Personal Knowledge Integrators

Personal Knowledge Integrators

David C. White
DOI: 10.4018/ijvple.2013100105
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This paper discusses, in the context of personal learning environments, the need for Personal Knowledge Integrators – PKI’s or Knowers. It first illustrates and establishes the need for Knowers with usage scenarios and people’s requirements. It then describes the elements required to make a Knower which can exchange information with other Knowers, regardless of different platforms or technologies. Knowers will provide a person with a knowledge hub synchronising with learning management systems, personal learning environments, file systems and other sources and sinks of information. A design science approach is described with iterative cycles of design and prototyping.
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This paper describes the initial phase of a design science (Nunamaker, Chen & Purdin, 1991) approach to the design of a modular Personal Knowledge Integrator (PKI), or a Knower. Sketches and prototypes are currently being iteratively constructed and discussed informally with potential users. After the design is finalised and implemented, more formal tests and evaluations will be carried out. In White (2010) the concept of this new class of application was proposed against a backdrop of Personal Learning Environments. PLEs (Educause, 2009) encompass the field of Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) which has been addressed in the more general context of Web 2.0 by Razmerita, Kirchner and Sudzina (2009). Their work leads to the conclusion that a Knower would be of considerable value. The need for integration is identified by Jones (2010) who states “that a key challenge of PKM is to make explicit — to elicit — the knowledge of a person. And a bigger challenge is to instil new knowledge that may give the person a better chance to meet his or her aims in life.”

The problem a Knower is attempting to solve is to utilise the meta (higher) knowledge (Uren, Cimiano, Handschuh, Vargas-Vera, Motta & Ciravegna, 2006) contained in the stream of information fragments such as emails, web pages, documents, tweets, tags, and favourites etc. which pour towards us without explicit context. It is proposed that this should be done by categorising these fragments both implicitly by search, and explicitly, automatically or manually, against personal and general taxonomies of interest. Everybody shares, in a way, a common taxonomy of the world in general, albeit in multiple languages. Cultural differences exist but there is huge overlap. A taxonomy is simply a model of a part of the world. In this case it is proposed that a relational dictionary, such as WordNet (Miller, 2010), will provide the core taxonomy as a starting point for all people in whatever language they choose. This will then be augmented by personalised taxonomies which could be shared between other individuals and groups (Bieber, Im, Rice, Goldman-Segall, Paul, Stohr, Hiltz, Preece & Turoff, 2002). These taxonomies would be continually replicated across devices and cloud storage. Taxonomies can also be acquired from many sources describing aspects of the world, from shoe-making to biology.

The need to “mine” un-structured data is a common theme in corporate systems but the individual generally carries out isolated tagging and filing based on separate applications. Services such as, Zotero, and blogs provide a way to share such activities with others. These are very application centric and a Knower would provide a common hub.

A vital requirement for inter-Knower communication is a standard data format. While this is a simple statement to make, it is certainly not a simple goal to pursue.

People are continually involved in learning activities as well as some in teaching as part of everyday life. While a Knower should fulfil these needs, it should also aid and integrate more formal educational activities in the continuous flow of a person’s knowledge, learning and teaching.

It is against this background that this paper describes the requirements for a Knower, and explores, with a focus on user experience and data, the work being carried out towards the creation of Noah, a particular instance.

This is done first by placing a Knower in the context of PLEs and then illustrating requirements with five usage scenarios. This is then followed by a definition and discussion of components required for a Knower, ending with a discussion of conclusions and future work.

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