Interviews with Participants from the A2DataDive 2013

Last week, I shared some highlights of outputs from A2DataDive 2013 and outcomes from A2DataDive 2012. Now I want to take a deeper look into the motivations that bring volunteers and nonprofits together to devote their weekend to the great experiment that is a datadive. After this year’s final presentations, Dave and I had an opportunity to sit down with one of the client representatives and one of the returning community volunteers to learn more about why they chose to participate in the event and what they learned from the experience.

Interview: Amy Wilson from 826Michigan, A2DataDive 2013 Nonprofit

Now that you’ve been through your first datadive, what did you think of the experience?

In a nutshell, I’m very impressed. I’ve been working with our data ambassador since mid-October. The A2DataDive team contacted 826Michigan last fall to recruit us as a client for the event. As a nonprofit, we have to be economical about staff time and resources. We were a little skeptical at first, but realized in the back of our minds that this is valuable. As we continued our conversations with the data ambassadors, the value became clearer to us. I admit, I still wasn’t entirely sure what this weekend would look like when I showed up on Saturday.

As the event progressed and I saw the concrete projects that were coming out of volunteers, I became increasingly blown away. I had neutral expectations coming in – the data ambassador did a great job at managing expectations. The event exceeded my expectations. I’ve been impressed with the volunteers, their quality of work, and with the organizers.

What are your key takeaways from this event?

This gave me new insight into the community of data and the diversity of approaches to collecting and interpreting data. The volunteers approached it many different angles – everything from looking at numbers and words in various ways to analyze and to inform how we engage our customers. The level of detail necessary for collecting normalized, meaningful data was new to me. It will change how I approach data in my work and how the organization approaches data collection and analysis in the future.

What was the most interesting finding from your group’s final presentation?

There were a lot of interesting findings. I was really impressed. One that stood out in particular to me was the one where a volunteer did a comparison of pre and post surveys of student tutors. There was a side-by-side bar graph of responses to a question about whether students felt comfortable for asking for help. There was a huge jump in confidence after the tutoring. Before the event, I suspected that was true but I didn’t have such a clear way to demonstrate or quantify that. That’s huge for us, because so much of our mission is about the idea that there should be no stigma to asking for or needing help. This data demonstrates that 826michigan is a place where that stigma can start to fall away for our students.

Now that you have the volunteer analysis from the event, what’s next?

It’s going to be interesting to see how this is implemented. I learned some new techniques, but I’m also really hoping that some of the people who volunteered will continue to volunteer and help our data collection and analysis.

Interview: Mandar Gokhale, A2DataDive 2012 and 2013 Volunteer

What motivated you to come back a second time?

I’m a network engineer by profession. I’m an alumnus of the University of Michigan College of Engineering. I enjoy creating interesting visualizations of data in my spare time. I thought the objectives last year were accomplished fairly well, and the client derived some value. I decided to come back this year to contribute more and to have fun.

To me, the datadive means I get to do some something fun that also helps the community.

What did you work on for the datadive?

This year, I worked with one of the same volunteers as last year. Both times I worked with visualizations, last year with networks for the African Health OER Network and this year with time-based data from Food Gatherers. This time I did more statistical and predictive analysis.

What new data sleuthing techniques did you learn this year?

This year I re-learned linear regression and a few more tricks in R, including how to analyze and present time-based information in calendar heat map For the statistical analysis in R, I mostly looked up instructions and examples on the Internet. I had read the profiles of some of the participating nonprofits, and skimmed through their objectives beforehand, so I had some sort of idea of what I wanted to do before I showed up for the event.

What is your biggest takeaway from participating in both years?

The event brings together people from many specialties. But all these groups need to talk to each other more often, to produce more meaningful data. Typically what happens is the clients collect data in a way that makes it really hard for the processing people to work with it later. We made some recommendations in our final presentation to try to address this. There’s a need for getting more knowledge out there about how to collect good data and how to analyze it in order to make it easier.

Nonprofits should talk to data scientists more often.

Championing data analysis at the second A2DataDive

One year ago, Ann Arbor welcomed its first datadive, a weekend-long event open to the campus and local community that brought together data geeks, people who were curious about data analysis, and people from nonprofit organizations looking for help answering some research questions about their data sets. As one of the clients last year, we learned immensely from the A2DataDive debut. This year, School of Information masters students Nikki Roda and Claire Barco resumed their leadership roles for its second manifestation.

The A2DataDive is always a jam-packed, super productive weekend. I’ll try to do my best to give you a very condensed overview of the event. After I give you the low-down on round 2 of the datadive in 2013, I also want to highlight some outcomes from round 1 last year. Stay tuned for a follow-up blog post with highlights from interviews with this year’s participants.

Photo CC BY Regents of the University of Michigan. Taken by Dave Malicke.

Overview of A2DataDive 2013

There were four local nonprofit organizations and over 100 registered participants for this year’s event, which was coordinated by the School of Information, with Open.Michigan included among the sponsors. This year, the organizers arranged several short data jams lead by a resident data librarian at the university to introduce people to some of the nonprofit datasets and basic principles of data analysis several months before the weekend-long event. Also new this second round, the organizers created the role of “data ambassadors,” who are student volunteers that liaise with the nonprofits months ahead of time to prepare the data and research questions for the big weekend.

Here are the final presentations:

Outcomes from A2DataDive 2012

For A2DataDive round 1, the Open.Michigan initiative was in the unique position of both co-organizer and client. The two clients were Focus Hope and the African Health OER Network. The African Health OER Network is one of our flagship projects here at Open.Michigan. It’s not technically a nonprofit organization but rather a joint project of University of Michigan and several other nonprofit educational institutions. The datadivers invited us to be a client anyway.

Our African Health OER Network datadive project had two paths – one to analyze our YouTube analytics data and another to analyze our social network from CiviCRM. We left the event with a few new tools, useful visualizations, and deeper insights into our audience and collaborators for the African Health OER Network. Some concrete examples of how Open.Michigan has integrated our new knowledge over the past year:

  • One of the groups did a word frequency cloud of the comments on our YouTube videos, which showed the words “thanks” and “thank you” were among the most frequent terms from users. We included that tidbit in multiple reports and presentations about the project. We even ran updated analyses several times since then as we received new user comments. We were pleased to confirm that the theme of gratitude was still strong.
  • The month following the 2012 datadive, we had a funding opportunity to send one colleague from an African partner institution to present at an international conference. In order to identify which individual to send, we consulted one of the network visualizations, which showed the most- connected, most-active individuals based on their participation in past events.
  • In October last year, I facilitated the Health OER Tech Africa Regional Workshop in Ghana, which brought together technologists, multimedia specialists, and instructors from health sciences institutions across Africa. The 3-day workshop included 22 staff members from 12 institutions across six countries. On the second day, we had a 90-minute data jam (a mini datadive) where participants analyzed YouTube analytics data from participating institutions.
  • Last year, in prep for the datadive, some of us from the Open.Michigan team wrote Python scripts to pull data from the YouTube and Google Analytics APIs, which generated the spreadsheets that we used the A2DataDive in February 2012 and which I adapted for the mini-datadive in October 2012. We’re now working on a project to share those analytics in real-time on the associated course and resource pages on our website. We’ll keep you posted!

Edit-a-Thons with the Michigan Wikipedians

On Thursday, February 7, the Michigan Wikipedians came together to support an edit-a-thon sponsored by the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library.  Editors new and old collaborated together on various Gerald Ford topics, such as the article covering Ford’s inauguration.

edit-a-thon at Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library

Of the roughly 20 attendees, about a third were newcomers to Wikipedia editing, but members of the Michigan Wikipedians were quick to be of assistance.  The event was likely to have been the first Wikipedia edit-a-thon ever to take place in the state of Michigan, but another one with the University Museums is now in line for next month.  Stay tuned for details!  In the meantime, happy editing!

The Michigan Wikipedians meet weekly at 4041 Shapiro Undegraduate Library, Thursdays, 8pm.  All are welcome.

A familiar model in Coursera: e-Learning and Digital Cultures

This is a reposting of my original reflection on the first week of the University of Edinburgh’s E-learning and Digital Cultures.

I’m already a week behind in my readings/engagement for the University of Edinburgh’s E-learning and Digital Cultures Coursera course but who’s counting weeks? My study group is. Since I moved into the Library, I’ve been pleased as punch to be involved in lots of really interesting conversations about education, instruction, pedagogy, engagement, and user feedback. One such group of motivated learner-teachers is the study group of librarians that have formed in response to taking this course (see: Michigan Study Group in the class Discussions section if you’re taking the course).

Sheila MacNeil nicely sums up my overall thoughts on the MOOC itself. I’ve not actually ‘taken’ any Coursera courses, but I am pleased to see that the faculty at Edinburgh using an xMOOC platform to create a cMOOC experience (see Martin’s post on the differences). I’m definitely a fan of this type of learning over what Coursera ‘traditionally’ provides because I think it captures the affordances of a connected, open, and transparent web more effectively than the login, platform-based, push driven, assessment-led Coursera experience. I noticed there were a few in our study group who were expecting the xMOOC experience, however, and others on the Facebook study groups expected the same thing. The challenge of cMOOCs, and this one too, is that it makes us take an active role in the process of learning. We can’t just sit back, listen to some lectures, and take a quiz over and over until we get it right.

This is also where I fell into a pitfall with my study groups. Yeah, I signed that plaigarism/cheating clause, really only halfway paying attention to it. I’m enrolled in this course for the experience, to be reminded of what it’s like to really be a student with deadlines, and to engage more deeply in a subject I care about with peers (locally and digitally) who care about the same things. I’m not in it for a certification at the end. So during our study group, I suggested we split up the readings (because we’re already watching the videos as a group and discussing). To some this is considered cheating. To others this is considered jigsaw teaching. I guess I’m a big fan of working together. Others might not take me up on the offer, but it will be interesting to meet with my colleagues in the next few weeks to discuss these topics (even if we don’t do all the work, look at the conversations we’re having).

I’ll write about my experiences as a student in the next round, but in the meantime here are links to other MOOCs we should all keep our eye on and some resources others have curated to allow those not enrolled in this Coursera course to access the readings and materials:

  • Sheila’s curation of edcmooc’s resources and recommended readings.
  • The edcmooc Google Plus page.
  • ETMOOC about Ed Tech and Media, organized by practitioners across the world.
  • P2PU’s collaboration with MIT Media Lab, Learning Creative Learning.

The Michigan Wikipedians, an Edit-A-Thon, and an Interview with Michael Barera

The Michigan Wikipedians and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library are hosting an edit-a-thon!

The Michigan Wikipedians are a U-M student organization that focuses on transforming Wikipedia readers into Wikipedia editors. An edit-a-thon is an event where people meet-up, both on and offline, to edit Wikipedia together. At this edit-a-thon participants will be working with the Michigan Wikipedians and newly donated content from the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library.

Event Details
Open to the public
Time: 5:00PM, Thursday February 7, 2013
Location: Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library on North Campus (1000 Beal Ave, Ann Arbor, MI 48109)
Bring: Your laptop, an appetite (pizza will be provided)

If you already have a Wikipedia account, sign-up here.
Otherwise, register at the Facebook event page.

This is an excellent opportunity for new Wikipedians and for those interested in editing Wikipedia for the first time to contribute to a great project and to spend some time with seasoned Wikipedian veterans. And speaking of seasoned Wikipedian veterans, we recently sat down with Michael Barera to chat about Wikipedia and to get some advice for people and institutions that are just starting to contribute to the site.

Interview with Michael Barera, Wikipedian in Residence at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library

Michael is from Ann Arbor, MI. As an undergrad, he attended the University of Michigan, where he earned a degree in history. Presently, he’s a masters candidate at the University of Michigan School of Information, a member of the Michigan Wikipedians, and the Wikipedian in Residence at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library.

Congratulations on becoming the first Wikipedian in Residence at a Presidential Library.

Thank you.

And we hear you’re an active member of the Michigan Wikipedians. When and where is the group meeting these days?

Yes! I’m super excited about the Michigan Wikipedians. It’s a lot of fun and it’s open to everybody. All you need is an interest in Wikipedia, and you can join us to get going on it. We meet every Thursday night from 8-9pm in Shapiro 4041. Everybody’s welcome, it’s officially a student club, so our base is students, but we’re also open to faculty members, staff, and community members.

As a Wikipedian in Residence at a Presidential Library, why do you think it’s important for galleries, archives, libraries, and museums (GLAMs) to share collection materials on Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons?

I think the first part is that there are really strong shared values between GLAM institutions, the Wikimedia Foundation, Wikimedia Commons, Wikipedia and all the other sibling sites. These are all institutions that, when push comes to shove, they’re about education. They’re about public access. They’re about sharing. They’re about curating collections, curating content, and doing something cool with it. This is especially true for a Federal Government institution like the Ford Library where this is all by default, because US Federal Law puts any work created by the US Federal Government in the course of his or her official duties into the public domain.

With some GLAM institutions you have this issue with licensing that can get a little sticky. And I think those institutions still have the shared values with Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons, but the licensing issue is a little stickier. But with the Ford Library, it’s a slam-dunk, ‘cause you have the shared values, and you also have compatible [public domain] licenses that makes their collections and content ready to share.

What quick tips or advice can you provide for other GLAMs that are interested in sharing their collection resources on Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons?

I highly recommend that they encourage their employees to become Wikipedians. For me, the most inspiring thing about this project so far is seeing Bettina [Bettina Cousineau, exhibit specialist at the Ford Library and Museum] becoming a Wikipedian. Bettina is the kind of person that the Wikipedia movement really needs.

It was funny, when I took the annual survey a couple of years ago and then saw the results published. I’m the stereotypical Wikipedian, in every sense of the term. In terms of age, education, race, language, location, and gender. Pretty much, I’m the demographic. And people in this demographic have important things to say, but no more so than anyone else. So I think it’s really cool to see Bettina, someone from a different demographic, get involved.

So again, I really hope GLAM institutions encourage their employees to actually participate. That’s the crux of this. It’s not just about dumping content. It’s about building a relationship. It’s about bridging the gap between their institution and all of us on Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons.

I wish every GLAM employee could be like Bettina and just go for it! And don’t be afraid to ask questions.

You’ve described yourself as a dedicated Wikipedian. How did you first get involved with Wikipedia, and what motivates you to continue making contributions to the site?

This is an interesting story. I was introduced to Wikipedia in 2005, during the spring semester of my freshman year in high school. And I was introduced to it by my freshman social studies teacher. He used the expression, “every important historical topic has an article” [on this site]. And this encouraged me to stick with it, to respect it, because it came from a teacher.

So I used it passively for about a year and a half, maybe 2 years. Then, I was a member of a history club at my high school: Gabriel Richard here in Ann Arbor. And I created and managed a weekly newsletter, called The Richard Historian. Wikipedia was a major source for getting started on a lot of The Richard Historian flyers.

I was so fascinated by Wikipedia because it was so much broader. I could explore topics outside the mainstream. I love history, I still do. I majored in it here. And at the high school level I was a little frustrated. There was a lot of great things about it, but world history there means North America and Western Europe. It’s very restricted. So I loved jumping into all these different things. Latin American History, African History, Asian History, Eastern European History, Oceanian History, and seeing a broader perspective. And Wikipedia allowed that even when you didn’t have the textbooks, which was a really powerful thing for me.

What advice do you have for anyone just starting out with Wikipedia?

I highly recommend getting an account and reading the encyclopedia while you’re logged in. Start fixing little things like typos and other little things you notice that aren’t right. That’s how I started and that’s how many other Wikipedians have started. Fix a period here, a space there, a comma there, and any misspellings. Become familiar with the interface, and don’t go any faster than you feel comfortable going. Find what you love. It doesn’t matter if you’re interested in knitting, the phases of the moon, or any country you can think of, there’s a place for you on Wikipedia.

We’ll see you at the edit-a-thon

Interested in getting started? Then join us this Thursday evening (2/7/13) at 5:00PM, where you can meet up with the Michigan Wikipedians, eat pizza, and contribute to a great project.


Interview with D. Karfalah Johnson, Visiting Scholar from University of Liberia, Dept. of Math

At University of Michigan we have a vibrant community of advocates and implementers of open content. We’ve featured many of them through our interview series on this blog. This community extends well beyond the University of Michigan campuses. We have a global community of students, educators, and scholars from around the world who travel to or partner with University of Michigan for special events and programs. While on campus, some of these visiting students and scholars participate in Open.Michigan events, create their own open educational resources (OER), or go on to use and adapt OER from elsewhere.

In today’s spotlight is Mr. D. Karfalah Johnson, who is a visiting scholar through the University of Michigan African Presidential Scholar (UMAPS) program. After being introduced to OER a few months ago, he’s already become both a consumer and producer of OER. (Image of Mr. D. Karfalah Johnson below is courtesy of the African Studies Center. Used with permission.)

D Karfalah Johnson

Could you briefly describe your academic research and teaching responsibilities?

At University of Liberia, where I have taught for over two decades, my role is to teach advanced mathematics to undergraduate students in the College of Science and Technology. Prior to teaching at University of Liberia, I was a student there. I completed three degrees – Bachelor of Science in Mathematics, a Bachelors of Science in Civil Engineering, and a Master of Science in Regional Planning. I have taught courses in multivariable calculus, elementary differential equations, and numerical methods. To help colleagues with their teaching, I assist others in the preparation of course manuals. Recently, I have begun working with students using technology for lectures such as slides and video recordings.

The main focus of my current research is the role of mathematical models for seismic data analysis in Liberia’s future. The desirable applications of mathematical models have clearly revealed how analyzing data using wavelets is an essential tool for science and engineering in my country. This research seeks to extract information from many different kinds of data, including – but certainly not limited to – the exploration of oil in Liberia. I plan to apply this study in the areas of medicine, engineering, security and business to various institutions found in my country.

Since September 2012, I have been in Ann Arbor through the University of Michigan African Presidential Scholar (UMAPS) program. My activities here can be summarized as twofold: I am getting additional educational experience that can be transferred to teaching in my national universities and I am upgrading and improving my research skills and capacity in wavelet analysis for better service to my community and country. While here, I am collecting and adapting available materials in advanced engineering mathematics and appropriate computer software for modern teaching techniques to save time that can be later invested elsewhere in the development of students. Some of these learning materials are existing open educational resources from other institutions (e.g. Saylor.org, Connexions), which the Open.Michigan team helped me find.

In addition to fine-tuning my research skills, I am collaborating with international scholars who are involved in similar research areas and who are serving as my mentors. Though my interest has always been to provide the basic understanding of the applications of mathematics in the real world situation, my opportunity here to connect with scholars such as Professor Daniel Burns (Department of Mathematics University of Michigan) and Professor Edward Aboufadel (Department of Mathematics, Grand Valley State University) has prompted me to join other great scientists that are daily sacrificing their lives for the development of mankind everywhere. I return to Liberia later this month.

One way I can contribute back is by sharing my work.

You have your own OER project underway. Why did you decide to make some of your course materials available through Open.Michigan?

There are so many factors that are worthy of discussing here. I have always wished to share my knowledge so that others would have the opportunity to read and educate themselves at low or no cost. Presently, I am concerned about the high cost of textbooks that are not affordable for students in many parts of the world. The course content at the University of Liberia does not rely on one textbook. Since students cannot afford to purchase a book in higher mathematics, there is a need to always produce lecture notes to meet the course. Given the difficulty sometimes, I wished to ask this question: Do we really serve well in our various professions? I will make my courses available for sharing to Open Michigan to help empower learners and educators everywhere.

Why do you think it’s important for faculty to share their learning materials as open educational resources?

I think it is important to share my educational resources through Open.Michigan so that they can be freely accessed as relevant learning materials to build for the most important target group in science and engineering. The creation of sharing course content is satisfactory in meeting the challenges of universities’ mission to educate the citizens of the world. We should all rise up to meet this challenge to build a better world for all.

What tips could you provide for faculty members interested in creating or using open educational resources?

In developing countries, faculty members of most universities are finding it very difficult to identify and collect needed materials for learning since there is often a lack of facilities and/or insufficient funding. We shall be in the position to learn more about copyright from initiatives like Open.Michigan.

I strongly believe that my association with creating open educational resources will provide future opportunities such as quick recognition in the shortest possible time among other colleagues.

Interestingly, I also wish to clearly state here that some traditional course contents (e.g. required courses, topics, learning objectives) are tied closely to institutional policy that cannot easily be altered. One way to affect change in education policy is to integrate open educational resources into curricular topics as an archive of study materials to complement workshops, seminars etc. Frankly speaking, teachers will be in the position to easily deliver lectures to students using the available open educational resources.

What would you like to see Open.Michigan doing in the next couple of years?

I would like to see the Open.Michigan initiative continue to address the shortage of educational resources in various institutions of higher learning, especially in African universities. I am convinced that in the not too distant future more universities will adopt this approach. I want to extend my appreciation to Open.Michigan for providing these timely educational resources.