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RE: Proposed W3C priorities for education

From: Crispin Weston <crispin.weston@saltis.org>
Date: Wed, 18 Feb 2015 00:25:13 GMT
Message-ID: <1424219113469.10177.2756@webmail7>
To: "Michael Champion (MS OPEN TECH)" <michael.champion@microsoft.com>
Cc: "public-most-important-priorities@w3.org" <public-most-important-priorities@w3.org>
Hi Michael,

Thanks for the questions. I would answer them as follows.

1. The specifications that I am proposing would be layered on top of foundational W3C standards and not replace them. TinCan provides a standard Web API. The IMS Content Packaging standard was expressed as an XSD.

What is missing from the base standards is a level of semantic interoperability that will allow me to develop e.g. a common mark book that can harvest meaningful information from any instructional software, without having to modify my code to create a bespoke integration. I don't see how this can be done without standard data models.

There has been much talk about big data in education - but most commentators agree that data in education will be small compared to the sort of data that search engines get to work on. That means that if anyone is to make any sense of it, it has to be structured. It is those education-specific semantics and structures that need to be shared.

You suggest a lack of skill/tools in the education community. It may be relevant that ed-tech, at least at present, does not have a huge amount of money. Creating bespoke integrations with third-party services on a bilateral basis (which is how this often works in business) is expensive. So there was a great benefit in giving everyone very clear and somewhat prescriptive instructions on how to ensure that their software could achieve plug-and-play interoperability with other services. It also has to be said that in the early 2000s, ADL was well funded and was able to create a pretty good and free test harness for people to ensure that they were compliant with the specification.

It is also worth noting that the idea that most non-digital educational metrics are infamously subject to misinterpretation, as teachers try to do the best for their students. The labelling of education objectives (often called criterion referencing) is widely recognised to have been problematic, owing to everyone interpreting the criteria in different ways. This is another reason why clear semantics are required.

1a. There have been plenty of attempts to create consensual solutions in education, which is what I think a community group would aim to do. The trouble with consensual approaches is that they tend to entrench orthodox positions and are not a good basis for innovation, which is what ed-tech requires at present. It is for that reason that I propose (1) description languages that would enable new data models to be created by self-selecting, innovative partnerships, and (2) partnerships with public sector Ministries of Education, which ultimately hold the purse strings in education markets and who are interested in encouraging this sort of innovation.

You might then ask how my proposed "data model description language" would differ from e.g. XSD. I would prefer to defer answering that question, which would get into technical detail, until we had discussed the general approach and in particular my other points, where the requirement is, I believe, more straightforward.

2. With respect to IP, TinCan/xAPI is ultimately owned by the US DoD and I would be very surprised if they created any problems over IP. Everything else I propose is new work with no incumbent IP holders. Of the specifications that caused problems in the past, Simple Sequencing never worked well and needs to be completely replaced and Content Packaging has been rendered obsolete by the web. This is pretty virgin territory.


On February 17, 2015, Michael Champion (MS OPEN TECH) <michael.champion@microsoft.com> wrote:
> Thanks for this summary. I have two fairly fundamental questions:
> 1.What is missing in the Web Platform that prevents it from being a “viable standards platform for education”? You mention
> a.A simple but consistent method of publishing metadata …
> b.A data model description language …
> c.A new specification for the adaptive sequencing of learning content.
> d.A specification for the machine-readable description of learning objectives and curricula.
> e.A machine-readable data handling description language, …
> I kept wondering what was missing in HTML5/CSS/Web APIs, RDFa, XML, etc. that prevents them from being used separately or in combination to achieve these goals? I suspect the answer is more about a lack of skills or tool support, not the lack of standards. W3C is a good venue for getting people together who want to work on usability and interoperability issues, but it can’t solve them top down. I would suggest as a first step creating one or more Community Groups to discuss problems, sketch out possible solutions, and THEN make the to take some concrete proposals emerging from this incubation work to standardization.
> 2.From the summary, the previous efforts foundered partly because of intellectual property disputes. While W3C has a great track record for producing royalty-free standards, the patent policy only works if IP owners are willing to make royalty-free commitments on a proposed standard. How can we get the relevant IP owners to do so? Again, starting with Community Groups would give us a sense of who is willing to contribute their own IP on RF terms to the community, and that would give the W3C Team data on whether there is a critical mass for standards with broader patent commitments.
> From:Crispin Weston [mailto:crispin.weston@saltis.org]
> Sent: Tuesday, February 17, 2015 1:40 PM
> To: public-most-important-priorities@w3.org
> Subject: Proposed W3C priorities for education
> Dear All,
> Following my presentation on the last Education Task Force call, I worked with Pierre Danet to summarize our position in a short paper, which I attach.
> I look forward to our further discussions.
> Kind regards,
> Crispin.
Received on Wednesday, 18 February 2015 00:25:46 UTC

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