August 18, 2007

Freeing up educational data

Scotblogmap 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.


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Hi Ewan,
got here via you hence the speed.

you could grab the info from the xml and pass that using the map api. If folk would geotag their blogs the whole thing could be done automatically from an opml file.
I've done something similar at:
Which grabs information from my flickr photos that are geotagged and passes that to the google maps api and builds a map with photos. All I need to do is to geotag a photo and it shows up on my map.

Now I know what you were twittering about on Tuesday.

I've not played with the generator enough yet, really only 5 minutes this morning, but while the maps aren't collaborative unless complete and published, do they not reflect the current data whenever they are loaded? I think you could have a static map location, but the map loads data from a separate source (or 96 sources) that could be editable.

This morning I had initally thought about ScotEduBlogs, it could output location data as XML. Like John says it should be easy to feed that data into Google Maps.

Hmm, Ewan twittered about getting the LAs.
It should be possible to get the blogs by LA via ScotEduBlogs. If everyone geotagged their blogs the whole thing might be automated. I guess the geotagged bit makes it 'one day maybe...'.

More fun, everybody uploads a photo to flickr geotags it tags with la-name of la. Then flickr to maps, again need participants to do something.

This would be pretty easy to manage in Drupal -- if you have your data in excel, you could import your data in csv format (and this includes the location info). Drupal has supported Google Maps (and actually other mapping functions as well) for a while now.

By building it in Drupal, you could have decentralized control over data entry, whick would get you your "wiki-ised" (is that a Scottish word :) ) geographic data.



I'm teaching talking about where you live with S2 this week, adding in as much detail as possible and thought there might be something wonderful I could do with online maps, but couldn't think - so gone back to big hand drawn map of Mull and digital photos to stick on. Sometimes you can't beat scissors and glue!

How about creating a mashup?

What's a mashup? See the ICT4LT site for further info and a couple of examples of mashups:

See this mashup, which shows the real-time locations of all the DART suburban rail service trains in the city of Dublin:
This is done by overlaying information from the Irish Rail website onto Google Maps.

@Graham: What we are doing here is exactly that - a mashup. It's just a question of how we can involve more people in the *creation* of the mashup, rather than just end-using it.

@Bill: I've never got into Drupal, but what you are saying sounds interesting. I'll be taking a look soon.

@John and Stuart: I think the bloggers' map could be done through ScotEdublogs (if they were geotagged). However, I don't see that happening any time soon, since blogging some text and a pic or embedded file is already where most people are at. Also, I want to make more information available from public records that exist already - frustrating that they are always in CMSes that need some form of converting into "normal" formats first :-s

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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

What does Ewan do?

Module Masterclass

School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

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