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New spec could improve educational web searches

An initiative that will make it easier for teachers to find educational content online is nearing reality.

A major effort to help publishers tag educational content using a new specification could help teachers quickly find age-appropriate resources online.

The Learning Resource Metadata Initiative (LRMI), which is co-led by the Association of Educational Publishers (AEP) and Creative Commons, is an effort to tag educational content to make it easier to find in internet searches.

The first version of the LRMI specification was released in June, and publishers have been working on a proof-of-concept pilot project that involves tagging resources for middle school math. Now, phase two of the project—which expands the focus to include English and language arts—is beginning now.

The LRMI spec will work with Schema.org, a web metadata framework. Major search engines such as Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft Bing announced the Schema.org project last year, creating a universal framework for tagging web-based content to make internet searches faster and more accurate.

Google Shopping and Google Recipes are prototype examples of how metadata can improve search results under Schema.org.

With Google Shopping, for instance, when web users enter a search term—say, “Harry Potter”—a list of criteria to help them narrow their search appears in the left-hand margin of the search page. Online shoppers can choose to see only those results that are available in stock nearby, that offer free shipping, or that are new. They can specify the type of product they’re looking for (books, DVDs, toys, video games, costumes), the price range they’re looking to spend, or a particular store they’d like to buy from.

With the LRMI specification in place, educators will be able to narrow their search results in a similar fashion. When teachers search for an educational term or resource—say, “teaching fractions”—a list of criteria will appear that lets them further define the search by age range, standards the resource aligns to, publisher, and more.

Before this happens, though, two things need to occur.

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