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ECAAD Activity Planner

The ECAAD Activity Planner, as part of the NEXT-TELL ECAAD Toolset is a performance support tool that allows the graphical definition and description of learning activity sequences. The Activity Planner covers the learning activity planning part of the ECAAD methodology and targets the definition of:

  • High level identification of learning activity patterns
  • Learning Sequences as tasks following a specific control structure
  • Learning artifacts (learning service) orchestration

The Activity Planner is used by the teacher to define for individual students, student groups/classes the ideal learning path to reach certain learning objectives identified in the methodology as learning goals and Knowledge – Skill – Ability (KSA) maps. Negotiation of learning paths with students is provided through the collaborative architecture of the tool.

The Activity Planner provides an interface for the teacher for modelling learning sequences on a high abstraction level (patterns view) and on detail control flow level. It interfaces and provides input to the activity stepper as the execution environment for learning sequences.

From a methodological point of view integration with assessment design is targeted to cross-link assessment and activities.

ECAAD Assessment Designer

The ECAAD Assessment Designer, as part of the NEXT-TELL ECAAD Toolset is a performance support tool that allows the graphical definition and description of assessment methods. The Assessment Designer covers the design of assessment methods as part of the ECAAD methodology and targets the definition of:

  • Assessment methods on a high abstraction level as assessment patterns, building up an assessment method catalogue.
  • Assessment method design on a detailed level, identifying the detailed steps to perform an assessment (execution can be human or machine interpretation)
  • Interfacing with an assessment calculation engine to “calculate” the concrete values when applying the assessment method on a dataset.

The Assessment Designer is used by the teacher to define assessment methods for specific scenarios and use cases. As a layered approach (described in D2.1) different levels of definition are targeted (from data collection to visualization).

The Assessment Designer provides an interface to the teacher to query the assessment catalogue, modify, add assessments and detail them for specific scenarios. The integration with the calculation engine allows an automatic execution if necessary.


Moodle is the most widely used Learning Management System world-wide. It is available freely as open-source software and can be used in many types of environments such as in education, training and development, and business settings. Learning materials can be provided through Moodle and collaboration between students and features such as grading and quizzes are provided.. Moodle has several features considered typical of an e-learning platform, plus some original innovations.

Moodle consists of different tools, such as: assignment, chat, choice, database, forum, glossary and quiz.

The Assignment tool is designed for teachers to assess knowledge or skills the students gained. The assignments can be made available at any time with a start and close date.

A chat space can be made available at all times for the entire class to make comments or ask each other questions, or it can be more specific to a group of students or an assignment. Any way the chat tool is used, helpful in gathering and giving information especially in distance learning courses where face to face meeting is impossible.

The Choice tool can be used to determine the preference of students in reading a certain book or choosing topics for a project. It is an easy and convenient way for teachers to poll student opinions. This can aid the teacher in creating student centered lessons.

The Database tool simplifies the storage of large amounts of information.

The Forum tool is used to share ideas between all members of a course.

The Glossary tool is used to help students gain a working knowledge of important vocabulary in the course. This can be created and maintained by the teacher as a reference point for students, or it can be used as an assignment or collaborative effort for the students. Either way the information becomes available and ready for viewing by all students at any point they need it.

The Quiz tool can be used to assess student knowledge before, during and after a unit of study. The quiz feature is great to use before introducing a topic to gauge student’s knowledge of the content ahead of time, as it is helpful for a teacher to adjust their teaching after viewing the results of the quiz. It can be used during a unit to determine if students understand the content, and of course as an assessment of what they learned at the end.

Google Docs and Google Spreadsheet

Google Apps comprise three productivity tools:

  • Google Docs
  • Google Spreadsheet
  • Google Presentations

Users have access to these applications for free, through a web-browser.

They all share a number of features which are relevant for use in schools, such as:

Google Apps lets students move beyond paper drafts, one-by-one peer reviews, and waiting for teachers to complete physical edits. Online comments and real-time editing let students see comments as they come in, acting on them and streamlining the input process. As document collaborators, teachers can provide feedback whenever it’s important in the revision cycle – not just at designated due dates. Better input and ongoing feedback on changes empowers students to continue developing their work without waiting for paper-based reviews. Comprehensive revision history helps students and teachers understand how documents evolve from draft to polished papers – and to see how peer reviews and comments influenced the final product.


OpenSimulator is a multiuser online-environment that allows our students to meet and collaborate with each other and other facilitators. Have a 3D virtual space for inter-student-collaboration. We use it in the TESL conversation-scenario to provide an immersive environment where students need to use their language skills in order to solve assignments that are given to their team. We will enforce the creation of international project teams (of different mother tongues!) to trigger the veritable need for using English as a working language and giving the students the possibility to experience themselves as part of a truly international collaboration process.

OpenSimulator is a closed environment, hosted for a restricted user-group (e.g. our NEXT-TELL students).


Repertory grids can be used not only for research and assessment purposes, but also as pedagogical tools. As such, they are similar to methods such as concept mapping and sorting tasks, requiring students to explicate the way they think about a domain of knowledge. Next-Tell provides Rep5, a web-based repertory grid tool, both for purposes of formative assessment in the hand of teachers, as well as a way to engage students in thinking about declarative bodies of knowledge. Rep 5 is a suite of conceptual representation tools, accessible through a web browser, founded in George Kelly’s Personal Construct Psychology (PCP). Rep 5 supports research into, and applications of, a wide range of conversational constructivist methodologies. Its various tools and methods provide personal, professional and research support for modelling and understanding individual and communal psychological and social processes.

Rep 5 provides conversational tools for constructing and analyzing conceptual grids (RepGrid), and construct nets (RepNet). Grids are a generalization of what Kelly terms “conceptual” or “repertory” grids for eliciting construct networks through examples of their application, and nets are a generalization of visual syntactic structures used for representing construct networks directly in visual languages. Rep 5 supports the use of grid and net tools separately and in combination, including integration between those tools and other applications such as word processors and outliners.

Results of repertory grid elicitations take largely a graphical format (like cluster analysis, and multi-dimensional scaling), but also yield numeric results. The latter are usually less relevant for providing information for other than research purposes.

EVE (Educational Video Environment)

EVE is a web-based, streaming video annotation and discussion tool. Users can bookmark a series of time-points (cue-points) or time-segments (cue-segments) of a video to stimulate and share discussions via real-time collaborative temporal annotations using a web HTML editor. Learners can search information from the content of cue-points and annotations against the time-point. EVE is unique in that that it not only allows learners to view online video material as many times as, and wherever they wish, but also to collaborate, comment and discuss each segment of the video, with annotations and comments that are context-sensitive and context-rich, providing opportunities for collaborative peer- supported learning and collaborative problem solving. The aim is to foster social commitments among learners, enabling them to engage in peer learning and to gain new knowledge and understanding via interactions and negotiations.

In its most recent version, EVE includes an editor for assessment criteria, or rubrics, that can be authored by the end user (e.g., teacher), and be seamlessly made available for video analysis/annotation.

Video is an important resource for education, but of limited value when either playing from a file, or streaming from the Internet. To make video educationally useful, students must be able to use it actively: to browse, select, annotate, discuss specific aspects of what is shown in a video. This pertains both to cases were the video is about “a phenomenon” (a volcano eruption, say), as well as for the case where the video is about the student herself (as part of her e-portfolio, for instance). In the first case, we expect students to engage in explanation and inquiry, in the second in reflection. Next-Tell will put the EVE tool in the hand of teachers and student to accomplish this.
































Mahara ePortfolio

An electronic portfolio or ePortfolio is a generic term encompassing as wide a range of types and products as there are reasons for using them. The simplest starting point is to consider an ePortfolio as an extension of the paper based-portfolio, bringing with it the obvious benefit of making a portfolio of evidence portable and shareable anywhere that you have Internet access.

In fact, an ePortfolio has a much broader scope as an online collection of reflections and digital resources (such as documents, images, blogs, resumes, multimedia, hyperlinks and contact information). Learners and staff can use an ePortfolio to demonstrate their learning, skills and development and record their achievements over time to a selected audience. It can be used to create collections of digital resources to share with fellow students, peers, family and friends, to present to potential employers and to complement applications for research funding. In short, it is an online space from which to manage your life, learning and goals.

In NEXT-TELL, we have chosen Mahara as the ePortfolio tool.

Mahara is an open source ePortfolio and social networking web application created by the government of New Zealand. It provides users with tools to create and maintain a digital portfolio of their learning, and social networking features to allow users to interact with each other.

Mahara provides users with blogs, a resume builder, a file manager and a view creator – a tool to help users create arrangements of their content in a particular way for others to see.

Mahara is a system in which students can record “evidences of lifelong learning” – such as essays, artwork or other such things they produce that can be stored digitally. Such things are known as artefacts in Mahara.

But Mahara is much more than just a place to store files. Mahara also includes blogging, a resume builder, Moodle integration and the standout views framework.

With Mahara, the user controls which items and what information (i.e. artifacts) within her/his portfolio other users see. To facilitate this access control, all artifacts the user wishes to show to other users need to be arranged into one area. In Mahara this compilation of selected artifacts is called a View. Users can have as many Views as they like, each with a different collection of artifacts, and intended purpose and audience. The audience, or the people the user wishes to give access to her/his View, can be added as individuals or as a member of a Group. It can even be made publicly available.

For example it is possible to create a View for friends and family that includes holiday photos and a personal Blog. Or it could be created another View for the tutor, which includes assessments and reflective learning journal. A third View can be used to showcase the best pieces of work and the resume for potential employers. In fact the user can create as many Views as her/his wishes for work, study and leisure purposes.

If we think of LMSes such as Moodle as the formal, structured side of e-learning,

Then Mahara is the social, reflective side. An LMS and an e-portfolio complement one another in an online learning environment. In particular, while Mahara’s APIs are open to all, Mahara can integrate with Moodle to provide a streamlined user experience. The NEXT-TELL Mahara is already integrated with Moodle via single sign-on.

Since Mahara has been designed from the ground up to be an open, pluggable system, NEXT-TELL Mahara will be integrated with other systems which will be used to provide evidence of and track learning activities of the user. In particular, the integration with Moodle will be extended to allow the user to record in a log file her/his activities within Moodle such followed courses, time spent on a course, how many times a course has been opened etc.

Similarly, the NEXT-TELL Mahara will be extended to be integrated with other tools which are meant to track the learning activities and progresses of the learner. This is the case of the integration with Web-tracking tools (like Eyebrows) which record the web activities (visited web sites, time spent on a page etc.) in a log file inside the ePortfolio. The learner will have the full control on these tools and decide if, what and when record the web activities.

Since the ePortfolio is a central archive for any material that can be used for the appraisal, NEXT-TELL Mahara will be also integrated with Google Docs, EVA video annotation tool and OpenSim to store and share evidences regarding progresses in written and spoken second language.

Open learner model (OLM)

The NEXT-TELL OLM is intended to support students, teachers, parents, peers, school administrators, policy makers and researchers. OLMs may: accommodate the user’s right to view electronic data about themselves; permit the improvement of the learner model accuracy; facilitate navigation of the system/navigational materials etc.; increase learner trust in the system; promote learner reflection; facilitate (self-) monitoring; support planning; encourage learner control and responsibility in learning; facilitate formative assessment; provide a source of information for summative assessment; and may promote collaborative or competitive interaction.

The OLM is a representation of the underlying learner model. In NEXT-TELL this may contain inferences generated from: e-portfolio information (video, pictures, documents, weblogs etc.); learning artefacts (e.g. Google Documents); (self-) assessment and appraisal information; tertiary software (OpenSim, quiz engines etc.); and any additional evidence tendered to the NEXT-TELL system (marked work, external assessment etc.)

Initial versions of the NEXT-TELL OLM will focus on information facets related to knowledge, skills and abilities (beliefs, difficulties, misconceptions, knowledge level etc.) Later releases will include information about epistemological beliefs (justification of knowledge etc.) and 21st Century skills (collaboration, teamwork, critical thinking etc.)

Different users will require different information from the OLM and will require the information to be presented in a variety of ways, depending upon their reasons for viewing. For this reason the OLM interface will be customizable and different sets of tools will be available to each user type. Tools are currently still in the design stage and will be influenced by the needs of the end users. Subsequent releases will improve the tool sets.

The following are example use cases for the NEXT-TELL OLM currently under development:

  • Student: Using an adaptive learning environment as part of a classroom activity; planning future learning.
  • Parent: Providing support to the student; monitoring student progress; providing information to the system.
  • Peer: A student helps another student who is struggling; students collaborate to comprehend a problem.
  • Teacher: Just-in-time feedback on a classroom activity; planning future learning activities.
    School Admin: Monitoring a school’s educational targets; identification of extra support that is required.
  • Policy Maker: Budget setting; making a decision as to whether a current strategy is working.
  • Researcher: Evaluation of pedagogical strategies; evaluation of the use of software tools.

SPICE- Strategic Planning with ICTs in Education

The SPICE component will work with school leaders to identify and define relevant KPIs and appropriate methods for adapting the BSC/Baldrige approaches to performance and change management, and the cultivation of innovative practices. A key component in achieving this goal is the co-development with school leaders of a strategic planning tool (Strategy Planner). The Balanced Scorecard (BSC) is a management approach, derived from vision and strategy implementation. It was originally designed to help companies to communicate planning strategies to all involved stakeholders, and to clearly indicate each individual’s responsibilities and accountability (Kaplan and Norton, 1992). The BSC approach compels organizations to undertake rigorous and continuous strategic planning based on performance data. It promotes the “active formulation” of strategic plans, and its aim is to involve all members of the organization in the development of the plan.

The BSC approach begins with the definition of the organization’s vision, enabling it to derive its strategic goals and to translate them in the form of clearly measurable Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).  Typical, major projects steps when implementing BSC are illustrated below

School leaders can benefit from the use of the BSC approach as it provides them with a guided, systematic process for planning school vision which focuses, simultaneously, on both the organization and the needs of other stakeholders (customers) such as students, parents and educational policy-makers. For example:

  • the customer perspective in the school setting might involve how, when, why, what type and for what purpose communications are effected with parents;
  • the internal process perspective might focus on effective use of available resources with a particular focus on ‘value’ and ‘strengths’;
  • the innovation and learning perspective might focus on how a school and its teachers and learners adapt to continuous processes of change in education and society (e.g. in integrating ICTs as a support for teaching, learning and assessment); finally
  • the financial perspective might focus on ways of optimizing the financial resources of an institution by looking at ways of integrating existing and available resources (in and out of school), e.g. in developing innovation networks or partnerships with interested organizations.

The BSC approach suggests these four dimensions, nevertheless additional dimensions or a renaming of dimension is feasible and possible. As a possible input, concepts as developed in the MATURE project for maturing scorecards are regarded as a starting point for the adaptation.

An IT-based solution can support a reduction in the complexity of the cause-and-effect relationships discussed above. For NEXT-TELL a strategy and performance management toolkit based upon BOC’s ADOscore implementation, will be provided.

The NEXT-TELL Strategic Planning Tool consists of 2 main building blocks:

Strategic Planning and Design: through graphical models, the strategy is depicted and developed ranging from high level strategy identification to concrete indicator and measurement definition.

Controlling and Performance Dashboard: as a monitoring component, the design is set operational and provides controlling and monitoring information in the form if a dashboard.

The added value of NEXT-TELL’s Strategic Planning Tool in lies in its provision of:

  • An intuitive graphical editor for planning and defining BSC indicators
  • Opportunities for linking KPIs to existing operational data
  • Graphical reporting and the use of Dashboards for presenting information in an executive summary format

With its modelling technique, the SPICE planning tool facilitates the implementation of the BSC approach by enabling all relevant information for strategic performance management to be represented. As a basis the steps identified by Kaplan/Norton in introducing a Balanced Scorecard to enable change management in the school setting are supported. It offers opportunities for documenting strategic variables, goals and performance indicators, via the definition of target levels and thresholds, to analyzing and controlling the achievement level of strategic and operational goals.