ORT France pieces together a cultural mosaic on-line


22 July 2009 ORT France pieces together a cultural mosaic on-line ORT France has led the creation of a ground breaking on-line interactive cultural learning experience. Called Mosaica, the portal-building toolkit is designed to empower young people to discover and manage their own cultural heritage, said the Manager of ORT Frances Innovation and New Technology Department, Raphael Attias, who heads the project. We took note of the evolution in social networking and Web 2.0, and how society, especially the youth, uses ICT in more and more ways for work and play, Mr Attias said. Mosaica was an opportunity to carve a niche in the semantic web for cultural diversity; to transfer young peoples inherent fascination for technology into a learning experience; and to galvanise communities around important topics like preserving cultural heritage. Weve created a platform for playing and learning; with games as a hook for younger generations whose attention is harder to get and keep these days. Games like Cultural Pursuit featuring multi-gamer functionality with different play levels to sustain interest are built round the idea of transforming gamers into learners. ORT France devised the Mosaica concept, brought together specialist partners and made a proposal to the European Commission. The Commission recognised Mosaicas harmony with the European Resolution of Cultural Diversity, which states that cultural diversity is as necessary for humankind as biodiversity is for nature, and decided to fund its development through the ICT Digicult programme of the European Unions Framework Programme for research. Mosaicas goal, to bring the world to the classroom and every home, has developed a working demo around Jewish cultural heritage. The demo supports three main modes of use explorative, guided and collaborative which draw on the functionality of Mosaicas so-called conceptualisation platform. Users of the technology, a demonstration of which can be seen at www.mosaica-project.eu , can explore Jewish heritage in their own time, and as often as they wish with semantic-rich data searches, or they can take a guided tour or virtual expedition following prompts and must-see recommendations on dynamically generated maps. Working together, teachers and students can share knowledge, make notes on particular cultural objects either free-text comments, or semantically annotated using dynamic ontology creation and they can also directly contribute content, including photos. Students can even record their own virtual expeditions enhanced with helpful, educational pointers and activities, such as treasure hunts and learn more folders. Now that the EU-funded part of the project has concluded, the technology is ready, the portal-building toolkit is ready, and trial users are suitably impressed not least the Centre for Jewish Information in Brussels which has been using Mosaica as part of its project on intolerance and racism. Workshops were held at ORT Strasbourg, the Technion Israel Institute of Technology, and in Paris to demonstrate the technology. Among the attendees at the workshops were representatives of various faith and cultural organisations. Everyone was impressed, Mr Attias said. They found our work to be a very interesting technological solution against xenophobia, antisemitism and racism and for building tolerance between nations. Now, ORT France is working with its partners on developing commercial spin-offs from the technology that can be attractive tools for schools, universities and cultural associations. In addition, Mosaica has been in contact with a Christian organisation in Poland about providing data and information to create a similar portal to the Jewish cultural heritage one, and has had talks with an Italian group about using what Mr Attias calls their portal-making technology bricks. From the start, Mr Attias had a sense that Mosaica was achieving not only an elegant technological solution but doing something much more safeguarding diversity in all its guises; cultural, ethnic, linguistic. The project offered a real boost to the research environment and, quite frankly, the best opportunity to meet the challenges posed by the European Resolution of Cultural Diversity, he said. Its worldwide web, worldwide research, and worldwide impact thats real cultural diversity, he added. World ORT Director General and CEO Robert Singer said ORT Frances initiative was a fine example of how the ingenuity and skill of ORT staff had benefited millions of people since the organisations founding in 1880. By embracing the balance of particularism and universalism within Jewish tradition the ORT family gladly reaches out to serve people from all backgrounds, Mr Singer said. ORT Frances impressive Mosaica project epitomises this ability to focus on the needs of Jewish communities while actively benefiting other communities. It has never been so important as in this era of globalisation to promote such values of tolerance and mutual regard internationally as Mosaica does so well. This story is adapted from an article that first appeared at ICT Results, http://cordis.europa.eu/ictresults .