WILD – A digitally usable curriculum using Linked Data

The WILD project is a follow up project to the Annofolio projet (ref. 1) that ended in 2006. The aim is to study how the curriculum (the Swedish Steering Documents) can be made an integrated part of the overall digital information infrastructure in a fashion that makes it, not only digitally available, but furthermore digitally usable. Digitally usable means that it must be made available in such way that it provides “meaning” for computers and systems – i.e., that other digital services and information systems can make use of it and integrate it into their services and processes in ways that creates and added value. In order to accomplish this, the concepts of the Semantic Web and Linked Data are used. There are a number of potential uses for the curriculum as Linked data, ranging from linking/connecting digital learning resources to the curriculum to quality assurance and conformance. A few examples  can be seen below.

The Swedish Steering Documents – an introduction

The use of digital resources, information and services are increasing rapidly in the whole educational sector. This has created a need for a better information infrastructure (and information ecology) as well as methods and tools for managing and contextualizing digital resources for use in different learning contexts. One important component of the information ecology, for accomplishing such contextualization, are the documents constituting the curriculum. These documents are called steering documents for Swedish schools and are supplied and managed by the Swedish National Agency for Education (Skolverket). The Swedish steering documents consist of several parts, illustrated by the figure below (figure 1).

The structure of the steering documents for Swedish schools

Figure 1. The structure of the steering documents for Swedish schools

The WILD-project are mainly targeting the parts of the steering documents that consist of the curriculum and the syllabus (and Course Plans etc.). However, a set of tools and methods that can be used by others to work with (i.e. digitize and add metadata) local steering documents in order to make them a part of the same “information ecology” are also developed within the WILD project.

Objective of the WILD project

The overall objective of the WILD project is to study how to make the Steering Documents, not only digitally available, but further more digitally usable as a part of the schools information ecology and information infrastructure. The aim is that other systems and services should be able to use and interact with the Linked Data Curriculum Cloud Service in order to facilitate different kinds of connections and linking to the Steering Documents. The underlying idea is to make it possible for third partes to use the Curriculum Cloud Service  and integrate it into their services and processes in a “mashup” fashion. By using such approach, pedagogical and administrative added value can be created by using one common source for curriculum data in order to contextualize digital services, learning content and information in relation to the school curriculum.

In the WILD

The WILD project is set out to study how the curriculum can be made a part of the digital information ecology for schools and the school sector by digitizing and supplying the documents in formats that makes them digitally useable together with other information services. By digitally useful, we mean that it should be possible to explicitly or dynamically (and automatically) link other digital resources to the steering documents based on metadata markup in the steering documents and the digital information/resource that is being connected to the steering documents. It is therefore importnat that the curriculum is not only made digitally available, but also made available in a way that makes it processable by “machines” (by other systems) to facilitate such dynamic linking between arbitrary (and from start unknown) digital resources and the Steering Documents. For this purpose Semantic Web technology and Linked Data are used as the basis for the digital steering documents.

The studies in the WILD project are mainly experimental studies (influenced by the notion of Design-based research) involving teachers and pupils in schools. It is a combination och technology development and field studies to study how the technology implementation influences the pedagogical possibilities when implemented and used in real-life pedagogical scenarios. It is assumed that the way technology and information infrastructure are designed and implemented influence the pedagogical possibilities and use. Several related projects have been initiated in order to study and explore the potential of the Steering Documents as Linked Data and several additional studies are carried out in those projects. Some of those projects are described below.

As a first step a Curriculum “Cloud Service” (article only available in Swedish), called Styrdokument Online (translates into Steering Documents Online), has been implemented. Styrdokument Online offers two different ways for other services and systems to interact with the Steering Documents: through an REST API (a programming interface) och directly with the Linked Data (using SPARQL and RDF). Using one or both of those interfaces for interaction, Styrdokument Online can be used as a component to build digital services that uses and integrates the curriculum according to the philosophy of the WILD project, as expressed in figure 2.

Figure 2. The basic idea of Styrdokument Online

Figure 2. The basic idea of Styrdokument Online

Projects related to WILD

The following section describes a couple of related projects that use the the results of the WILD project and the Styrdokument Online curriculum cloud service. The Styrdokument Online cloud service is also being tested by a couple of commercial system vendors and educational publishers.

Connecting the curriculum and digital learning resources

One of the first studies made in the WILD project was a study on how digital learning resources can be contextualized and linked/connected to the curriculum using Linked Data. This was accomplished by connecting the Spider search service to the curriculum cloud service. The Spider is a national search service for schools that offers the possibility to search over 220 000 different Open Educational Resources (OER) form a number of different Learning Object Repositories (LOR).

The reason for choosing the Spider as a “pilot” was that there is often problematic for teachers to make good connections between OER and the steering documents without a lot of extra effort. This is often used as an argument in favor of traditional learning material. The alignment between the learning content and the curriculum (pedagogical contextualization) is traditionally made by educational publishers and many teachers rest in comfort with that. By providing machine processable steering documents and via a cloud service that can be used by others, a tool is provided that makes such pedagogical contextualization much easier when dealing with digital resources. The study has shows the potential strength of the combination of Linked Data and the Steering Documents and it becomes possible to quire the Spider for OERs in a fashion like “Give me all OER in the Spider that is suitable for 5th grade Math, learning objective X and grading criteria Y“, and likewise. The connection can be made in the opposite way as well, i.e. “This learning resource matches competence X, in 4th grade history“. Connections can be dynamically generated based on filtering (reasoning) using metadata.

Dynamic connections to the steering documents can be made for any digital resource that relates to the steering documents in one way or another, such as Personal Development Plans (i.e. individuella utvecklingsplaner), tests and assessments, digital portfolio, quality and evaluation and so on. A few examples are provided below.

Quality assurance and fulfilment of objectives – the GLID project

The GLID project is a collaboration with the National Agency for Education and a couple of upper secondary schools (the Swedish gymnasium). The objective of the GLID project is to ensure fulfilment of objectives during the apprentice training at upper secondary level. Especially in the part of the education this is located at the workplace. The outcome of the project will be a tool for setting upp personal educational plans and learning contracts that are linked to the curriculum and the course plans. Furthermore, the different activities and study items that are supposed to be managed at the workplace can be described and accessed by the tool in order to align everything to the steering documents. All data is treated as linked data, which means that there are huge dynamics in the ways data can be related to each other – either by explicit linking of data or by filtering of data through query and reasoning. Beside being a tool for quality assurance, it is also a tool for communication between teachers, students and the supervisor at the workplace.

Connecting the Steering Documents to informal learning – #tagga2014

The objective of #tagga2014 is to study how learning and learning processes can be supported during 2014, when Umeå is the cultural capital of Europe. One way this will be done is by linking informal learning experiences to the Steering Documents, using a smartphone app that provides the mechanisms for creating the links to the Steering Documents, as well as an abstraction layer between the language used in the Steering Documents and the language used by the learners.

More information about #tagga2014… (only in Swedish)

Potential future projects

Below are some of the potential projects and ideas that we are currently working on in relation to the WILD project.

Competencies and qualifications

Study the possibility and potential of linking the Steering Documents to competencies and qualifications, such as certification systems for different areas, such as for ventilation and sanitation engineering or for electricians, that in turn can be linked to the work carried out in the GLID project. Another potential is to represent the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) as Linked Data in order to align the content of the Steering Documents, certification systems and industry standards to the EQF. This holds a huge potential in terms of European harmonization.

Curriculum Alignment

Curriculum alignment provides a mechanism to compare the curriculum of different educational systems. However, this requires Linked Data representation of the curriculums.

Digital Assessments and tests

In a similar way that digital learning resources can be connected and linked to the Steering Documents, this would also be possible for digital assessments and tests. As an example, each item of a test could be linked or dynamically connected to different grading criteria, learning objectives, competences etc, in a similar way that digital learning resources were in the Spider project.

Additional information

  • The WILD API (under development)
  • A WILD presentation made for Dutch Kennisnet (WebCast)
  • Twitter #-tag “wild” (or follow @frepa)
  • Writings and papers (coming very soon…)
  • Omvärldsbloggen writes about WILD (only in Swedish)

References

1- The WILD project builds upon the results of the Anofolio project (See Broady, Isberg, & Paulsson, 2003, Paulsson & Engman, 2005 & Paulsson, 2006).

For more information contact Fredrik Paulsson.

 

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