A blog about Open Source, my work at the Gates Foundation and those I am fortunate enough to collaborate with
You can scroll the shelf using ← and → keys
You can scroll the shelf using ← and → keys
There are 7 core use cases that we believe such a map can help us address:
All one requries to get started is a set of learning objectives in a machine-readable format. The author of those objectives would also have the option at publication of describing the relationship between them thereby enabling a rendering of the progression from topic to topic. This is but an initial assertion. Evidential probability analysis would help true learning pathways and relationships between objectives emerge over time as more and more people lay down paths through the subject area. If one wanted to get truly funky, one could leverage an arcane markup like PROWL to weight the relationships between objectives allowing for further differentiation and customization to an individual’s learning patterns.
So what might the rest of the recipe for a learning map look like? Here’s my guestimate:
Coupled with these basic ingredients we would also require some transactional web service capabilities to support the feedback loops and uses I listed earlier. In rough increasing order of complexity those would include:
So what might one of these maps actually look like. Figure 2 below shows an example. It was created by Larry Berger and Laurence Holt of Wireless Generation and provides an exciting sample visualization of a learning map for the Common Core Math Standards that could be built using the basic ingredients described above. Larry and Laurence write: “Known as “the honeycomb,” this application would be interactive and display a student’s progress through the standards. Each hexagon represents a single skill or concept, and groups of hexagons reflect the clusters of skills and concepts that together make up a standard. Drawing on the data infrastructure of the SLI, such a map could track a student’s progress, with cells turning from red to yellow to green as he mastered components of the standards. The slider on the left side of the screen would allow the student or his teacher to zoom in on the cells, which would display more granular information and links to aligned content and diagnostic assessments to help the student continue to move ahead. Individual student maps could roll up to classroom maps, classrooms could be aggregated to school maps and so on, up to the district and state levels.”
Figure 2: Visualization of the Common Core Learning Map
I am interpreting Larry and Laurence to be describing a visualization of raw XML in a native app or downloadable client. It would not be hard to add to their list of features the URI links and a way to express sequencing between the hexagons. One could imagine a service event being triggered either by onMouseover or when a student actually “shows up” in that hexagon, i.e. data informs the map of the student’s new location. The one tricky part would be brokering the link between a URI describing a hexagon in the visualization from the app, over a firewall, through a service broker, through a proxy or two, over another firewall and into a publisher’s digital content server where a relevant resource is then retrieved. Steve Midgely and his team are on of the groups working to tackle that problem, which is great, because its really tricky and Steve is really smart.
The visualization is exciting for the possibilities it represents and its intuitive UI. However it is also limited by its medium. For example, there is no reason why the same functionality described in the visualization could not also be accomplished using a combination of the APIs contained in the new HTML5, along with the design advances in CSS3 and performance gains we’re
seeing from a Java framwork like JQuery or Python. Such an approach would also have advantages and afford additional options over a more traditional app approach, namely:
Based on my early inspection of HTML5 and its API set I believe we can build an open and extensible Learning Map Web app, and that it would be the sort of project that would lend itself well to the Open Community to sustain. However, we would still need some solution to the earlier list of system capabilities required to support such an app, namely: integration with a student datastore so learners can be mapped; a way to link URIs across servers; a way to broker services between URIs; and finally, a way to build engines underneath the map capable of supporting adaptive tutoring and diagnostics.
Of these issues, the first could be dealt with by some form of federated datastore . The last will be dealt with using a combination of datamining, Bayesian analytics and scalable machine learning algorithms like Apache Mahout, or with integrated approaches from commercial providers like SAS or IBM which can now couple Watson’s capabilities to its recently acquired SPSS program.
So that leaves URI linking and transaction services. To solve that problem one could take advantage of Steve’s Registry and its elegant NNTP-like approach. Here’s an illustration of the Registry’s Transport Network:
There are some questions we need to answer before going with an HTML/script-based approach to produce an actual navigable map:
I hope this paper has been easy to follow and I would greatly appreciate hearing your reaction to it.