Education Report 2007

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OSGeo Education and Curriculum Committee

Key Accomplishments

At the edu BOF meeting at FOSS4G 2007 we had 30 people in attendence. We held a second BOF where we did a "Wiki Sprint" to revise the group's web presence on the OSGeo website. At these meetings and subsequent group email discussions afterward, we came up with four major tasks for the 2007-08 year until the next FOSS4G meeting. We maintain this list at: We are developing: (1) an inventory of existing and new educational material; (2) suggested authoring methods, content management system, and a distribution and search facility; (3) a FreeGIS book; and (4) a multi-language OSGeo dictionary. Some hightlights from these efforts to date include:

  • Discussions regarding authoring methods, content management, distribution and search facility have been on-going. Our current thinking based on group dialog:
    • Authoring methods: DocBook was proposed. While there was some support, there also was some concerns about (1) learning curve for new authors; (2) The lack of a FOSS GUI editor for DocBook; and (3) The steps involved in converting DocBook to other formats like PDF. The discussions showed that some in the group who have significant material are using LaTeX. Scribus has also been suggested. We've now concluded that the effort in 2008 needs to be open to a variety of authoring methods, but Docbook, LaTex (Lyx) and Scribus may be three that we recommend.
    • Content Management/Version Control. The OSGeo Foundation has created a Subversion repository for our use. This will be a storage facility where people can add documents and check “development versions” out for editing. A small committee is in the process of setting the system up and testing it out with the goal of developing a short tutorial to guide our authors. There will be designated “owners” or “maintainers” of educational content. This, we hope, will support building the capability for “new derivative work” based on previous content.
    • Distribution of “Production” content: We will try and utilize the OSGeo Wiki to distribute "major" versions of educational content. The idea is when a document is ready for distribution to the masses, it gets converted to pdf format and posted to the Wiki.
    • Search facility. A still open issue is building an adequate search search facility of educational material. Our inventory wiki page is getting very long already and currently there is no easy way to query for educational material (e.g., show me all the content that is related to GRASS). One important point we seem to be in agreement on is that we want to store educational material by “module” and associated course, but not just by course. This will allow future users to be able to “pick and choose” content from a variety of sources. In 2007 we investigated potential options with “module” capability, including Rice Connexions repository. But currently group members have suggested to try out the OSGeo wiki for this purpose, using “category tags.” Landon Blake offered to write a simple desktop GUI that could be used to search for OSGeo educational content. In 2008 we will be continuing to work on this, starting with the idea of using the wiki.
  • FreeGIS book
    • Víctor Olaya Ferrero, Universidad de Extremadura, Spain has been providing leadership in this edu sub-project.
    • The table of contents has been fully defined, and each chapter has at least a main author, which is responsible of it.
    • A first meeting of authors was held in Valencia in November. A date (March 4th, 2008) has been set for a new meeting, and a list of main issues to discuss has been defined.
    • So far, more than 430 pages have already been written. All the chapters have at least a brief introduction and a list of keypoints, so authors of others chapters can know its content and take it into account when writing their own ones.
    • One model that is beginning to emerge is the idea of writing articles for the OSGeo Journal that then will be added as chapters to this book. Currently Landon Blake has written a rough draft of Geospatial Metadata chapter intending to follow this model of production.
  • Multilanguage Dictionary
    • Work on the OSGeo Multilanguage Dictionary project has really just started and Landon Blake has agreed to lead this subcommittee. Several team members are planing on adding definitions to the dictionary based on their current work ().
  • OSGeo Edu and general marketing
    • Puneet Kishor (University of Wisconsin, Madison) has, over the last year, been involved in several major events where he has been promoting OSGeo edu's (and OSGeo in general) activities, including: The Science Commons Open Access Data Meeting; The US National Academies at the workshop on "Information Commons for Science"; The Brazilian workshop "Strategies for Permanent and Open Access to Scientific Data"; UNESCO Paris meeting on "Common Use Licensing of Scientific Data; Specialists Meeting on Volunteered Geographic Information" at Santa Barbara.

Areas for Improvement

  • We continue to think that there are probably opportunities connecting the Edu activities with the OSGeo projects and that we do not have an adequate inventory of educational material available in these projects. It might be helpful to have a designated person from each project be represented and active on this committee.
  • There appears to be some interest to develop develop a packaged cd for Ubuntu to launch at Foss4g2008. This seems to cross several OSGeo committees and we haven't been able to get this mobilized. We have heard that there may be some efforts already underway (perhaps by groups outside of OSGeo) toward this end.

Opportunities to Help

  • First, we can always use help on any one of the major activities listed above. In addition, more specifically, we could use help on:
    • INVENTORYING TRAINING MATERIAL NOT YET LISTED. We are pretty sure that other OSGeo-related projects have tutorials or educational material that we have not inventoried. We encourage other OSGeo participants (and others outside of OSGeo) to add their components to our Educational_Content_Inventory page. If someone would step up to take the lead in contacting each OSGeo project and ask them about relevant educational material we could list or point to, and to encourgage them to list any future material on our intentory page, that would be a great help.
    • TRANSLATIONS. In all of our existing documentation, we could use people to either translate existing tutorials into other languages other than English or by contributing new educational content, or new dictionary terms and definitions. And there is a sizable (400+ pages) written for the FreeGIS book written in Spanish, that we could use translations done into English.
    • DEVELOPING NEW EDUCATIONAL MATERIAL. If you are interested, please add an entry to our Commitments_for_New_Material_Development page.
    • DEVELOPING A SEARCH MECHANSIM. Currently, all our tutorials are listed in the wiki and typically linked to outside sources. As this list grows, we think we need better methods of finding relevant material for end users.
    • DEVELOPING THE PROCESS/SYSTEM FOR NEW DERIVATIVE WORKS. Ultimately, we are working toward a system where people can utilize and download training material and update it where deemed necessary. We haven't yet had that situation happen, but we are getting close. If someone reading this is interested in utilizing someone else's existing content listed on our Educational_Content_Inventory page, and wants to create a new derivative of the content, please contact the author of the content and copy the chair of the edu committee (Charlie Schweik ar cschweik AT pubpol DOT umass DOT edu).

Outlook for 2008

Our primary goals for the next FOSS4G conference is to have, in place:

  1. An initial set of educational material with “designated maintainers” that is open access and, at least in some instances, allows for new derivatives (Educational Content Inventory);
  2. A working content versioning system (probably Subversion-based);
  3. A system for searching educational material that will allow, as new material is added, users to find tutorial “modules” or complete courses, relatively easily;
  4. Recommended authoring tools that are easy to use and help us move forward in developing a library of educational material. We intend to accept material in any digital form, but our hope is we can develop some easy standards that will enhance the searchability of the tutorials as our library grows.
  5. Continued efforts on the Free GIS Book and OSGeo Multilanguage Dictionary;
  6. New educational material. Several OSGeo edu members are developing new teaching material and have made informal commitments to make some or all content available through the OSGeo educational collaborative.
  • These are (in no particular order):
    • Advanced Topics in Geographic Information Systems (Scott Mitchell, Carlton U., Canada. Language: English)
    • QGIS and GRASS orientation workshop (Scott Mitchell, Carlton U., Canada. Language: English)
    • Exploring and interpolating fields (Maria Antonia Brovelli, Polytechnic of Milan and Polytecnic of Zurichand and Markus Neteler, Centre for Alpine Ecology, Italy. Language: English)
    • Training Notes on Spatial Data Sharing using FOSS 2008 (Venkatesh Raghavan, Osaka City University, Japan and colleagues Shinji Masumoto, Sarawut Ninsawat, Daisuke Yoshida, Susumu Nonogaki, Willington Siabato. Language: not specified)
    • E-course on FOSS GIS (Moritz Lennert, Free University of Brussels, Belgium. Language: French)
    • Geospatial Analysis, Modeling and Visualization (title may change). (Helena Mitasova, North Carolina State University, USA. Language: English.)
    • Introduction to Remote Sensing using FOSS (set of modules). (Ned Horning, American Museum of Natural History, USA, and Maili Page and Charlie Schweik, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, USA)

More detail on these efforts are listed at

In addition, members will continue to market our edu efforts and OSGeo in general. One member, Puneet Kishor will be giving lectures at a data and management workshop in Panama City organized by the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research (IAI) and CATHALAC, and then later in spring I will be presenting a paper at AAAS. In both events he intends to underscore the need for open geospatial data and education information