Category Archives: Semantic Web

This Was Playful

Yesterday I spoke at Playful ’11. Thanks must go to Toby Barnes, Greg Povey and the rest of the Mudlark team for arranging the conference and inviting me to speak, and to Sarah Challis for making some animations for the slides. What follows is a blogged version of my talk, with the slides and some commentary on what I was trying to get across. There will most probably be a little ramble towards the end about some of the themes that came out of the day, too.

Making the Web More Playful

 

Simple, really – does what it says on the tin. When I first talked to Toby about speaking, I had a couple of ideas. One was more along the lines of the rest of the stuff I’ve written here – stories and making them more web-like – and the other was this. Something I’d been wanting to get off my chest for quite a while. Essentially, the frustration of seeing the huge potential of Linked Data and the Semantic Web, and being held back by the lack of tools, and what seems like the lack of willingness to produce data other than for cataloguing information, Wikipedia style.

 

Thrilling Adventures in Time and Space

It wouldn’t be a talk of mine if it didn’t mention Doctor Who in some capacity. And since the theme of the day was nominally ‘science fiction and the future’, I thought it only proper that I should put at least one slide in on the theme. More importantly, I wanted to get across the notion that stories are information, they can be data, they can be imaginative and interesting. One of the other themes that came out of the day, which I’ll write more about towards the end of this post, was of almost a ‘failed future’, how the imaginative futures dreamed up in the sixties, seventies and eighties had, in a lot of ways, failed to appear. What was interesting from my perspective on Doctor Who, is that I don’t necessarily see it as sci-fi. Like Rachel Coldicutt, I’m rather uneasy with the stereotypical assumption of the science-fiction fan. Yes, I know I talk about Who a lot, but that’s because it’s an imaginative, thrilling, positive adventure series. I don’t expect it to be scientifically accurate. It’s the ride that counts. And that’s what I want to create more of – more adventures, more thrills. I like Doctor Who, but, aside perhaps from Star Wars (the films only), I’m not that much of a sci-fi fan. It’s fine to be one, but just as I like the Semantic Web and I can do a bit of domain modelling, that shouldn’t be what defines me. Rant (for now) over.

My talk was going to use a similar method of introducing the topic of Linked Data, but less about nostalgia. Again, growing up in what I referred to in the talk as ‘the Dark Ages’, when Doctor Who wasn’t on TV, was actually, I think, a huge advantage. I was able to see the whole thirty years of the series to date, in the space of about two years. And there was no room for nostalgia. I don’t have a favourite Doctor, or any allegiance to Sarah Jane Smith, because, unlike what seems to be the mainstream, I didn’t grow up in that era. So I don’t have the nostalgia, just the desire for more adventure. And so I wanted the talk to be more of a call to arms, an exhortation – look, we have this incredible technological concept of the Web, and yet we’re hardly using it at all – moreover, all those futures you imagined, and all the ones you’re imagining now – we can make them possible, we can make them using the conceptual framework of the Web.

 

Not So Thrilling Adventures in Government Data

…and this was the comparison. There was a lot of talk about hardware, about real, physical toys at the conference, but I wanted to get across the point that Web data sets are equally valid as toys. They’re things we can play with. But at the moment, the vast majority of the data we’re putting online isn’t very playful at all.

 

Life in the Cloud...

 

So, a traditional use of the ‘Linked Open Data’ cloud diagram. Basically to say that this is something real, something growing. It may not be the easiest thing to contribute to, or to use meaningfully at the moment, but it’s indisputably growing and if it has faults, let’s make it better.

 

...worthy but dull?

This slide originally had the full cloud diagram again, but with the word ‘BORING’ emblazoned on top. A little harsh, which is why I changed it. At heart though, it’s what I mean. I absolutely love the idea of the Semantic Web – that a URI can mean anything, and that we can use descriptive hyperlinks and URIs to represent anything in a universally accessible way. Because creative people should be able to have a field day with that. I want to see the equivalent of books, plays, radio shows, films – as Webs. Not websites. Actual informational Webs, machine readable first, which can then be rendered in what ever way we choose – with screens, through real world objects, in ways we can’t even conceive of yet. If we tie the information to a representation now, we’re hampering our ability to create a new future. Which is my way of saying what Marcus Brown said – we’re in danger of being unable to invent new futures because we constantly refer to the futures of old, we always have to couch it in those terms, we have to use existing representations, instead of dreaming up completely new ones. Now I’m being idealistic, I know – I’m perfectly happy to be pragmatic and realise that we have to deliver things that work for people right now, in ways that they understand and can use, but I do think it’s a valid argument and valid process to be both pragmatic and idealistic. I make no apology for being optimistic and wanting to dream a new future.

 

It's not the Documents, it's the Things

It's not the Games, it's the Things

Playful has its’ roots in a conference about Game Design, so whereas normally I’d talk about the Web and stories, here I wanted to focus on games. I’m not an especially hard-core gamer, but I’m a middling one. I like the Mario games, some sports and racing ones too, a few classics like Goldeneye (more of which later…), but I’m not into things like Call of Duty or massively serious FIFA sessions, nor MMPORGS. Again, not because I dislike them in any way, just that they’ve kind of passed me by, and I’m perfectly happy with the games I grew up with. Turn based strategy, a la Civilisation II or the mid-to-late nineties versions of Championship Manager, always wins out over the more modern, real-time, intensive games, because they were about fun, not necessarily about immersion. I could never be bothered with the training mode of Championship Manager, because if you cross that line, it begins to feel more like work than play.

 

This is not a Game :-(

It Could Be So Much Better...

Once more, the quick comparison of the Linked Data Cloud to games. It’s worth noting also that I have no problem with the current publishing of Linked Data – that’s all worthy and good and should be encouraged. And I know there’s some more cultural data being published too. There’s even things like Pokemon data on there. And yet, and yet, maybe it’s just the perspective I have, but that kind of data only seems to be being released as part of a cataloguing, bibliographic, encyclopaedic exercise, and thus is very generally modelled, almost to the extent of hardly being modelled at all. I’d like to see finely crafted mini sets of data being released instead. I want a Miyamoto of Linked Data, and I don’t see why we can’t have one.

 

The Three Worlds

This was the central piece of the talk. Luckily, from my point of view, a few of the other talks during the day had touched on elements of this, but hadn’t explicitly called it out. Maybe it didn’t need to be, but I always find it useful to state things clearly and get some kind of conceptual model to test against what’s happening in the world. So here we have the Physical world (i.e. the real world), the Data World, i.e. the purely machine readable, informational world of the Web, and the Fictional world, the world of imagination, the one that, until now, only really exists in our minds. My main point being that the Data World gives us an opportunity to solidify and communicate imaginative ideas in a way which isn’t constrained by any existing medium or by the physical constraints of the real world. And perhaps, if ideas can be expressed in a data format, in a way which is clearly defined and expressed, does that reduce or even eliminate the noise and confusion that normally accompanies the transmission of a message through a medium? If that’s the case, what’s then possible?

 

Data World to Fictional World

Going from the Data World to the Fictional World is fairly easy – this is what’s partly behind the current vogue for ‘storytelling’ in online circles. It’s all about making sense, in our minds, of large sets of data. Bringing ’emotion’ and ‘understanding’, making ‘information’ out of data. It’s what Matt Sheret and others do at Last.fm, or, as Tom Armitage points out, what people do when they play games like Championship/Football Manager – essentially a spreadsheet of data, with an emergent story in the player’s mind.

 

Fiction to Physical

The Fictional World can be represented in the Physical World too. Building statues to the fictional Tripods in the real world of Woking, or the Sherlock Holmes museum/house on Baker Street. I’d also include here things like ARGs and pervasive games – people making stuff up, but then it being manifested in the real world. So far, so good.

Physical to Data

OK, so here’s where it starts to get interesting. Going from the Physical World to the Data World. Essentially, that’s what I was talking earlier about Linked Data – giving things that exist in the real world, an identity on the Web. Another side to the coin is the ‘Internet of Things’, that Russell Davies blogged about recently. That’s slightly more focused, giving objects an identity on the Web. Like Tower Bridge, or the ubiquitous Internet Fridge. And I think he sums up my point pretty well – the lack of playfulness of this movement. So here, I completely agree.

 

Data to Physical

Where I’m not sure I agree so much, is when we start to go the other way around the triangle. So now, we’re moving from data to physical. This is where we take stuff on the Web, and give it some manifestation in the real world. I’m thinking things that bleep or light up when tweets are received, that kind of thing. And that’s cool. A lot of what Brendan Dawes talked about on the day was all about this kind of thing. Hardware hacking, as it’s also known. Again, I want to make clear that I’ve no real problem with it per se, but that, like the focus on the ‘futures from the 70s’, it feels very much the product of a certain group of people, those who grew up in the seventies and eighties, who were very hands on with electronics and technology. I did those classes at school too, and whilst I’m not useless with a hacksaw or soldering iron, it just doesn’t hold the same allure for me. I feel a bit bad about this, but it just doesn’t (excuse the pun) push any buttons for me. What does, instead, is the Web – because conceptually it’s not limited by physical constraints. And, coming from a humanities background, once you understand the basics of the triple patten (subject, predicate, object), you can create almost anything – it becomes easy. So whilst we should continue to hack with hardware, and be influenced by the futures we grew up with as children, I find it difficult to feel moved or excited by that.

 

Physical to Fictional

Another easy one – things in the real world can inspire, or find their way into fiction. Another Doctor Who example, here, but Naomi Alderman also pointed out that the Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling, are an equally valid example of this.

 

Fiction to Data

All of which then begs the question – if there’s ways of going from Data to Fiction, from Fiction to Physical, and from Physical to Data, and back the other way, why aren’t we doing more of going from Fiction to the Data world? I think it’s at least worth a try, and the rest of the talk discussed some elements of the implications of this.

 

Red Dead Redemption as Data

The first example I used was Red Dead Redemption, primarily because having played it through the summer this year, I feel it really succeeded in creating an immersive and also fun world to explore and play around in. Here, I wanted to explore ways in which we could move from fiction to data. Simply put, this would be about identifying various aspects of the game – the characters the locations, the missions etc. and linking them together. Making games more atomic, as Dan Biddle has suggested for television. Again, I know things out there like Wikia allow you to do this kind of thing to some extent, but perhaps it’s just the front end which I’m not inspired by – it’s done from the point of view of an encyclopedia, whereas I think there’s other possible ways of representing that data.

 

Linked Data Mario

The second example I used was the Mario universe. Here, I showed six different representations of Princess Peach’s castle, as it appears in six different games. But of course, in the player’s mind, if they play more than one of these games, it’s the same castle. So those games should be linked together, not just in the minds of people playing them, but in a data way too. I don’t know exactly where this would lead us, but at the moment when we talk of ‘networked games’, we tend to mean players playing at the same time, using the Internet as a distribution mechanism. What if the games themselves were networked, so you could travel between games in one coherent universe?

 

Games as a Cultural Silo

Going back to the idea of ‘atomising’ cultural artefacts – the focus on the finished product is all well and good, and we should still give people that, but why not also give them the whole package of information to blend and mix and link to/from as well? Again, it gives us the flexibility to rework and build upon those products in the future. Just as you can take apart a piece of hardware and use a tiny bit of it in something else, why not do the same with a game? In the context of video or audio, I don’t just mean a temporal portion of the medium, but the actual concepts within them. Here I used the example of the Goldeneye 007 game – which I love. This level, Silo, is a level which doesn’t appear in the film. But we know the film exists too – what if you could blend the film and the game together?

 

Gameful Properties

Part of the criticism levelled at Semantic Web technologies right now is the lack of decent tools. So this slide was just trying to point out that in the context of games, there are some similar concepts. Customising or building a character, is essentially the same as creating a URI and assigning properties to it.

 

The Minecraft Reference

Similarly, Minecraft is a game all about resources – finding them, combining them, creating them and constructing beautiful new things out of them. The Web, and especially the Linked Data Web, is the same – it’s all resources, and now we need to empower people not just to consume them, but to play with and create new things from them. Here’s where I’d also like to reference Mozilla’s Web Makers initiative, as I think it’s trying to encourage people along the same lines.

 

The Adjacent Possible

Into the home stretch now – in Steven Johnson’s book ‘Where Good Ideas Come From’, he talks about the idea of the Adjacent Possible – that ideas can come from anywhere, but only certain ideas can be manifested depending on the environment – so Charles Babbage was able to come up with the idea for the computer, but the technology he had to hand didn’t make it practical. And I guess this is where I want to be positive about the Semantic Web too. It sometimes feels as if these ideas were considered ‘right’ in about 2005-2008, but then it was tried and it failed. Which is a real shame, because those experiments were exactly what inspired me in my career to date. The point I want to make is that we shouldn’t dismiss Linked Data as a failed thing just yet. Whilst I’m not trying to claim that it’s the perfect solution, I just want us to keep experimenting – because the more we do that, the more likely it is that we’ll create the future that does make it viable.

 

Moongolfer

So finally, a couple of quotes from people I really admire – Tim Wright is up first – he talks about not leaving space exploration to the professionals. Well, I don’t think we should necessarily leave the Semantic Web to the academics, scientists and governments. The Web grew not because people were doing it absolutely correctly, but because they were trying things out. And they were doing so with stuff that was interesting to them, and crucially, stuff which was mainstream and interesting to others. So let’s do the same. Let’s not just have academic, scientific, political and encyclopaedic data – let’s have fun, playful data.

 

Getting Vertigo

Because for all our talk nowadays of passive, lean back experiences, I think we deserve more. I think on some level, we want to wallow, we want to get lost – we want to get vertigo when we lean into the device.

 

And that’s about it. Phew, that was a long one. But ultimately I think there’s room for positivity, room to experiment with Linked Data, and to create the futures of the future. Soon, I’ll blog about the rest of the Playful conference (much shorter!) and an idea (possibly impractical) for a slightly different format of conference.

 

 

 

A Question of Time – Part One

A couple of weeks ago I spoke at the Immersive Writing Lab. I talked about how we might apply the principles of Linked Data and the Semantic Web to drama. How we could use URLs to represent characters and plot events, and then use hyperlinks to string them together in a way that represents the story as a web. One thing that gets brought up time and again, though, when discussing stories online, is the issue of spoilers. In traditional storytelling, the author has almost complete control over the way in which the story is told. They can control what information the audience knows about various characters and events, and when certain pieces of information are revealed. Indeed, this is, in a lot of ways, part of (but by no means all) the joy of reading/watching/listening to a story. The way things are revealed, twisted and so on. I’m not going to discuss here whether spoilers are ‘good’ or ‘bad’ – personally I avoid spoilers, but even if I do see them, there’s still great fun to be had in seeing how something is told, not just what happens. So I’m not a vehement member of the anti-spoiler brigade, but I don’t actively go looking for them.

Of course, one of the main things the Web has done is to almost shatter the author’s control completely. Firstly, once a story, or part of a story, has been revealed to some people, then the very nature of the Internet means that this information will be shared. Of course, this is nothing new, people have been sharing stories forever, but the global nature of the Internet means that this information can be distributed far, far more widely and quickly than ever before. What is a blessing for news, is a nightmare for drama. Secondly, the disparity between the publication of information, and the audience’s knowledge of that information, is highlighted, and potentially widened. As Marcus Brown has pointed out, in a very effective way, this disparity is also nothing new – six people in the same carriage on a train might be reading the same book, but they can all be at different points in the story – there’s no direct link between the author releasing the information, and the consumption of that information. Whereas on TV, radio, and online, the time element is a factor. If you imagine a six part TV drama, where one audience member has been watching from the beginning, but another has started watching the first part only after the third part has been released, then the danger is plain. If the information contained within the second and third part is available (and particularly if it has affected the state of characters or events from the first part), then if you ask your browser to find ‘the current state of knowledge about X’ (which is essentially what a browser is doing when you request a web page, or find something on Wikipedia), you’ll be ‘spoiled’. Put simply, the issue is as follows – as an author, I want to publish information about my story, but I still want my audience to experience the story being told. The desire to preserve the incremental revelation of information, as it were.

But it’s not just drama where this is the case. Part of the frustration with news coverage online, as I’ve mentioned in the past, is that it’s always in the ‘now’. You can never get anything apart from the state of the world now. When it’s the backstory that will really give you context. Similarly, archivists want to preserve what the state of knowledge was about a thing at a particular moment in time. And it’s these sorts of considerations we’ll have to bear in mind if we’re really going to develop not just storyworlds online, but the ‘telling’ part too. I think we need to develop a more fine-grained approach to finding information on the Web – rather than a binary choice between not knowing anything about a thing and knowing everything (and/or only the latest version of information about a thing), I think we need to learn to ask questions, and that includes a question of time. More thoughts on how we might achieve that, soon.

 

A Curriculum Ontology – Explained

Curriculum Ontology First Draft

As promised, a picture and explanation of the Curriculum Ontology. There’s still a lot more to do, but (constructive) comments are very welcome.

 

Curriculum

A Curriculum groups Key Stages – so, in England, we have the Primary Curriculum, which is used at Key Stage One and Two, and the Secondary Curriculum, used at Key Stage Three and Four.

Key Stage

I’m defining a Key Stage as a stage of a formal education system which represents a level of knowledge, behaviour and skills at which a pupil should be able to perform. This is commonly matched to an age range. So, in England, Key Stage Three is nominally for pupils aged eleven to fourteen (aka Years Seven to Nine), and Key Stage Four is for fourteen to sixteen year olds (Year Ten and Eleven).

Subject

Subjects. The things that most people are familiar with – the subjects. English, Maths, History etc. So far, so straight forward. But, as you progress through an education system, although you might study the same subjects, what you learn within those subjects will change. Sometimes it’s a more advanced version of a topic you’ve already covered, and sometimes it’s something completely new.

So, we need to make sure that, for a given subject, we can give you the right material – and this will depend, amongst other things, on which stage of the curriculum you’re at. This is achieved through Programmes of Study.

Programme of Study

A Programme of Study defines what is taught for a particular subject at a particular Key Stage. It’s the difference between Maths at KS3 and KS4. But luckily, things are a little more defined than this. What are the actual differences? What is a Programme of Study made up of? We can break down a Programme of Study into the following things – Key Concepts, Key Processes, Topics, Opportunities, and Attainment Targets. Let’s take a look at each one to understand what they mean.

Key Concepts

What is a Key Concept? And how does it differ from a Topic? or from a ‘Key Process’ (whatever that is…)?

Let’s look at some examples.

In the Programme of Study for Geography at Key Stage Three, some of the Key Concepts are:

– An understanding of the physical and human characteristics of real places.
– Appreciating different scales – from personal and local, to national, international and global.
– Understanding the significance of interdependence in change, at all scales.

For Science, also at KS3:

– Critically analysing and evaluating evidence from observations and experiments.
– Examining the ethical and moral implications of using and applying science.
– Sharing developments and common understanding across disciplines and boundaries.

So, to me it seems to be an idea, or a principle of the subject, that can be taught. It’s not a specific topic, but it’s something that could crop up in several topics.

And, indeed, the National Curriculum website says that a Key Concept is something that “underpins the study” of a particular subject – “Pupils need to understand these concepts in order to deepen and broaden their knowledge, skills and understanding”.

Key Processes

Key Processes seem to be more about skills and abilities that students should be taught. So, for instance:

In Geography, KS3:

– Pupils should be able to ask geographical questions, thinking critically, constructively and creatively.
– They should be able to identify bias, opinion and abuse of evidence in sources, when investigating issues.
– They should be able to select and use fieldwork tools and techniques appropriately, safely and efficiently.

Science will be quite similar, so let’s try English at KS3:

– Pupils should be able to use a range of ways to structure and organise their speech to support their purposes and guide the listener.
– They should be able to infer and deduce meanings, recognising the writers’ intentions.
– They should be able to maintain consistent points of view in fiction and non-fiction writing.

So, similar but different to a Key Concept – I’ve defined a Key Process as “a process, skill or behaviour that a pupil should learn in the context of a subject at a particular key stage, in order to be able to make progress”.

Topics

On the National Curriculum website, the Programmes of Study define Key Concepts and Key Processes, but then talk about the ‘range and content’ of a subject. At first glance, it’s what we’d commonly call the topics that a student actually learns about. For example:

In Maths, KS3:

– Applications of ratio and proportion.
– Linear equations, formulae, expressions and identities.
– Units, compound measures and conversions

It can be a bit more complex than this, though. In English at KS3, the range and content section has topics, but they are then broken down in to more general guidance, presumably allowing teachers more freedom, for instance, to select books and plays which match the characteristics given. For instance (paraphrasing here…):

– Speaking and Listening: The range of purposes should include describing, instructing, narrating, explaining, justifying, persuading, entertaining, hypothesising; and exploring, shaping and expressing ideas, feelings and opinions.

– Reading: The texts chosen should be of high quality, interesting and engaging, challenging. The range should include works selected from a defined list of pre-twentieth-century English writers, and at least one play by Shakespeare.

Something similar is also seen in the Programme of Study for History. So it’s more than just the topics – the National Curriculum website says that the ‘range and content’ “outlines the breadth of the subject on which teachers should draw when teaching the key concepts and key processes”.

I’ve defined it, for now, as a concept or principle that should be covered by teachers when teaching pupils. But it might need a bit more detail. It feels like it could be broken down into actual topics and a more wooly ‘guidance’ (or something!), but that might be going too far. Perhaps just a better name than ‘Topics’ would do.

Opportunities

Each Programme of Study lists a number of ‘Curriculum Opportunities’, which can be used as springboards for inspiration on how to deliver the material to students. These are things which are “integral to their learning and which enhance their engagement with the concepts, processes and content of the subject.” So they are can be seen as activities which would help facilitate learning, just as the topics and content would help teach the Key Concepts and Processes. Some examples:

The curriculum should provide opportunities for pupils to:

– experiment with a range of approaches, produce different outcomes and play with language (English, KS3)
– watch live performances in the theatre wherever possible to appreciate how action, character, atmosphere, tension and themes are conveyed (English, KS3)
– use creativity and innovation in science, and appreciate their importance in enterprise (Science, KS3)
– work on open and closed tasks in a variety of real and abstract contexts that allow them to select the mathematics to use (Maths, KS3)

Attainment Levels and Targets

In order to assess the ability of students and effectiveness of teaching, there are a set of Attainment Levels which are standard across all subjects in the curriculum. There are eight levels, plus one for ‘Exceptional Performance’. Each level has a set of Attainment Targets, which is specific to the Programme of Study. These targets define the ability and behaviour of students, so that teachers can match each pupil to the level they feel best represents their current position. These can then inform how the pupils are taught in future.

There seem to be links between targets at different levels, but the structure doesn’t seem to be especially defined here. For instance, in English (KS3), there are the following targets:

Level One: Pupils talk about matters of immediate interest.

Level Two: Pupils begin to show confidence in talking and listening, particularly where the topics interest them.

Level Three: Pupils talk and listen confidently in different contexts, exploring and communicating ideas.

Level Four: Pupils talk and listen with confidence in an increasing range of contexts.

Level Five: Pupils talk and listen confidently in a wide range of contexts, including some that are formal.

Level Six: Pupils adapt their talk to the demands of different contexts, purposes and audiences with increasing confidence.

Level Seven: Pupils are confident in matching their talk to the demands of different contexts, including those that are unfamiliar.

Level Eight: Pupils maintain and develop their talk purposefully in a range of contexts.

Exceptional Performance: Pupils select and use structures, styles and registers appropriately, adapting flexibly to a range of contexts and varying their vocabulary and expression confidently for a range of purposes and audiences.

As you can see, there’s a definite progression through this, but currently on the National Curriculum website, there’s very little structure. Here’s the Level 7 description in full. I’d say each sentence is a separate Target:

“Pupils are confident in matching their talk to the demands of different contexts, including those that are unfamiliar. They use vocabulary in precise and creative ways and organise their talk to communicate clearly. They make significant contributions to discussions, evaluating others’ ideas and varying how and when they participate. They use standard English confidently in situations that require it.”

As I mentioned in my last post, this is probably the most structured model I have found so far, but now I need to test whether it works with other curricula, and whether it has enough to be a general model for structuring formal study. Now – who wants to screen scrape the National Curriculum website to test the ontology with some data? 😉

A Curriculum Ontology

Following on from previous work (well, being in the same room as Silver, Michael and Tom) in my guise as IA for BBC’s Knowledge and Learning online portfolio, and given that I’m looking at how we can meld both Knowledge and Learning into a more cohesive unit, I’ve taken the time to study the National Curriculum. Not because I wanted to go back to school, but because I believe that in order to create a good website, you need to understand the domain.

For me, this means looking at education from three points of view. Those who put the National Curriculum together, where there is a fairly structured model in use; teachers, who have to take this on board and create lesson plans (and, of course, teach!), and pupils, who won’t necessarily have any familiarity with the structure of the curriculum beyond exams. I’m fairly sure there’s a model that can be adapted to suit all these audiences. Furthermore, from an initial study, I’m seeing more and more crossover with a model of game design. This probably isn’t too much of a revelation, but it provides some intriguing hints as to where we could take a well structured model beyond the vogue for gamification, and into the realm of structured, semantic, descriptive information.

So, here’s a first stab at a Curriculum Ontology. Firstly, some health warnings. I’ve based this solely on the English National Curriculum, and specifically the Secondary Curriculum. Not out of some nationalistic impulse, but because it seemed to be a fairly well structured model. Over the next week or so, I intend to examine the Primary Curriculum and those of Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, so that hopefully by the end we can have a model which can work for everyone. I also don’t currently take into account exam boards, or things like the more general ‘aims, values and purposes’ of each stage of the Curriculum. I’ve gone for the simplest bit first, but again, fully intend to expand this if and where appropriate. I’m also a bit of a novice at this, so don’t expect any fancy inferencing or hardcore ontology techniques. I’m just making a list, at the moment.

Finally, before we get started – I’d really welcome any feedback on this version, especially from teachers and those in the academic community – but as mentioned above, bear in mind that it’s probably not going to turn into something extremely detailed. Lightweight, and most importantly useful to teachers and especially students, is the aim here. So, with that all done and dusted, let’s begin. A picture, a proper explanation and the actual .n3 file to follow once I’ve sorted out some WordPress uploading issues – hopefully tomorrow.


nao:Curriculum a owl:Class;
rdfs:label "Curriculum";
rdfs:comment "A Curriculum is a collection of programmes of formal study for people of a certain age range." .

nao:Subject a owl:Class;
rdfs:label "Subject";
rdfs:comment "A Subject is a high-level grouping of teaching topics that corresponds to academic and professional fields, and is familiar to pupils, teachers and parents. A pupil's perception of school will commonly be framed primarily by subjects." .

nao:ProgrammeOfStudy a owl:Class;
rdfs:label "Programme of Study";
rdfs:comment "A Programme of Study groups together the concepts, processes, topics and opportunities for a certain Subject at a certain Key Stage." .

nao:KeyStage a owl:Class;
rdfs:label "Key Stage";
rdfs:comment "A Key Stage is a stage of the education system that represents a level of knowledge, behaviour and skills at which a pupil should be able to perform, given an age range." .

nao:KeyConcept a owl:Class;
rdfs:label "Key Concept";
rdfs:comment "A Key Concept is an idea, principle or ability that should be understood by pupils when learning about a subject at a particular key stage. It should enable pupils to deepen and broaden their knowledge, skills and understanding of the subject." .

nao:KeyProcess a owl:Class;
rdfs:label "Key Process";
rdfs:comment "A Key Process is a process, skill or behaviour that a pupil should learn in the context of a subject at a particular key stage, in order to be able to make progress." .

nao:Topic a owl:Class;
rdfs:label "Topic";
rdfs:comment "A Topic is a concept or principle that should be covered by teachers when teaching pupils about a subject at a particular key stage. The aggregation of topics in a programme of study represents the breadth and range of content upon which teachers should draw when teaching the key concepts and key processes." .

nao:Opportunity a owl:Class;
rdfs:label "Curriculum Opportunity";
rdfs:comment "A Curriculum Opportunity is an opportunity, activity or chance for pupils to gain practical experience in a way that is integral to their learning and will enhance their engagement with the concepts, processes and content of the subject." .

nao:AttainmentTarget a owl:Class;
rdfs:label "Attainment Target";
rdfs:comment "An Attainment Target describes an ability that a pupil should demonstrate in order to achieve a particular Attainment Level for a subject at a key stage." .

nao:AttainmentLevel a owl:Class;
rdfs:label "Attainment Level";
rdfs:comment "An Attainment Level is a level of ability that pupils should be able to demonstrate across the curriculum at a key stage." .

nao:for a owl:ObjectProperty;
rdfs:label "for";
rdfs:comment "Relates a Curriculum to the Key Stages that it covers.";
rdfs:domain nao:Curriculum;
rdfs:range nao:KeyStage .

nao:groups a owl:ObjectProperty;
rdfs:label "groups";
rdfs:comment "Relates a Key Stage to the Programmes of Study that are taught at a Key Stage.";
rdfs:domain nao:KeyStage;
rdfs:range nao:ProgrammeOfStudy .

nao:teaches a owl:ObjectProperty;
rdfs:label "teaches";
rdfs:comment "Relates a Programme of Study to a Key Concept or a Key Process that is being taught.";
rdfs:domain nao:ProgrammeOfStudy;
rdfs:range nao:KeyConcept;
rdfs:range nao:KeyProcess .

nao:offers a owl:ObjectProperty;
rdfs:label "offers";
rdfs:comment "Relates a Programme of Study to a Curriculum Opportunity that is offered.";
rdfs:domain nao:ProgrammeOfStudy;
rdfs:range nao:Opportunity .

nao:sets a owl:ObjectProperty;
rdfs:label "sets";
rdfs:comment "Relates a Programme of Study to an Attainment Target that has been set against an Attainment Level.";
rdfs:domain nao:ProgrammeOfStudy;
rdfs:range nao:AttainmentTarget .

nao:covers a owl:ObjectProperty;
rdfs:label "covers";
rdfs:comment "Relates a Programme of Study to Topic that can be covered in a subject at a key stage.";
rdfs:domain nao:ProgrammeOfStudy;
rdfs:range nao:Topic .

nao:has a owl:ObjectProperty;
rdfs:label "has";
rdfs:comment "Relates a Subject to a Programme of Study.";
rdfs:domain nao:Subject;
rdfs:range nao:ProgrammeOfStudy .

nao:alignedTo a owl:ObjectProperty;
rdfs:label "aligned to";
rdfs:comment "Relates an Attainment Target to the Attainment Level it is aligned to.";
rdfs:domain nao:AttainmentTarget;
rdfs:range nao:AttainmentLevel .

nao:includes a owl:ObjectProperty;
rdfs:label "includes";
rdfs:comment "Relates a Key Process or a Key Concept to a related Process or Concept." .

nao:subTopic a owl:ObjectProperty;
rdfs:label "sub-topic";
rdfs:comment "Relates a topic to a more granular aspect of the topic.";
rdfs:domain nao:Topic;
rdfs:range nao:Topic .

BBC Stories, or ‘What I Did on my Summer Holidays’


A post on web narrative to follow, I promise, but before hand, it’s worth pointing people to an excellent summary of work done by a couple of graduate students (with my assistance/hinderance) here – especially worth reading is the report, linked to at the bottom of the page. I’d urge anyone interested in this area to have a look, as it summaries the current lay of the land, the opportunities and risks involved, including some practical experiments, in great clarity and detail.

Meanwhile, before I finally get myself together to write a coherent piece on web narrative, prepare yourselves by reading two posts I’ll be referencing and responding to:

Kat Sommers on Web Narrative

Dan Biddle – ‘Hyperlinks don’t split narrative, they streamline it’

In a comment on the former, the author of the latter sums things up in a position I think I would agree represents my position:

“I would never try to disown the linear narrative, but I don’t hold that the link is its undoing.”

Although, I’d also argue that hyperlinks offer the opportunity not only to streamline narrative, but to open up a whole new toy box of tricks for both authors and audience to play with – and certainly not at the expense of ‘traditional’ linear storytelling. Not every Web narrative has to be branching, after all…