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The European Schools Treasury Browser

Deliverables

Quality of resources is a key factor in ETB. Guidelines on quality processes and recommendations were developed for (1) teachers and (2) repository managers. The first set of recommendations aims at teachers working in the educational settings using web-based material. Process: the recommendations deal with aspects educators must keep in mind while creating the content of their own material: - Accuracy: the resource must be reliable, valid and produced by a Trusted source; information should be impartially presented; resource must not contain biases, mistakes or omissions. - Appropriateness: the resource should contain information for the intended learners' level; the resource should use an appropriate and suitable vocabulary, language or concepts, avoid mistakes or stereotyping. - Clarity: information should provide a clear tie between the purpose (goals, objectives) and the content and procedures suggested. Correlation should be comprehensive and obvious. Redundancy is usually unwelcome and isolated activities without a relationship are superfluous. - Completeness: the resource should be complete, i.e., offer all essential information and elements, as well as inclusion of such components as self-contained activities, materials required, prerequisites, information for obtaining related resources, assessment criteria, links to quality indicators and standards. - Motivation: the resource should achieve the active engagement of the learner and be interesting, innovative and appealing, build on prior knowledge and skills, and promote relevant action on the part of the learner. - Organisation: the resource should be easy to use and logically sequenced, with each segment of the resource related to other segments. It should flow in an orderly manner, using organising tools (i.e. headings, a map, etc.); it should provide references, bibliographies and other supporting materials. The second set of recommendations is for repository owners: managers, curators and/or administrators of an educational server. This group is strictly responsible for submitting and administrating the metadata records circulating on the network. The recommendations deal with issues that matter for the network; i.e. what kind of material is wanted for the ETB-network. Every joining repository carries out documentation processing (source selection, documentary processing, information processing and diffusion) in relation to its target users whose needs have been analysed. Factors of Quality ETB aims to represent a European documentation system, where the actors use documentary standards (metadata), selection criteria and quality assurance procedures that are common to the system and established in advance. Submission of records is based on the policy that all the records have to pass a local quality assessment before being submitted to the network. This allows ETB to state that a repository becoming a member of the ETB-network already indicates that resources are of a good quality. Secondly, the repositories shall make their quality assurance policy and quality assessment procedures available for everybody on the Web. This allows users to evaluate whether the quality assessment policy of resources meets their demands whilst assure them about the material found through the ETB. These two requirements create the base principal for "Trusted sources" in the ETB-network. ETB judges four (4) factors valuable for quality assurance of the learning resources that are submitted to the network. These factors are Trusted Source (as explained above), Usefulness, Attractiveness and Satisfaction. These four factors of quality of material are top-level terms containing several sub-factors. Usefulness, for example, is linked to the "Information quality" and "Learning capability" what kind of skills learner gets from using the material. Since each learning situation is different it is impossible to define one set of quality standards that will fulfil all the needs of end users. Naturally, if all the elements of the ETB data model are used (look at http://www.en.eun.org/eun.org2/goto.cfm?did=5874 ), the information of the material is more complete and more informative, hence of higher quality. This emphasises the factor Satisfaction too. ETB believes that if the end user is provided with enough information of the resource s/he will be able to decide whether a piece of material in concern meets the standards s/he has in mind. Thus, the overall satisfaction to the material, and also to the documentation system, will be enhanced. The factor for attractiveness of resources might sound pretentious and outplace in the list of factors judged valuable. But the playfulness and attractiveness is not to neglect, after all it is an important asset of using ICT in the educational setting. ETB promotes explorative, innovative and enjoyable learning material that can make educational setting appealing and attractive to its audience.
The Concordance Mappings have been done intellectually by the partners of the ETB network to map the respective thesauri used by the partners to the ETB Thesaurus vocabulary. To carry out these mappings according to the ETB resource tool kit a transformation rule and an excel template have been developed. These results can be used in any other domain-specific context.
Multilingual thesaurus in nine languages: Danish, English, French, German, Greek, Italian, Spanish, Swedish, and Hebrew aimed to index educational resources. Three more language versions (Polish, Portuguese and Hungarian) are coming in a short time. Specifically oriented to the content of learning/teaching materials, both on traditional and electronic support (core area). Subordinately are taken into account aspects such as teaching methods and procedures; guidance and evaluation; administration problems; psychological/cognitive development; educational system (fringe area). Compared to other educational thesauri, the ETB Thesaurus can be considered as innovative for the following characteristics: - Its structure is friendly and easy to handle by non-expert users; - It is the first educational thesaurus having a Hebrew language version; - It is searchable on line in all the languages and in all the standard displays of a thesaurus (rotated, systematic, structured alphabetical); - It is freely downloadable at the EUN site (http://www.en.eun.org/eun.org2/eun/en/etb/content.cfm?lang=en&ov=7208); - It can be dynamically interfaced with a resource database and it is already interfaced with the ETB repository; - It can be used within two scenarios, both present in the educational documentation environment: 1. A metadata infrastructure for information exchange, connecting European educational repositories that have their own indexing systems and documentary languages; 2. Native repositories characterised by a European dimension from the very beginning. Thus, the ETB Thesaurus can impact both on repositories where documents have been indexed by using its descriptors and on repositories whose classification systems or thesauri have been matched with its descriptors. For this purpose, conceptual mapping of the ETB thesaurus with existing education thesauri is already available. The ETB thesaurus is WEB enabled, described through an RDF data model, and distributed in a format based on XML. Potential users of the ETB thesaurus are indexers working in education documentation services, publishers and libraries, on the one hand; pupils, teachers, administrators, scholars, and decision-makers interested in educational materials on the WEB on the other hand. The ETB Thesaurus can be employed in a number of educational documentary initiatives at a national level, in many cases replacing the European Education Thesaurus whose latest updates were made in 1998. Many other international projects are going to exploit the ETB Thesaurus, such as - in the near future - the European project CELEBRATE on learning objects and the Alis project involving Latin America educational repositories. The expected advantages are a higher degree of standardisation in the international educational documentation and an increase in the technical and cultural interoperability among different educational systems.
The ETB light allows simple XML posting and reading, and it will be form based, what means that national repositories will not have to install anything in their server, and receive and send resources from/to the ETB network via the EUN server. This was developed due to the feedback from some repositories that might want, in the beginning, to analyze the ETB network possibilities, not to install any extra software in their own platform, or have to develop anything or use concrete formats. The ETB light will include the following functions: - Online registration - Online ETB reading (Form based) - Online ETB posting (Form based) - Partner Simple XML ETB reading (EUN publish) - Partner Simple XML ETB posting (EUN harvest)
The purpose of the evaluation is not only to measure but also to contribute to the success of the project. It is important to remember that evaluation is not a single thing, it is a process. The evaluation process and assessment has as an objective to test the usability, quality, pedagogical-educational value as well as the innovative character of the developed information space at European level for the exchange of materials, products, services, and example of best practice that will treasure the experience of EU countries and European School collaboration projects. The tools of the developed information space to be evaluated within the framework of the ETB project are: - School Repositories Thesaurus - Metadata Toolkit - Metadata Networking Infrastructure - Metadata Registry and search client The evaluation involved the development of the evaluation tools- questionnaires, which are a checklist of criteria designed to facilitate the assessment of the web resource. There was an attempt to specify and enumerate the essential ingredients of a good or high quality or useful web resource. The proposed indicators of quality involve the following: usability, pedagogical effectiveness, content efficiency and transferability, which are further analysed below. The usability, quality, pedagogical-educational value as well as the innovative character of the developed information space at European level for the exchange of materials, products, services, and example of best practice that will treasure the experience of EU countries and European School collaboration projects. 3.1. Usability Usability of www resources (Oliver et.al 1996) is a lot different from usability of conventional materials. Conventional materials require few operational skills on the part of the learner, while www materials employ many different functions and features whose effectiveness and/ or ineffectiveness is subject to evaluation. Usability of the resource was specifically measured in terms of access and retrieval speed, navigation, search facility, communication facility, and user friendliness. For a start, the resource was examined in order to (1) see the extent to which it can be easily and/ or reliably accessed or if it is frequently overloaded or offline and (2) identify technical constraints- if any, which may limit its usability. In addition, evaluators were asked to rate the effectiveness of several facilities of the resource in raising its usability. Such facilities were considered to be (a) the navigation tools, such as the menus, buttons, history lists, site maps and/ or table of contents that should be both sufficient and easy to use, (b) the search tools, either in the form of a search engine or search categories, which help or hinder the user from effectively retrieving information in whatever form and (c) the communication tools that enable the user to get help, to communicate with peers and to interact with the resource itself through games and tests. All these elements are said to enhance the resource's usability and increase its pedagogical value-added and user- friendliness.
RDFStore is a toolkit to manage Resource Description Framework (RDF) metadata in an easy and straightforward way; it allows to parse, store and query RDF description of resources using a Web version of the SQL language, named RDF Query Language (RDQL). The toolkit is written in C and Perl language and is tied coupled with the Perl programming constructs to manage RDF models directly from user scripts. It includes a Perl version of the Stanford Java RDF API and the Simple RDF Parser and Compiler (SiRPAC), and efficient back end hash storage. The software is distributed under a BSD/Apache like software license. RDFStore was developed by Alberto Reggiori, a co-founder of Asemantics. Asemantics is committed to donating time and resources to this project as to further RFD and the Semantic web. RDFStore is given on an as-is basis. Asemantics shall not be liable for any damages caused by using the RDFStore software. In no event will Asemantics be liable for any lost revenue, profit or data, or for direct, indirect, special, consequential, incidental or punitive damages, however caused.http://rdfstore.sourceforge.net
The technical platform of the ETB network build upon the Network News Transfer Protocol, NNTP, a stable and reliable technology that has been used for posting and reading news on the Internet for years. NNTP is thus a well-defined and well-established protocol with many implementations - both free and commercial - available for ETB developers. This is true on both the client and the server side. A major advantage of NNTP is its robustness in the delivery of messages across a network of servers. NNTP handles drops in connectivity and can buffer messages for delivery when the target machine becomes available again. The use of NNTP in ETB is simply intended as a transfer protocol for XML metadata messages. It is not intended that anybody should actually read or post the messages; this will be done by ETB-specific software only. Standard news server software (INN, http://www.isc.org/products/INN/) is installed at the servers that together make up the ETB network.
The exchange of educational resource metadata between existing repositories is the key to the success of the European Treasury Browser project. The innovative strategy of ETB is to publish metadata to a robust network, from which participating repositories will be able to extract them according to their own criteria. The chosen strategy will allow repositories to define their role in the ETB network in a very flexible way, for example: - Only post a subset of the records in their database, - Ingest only metadata records within a specific topic, to enhance a specialised repository (instead of providing a parallel search interface to more general repositories), - Add additional locally relevant metadata to ingested records, - Maintain local policies of the type of resources that should be searchable by users. In addition, the ETB project includes the feature of a central repository, where all records posted to the network will be searchable. Each participating repository will have the possibility of defining a local set of rules, governing the number, type and content of metadata records to be posted to the network and a corresponding set of filtering rules, determining what records should be ingested from the network. Clearly the local rules for posting records to and ingesting records from the ETB network can vary significantly and be based on very different types of criteria such as: - Target audience - Language of resource - Language of metadata - Knowledge of quality criteria used by specific repositories - Topic of resource This inherent flexibility is one of the important strengths of the ETB network, and enables participation on a wide range of levels. It only can be assured by a common denominator set of criteria that at the same time is flexible enough to reflect all the different metadata sets of European educational repositories and has the normative potential to raise a standard for the use of metadata in the educational systems all over Europe. The ETB data model was developed for these purposes. It is combined from two sets of elements, both dealing with different levels. The first one is the ETB Metadata Element Set, which deals with individual resources. The second one is the Collection Level Descriptors, which identify the entire collection of resources. Their elements partly contain terms of controlled multilingual vocabularies as element refinements and partly other standardised encoding schemes. The biggest controlled vocabulary is the multilingual ETB Thesaurus, which is the main browsing and searching element.
The repository integration tool kit is used for connecting existing database driven educational repositories to the ETB network. It is general in the sense that exchange of other metadata sets etc. cold be exchanged by only using some modules. Most of the functionality e.g. regarding multilingualism is dependant on other ETB outcomes, and relies specifically on use within the ETB environment. The extent of integration with existing systems is determined locally. The ETB Repository Integration Toolkit consists of 8 Perl packages: ETB Conf - manages configuration of the ETB tools ETB Log - manages log messages from the packages ETB XSLT - XSLT processing ETB DOM - DOM interface to the RDF messages on the network ETB Filter - filters received messages according to filter rules ETB Read - reads messages from the network ETB Post - posts messages to the network ETB Translator - translates between local schema and ETBMES Using a configuration file that maps between local schema and the ETB Metadata Element Set (ETBMES) ETB Translator can translate a record in the local schema (provided as a hash table) to ETBMES in RDF according to the ETBMES DTD. This RDF format is then ready to be posted on the ETB network using the ETB Post package. Records can be read using the ETB Read package, subsequently filtered by content using the ETB Filter package, and converted into the local schema using the ETB Translator package (output as hash table). Normally end users do not use the other packages. End users in this case refer to system administrators and/or repository managers. Controlled vocabularies and thesaurus terms can be translated to your language of choice (English, German, Italian, Spanish, French, Swedish or Danish). To allow this, a set of language translation files should also b downloaded.
The Central Transfer Service enables the partners of any collaborative network of repositories like the ETB to pass the queries, which have been conducted by the users of the network interface, to a transfer service. This transfer service uses statistically derived relationships of free (natural) text terms to lead the query to relevant terms of a given thesaurus (like the ETB Thesaurus, but it could be any specific thesaurus). Thus the query is transformed on the fly into the most likely relevant terms. This makes the queries more precisely and leads to more relevant hits. This Service tool can easily be integrated into any search engine.
There are two available components: - GIST toolkit for community web sites - ETB native repository installation 1. GIST Traditional approaches to web-based-publishing involve a centralised ''webmaster'' or group of webmasters responsible for the provision of information contained within the site and for its maintenance. As the site grows, the cost of maintenance increases. The prototyping activities undertaken by the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission (JRC) provide an alternative approach to populating and maintaining a web site, in which each member of the user community is responsible for maintaining their own information. The G7/GELOS1 server is a working example of the technology involved. GIST is an effort undertaken by the JRC to build on the success of this prototyping activity and to generalise their functionality in a reusable component library for the construction of dynamic, user community based Information Servers. GIST allows users without programming skills to create a web server with a data model and user interface of their own design. 2. ETB Native Repository The native repository is a GIST based application allowing 3rd party organisations to manage a repository of educational metadata. The repository integrates the ETB thesaurus and follows the ETB metadata standard. Records can be read from and posted to the NNTP network. As such it is really intended as an ETB specific component. All components are free. The software can be downloaded from http://gist-themes.jrc.it/ The installation requires first that GIST have been properly installed. It runs best on LINUX based PCs, will install on various flavours of UNIX but will not run on Windows.