Students collaborating and communicating in a structured, teacher-controlled online environment
In 2006 the BBC announced a new Future Media and Technology division to concentrate on emerging technologies, which would incorporate the pioneering BBC Research Department. One of the New Media projects that BBC Research is now involved with is the Participate Project, which aims to explore convergence in pervasive, online and broadcast media to create new kinds of mass-participatory events in which a broad cross-section of the public contributes to, as well as accesses, contextual content - on the move, in public places, at school and at home.
The 'Schools' section of the project aims to bring together different schools in a series of multi-study technology-supported science activities. Data collected via portable devices and from static sensors embedded in the environment can be augmented with contextual audio, images and video in a shared online environment.
Netsight were commissioned by the Participate Project partners, led by BBC Research, to develop web-based tools to enable the upload, sharing and investigation of scientific environmental data between schools. The central component of this system is the project website.
- The underlying platform, based on Plone and Zope, provides a secure site for the students (and teachers) to upload research data, videos and posters, as well as discuss their work via a forum-like system.
- A streamlined, step-by-step user interface makes it easy for students to add their work and findings to the site, whether that be data from an electronic device, a 60 second movie about their work, or a one-sheet poster illustrating their experiments. In particular the poster creation process guides them through a selection of available layouts and handles all image and text formatting for them.
- The integration with Google maps illustrates the physical location of each school within the UK, allowing pupils, teachers and indeed any member of the public to browse the schools involved with the project. Further integration with Google maps within the student area allows the user to see visual representations of data they have collected from experiments1.
- The workflow system ensures the quality and safety of a student's work - a teacher must approve work submitted by his/her pupils before it is available on the site, in accordance with stringent guidelines for the protection of children's identities online. Approved work is only visible by other students within the same school. The site administrator, if they wish, can make selected works available to the public.
1 The processing and presentation of the environmental sensing data is carried out by software written by Science Scope.
The Participate Schools website allows participating children to effectively communicate and share their opinions and findings relating to a number of environmental science projects within a structured, teacher-controlled online environment: