Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Open Data

I like Open Data, and I don't use it nearly as often as I should do in class.
Open Data is a great resource for classes, it can be used in programming lessons, spreadsheets, databases and they are just the IT/Computing related lessons I can think of from the top of my head, let alone the other subjects it could be used in. Using Open Data gets away from using the boring, repetitive and non-real world examples that get used in classes like film databases, or music libraries, etc.
So where can you get Open Data from?
My post the other day on the CareerHack Challenge pointed to one source of Open Data that could be used.
In November 2013 there was a Parliament Hack event run by ReWired State and UK Parliament. There was a great page with links to Open Data etc (which you can find here) that they shared for the event.
Then there is the official data.gov.uk which has all types of official data for you to use.
If you look at the ReWired State site there is a page of up and coming Hack Days. As I write this there are two coming up one in January (a Foreign and CommonWealth Office Hack Day) and a National Hack the Government Day in March. The National Hack the Government Hack Day has a "micro site" for it here. There is a great google doc spreadsheet on there that has lots of links to Open Data sources (go get it).
By keeping an eye on these Hack Days, and the hash tags they use on twitter it is possible to discover new sources of Open Data or remind you of new ways to use existing ones already knew of.
You can also get MP expenses data! (which can be found here)
The nice thing I like about teaching programming (and this would apply to spreadsheets etc) is that it is easy to embed functional skills like maths into the lesson. For instance take the MP expenses data you can get the students to analyse their local MPs expenses, and answer questions like what is the average (mean) rent paid by an MP, and how does your local MP's rent compare? Get them to use different measures of average. Or how about getting them to do some simple stats like standard deviations and variance on the data?
As my CareerHack post showed the data for that requires making requests to a website and getting JSON responses. While others like the MP data comes as a csv file. This gives a lovely variety in getting the students to access data in different ways. Real world examples.
Open Data is such a great resource. It gives students real world data to work with, gives opportunities for students to access data in different ways, and gives opportunities to involve students in wider issues like politics and social issues.

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