Empowering a new generation with Open Data skills

Everyday life has considerably changed in the past decades. A digital and data-driven society has been shaped by an enormous amount of data which is daily created, collected, and published. But Who is benefiting the most from this data-driven society? The Open Data field stands for benefiting citizens. It proposes a society driven for available and free public and research data, which is extensible used and reused by citizens. In Open Data inclusive, skill-based, user-driven, and circular ecosystems, citizens might create data-based products and services, deeply understand local and global issues, or demand more efficient public services. An Open Data driven society seeks for the common good on top of private interests. Although Open Data might empower citizens, the benefits are currently constrained for a lack of skills to practically use available and free datasets. On top of this problem, systems and organizations lag the pace of societal data-driven changes related to datafication and digitalization. Hereby, the achievement of Open Data ecosystems requires not just Open Data literate citizens, but also Open Data driven systems and organizations.


How are educational systems coping with the data-driven societal changes? Traditional educational models struggle to connect classroom activities with the local context and everyday life.  As a result, students are not developing skills and competencies to prepare them for the fast-changing and digital society. Even though generations of digital natives were born and raised surrounded and generating data, most of the educational systems remain mainly the same. Traditional educational models may restring data as a potential educational resource. Educational systems should provide new generations with the adequate skills and competences to navigate the new data-driven world. Instead of remaining isolated of societal changes, educational could change to prepare youngsters for making the most out of the available data. 


Therefore, the novel field of Open Data education has the potential of empowering a young generation with literacies and skills to better understand their context, act in their everyday life and face future challenges. For example: imagine that a group of friends have started a school project to reduce food waste in their neighborhoods and school restaurant. Firstly, they have collected data in their own houses, later they have searched for open datasets. After critically analyzing the data and investigating certain causes, they have decided to develop the Hero Foods app with the goal of providing healthy low-priced food solutions and eliminate food waste.


My research project in Open Data usage in elementary schools is aimed at creating tools and methods for developing Open Data skills in elementary school students. Open Data skills might enable youngsters to use and reuse data in their everyday life and in the future. But what are Open Data skills? Literature and experts in the field used to relate them with data management or data literacy, however, it is not clearly defined what are and in specific what can address. The first step in my project is defining the Open Data skills. The following step will aim at co-creating tools to develop them. Then, what is the most suitable approach for educating Open Data Skills? The Game-based learning field has proved to enrich learning experiences. My project explores serious games and gamification approaches to create authentic learning experiences towards educating Open Data literate elementary school students.


A generation of Open Data skilled youngsters might not just take part as future adults in the open data-driven society, but also, it could drive today’s changes by allowing children as protagonist.

Alejandra Celis Vargas
Aalborg University Copenhagen, Denmark