Last modified 10 years ago Last modified on 09/27/06 15:47:53

Overview of LeMill

This page is obsolete See Overview of LeMill at for an up-to-date overview.

See also Portal-Toolbox integration.


This section describes functionality planned for version 1 of LeMill. Some, but not all of it is already implemented.

LeMill is divided into four sections, which are described after some common functions. All words that have a capital first letter are central concepts in LeMill and their detailed descriptions are available in the Vocabulary.

Common functions

Anyone can browse, search for, and view resources in LeMill. Resources are described in more detail below, in each section description.

Members (registered users) can bookmark interesting resources into their personal Collections. Members can have several Collections, each with a title and a short description.

New and interesting events are highlighted by experienced users to form news feeds (RSS) and highlights in section front pages.


Repository of learning content, which is Material (learning objects) and Pieces (assets). Pieces are small atomic objects that can be used as part of Material. Typically Pieces are images. Material can be anything that has pedagogical value.

Most content in LeMill is open, meaning that anyone can edit them. Members can improve Material, or create new variations of Material, or translate Material to their own language. Of course, if Material is closed (licensing forbids editing), this is not available. Also, if Material is in such a technical format (such as protected PDF) that editing is impossible, editing cannot be done.

Editable content is edited (modified and translated) using online editing tools. These may range from simple text areas in HTML forms to editors made with Flash applets.


Repository of learning Activities, or pedagogical templates. Activities are basically descriptions of different learning activities that teachers can use in their learning sessions.


Repository of learning Tools. Tools are descriptions of different digital and non-digital tools that are needed for learning sessions.


Repository of Members and Groups. Each Member has his own information page, which displays information about that Member. Each Member has his own Collections, which others can see. Members can also write Stories, which are short descriptions of their experiences with certain learning Material, pedagogical Activities and Tools. These Stories are also visible when viewing any of the associated Resources. The value of a certain Resource is affected by how many Stories are written about it.

Members may freely join any Group. Groups are formed around a collection of learning objects that the Group collaboratively works on. Groups communicate via a blog which any group member can post to, and anyone can comment.


Content, Activities, and Tools are combined in Stories. Here are some examples of Stories:

Progressive Inquiry in a software development course

"I tried to use Progressive Inquiry in an open-source development course, which was about both technological and business issues. I had chosen a real open-source project that was sufficiently small, and had a real need (the community discussion page had been asking for this feature for a while).

"In the first lesson I gave an introduction to the project that the students were going to work on, and also an introduction to the tools they would be using. Then I allowed them to divide into three groups, each pursuing a different task.

"The course was mostly distance learning, with only 5 face-to-face meetings in 3 months. The plan was to have the students work together during distance learning periods, and in each meeting get a summary of the progress and plan the next distance learning period. I only found out at the first meeting that the students actually do not meet each other at all during the long distance learning periods, but many live hundreds of kilometers from each other. Thus they were forced to collaborate using e-mail and other online tools, which made progress that much more challenging.

"In the end, the software project did not progress very well, and the students expressed many of the anxieties that can be expected in Progressive Inquiry: they were unsure of how to proceed, and would have wanted narrow tasks and deadlines. Sudden responsibility of one's own learning is quite demanding if you're not used to planning your own timetables and taking charge of your activities.

"Here's what I would do differently: Provide more metacognitive support in the beginning of the course, and gradually lessen it, allowing for the individual control of students to take over. I would also choose a group of students that normally meet during the week in other courses, so they can more easily interact. I would also choose a less demanding project, or provide more support to the groups in tackling the problems. I would encourage more communication. And I would definitely like a group that already has some experience with Progressive Inquiry or that has more work experience (since you develop the same skills in doing knowledge work that are needed for Progressive Inquiry)."

  • Activities: Progressive Inquiry
  • Tools:, CVS, Classroom with video projector and student computers, Moodle, E-mail list
  • Content: Introduction to open source development tools (slideshow), Introduction to the development project (PDF), Presentation about open-source business models (Finnish, slideshow)


Scenarios describe what the user can do, in the form of short stories.

Scenario 1: history teacher Jana

(this is a rewrite of one of the participatory design scenarios with more details, and is actually too long to be a proper scenario, but should serve as a walkthrough of how a user would see LeMill)

Jana is a history teacher in a small primary school in Poland. She just graduated from the university last spring, so it is her first year as a teacher. Jana is a very concerned teacher and wants to make her lessons interesting for the students. She has been using computers for years - mainly for university studies and communicating with friends. She is also interested in using the Internet and ICT tools with her students.

In 6th grade, history lessons are focused on the Middle Ages. Currently Jana is preparing a lesson about life in medieval cities. She looks for additional information from Polish Wikipedia and Google. Wikipedia has good articles on Polish cities, but it lacks the detailed information about medieval times. Jana remembers that one of her colleagues was talking about Learning Mill. She finds LeMill from Google and starts to browse the website.

The front page shows a thumbnail image of a learning object about physics - something to do with simulating effects of gravity. Seems impressive, but not what Jana is looking for. There is also a photo of a bunch of people, and the caption talks about an active group of biology teachers who have been creating a huge collection of learning resources for elementary school use. Jana clicks on the group photo and sees the group's diary (weblog). They seem to be a very active group, Jana thinks. However, she was looking for content, so she clicks on the "Content" heading.

Jana sees three learning objects displayed, from various topics. Nothing about history... However, below them Jana sees that she can "browse by topic", and can see history as one of the options. She clicks on that.

Jana now sees several learning objects about history, with thumbnails, short descriptions, and information about their authors. There are hundreds of objects about history. There is also a search field, so she types "medieval cities" into the search box. Now she is given only a dozen results - some photos, some slide shows and a few pages of text.

Jana finds photos that are taken from archaeological excavations in Krakow. There are many interesting discoveries - some coins, pieces of plates and knifes and different tools that people used for work. She clicks on "add to collection" when viewing an interesting photo and she is asked to log in. She does not have an account in LeMill, so she creates one.

After creating her account, Jana bookmarks the interesting photos. The photos are stored in a collection, where she can see all of them at the same time. Jana searches for some additional facts from Wikipedia. She decides to create a learning material that can be used both for presentation and handouts.

So Jana clicks on "new content". She is now given two choices - upload a file or create the material online. Well, she doesn't have anything on her own computer, so she decides to try online creation, although it sounds a bit scary. LeMill now displays some templates for Jana to choose from - plain text, text with images, and so on. Jana goes for "text with images".

Jana can now write the title and actual text for her material. There is also the possibility to add images. Clicking on that, Jana sees the images that she has collected before, and can just click them to add them to her material. After writing the text for a while, she needs to do something else, and clicks on save.

When Jana returns the next day, she finds her own material waiting for her just after logging in. It has a "draft" symbol next to it. Opening the material, Jana is asked "Would you like to publish this for others to see?" Well, not yet, since it's not finished. She clicks on "edit" and continues editing the text. After a while Jana clicks on save, and she is again asked, whether she would like to publish her material. Jana is a bit hesitant, since the material isn't very polished yet. There is an explanation to what publishing means. After reading it, Jana decides to publish her material.

When editing her material later, and saving, Jana is now asked a different question: "Would you like to share this material with a group?" Now what does that mean? Fortunately there is again some explanatory text. Sharing something means giving the group members permission to also edit the material. Now that's scary, Jana isn't going to do that. So she answers "no".

But what are these groups? Jana goes to the Community section and sees some photos of other people and some groups. Maybe there is a group of history teachers? A quick search reveals that there indeed is such a group. She looks at its blog and member list, and the materials that they've been working on. It looks interesting enough, so she clicks on "Join this group". Wow - now she's a member of the group, and she is reminded that she can share her material with this group if she wants to. First Jana takes a closer look at the material that the group has been working on, and sees that there is some useful stuff there, and that she could actually edit them as well. There are many versions of materials, and some have several translations as well. Maybe I could translate this material into Polish, Jana wonders.

Jana also finds out that she can contact other teachers in her group, and elsewhere. There are many teachers who are looking for collaboration to author learning resources together. It is also possible to write reviews for learning resources. Jana writes a short review for the archaeological excavation photos. She finds out that these photos were published by one young researcher from Institute of History. LeMill is not only for teachers, but there are also university students, researchers and other people who are interested in finding and creating educational resources. It is already late and Jana logs out. She will come back on Monday morning to see if somebody has used the archaeology page that she just created.

Section 9 of LRE Portal Requirements paper

Metaentry: The text in the section will be pasted to the LRE Portal Requirements paper on May 8th, so any references in the following text to "a document" refer to the LRE Portal Requirements paper.

This section on Toolbox overlaps with most of the other sections of this document, since the Toolbox is an integral part of the portal. Thus this section should probably be removed and its contents merged with the other sections as appropriate. Now this section is an independent description of the Toolbox.


The Learning Toolbox is a web community for authoring and sharing learning resources. It is targeted for teachers and anyone else interested in creating learning material. What this means:

All Toolbox features work inside a web browser and follow the World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C) accessibility and web standards as strictly as possible. More information about the interface guidelines is available here:
All members of the Toolbox environment form a community. The Toolbox itself is very open, and the community members can use it in various ways, actually changing the way the community operates. All members are visible to others, can contact each other, and can see what others are interested in and doing in the community. Members can freely join and leave any groups and contribute as much as they want. It is also perfectly OK to just use the resources in the Toolbox without contributing. All visitors (non registered users) have access to all the sections of the website and may read all content found from the site. To contribute to the site one must register to it.
The Toolbox provides online editing tools that can be used to create learning resources, ranging from simple web pages to interactive flash applets. Members can see what changes others have made to shared objects, and can discuss those changes in group weblogs.
All content in the Toolbox is openly shared with others, using a Creative Commons license. This allows teachers to benefit from each other's work. Groups can collaboratively work on resources, and anyone is free to join any group, if they feel they have something to contribute.
The Toolbox is about creating resources that can be used in learning situations with learners. However, it is also designed to help the teachers learn more about teaching and learning, as it provides information about different pedagogical activities, background theories, working use cases, lesson plans, etc.
The Toolbox is a repository of various learning resources. It contains learning material, ranging from simple images to large, complex entities, but it also contains information on different pedagogical activitities and learning tools.


Three scenarios from here could be used:


The resources of the Toolbox can be approached from four directions, which are shown as main sections of the system. The sections are "linked" together with stories written by teachers. The stories section is not visible in the main UI, but one can access stories from all four main sections of the site.

Contains pieces (or assets) and learning material (or objects). Pieces can be used to build up learning material, and material can be combined into larger entities, such as course material of a single study course. When building material, members use resources that they've collected into their collections.
Contains information and descriptions of various techniques and activities that can be used in learning situations. Descriptions can be accompanied by links to further information. A single Activity description may also contain links to "Contents" with which it is used, as well as links to "Tools" that can be used with the Activity.
Contains information and descriptions of various digital and physical tools needed in learning situations. Descriptions can be accompanied by links to sites with further information and the actual digital tools (if avaiable online). A single Tool description may also contain links to "Content" what they are used with, as well as links to "Activities" that can be used with the Tool.
Contains the registered members of the Toolbox, and the group that they've formed. Each member shows some information about himself, such as country, language, skills, and interests. Members can create their personal collections of resources they find interesting or useful, and others can see these collections. Resources found by browsing or searching the repositories can be added to collections for further use. Collections can be used to create lesson plans, so you have all the content, activities and tools in one convenient location. The community section also contains groups, which each have their own weblog, where members can post entries. The group page also shows what actions the group members have recently done, so anyone can follow the group's progress as they work on learning resources. Anyone is also allowed to comment the group's work.
Teachers are encouraged to create collections of resources, so they have everything they need in one location. When planning or after holding a learning event or a full course, they are encouraged to write a short story describing their experiences with the content, activities, and tools used. These stories will be shown whenever someone is viewing any of the resources mentioned in the story. This way the experiences of the teachers are easily available to others, and they can see how other teachers have used a certain content object, or a certain activity.


Functionality is listed here:

Integration with other LRE components

The LRE is composed of the curriculum mapping scheme (CMS), the federated search engine (FSE), the Toolbox, and the Portal, which integrates the previous three into one working entity.

All searches for learning material made in the Toolbox will be served by the FSE. The user profile used to tune the search is requested from the Toolbox. Based on the user profile, the CMS is activated to find matching results from other national repositories, in addition to the 'local' repository from the user's own country. Found material is added to the user's collections in the Toolbox. Newly created resources in the Toolbox should be seen in the FSE searches.

The Portal works as the adapter between these three systems, translating requests from one system to the other.

The visible user interface can either be the UI of the Toolbox, or a skin in the Portal, that requests all needed information from the Toolbox, although it seems simpler to just design and implement a new skin into the Toolbox by the Portal developers. However, the Portal developers should follow the Human Interface Guidelines, available here: We may also consider the possibility not to integrate the "look and feel" of the two systems, but go with the proposal presented in

Suggestion for integrating the systems and focusing of development (based on the budgets and partners of each WP, and the original work programme):

focuses on designing and implementing the curriculum mapping schema, usable as a web service
focuses on implementing the FSE, and advanced browsing, searching, and agent algorithms, usable as web services
focuses on the presentation (including UI), authoring, and community tools; searching and browsing are displayed based on results from web service calls
focuses on technically connecting the three other tools via web service brokering, hosting the complete system and keeping its news feeds and other administrative tasks going (and doing the evaluation of the system, which is the majority of WP4's tasks)