Distributable Educational Material Markup LanguageTM


First Alpha version of schema published.

Though it is still rough and only covers the fundamental constituents of a DEMML™ topic, the DEMML_0.1 schema is available for viewing here.

Created DEMML™ blog site.

It took me a while to get around to creating a blog but it is finally up. (Updated July 8, 2009)
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Added new Features and Benefits page.

DEMML is truely unique but I seem to have a hard time getting people to see that. Hopefully this will help. (Updated Dec. 10, 2007)
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New Powerpoint about Communications Systems

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How DEMML™ was Invented

Necessity truly is the mother of invention.
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General Description of the DEMML™ Standard and Associated Systems

It is often very difficult for students at any educational level to learn because the educational material available to them is inadequate for their particular needs. Textbooks may be poorly worded and it is impossible for educators to teach at an appropriate level for each individual student in a classroom setting. Finding help can be an arduous and time consuming task. Professor's office hours may be days away and limited in availability. Parents and friends may not understand the subject well enough to provide ready answers. And searching the internet for an explanation of a very specific academic topic is usually an exercise in futility. The delays introduced between the need for knowledge and achieving said knowledge severely hamper the average student's ability to learn efficiently. There is a great need for some way for students to access exactly the information they need, exactly when they need it, as easily as clicking one button.

The Distributable Educational Material Markup Language™ (DEMML™) is a collection of XML standards as well as a system for marking up, organizing, and classifying educational material of all varieties. The core of DEMML™ is the ability to store multiple different explanations of various difficulty levels for any one specific fact and then present to the student the explanation most suited to them while also allowing them to easily choose a different explanation just by picking it from a drop down list. Each explanation of each fact is one part of a very specific topic which is assigned a unique classification code. This classification code allows the system to group all the facts and other types of educational content related to that topic (called items) together even though they may have been created by different authors and even stored in separate files. A topic may "contain" many different items such as facts, explanations, definitions, questions, answers, problems, solutions, exercises, etc. even though those items may be scattered among many different computer files. The content of an item may be anything that can be displayed on a web page such as text, multimedia, or even small applets to demonstrate some principle. The content is marked to indicate the type of media it contains so that content can easily be filtered to select content best suited for any device. This allows users to easily export content for viewing on their handheld device or listened to on their portable listening device.

Many additional features are built into the DEMML™ schema to further facilitate easy, inexpensive, and efficient education. Prerequisites with required proficiencies can be assigned to each item within a topic so that the student can know exactly what other topics they should understand — and exactly how well — in order to easily grasp this topic or item. An electronic syllabus can be defined which lists all the topics a student must study and exactly how proficient they must be in each one in order to do well in a course. Lesson plans can be created to tell students exactly which explanations, questions, exercises, etc. for which items in which topics are recommended for study. Naturally, the student can still choose other explanations if the ones the teacher prefers are inadequate. The syllabus and the lesson plan do not contain the content itself. They are just lists of which content to pull from the DEMML™ distribution system. Once the content is downloaded to the student’s computer, there is no need to remain connected to the internet in order to study. This frees up students to study anywhere they choose, even if that is a day’s walk away from the nearest internet connection in the middle of some third world country.

DEMML™ is not another expensive, proprietary Computer Based Training (CBT) system where content, once created, remains unavailable to all but a few students. DEMML™ is both a semi-open standard — which will be submitted to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) for adoption — and a highly organized public library of material for all to share. DEMML™ allows easy creation of educational content by individual contributors. They can contribute as little as a single paragraph or picture, or as much as an entire encyclopedia of knowledge. The content is vetted by certified educators for accuracy and distributed through a simple store and forward system. By also "distributing" the work load of creating and vetting content to anyone who cares to contribute, DEMML™ ensures rapid and inexpensive growth of the library of content while maintaining accuracy. Please note: DEMML™ is not a wiki where anyone can change existing content at will. Once an item is vetted, it is fixed within the system. Those who believe they can do a better job of explaining something may simply contribute a different explanation for the exact same thing. This way students have many different explanations to choose from rather than one single community-produced explanation that may not be adequate for all students. Finally, the DEMML™ system also provides a means for students to discuss the exact topics they are studying when the material currently available does not meet their needs.

All of this is accomplished by using freely-available off-the-shelf web server and Usenet software on the distribution servers for low cost and maximum reliability even in extremely remote areas. DEMML™ content can be read directly off of a DEMML™ distribution server using a simple web browser for maximum availability. However, additional functionality will require special software, all of which can be created using existing standard code modules. Rather than develop all of this software directly, DEMML™ encourages competition among third party developers by providing a vast library of content in a format which is highly structured yet incredibly flexible. Samples of pre-written code will be made available to further facilitate software creation and make it easy for developers to get started.

DEMML™ is the sole invention of Grant Robertson, a “very late returning undergraduate transfer student” with 11 years experience in the computer industry and a lifetime of experience in self education. Many of the high level design aspects of the DEMML™ standard and system have already been developed in his spare time. But there is still a long way to go before the system can be put in place.

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