Tin Can Patterns - Tagging People

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This is the first entry in a series on Tin Can patterns. Simple statements in Tin Can are easy, but the most power comes from rich structure. The Tin Can Patterns series will explore, suggest, and advocate options for expressing common use cases. I want it to be accessible, so the first time a Tin Can concept appears, I’ll gloss it, and try to describe everything in minimal technical detail.

Tin Can means streams of statements, mostly about activities. The core of a statement is “person verbed object”, with added structure to say “with result , in context, according to authority” and more. Tin Can works for traditional learning data, but it also works for social learning data, and there’s already a tool making an impact in that space, Tappestry.

“Complicated ideas sometimes require multiple statements, and the goals of a learning standard are not the same as the goals of a social network like Facebook”

Tappestry users share free form learning activities tagged with people, places, categories, and so forth, similar to Facebook status updates. Right now a lot of that information resides in extensions while the Tin Can community fleshes out best practices. This post hopes to start a conversation about tagging people.

Right now singular Tin Can statements cannot include arbitrary additional people, outside of the opaque extensions. That’s fine. Complicated ideas sometimes require multiple statements, and the goals of a learning standard are not the same as the goals of a social network like Facebook. Multiple statements with the following structure express the desired sentiment:

Learner learned Free Form Activity.

Learner referred to Other Person with a parent context of Free Form Activity.

This exploits the parent context attribute in Tin Can to create a richer implied structure, while being easier to query and report on. A page in an LRS listing what a person has been doing recently will show they have been referring to people, while a view that didn’t explicitly introspect a tagged people container wouldn’t be able to do that.

Data sources will be producing other statements saying things such as “Person A met Person B”, so capabilities looking for similar patterns will discover the ‘referred to’ links. It also opens the door for more specific references: Learner learned with Other Person with a parent context of Free Form Activity. That’s much more powerful than a bag of related people.

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