A New Palette of Open Source Services for Communities of Practice

by Christine Vanoirbeek

The IST European Integrated Project ‘PALETTE – Pedagogically sustained Adaptive Learning through the Exploitation of Tacit and Explicit Knowledge’ commenced in February 2006. The project aims to develop a set of innovative, interoperable and standard-based services that enhance learning in communities of practice.

A community of practice is a frequently interacting group of people (the community) who share a concern, a set of problems, or a passion about a topic (the domain of the community), and who deepen their practical knowledge and expertise in that domain (the practice of the community).

Such communities are recognized as effective environments for supporting the learning of professionals, organizations and educational institutions. They have several characteristics that distinguish them from formal organizations. Collaborative learning is a key issue: members learn from each other by making their knowledge and practices explicit, sharing them with their peers, and reflecting on them.

The rapid development of new technology (eg Web-based platforms, wireless communications, mobile devices and multimedia content) means that great potential exists for such applications. However, recent research underlines a lack of adequate scaffolding in the form of technical support, and use of the technology to:

To achieve its objectives, PALETTE will provide communities of practice with a set of services classified into three categories: information, knowledge management and mediation services. These will provide the community’s participants with support for:

Services will be tested using various pedagogical scenarios. In line with new learning practices, these will be designed to encourage the exploitation of diverse mental models, knowledge resources and the skills of individuals both inside and outside communities.
The PALETTE’s R&D process relies on a design approach that takes into consideration the underlying processes of social participation, community building and development of identity. It is articulated around negotiation of meaning, which is the basis of any individual and collective learning process.

The open-source services resulting from PALETTE will not only address the needs of communities currently involved in the project, but also provide the conditions for engagement of other communities. The participation of further users is encouraged, as it will enhance the project and contribute to its development.

With a good balance between technological and pedagogical experts, the consortium aims to provide support for a broad range of activities performed by communities of practice. The project must therefore deal with different types of information, make use of various applications and accommodate several environments. An important challenge is to provide users with interoperable tools allowing exchange of data, and to integrate them into different scenarios of use. Interoperability covers several levels, addressing technological considerations (use of XML and related technologies), organizational constraints, and higher-level understanding of manipulated information. This can include agreement on data exchange models and associated semantic information, through ontologies and standards used in the learning domain.

The PALETTE project intends to provide innovative learning models and technical solutions that increase of the overall quality of learning in communities of practice. In addition, it will contribute to the development of standards in this area.


Please contact:
Bruno Le Dantec, ERCIM office, administrative coordinator,
Tel: +33 4 9238 5010, E-mail: bruno.ledantec@ercim.org

Christine Vanoirbeek, scientific coordinator, EPFL/SARIT, Switzerland,
E-mail: christine.vanoirbeek@epfl.ch