Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

SEEK-AT-WD: A Social-Semantic Infrastructure to Sustain Educational ICT Tool Descriptions in the Web of Data

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

SEEK-AT-WD: A Social-Semantic Infrastructure to Sustain Educational ICT Tool Descriptions in the Web of Data

Article excerpt

Introduction

Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are massively employed in learning situations (i.e. scenarios designed for students to learn through the realization of learning tasks (Osuna-Gomez, 1999)). As learning situations may differ in many aspects, there are several characteristics of ICT tools that determine whether they are suitable for each specific learning situation (Kurti, Spikol, Milrad, & Flensburg, 2006). On the one hand, the tool functionality should support the tasks established for the educational situation (Vega-Gorgojo et al., 2008); e.g., a Wiki can be adequate to support students when writing and sharing documents. On the other hand, the tool should be compatible with the rest of the technology employed in the situation, as well as appropriate for the people who is going to use it (Gomez-Sanchez et al., 2009); e.g., a suitable tool for higher education may not fit in primary school. This diversity of purposes and situations makes the selection of ICT tools a critical step when designing learning situations (Gomez-Sanchez et al., 2009; Vega-Gorgojo et al., 2010; Vignollet Ferraris, Martel, & Burgos, 2008).

This technology selection requires educators to be aware of the capabilities of different software tools that can potentially be employed for educational purposes (Vega-Gorgojo et al., 2008) (this paper calls such tools "educational ICT tools"). In order to inform educators several educational organizations maintain ICT tool registries. Some examples are Sisoft (Universidad Complutense de Madrid, 2013) or Ontoolsearch (Vega-Gorgojo et al., 2010). These registries contain data about ICT tools and some of them structure it using semantic technologies, thus providing higher precision and recall in their results when educators search for tools (Vega-Gorgojo et al., 2010). A common issue to these registries is how to create and sustain the data they contain, which is a well-known problem in the educational domain (Bateman, Brooks, & McCalla, 2006). Some of these registries, such as Ontoolsearch, follow a traditional approach where an administrator is responsible for sustaining the dataset. However, this approach requires the organization to assume the whole effort of creating and updating the data. Others adopt the Web 2.0 principles (O'Reilly, 2005) to sustain their respective datasets, involving users in the creation and maintenance of the content. For example, tool providers publish descriptions of their ICT tools in the ROLE Widget Store (Govaerts et al., 2011). Another example is (CoolToolsForSchools, 2013), where educators not only retrieve tool descriptions, but they also publish and update them. Nonetheless, these specific search facilities are still limited because their communities are isolated: the data published in a registry cannot be retrieved from another. In addition, they suffer from the cold start problem (Maltz & Ehrlich, 1995): at the beginning the utility of the registry is limited since it contains very few tool descriptions; hence, educators are not motivated to enrich the registry since they do not perceive its utility.

In our research, we address this data sustainability problem by taking advantage of the open data already published in the Web of Data (Heath & Bizer, 2011). The Web of Data is a recent proposal that foresees a Web-scale federation of datasets that follow a common methodology for publishing their information: the Linked Data principles (BernersLee, 2006). Currently, thousands of data providers, including some educational institutions as (University of Southampton, 2013), publish their information on the Web of Data, which is growing very quickly (Heath & Bizer, 2011, chap. 3). Our key idea is to automatically import ICT tool descriptions from third-party updated repositories of the Web of Data and relate them to a vocabulary understandable by educators; thus, the effort of creating and updating the dataset would be significantly reduced. …

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