driven. There are more analytics companies every day. We even see more data from our government--one of President Obama's first actions was the Open Government Initiative.

So how does all this fit into education?

Simply put, education needs raw, real-time data.

For example: if you have an educational game generating data about a student, it should be accessible immediately, not compiled at the end of the year when it is no longer raw nor immediate. By then, it's likely irrelevant--it's data about a student who has already graduated from the classroom in which that information could have been useful.

But instead of raw, real-time data, we have aggregate school reporting, state and national statistics, and inaccessible or less usable data forms like PDFs or school-held CDs.

In addition, a lot of data is collected and used, but not everyone collects the same information, much less stores it the same way or works to share it. Without a good way to see and sort aggregate data, it's not useful.

The National Education Data Model (NEDM) is one answer to these problems. It's a standarized way to collect data and describe almost everything in an educational environment--from students to their bus routes. It puts a common framework and language around data that will improve schools, research, and policy.

Karen Cator, director of the Department of Education's Office of Educational Technology explains the connection, "In education, the more information we have, the better we will be able meet the needs of our students. But being data-driven doesn't help us if our data systems don't communicate with each other. The National Data Education Model is an important tool that will assist in creating clearer communication around data and begin to give us a more accurate picture of our schools and students."

Multiple sources on student information systems were used to develop NEDM, including the NCES Forum Data Model Task Force Recommendations, Data Quality Campaign’s 10 Essential Elements, the National Center for Education Statistics’ Handbooks, and the School#mce_temp_url#s Interoperability Framework.

NEDM 2.0 was released in March 2010. It can be used by educators, vendors, and researchers to answer questions about what data schools need to collect to meet student needs and how to effectively manage that data so that teaching and learning are successful.

Learn more about NEDM:

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Our goal with the National Education Data Model was to create a catalog of the data sets that existed in the educational data space as a service to the states, development community, and vendors that were building education data systems.

The more feedback we get on the model and the more use of it that happens the more this resource - in conjunction with the Common Data Standards initiative- will start to drive data systems that can interoperate and work together to impact the quality of teacher, the lives of teachers, and learning and the lives of learners.

Alex Jackl
Director of Information Systems
Council of Chief State School Officers

I wish I caught the LinuxCon speech! It's great to see initiatives like NEDM/Core/SIF/etc tackling data issues head on from the top down, and doing so with 100% focus on providing usable results for those in the trenches rather than simple federal accountability. For many years we talked 'data-driven'. IMO, we all got in our cars, found gas, and made plans to meet at the beach for a day of fun (we setup robust architectures, found homes for datas, started recognizing use for that data once collected)... but we headed in different directions and pulled out of our driveways at different times and speeds. Projects like these that pave the road and give districts, states, and vendors recommendations without deep mandates is precisely what will forward our nation's progress. They allow synergies between institutions, governments, vendors and give lil 'ol me a sound and valid foundation to start from in systems design based on successes I would never know about from others. That alone will result in more time spent on INNOVATION rather than rewriting the wheel in district after district. Adoption is key. In such a fluid technology industry, I only hope we can project this recent campaigning as a kickstart-- and let the engagement of users be not limited to seeing it as guidance. I challenge these projects to seek more and more methods for more collaborative 'user' involvement- molding, bending, challenging, and iterating to the next level of success with a transparent focus on practical use of data in both instructional and administrative settings.

The world is increasingly data-driven. There are more analytics companies every day. We even see more data from our government--one of President Obama's first actions was the Open Government Initiative. <a href="">gifts for wife</a>

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