by Dimitris Kotzinos, Vassilis Christophides and Liisa Ilomäki
KP-Lab (Knowledge Practices Laboratory) is an EU-funded project involving 22 partners from 14 countries. It focuses on studying learning practices in professional and educational environments, cross-fertilizing them, and creating the necessary tools to support emerging practices through sharing and collaboration.
KP-Lab has two aims; first, we wish to understand how, in long-term processes, people collaboratively develop novel epistemic artefacts and transform their knowledge practices both in higher education and professional environments. In addition, we wish to understand how we can cross-fertilize these practices in order to solve complex, authentic problems with the help of innovative educational technology. Second, based on this understanding, KP-Lab aims to develop tools to help these new working and learning practices. While modern information and communication technology facilitates knowledge creation around shared objects, it also creates and enhances the need to develop a structured approach, which we call trialogical learning.
KP-Lab Platform's Architecture
The objective of the ICT-related research and development work in KP-Lab is to provide a technical platform and a set of tools integrated to that platform to support collaborative innovative knowledge practices. The KP-Lab platform will provide a flexible Web 2.0 Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA). This will allow for integration and interoperability for internally developed and external tools that provide sufficient access APIs to facilitate their integration with the platform. The platform is designed also to be both scalable and extensible, so that it can cope with future requirements emerging from its use during and after the project. It will be built on common semantic data models that describe the semantics of the knowledge objects being exchanged.
We can identify three basic layers in the KP-Lab platform architecture. Using these layers one can easily identify dependencies among the different components of the platform and the information flow that is observed in the platform. This is based on the fact that services rely on other services that belong to the same or lower levels in the architecture.
The Lower (Core Services) layer includes basic services relating to multimedia, real-time communication, content management and knowledge management. Multimedia services allow for the manipulation of multimedia resources. Real-time communication services allow for users or user applications to interact in real time. Content management services facilitate access to content repositories (both internal and external to the project). Semantic Web knowledge middleware services (for knowledge capture, access, distribution, development and refinement) facilitate any kind of access to any form of explicitly described knowledge that is stored in one or more knowledge repositories.
The Middle (Learning Services) layer includes services that are built on top of the core services and that transform their output to conceptualizations suitable to the learning environment we want to support. Thus we have awareness services that expose users' presence in the system and their use of knowledge artefacts; annotation services that support semantic and multimedia annotation (thus covering both tacit and explicit knowledge); and portal services that support partition of the knowledge artefacts into shared spaces within which users can share, browse or process these artefacts as individuals or groups.
The Upper (Tools) layer includes the actual tools that use the described services and perform a single, well-defined task. These tools can be shared and reused among different applications. Upon completion of the KP-Lab platform, tools will range from visual model editors and semantic Wikis to mobile tools like CASS and meeting tools like to-do lists, agendas and argumentation management.
In addition to these layers of services and tools, a comprehensive set of platform services required for the integration and interoperability of KP-Lab tools will be made available across all layers. These include Single Sign-On (SSO), user management (authentication/authorization) and session and state management, and will support communication, security and reliability. Moreover the actions and actors in the platform are described in the KP-Lab system model, which provides semantic descriptions for them and their interactions in a formal schema (ontology). Thus the components of the platform have a common language using which they can exchange information and understand one another.
Current Status and Future Work
Parts of this architecture are currently being developed by the KP-Lab consortium. These are mainly concentrated around two areas: the Semantic Web Knowledge Middleware Services (SWKM), which support handling of explicit knowledge; and portal services, which give the user application the ability to define its own shared spaces, populate them with other users and knowledge artefacts retrieved from the knowledge repository, and manipulate these knowledge artefacts in order to create new knowledge.
Planning for the near future includes enhancing SWKM with knowledge-change management capabilities; advancing the content management services to support more content repositories; supporting multimedia and semantic annotation in a coherent way across the platform; and exploiting the real-time communication services to support synchronous e-meetings. Moreover, the KP-Lab platform will be compatible with Web 2.0 technologies in order to better support and facilitate the community and the collaborative features planned for end-user tools in the near future.
Tel: +30 281039 1635
KP-Lab Project Coordinator
Centre for Research on Networked Learning and Knowledge Building
University of Helsinki, Finland
Tel: +358-50-511 4376