Open data to train the professionals of the future

By 2020, the amount of data stored in IT systems will have doubled compared to 2018. Against this background, it seems logical that the demand for professionals with analytical and data management capabilities will grow, something we have already talked about on numerous occasions .

One way to promote the learning of these skills is through open data and its use in the classroom as another educational resource. The development of collaborative projects where students have to search and filter information, analyze data or generate visualizations have a place in almost all subjects. With this type of project, students can acquire a great diversity of capacities: from the use of technological tools and the capacity for analysis and argumentation, to the improvement of so-called soft skills such as teamwork - also fundamental for professional development. -.

The first step: train teachers

One of the fundamental pillars so that open data can be integrated in the classroom is the previous training of teachers. In this sense, programs such as the Use (Open Research) Data in Teaching project (UDIT) try to help higher education teachers to be able to use open research data in their classes. Among other activities, the website offers courses where good practices and examples of learning activities based on the reuse of open data are shown.

In the same vein, the National Library of Spain and have created the BNEscolar educational platform with digital content made from the documentary collection of the Hispanic Digital Library. The website includes a search engine to facilitate the location of the desired resources, as well as workshops, videos, educational sequences and interactive challenges (such as an escape game). The BNEscolar contents are aimed at pre-university students, with a special focus on the last levels of Primary and Secondary Education.

Contests and activities to promote the use of data in the classroom

In addition to these platforms, activities, contests and specific challenges that seek to promote the use of open data among the youngest are also increasingly common. Examples of this are the BCN Dades Obertes Challenge or the Castilla y León Open Data Contest, which included a special award for students in each of the main categories, in addition to a specific category for the creation of teaching resources that could be used in the classrooms. Another example is the Escuelas Comciencia initiative, from the Observatory of Scientific Communication and the Ciberimaginario research group, where students learn to carry out a research project using open data.

But we can also find this type of initiative at an international level. Here the programs developed by Technovation stand out, aimed at identifying problems in student communities and solving them using disruptive technologies. One example is Technovation Girls, aimed at girls around the world. This program seeks to learn from how to identify a problem and brainstorm to solve it to devise and create an application to launch a business. Also noteworthy is the AI ​​Family challenge contest, which brings learning to the family environment, another of the fundamental legs of the education of children. The AI ​​Family Challenge invites families to learn about Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology and solve a problem using data tools and AI systems. The contest's novel approach, in which parents and children unite their abilities and learn together in a fun way, has made the project a success: 7,500 people from 13 countries participated in the first year of the program. The deadline to submit to the second edition will be open until February 2020.

The importance of government involvement

The results obtained in all the previously highlighted activities have been very positive, clearly showing the benefits of incorporating open data in classrooms: the improvement of technological and analytical capacities, but also of critical thinking.

But if you want to go one step further, it would be advisable to incorporate open data directly into educational plans. This is what Switzerland has done through the Lehrplan21 plan, adopted to homogenize education in the 21 multilingual German-speaking cantons. The plan includes in the educational itinerary the learning of basic concepts related to data: structures, formats, management and analysis of databases, etc.

These types of measures are essential if we want to promote more active learning, where open data helps students to better understand their environment, in a reasoned way, and to become the professionals that our future demands.