Freeing up educational data
Stuart Meldrum had a great idea back in April. When new Scottish teachers are guaranteed a job in any one of five chosen Local Authorities you can still end up anywhere from the furthest flung island to the centre of the Capital. What was needed was a quick way to see exactly how far you could end up having to move. Cue Google Maps and some overlay magic.
Stuart's first draft covered his own five possible Authorities. It got me thinking that there must be a database of information that could be manipulated. This week I made the first moves to getting that information from the Content Management System where it lives converted into something usable (Excel), split it into nursery, primary, secondary and special school stages, to then upload it to Google Maps in these batches and pop it into colour-coded-by Authority stages. Rather than use the mass upload generator I'd hope to do this as if each Local Authority was what Google Maps would call a 'business', and therefore they could appear in different colours for ease of browsing, be turned on and off depending on where you want to search, contain video and web links to material LTS or bloggers have published about those places.
What it means
The result will be something that suits lots of different purposes and a dataset that can then be exploited in other ways. For example, at LTS we are about to make public a responsive XML database of educational bloggers in the country, one that will constantly update with the ebb and flow of writers and sharers, which could be cross-linked to the data on school establishments. The result would be similar to what Jim has started already on Google Maps but the difference being this: as bloggers change profile or school, or as schools close down, so does their place on the map, dynamically.
A couple of pains-in-the-neck: Google Maps are not, yet, shareable in real time, in the same way as Google Documents and Spreadsheets. We can share finalised datasets but not have other people working collaboratively to stitch this altogether (there's at least 96 data sets to upload to Google Maps for starters). It also means that people have to check that they have the right, most up-to-date dataset by checking a blog first, rather than just opening one master map which is kept up-to-date by the agency which can track all changes across the country, i.e. LTS. However, I shudder words like 'master' and 'centralised' and would much rather have it a collaborative wiki-ised Google Map. One day, maybe...
By releasing the data as soon as we can, at least, it means that people can start personalising their maps and creating new uses and ideas form it, more than one organisation could ever come up with.