Project 4 W – What We Want to KnoW

Collaborative information-integration supported by intelligent software

The flood of information surrounding us is overwhelming: part, but not all, is due to the internet. The innovative aim of this research project was to examine, propose, develop and test methods that allow to create short essays of interest to students in a collaborative fashion by integrating information from a variety of sources. Part of this aim was to find out and document the process, how intelligent software (heuristic algorithms) can help to identify sources, how to find similar essays and how to propose suitable links within material created and material existing outside, and whether sufficient quality meta-data can be extracted to improve search results.

The idea was to familiarize (high-school) students with a number of heuristics or ideas for such and decide, after some testing, which changes or combinations appear to be particularly useful. By writing one short essay themselves and contributing to others, they were then well equipped to define directions for further research and development. Since researchers are in an age group different from students, and students are known to have different attitudes towards e.g. social media and interfaces, it is necessary to involve students deeply in this process, otherwise the outcome might be inappropriate for intended users.

While the research project gained in an essential way as described, the students gained as well. They learned that “copy-and-paste” is not the way to create material of interest and learned to appreciate the richness of sources available and the importance of integrating this information. They also experienced first hand the value of software which supports the identification and comparison of material, proposes valuable links and extracts hopefully useable meta-data. A special feature of this project was the tight interweaving of e-books and web-pages by linking a specific word in a web-page to the according page in an e-book. Beyond this the students were challenged by having an influence on the developement of innovative software, both in functionality and interface.

The results of the project are available on as a collection of essays, each with a history of how and when sources were identified and comments added to improve the software or to provide new suggestions.

This project has been completed.