Document de référence WP 12
PARTICIPATION SUISSE (TEFCA)
AU CONSORTIUM ET AU PROJET EUN-Schoolnet
I. Données administratives
Nom du workpackage : The Virtual Library
Programme Européen : Multimedia Taskforce
Durée du projet complet : 30 mois
Durée de la participation suisse
pour la période 1998/2000 : 24 mois (1.10.98 au 30.09.2000)
Début prévu du projet suisse : 01.10.98
II. Plan de travail des deux années
(cf Document Project Programm , 24/08/1998, 130-146)
Biblioteca di Documentazione Pedagogica (BDP), the WP leader, is a public institution operating at national level under the control of the Italian Ministry of Education. BDP's statutory role is the dissemination of information and documentation in the field of education and is currently participating in several projects of the European Union. Since 1985 the BDP has been the Italian Unit of Eurydice, the Information Network on Education in Europe; it is the Italian Unit in the EUDISED project (European Documentation and Information System for Education) promoted by the Council of Europe; the Italian National Agency for the SOCRATES programme; and the resource Centre for the European Programme LEONARDO. In addition, BDP is part of the Ortelius Consortium which was established in 1994 following an official Commission call for tenders for the creation of a database on higher education. BDP is also currently a partner in the TRENDS project (Training Educators through Networks and Distributed Systems) (Directorate General XIII).
The Lambrakis Research Foundation (LRF) is a public interest, private institution, founded in Athens in 1991. The Foundation undertakes projects in various sectors including Education, Culture, the Environment and the growth of regional development, in particular within the framework of the European Union. It is concerned with: transmitting knowledge and information to promote an increased awareness of cultural, educational, environmental and other important social issues; creating new and more rewarding opportunities for young people, in close collaboration with public administrations (ministries, municipalities, etc.). The LRF gives high priority to educational technology in various fields, including the development and innovative use of educational multimedia software in Education and in teacher training.
Spanish Ministry of Education - Programa de Nuevas Tecnologias de la Informacion y la Comunicacion (PNTIC) is a public entity devoted to the introduction of these technologies in the curricula of non-university institutions. Since its foundation, the New Communication and Information Technologies Program has had the commitment of implementing the Atenea and Mercurio projects, whose aims are to introduce in schools information and audio-visual technologies, to create new projects, like the Mentor project (open education and distance training for adults), and also to develop specific plans within previous projects, like the Computer Assisted Laboratories or the Telematics Plan (Platea). PNTIC participates in national and international educational projects, both in Europe and Latin America. As a partner it has joined in the CO-LEARN (DELTA) project, in programs of the European Social Fund (HORIZON, NOW, YOUTHSTART, EUROFORM), in the MULTICOOP and ALAS (PASO-SPRIT) projects. It has led a SOCRATES project concerned with the creation of a European Educational Telematic Network (RTEE), and is currently main contractor of Task Force Multimedia Joint Call "EUN" and ISPO "EUC", both begun 1/1/98. It also takes part as contractor in Task Force Multimedia "MALTED", currently in the last negotiations with the Commission and to be started by June 98. The participation of the Spanish Ministry of Education through the PNTIC in international projects is usually co-ordinated by the Technical Counsellor Agust'n Quintana, who participates in concertation meetings of TELEMATICS, SOCRATES, Task Force for Multimedia Software, etc. He will be the contact person of the PNTIC in the present project.
This new typology of an Internet resource will provide a model for interactive navigation applicable to all disciplinary areas, which makes it possible for schools, (including even primary school pupils), to directly explore a virtual `world' and to gain direct personal experience of it. An innovative 3D interface will provide students with an easy-to-use method of navigating in this world. Via the interface, students will also be able to access in-depth information resources and, in particular, a database of multimedia material which is up-dated by schools themselves. The experience provided by this environment, therefore, will not be dissimilar to the experience that many young people derive from video games. In this WP, however, the intention is, not merely to capture the imagination of young people, but to do so by providing a world in which students can directly participate in the learning experience and actively contribute to it.
La contribution de TECFA portera sur deux aspects: le premier d'ordre technique est orienté vers la programmation 3D -VRML - (12.1) tandis que le second est d'ordre pédagogique et dirigé vers l'expérimentation et l'évaluation e la librairie virtuelle en milieu scolaire, en relation notamment avec le WP 13 (Ecoles EUNIS) et d'autres écoles non-EUNIS (cfr School Sample, page 143 du texte original). Ces dernières pourraient être identifiées par le CPTIC (12.3) avec lequel le projet de recherche pourra être articulé. La demande explicite du WP leader a l'égard de TECFA est une aide au développement de l'interface et d'outils 3D pour la Bibliothèque virtuelle. L'apport de TECFA réside dans son expérience des environnements collaboratifs mutlti-utilisateurs 3D autant que de son expérience dans le domaine des banques de données dynamiques interfacées avec le Web. Cependant, la création d'environnements collaboratifs 3D en temps réel rend nécessaire l'achat d'un serveur 3D. Si ce n'était le cas, les ressources humaines devraient être largement supérieures afin de compenser les compétences capitalisées dans un produit fini. De plus, l'acquisition du seul outil, qui aujourd'hui implémente des " Living Worlds " sur Internet -adaptables aux besoins-, permet de garantir un dispositif réellement utilisable et qui satisfasse en même temps les exigences d'une utilisation pédagogique.
Although multimedia databases are already available on-line on the Internet, they only permit a passive use of resources. Commonly. each user, by means of an interface with varying degrees of user friendliness, performs a search, and in general obtains units of information which describe objects, either books or other type of material. The instances in which (in addition to information which describes the object) the user can access or capture the object itself are very few. Examples of an open database which can be accessed by the user in order to update or add information and linked objects are even more rare. In the main, user-friendly 3D sites are also in short supply. Despite the great interest shown by young people in VR and 3D games, there are virtually no specific 3D sites for school use.
The model for the on-line school library which is being developed in WP12 intends to offer a shared space within which each individual school can be involved, not only as user who accesses information, but also as active agent who contributes to a knowledge base, increases its stock and is part of a process which encourages participation and co-operation amongst schools. 3D sites have not been fully developed and there are no 3D sites specifically targeted for school use, even though this type of navigation especially attracts the attention of young people.
On the Internet a small number of VRML applications can be found which have an educational bias: the Silicon Graphics site (<www.vrml.sgi.com/world/awards/education.html>) offers around six VRML educational applications; the VRML projects from Learning Sites (<www.learningsites.com>) an interesting way to explore archaeological digs; and the Italian site on the World Wildlife Fund nature reserve at Burano (<burano.infobyte.it>) provides an innovative way to explore natural history. In the main, though, most of these applications begin and end with the novelty of a VRML interface.
In short, the use of 3D graphics and VRML taken on their own do not constitute the innovative element of the interface. In WP12, it is the interface in its entirety which is innovative and the way in which the partners explore the pedagogical value of this form of navigation and more general forms of active and participatory learning.
The objective of this task is to create a new typology of Internet sites which makes it possible for schools, in this case even for primary school pupils, to explore directly a virtual "world". For example, through the interface the student will be able to move from a nature trail onto an itinerary dedicated to traditional trades and crafts, and then move onto another path to see the animals living in the park. Students will navigate through different topics and a variety of subject matter by, say, clicking on a particular animal to gain direct access to a database containing information and images of the animal. In addition, students will be able to "take down from the shelves" multimedia materials (images, sounds, films),which have been produced and updated by schools. On top of the innovative navigation features, the interface will also provide access to chat facilities and discussion lists.
The VRML language and 3D graphics will be used as well as AVI, QuickTime VR and HTML. The whole system, will initially be created and developed on advanced graphics workstations and subsequently be adapted for delivery on low performance visualisers and WAN slow connections.
The development of communication is an integral part of the site to provide teachers with the means to express opinions, suggest possible developments, etc. A specific discussion area/fora will be available to deal with the preliminary description of objects. Feedback from these fora will help WP12 partners to decide which objects are worth housing on the open shelves of The Virtual Library.
The objective of this task is to create a database - incorporating multimedia objects - which can be implemented by schools. The database is directly linked with the general 3D interface and the specific interfaces (for animals, plants and a visits to `worlds') - see earlier diagram - and allows students to download and upload multimedia objects and content.
The database will be capable of being updated by means of clients which will be able to interact with the main database, thus allowing schools to update content directly. The database will be organised in such a way that data can initially be stored in a protected area which does not permit public access; this data will then be checked to ensure suitability for inclusion in the DB (this procedure will also address the problem of material protected by copyright). In this way, the database will provide an `open' virtual library where the schools will be able, not just to consult and use the available `texts', but also to enrich the content of the Virtual Library by directly adding to it.
Both relational (DBMS) and sequential (Information Retrieval System) databases will be utilised in this task to allow for the optimum processing of different types of data. For the relational database, ORACLE software is preferred, while for the IRS, CDS/ISIS will be used. Both the databases will be developed on servers accessible via the Internet, in UNIX/WINDOWS-NT environment. The server used for the development of the two databases will be an ALPHA 4000; for the construction of the demonstrator, the BDP Internet server (<www.bdp.it>) will be used.
In addition to the VRML site, there is provision for interfaces developed in Java script as well as in the more traditional CGI. At this level, the issue of security and access to the DB shall be dealt with.
Both the databases will be updated by client software which will be provided at first to the schools directly involved in the project and subsequently to all schools using the EUN platform. This solution is the only one which makes it possible to maintain an acceptable level of security relating to the updating of the databases. For the FTP material, which can also be up-dated by schools, specific forms will be created which can be completed on-line.
The solution of creating a real client as opposed to just on-line forms seems the best approach, especially for security reasons. The clients will be developed independently from the information contained in the database; in this way they can also be used repeatedly within the EUN Virtual Library.
For the construction of the client software, CDS/ISIS under Windows and a Windows DBMS will be used. In the latter case, suitable development environments will be selected which offer free runtime applications for schools.
The problem of multi-lingualism will be addressed by the use of the TEE which is a multilingual thesaurus already used by the Council of Europe for its database on Educational Research in Europe (EUDISED). It provides eleven languages and a system has been already developed for the automatic translation of descriptors. The indexing of documents will be provided in the three languages involved in the project: Italian, Spanish, and Greek. The indexing in English can be provided automatically.