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Thursday, June 21, 2012

New interactive tool to study science

Science and techno world topic: Education

European researchers have developed a learning environment to help students better understand science subjects by building conceptual models. The tool is interactive and is based on the use of semantic resources.

Eight European universities, among which is the University of Madrid through its Faculty of Information Technology (UPM) have developed a new software tool that helps students build conceptual models of the scientific subjects of their study, individually or in a collaborative environment, using semantic resources.

The models facilitate the learning process. Picture: DynaLearn

At the same time, the tool allows you to store these new models and compare with other existing models in order to help students define concepts related to an area of knowledge.

All this information allows students to improve their models, gaining a better understanding of the domain to represent. Thanks to these techniques, students gain in autonomy without losing rigor and can significantly advance the study of a subject.

This interactive learning environment is part of the European project DynaLearn, which aims to contribute, by integrating well-established technological developments, to arouse the interest of young Europeans in the study of scientific disciplines. One of the achievements "more relevant" project, according to its promoters is the use of semantic resources that help students define and understand the concepts represented.

The project is nearing completion and already has an advanced prototype of the tool, which has been successfully tested in real scenarios for learning in classrooms from seven different universities.

Using semantic resources

DynaLearn uses external semantic resources as a source of information. Among them is DBpedia, which extracts data from Wikipedia to create a semantic version of the same: it is a community effort to extract structured information from Wikipedia and make it accessible from the Web. In this way ensures that the collected knowledge can be exploited computationally. There is now a large number of applications that link to DBpedia, making it possible to establish common vocabularies between them and facilitate their interoperability.

DynaLearn allows you to find correspondences between the terms introduced by students and collected in DBpedia

The project DynaLearn allows you to find correspondences between the terms introduced by students and collected in DBpedia. When creating models, students can check the definitions obtained from DBpedia to its terms correspond to what they expected or not.This helps them improve and correct terminology possible misinterpretation.

The application can also save models created by students, teachers and other experts, thus forming a model repository. Prospective students can take advantage of the knowledge of these models to improve their own. For this, the system automatically selects those models that may be relevant to the student model is built. The relevance of the models is calculated according to a set of criteria that are based both on the similarity with the student model, as in the reviews that other users of these models made in previous executions.

You can then analyze the similarities and differences between the models selected and the student model in order to suggest possible improvements to it. All this information allows students to complete their models, gaining a better understanding of the domain to represent.

Thanks to these techniques, students adapt the learning process to their needs. In addition, high interactivity and ease of DynaLearn make the experience more enjoyable, increasing the motivation of users and accelerating the uptake of new knowledge.

The tool is available online at the project website. The semantic repository access requires registration. Currently this report may be obtained from the creators, both for private use as schools. There is also a set of demonstration videos and teaching materials in a web.

Reacting to the educational needs

The aim of DynaLearn is developing a interactive learning environment that has three key features: accommodates the use of conceptual knowledge to the learning experience, its use is attractive to students and responds to individual needs of each student's knowledge

The developed software improves students' ability to understand and explain the behavior of scientific systems. On the other hand, the use of virtual characters encourages students to use the software, encouraging them to cooperate and compete with each other and encouraging social component of learning.
Semantic technology also allows students to compare their results automatically with the models created by other students or their teachers, learn about how to improve them and recommend a customized learning path.

DynaLearn is a project of the Seventh Framework Programme for Information Technology and Communications (FP7-ICT) of the European Union, coordinated by the University of Amsterdam and with the participation of the Ontology Engineering Group School of Computing led by Asunción Gómez, University of Augsburg, the University of Brasilia, Tel Aviv University, the University of Hull, the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences Vienna.

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