The Almedalen Week (Almedalsveckan) is an annual event taking place in early July in the city of Visby on the Swedish island Gotland. With speeches, seminars and other political activities, it is considered to be the most important forum in Swedish politics. During the week, representatives from the major political parties in Sweden take turns to make speeches in Almedalen. It also brings together NGOs, companies, governmental agencies and the public at large all coming to Visby to meet, discuss politics and socialize. In recent years, the event has grown larger. As of 2015, it is the biggest and most important forum in Sweden for seminars, debates and political speeches on current social issues. In 2014, more than 3,500 activities were held, 866 journalists were accredited and over 30,000 participants were at the event. It has inspired similar events to be held in other countries, like Arendalsveckan in Norway and Arvamusfestival in Estonia.
One of the events, hosted by PwC, was a seminar on “the hidden data of schools”. The title was a twist of the more well-known discussion on open data. But this time the panel discussed all the data that schools already have, but seldom use or the data they could gather and analyse in order to improve the learning of their students. Among the participants were a MP from the Conservative party, the chair of the Swedish student union, a teacher, a representative from the Swedish Data Protection Authority, and myself, representing the LACE project.
What was interesting to see, and very encouraging, was that we all agreed on the fact that the Swedish school has a lot to gain from going further with the digitization of schools and in the use of learning analytics. We also agreed that there is a need for national strategies in this field, both to make sure that all students irrespective of where they live can take advantage of these development, but also to avoid some of the risks such as the risk of the student ending up being the product. Not at least I was happy to notice that the representative from the Education Committee in the Swedish Parliament had such an open mind although we agreed that the need for awareness-raising regarding learning analytics is huge among decision-makers in Sweden, as in most countries. Hopefully next step will be a seminar in the Swedish Parliament this fall.