Learning Locker: it’s your data


Guest blogger: Dave Tosh

A new product that we are currently working on here at HT2, Learning Locker, has several important aspects at its core, one of which is data ownership.

In a nutshell, Learning Locker provides a destination where users can create a personal locker housing their learning data that they can then put to work for them. The data comes from a variety of sources including the web and any learning platform that exports Tin Can statements.

From the official Tin Can site:

“The Tin Can API (sometimes known as the Experience API) is a brand new specification for learning technology that makes it possible to collect data about the wide range of experiences a person has (online and offline).”

How does it work?
The initial prototype is fairly basic. Users create an account and add any email addresses which they wish to be associated with their learning locker account, similar to a Gravatar account. You might have a personal email address, a work email address and an email address you were given for night classes at a local college. Adding these addresses ensures that any TinCan statement sent containing one of your email addresses will end up in your personal locker.

One statement might relate to something read and shared from Gigom on a personal level:

"actor": {
"name": "Dave Tosh",
"mbox": "mailto:myemail@gmail.com",
"objectType": "Agent"
}
"verb": {
"id": "http://adlnet.gov/expapi/verbs/shared",
"display": {
"en-US": "shared",
"en-GB": "shared"
}
},
"object": {
"objectType": "Activity",
"id": "http://gigaom.com/2013/04/30/coursera-makes-first-foray-into-k-12-education-with-online-courses-for-teachers/",
"definition": {
"name": {
"en-US": "Coursera makes first foray into K-12 education with online courses for teachers",
"en-GB": "Coursera makes first foray into K-12 education with online courses for teachers"
}
},
...

Another statement could come from work training:

"actor": {
"name": "David Tosh",
"mbox": "mailto:dave.tosh@ht2.co.uk",
"objectType": "Agent"
}
"verb": {
"id": "http://adlnet.gov/expapi/verbs/experienced",
"display": {
"en-US": "experienced",
"en-GB": "experienced"
}
},
"object": {
"objectType": "Activity",
"id": "http://curatr3.com/museum/view/demo/0#!object/57",
"definition": {
"name": {
"en-US": "The Tyranny of the Next Button",
"en-GB": "The Tyranny of the Next Button"
},
"description": {
"en-GB": "Perhaps we don't need to go through the course development process in the same way. Even exceptional instructional designers struggle under the weight of information that we are often asked to convey in a normal piece of Courseware.",
"en-GB": "Perhaps we don't need to go through the course development process in the same way. Even exceptional instructional designers struggle under the weight of information that we are often asked to convey in a normal piece of Courseware."
},
"extensions": {
"http://curatr3.com/define/extension/bookmarkType": {
"bt_id": "1",
"bt_text": "Added to my knowledge"
}
}
}
},
...

How do I get my data into my personal locker?
There are a few ways to import and save your data.The first is via our bookmarklet, this makes it easy to capture experiences that occur while you are accessing resources on the web. We are also working on a ‘Learn this’ button which will work in a similar fashion to the Facebook ‘Like’ button but with extra metadata built in such as ‘This challenged my thinking’, ‘This helped me understand X’ and so on (you can see an example above under the object extension). The final method is via learning platforms you use in school, at college, at work or online. If they support Tin Can, then, you should be able to get your learning statements out and into your locker. To help support this we are working on plugins for some of the major players such as Moodle.

Export
As you would expect, with a Learning Locker account, all your data is yours and can be exported at any time. Further to this, we are developing an open source version that individuals can host if they prefer.

Approach
While a Tin Can statement appears basic at first glance, they can become complex quickly. To handle this, we are using a combination of tech. For our initial service, we parse incoming statements and abstract a couple of key components; actor, verb, object, and where available, context. This high level data allows us to offer the first phase of the learning locker, which is the storage and filtering of learning statements based on the action, source, time and reason.
To provide deeper analysis we store the full JSON object in a NoSQL database, so, over time, we can drill into the data exposing insights that we hope will lead to useful services for learners; helping predict learning paths, highlight areas of strength, topics needing addressed and so on.

What’s next?
We are currently testing an early prototype and will shortly solicit volunteers interested in providing feedback on the service. Stay tuned.

Dave Tosh is passionate about technology, in particular the web, and its potential for creating new learning opportunities for us all. Dave is a pioneer in the social learning space, co-founding Elgg. He is now working with HT2 as the product lead on a new learning service, Learning Locker and continues to experiment on a new goals based learning platform. Follow him on Twitter @davetosh.

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