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The breakout sessions at last week’s Making it Matter workshop were hugely productive. You can actually see some of the discussions in action and the post-it note have all been added to the etherpad. In an effort to make some sense of what was covered here are my thoughts on the most concrete outcomes from discussions.


What real world problems are there related to education in the developing world that could potentially be solved by data and technology solutions?

  • Resources and data tend to be in specific languages (such as English). Effort needs to be put in to localization (adapting resources for local contexts) and multi-lingualism.
  • There are issues with the quality of OERs and their discoverability. Better metadata (such as LRMI) and tagging techniques (such as crowdsourcing reviews) could help quality control and accessibility.
  • Poor infrastructure (energy, ICT, etc.) means that education can rarely be carried out solely online. We need to stop making technology and device assumptions and ensure adaptability of resources and data.
  • Currently resources and technology are often built by the developed world for others to use. We need to flip this approach and support through training.
  • Teachers are under-qualified and not sufficiently trained. There is a need for capacity building in a multitude of areas including IT, data use, licensing, resource reuse etc.
  • Decisions makers are not well informed of the potential of open education or open data. Open education language is often not appropriate for such dialogues – we need to engage with and educate those in positions of power to ensure that government policy no longer lags behind technology.
  • There are some key areas that currently need more support: adult literacy, special needs, non-science subjects, vocational training. Lack of resources or skill sharing in these areas.
  • Low cost commercial education is part of the education solution in the developing world. There needs to be better ways for us to work with commercial suppliers and fresh approaches to business models.
  • In the developing world they are missing some very basic data sets, such as the location of schools, infrastructure details e.g. electricity availability, text book use etc. Supporting the building of these data sets could lead to money being used more effectively and better accountability of government spending.
  • There is a need to enhance local open data ecosystems. Data standards are rarely recognized or applied. Data is often out of date or incorrect or not open.

What data is out there and what data could be released to aid education in the developing world?

  • Student data: attendance, grades, skills, exams, homework… Course data: employability related to courses, curriculum, syllabus, VLE data, number of textbooks, skills, digital literacy…
  • Institution data: success/failure rates, results, infrastructure, power consumption, location, student enrolment, textbook budget, teacher contracts, drop out rates, total cost of ownership, sponsorship, cost per pupil, graduation rates, male vs female, years in education, ratio of students to teaching staff…
  • Learning analytics: Laptop data (possibly from the OLPC programme), time on tasks, OER data, use of different programmes/apps, web site data…
  • Policy/Government data: equity, budgets, spending, UNESCO literacy data, deprivation and marginalisation in education, participation…

There is also a useful list available in the Open Education Handbook.

Next Steps – what are we going to do?

Deciding what to do next is always the most tricky part. Sometimes the relationships forged through a workshop are enough and these lead on to initiatives and activities. I think at the Making it Matter workshop there was a real feeling that we need to act together to solidify the new community we are building.

Here are some of the most concrete suggestions:

Quick wins

Bigger Asks

  • Learn from others: Looking at what is already taking place in other countries (such as Brazil) who are ahead of the game. Acknowledging that there is amazing creative stuff being done in the developing world. They often circumvent ways of doing things and we have much to learn from them. Change our belief that we (in the developed world) always know best.
  • Teach others: Share what we know so that the developing world can learn new skills and use them to find their own path.
  • Find solutions: To the problems that we’ve identified, this will take time, money and a driven community.
  • Show impact: Find ways to measure the impact of what we are doing: are we making a difference? What stories can we share?
  • Run a data census for education data: This could be along the lines of the Open Data Census currently run by Open Knowledge.

If you have any thoughts please add them to the etherpad.

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