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It’s all about trees. Soon you will be able to grow your knowledge!

Hi everyone,

As lead developer and CTO of Elewa, I have the honor to introduce you to Elewa 2.0. Elewa 2.0 is the new version of Elewa we’ve been quietly working on for some time now. In September, we will launch a new version of Elewa that transcends the current system boundaries. Elewa will move from being a system that helps with studying for KCSE, to a system that helps with learning in general.

When combining knowledge trees with our current Elewa system, magic happens! But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. What is a knowledge tree?

Course structures

To understand what a knowledge tree is, we need to have a look at the structure of how courses are taught in primary and secondary school. At the highest level, we have different subjects. For example: Mathematics, Physics, English, …

The different course subjects

These subjects consist of multiple chapters. For example, Mathematics consists of the chapters Limits, Differentiation, Commercial Arithmetic, …

Expanding mathematics to see the different chapters it contains.

Furthermore, even a chapters can be broken down. This time into multiple topics. If we break expand the chapter “Area”, we see it consists of the topics “Area of a rectangle,” “Area of a circle,” “Area of a regular shape,” …

Finally, chapters can be expanded into different topics. And even subtopics.

When you open up any textbook, you’ll actually discover this structure.  For example, have a look at the following table of contents of physics:

Table of contents - physics

The different chapters and topics are lined up and numbered in the linear way. First comes Newtonian Mechanics, then Forces. That is also the way it is taught in most schools. But what you can’t conclude from this table of contents, is how the chapters Forces and “Newtonian Mechanics” relate. It seems that both of these chapters are completely separate and have little to do with one another. They are monolithic blocks that have to be studied as a whole.

This is strange, since there really are links between the different topics of those chapters. We have a look at two chapters in Mathematics to illustrate this. Area is a form one chapter, while “Area II” is a form two chapter.

Chapters Area and Area II analyzed

In the illustration, we can see that in order to calculate the area of a square, one must be able to calculate the area of a rectangle. Why is this? Well, if you calculate the area of a square, you are basically calculating the area of a rectangle which has an equal height and width. So as you can see, there are most certainly connections between the different chapters and topics. Even across forms!

Knowledge trees

If we analyse all of the different relations that exists between chapters and topics (and even between subjects!), we arrive at a structure called a knowledge tree. What’s more; We went ahead and analysed all of them. Over the course of two weeks, a team of 16 teachers analysed the chapters and topics of all the Elewa subjects. The result is the discovery 3232 mutual relations between 1734 analysed topics. For nerds like me reading this, in raw data it looks like this! Isn’t that awesome!

Mathematics topic network CRE Topic network

On the left you can see how all the topics in mathematics relate to each other. On the right all the topics of CRE.

That looks too techy.

You are absolutely right! As mentioned above, this is just what the raw data looks like. This is not what Elewa 2.0 will look like. Elewa 2.0 will use all that data to create a visualisation that is much easier to understand. I will look something like this:

Elewa 2.0 - Knowledge Trees Visualisation

The Elewa knowledge trees will allow students and teachers to see how everything they are learning relates to each other. For example: in order to understand the chapter “Rates, ratio and percentage,” a student needs to have mastered the chapters Time and Length. We say “Rates, ratio and percentage” is dependent upon Time and Length.

When you look at the visualisation with a bit of imagination, the knowledge tree comes to life. You have some roots of the tree, which are the chapters that have no dependency at all, and from there the tree grows as the chapters get more advanced.

Knowledge Trees as Elewa 2.0’s core

The concept of Knowledge Trees, will be the core of Elewa 2.0. The whole system is being designed around it. For example, a student (let’s call him John) is struggling with the chapter he/she is currently studying, namely “Rates, ratio and percentage.” Using the tree, John can identify what concepts he has difficulty with and take a step back on the tree. He can revise Length until he fully understands everything in that chapter, then go back up the tree to study “Rates, ratio and percentage.”

Elewa 2.0 Knowledge Trees - What do i need to have studied, to learn the next thing?

After John finished his study of “Rates, ratio and percentage,” he can decide what to learn next. All the chapters of which the dependencies have been completed, can be selected as the next one to study.

Elewa 2.0 Knowledge Trees - What to study next?

We also envision this process to be a class effort. The whole class can decide on which topic will be studied next. The teacher then structures his/her lessons around these topics. In one of our next blog posts, we will talk about a French chap called Célestin Freinet. And how this tool can be used to enhance his idea of democratic learning.

Finally, KCSE exams remain the most important thing of secondary school in Kenya. At Elewa, we already analysed how important each topic and chapter is in relation to the KCSE-exams. We will use that data to improve the knowledge tree visualisation and also show that. The bigger the circle is on the visualisation, the more it is tested on KCSE. In the visualisation, you can immediately see that “Rates, ratio and percentage,” and “Commercial arithmetic I” are the most tested chapters of Form 1. On the other hand, decimals are hardly tested. By the way, these last facts are based on actual data!

What else will there be?

This visualisation is only one part of what Elewa 2.0 will be. Every node/leaf you see in the visualisation, will contain loads of content. That content can be used to study and revise the current topic. Also the current Elewa system will be integrated into those nodes.

When we combine the knowledge trees with the data we already have, magic happens. Elewa 2.0 will be a system that implements what we call tree-based learning, scaled tree-based questionnaires, gamification and stream-bound storytelling. What all of that is will be explained in later blogposts.

In the meantime, we need your help! Please let us know what you think of this idea. How can it improve your life as a student or teacher? What is lacking? What else would you like the Elewa 2.0 system to help you with? Any comment will be much appreciated.

Elewa 2.0 - Knowledge Trees - Let's do this!

Thanks for reading. We’re looking forward to hear your comments!