This blog post on We-Share, written by Adolfo Ruiz, is the second in our series of blog posts from the Veni Competition submissions. You can vote in the People’s Choice for We-Share. We-Share has been shortlisted in the final eight.
Educational registries of ICT tools are commonly employed to support educators when discovering and selecting tools for their classrooms. A common problem in these registries -which limits their utility- is how their data is sustained, since educational descriptions of ICT tools are hard to create and maintain updated. Specifically, three important drawbacks can be found in these registries: first, the well-known cold-start problem is present; second, they do not typically include information about the educational use of ICT tools; third, these registries are isolated data silos that need to create and keep updated all the data they manage, thus increasing the overall effort of sustaining educational ICT tool datasets.
We-Share is a social-semantic application that allows educators to search, create and enrich descriptions of ICT tools from the Web of Data. This approach has several benefits regarding the sustainability of the data with respect to other already-existing solutions:
- An initial collection of ICT tool descriptions can be created out of information already published on the Web of Data. This collection is used to solved the cold-start problem datasets suffer (i.e. in order to be useful, and to motivate educators to publish data, We-Share needs to have a reasonable collection of tool descriptions). In fact, We-Share automatically imported 6760 tool descriptions (in March 2013) from several sources of the Web of Data, making them available for educators.
- It is possible to take advantage of the updates about tool descriptions that will appear in the Web of Data, both because current linked datasets are updated or because new sources are offered. Thus, the ICT tool descriptions managed by We-Share are periodically updated and new ones are frequently discovered.
- The potential impact of the data created in We-Share is much higher since it is published as Linked Open Data on the Web.
This way, We-Share is able to take advantage of the data already published on the Web to support educators when discovering and selecting ICT tools, while enabling the educational community to further enrich tool descriptions out of their experience using them in the classroom.
In its front page We-Share includes a search interface that allows educators to build complex queries in order to search for tools (see previous image). These queries may include concepts related to the functionality of the tools (e.g. “tools to watch videos”) or to the educational contexts where these tools have been employed (e.g. “tools that where used in peer review activities”). Thus, complex queries could be build, such as “a tool that allows a group of students to write and has already been used to support a debate in a blended scenario”. In addition, keyword-based queries can also be posted. This video tutorial provides further information about how to search for tools with We-Share.
When clicking in any of the results obtained, more information about such tool is visualized. For example, the second and third images of this post show part of the description of MediaWiki. As the previous image shows, this description includes a text and some of the functional and administrative characteristics of MediaWiki. Most of this information was retrieved from the Web of Data and it was enriched by the educational community.
In addition, several educators reviewed MediaWiki publishing their opinion about the tool, as well as several characteristics of the educational contexts where they employed it (see image below). As seen, each review is composed by a free text, a 0-to-5 rating and is related to an educational context. More information about these contexts can be obtained by clicking on them. For example, the following image shows the description of an educational context, which includes its characteristics as well as the list of tools employed on it (see the following image). Thus, educators can discover ICT tools, or combinations of ICT tools, by browsing the information published by other educators. Further, tool descriptions can also be browsed listing the tools that belong to any category or the tools that support any educational task.
Regarding the publication of information, the educators should create an account in order to access to the publication interface. Then, they can employ We-Share to publish or enrich ICT tool descriptions, educational contexts and educational reviews. Here you can find a tutorial of how to publish information on We-Share.
Finally, it is important to underline that all the information managed by We-Share (including the information that its users publish) is freely available on the Web of Data through a RKBexplorer dataset following the Linked Data principles. This dataset not only allows to browse the information using a web interface, but also includes a SPARQL endpoint where formal queries can be submitted. This way, third parties can take advantage of the data managed by We-Share.