DITA for Kids?

Imagine this scenario:

  • A teacher wants to create some customized lesson materials, starting from Wikipedia
  • They open an editor, type in the name of a wikipedia article, and start dragging and dropping content and images into a new article with just the content they want
  • They selectively combine and edit the content from several articles into new articles which can be organized around themes
  • They package the result into a bundle of learning materials for the Sugar environment (http://www.sugarlabs.org), which runs on One Laptop Per child laptops and various Linux platforms
  • The source materials used are tracked in the resulting edited package, so it's possible to trace the origin of each statement in the materials, down to the sentence level
  • The materials remain editable, and can be imported and re-edited by other teachers

In DITA terms, this means extracting content from Wikipedia into DITA topics, enabling drag and drop of DITA elements between two topic editing panes, adding metadata tracking for source elements as they get added to the new (derived) topic, then packaging the resulting DITA topics around a common theme organized with a DITA map and directly rendered in a browser using CSS.

Sound a little high-concept? Wonder what it would look like?


Now that the project is complete, the code is being contributed to open-source. 

Kudos to the students who created this working demo as part of an ExtremeBlue internship with IBM in the UK. You can see some of the project in progess - including their paper-prototyping of the content editing and creation process - here:


Among the thing that are awesome about this project:

  • Demonstrates reuse of Wikipedia content for learning materials
  • Demonstrates cheap and easy editing of basic DITA content
  • Creates output that is itself consumable and reusable - the reuser creates reusable content

I'm sure there's more things that'll come to mind later. In the meantime, please join me in congratulating the team on their work.  

 -- Michael Priestley

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