Digital Search Filtering Makes Educational Content More Accessible

To make the search for instructional materials more effective, the Association of Educational Publishers and Creative Commons have developed a new tool that cuts through clutter of search results that plague teachers looking to augment their curricula.

The new tool from the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative (LRMI) is designed to solve the problem of irrelevant search results. It provides a framework for describing educational content and products on the web, according to Alison DeNisco of District Administration, to help educators navigate the ever-deepening seas of digital content.

The LRMI will provide filters on search engines that make lesson plans, worksheets, and other materials tagged with LRMI data easier for educators to find online. The LRMI has developed a common metadata framework for describing or tagging learning resources on the web that arrives at a time when educators need such detail to differentiate between what is appropriate and high-quality and what doesn't fit with their intended search.

The LRMI project was spurred by the announcement last year of, a joint effort of Bing, Google, Yahoo!, and Yandex, to create a standard way of tagging online content.

In the same way that Google has an images tab, it may soon have an education tab, though it is still unclear when the engines will begin to include it as a search option, according to LRMI Project Manager Dave Gladney.

To be an effective tool, publishers of the content—from major textbook companies to teachers who post their lesson plans on a blog—need to begin tagging materials so they can be found through the framework.

"Commercial and open educational resources publishers are producing valuable, high-quality educational content, and the goal of the LRMI is to make that content more discoverable," Gladney said. "But search engines won't pay attention to it if no one is vetting it."

The LRMI will provide filters that allow teachers to conduct targeted searches. A teacher, for example, could search "subtraction worksheet," and filter results by grade level, subject area, and Common Core alignment.

The LRMI, once integrated into the search engines, will be free for educators. The publishers of the content will continue to charge their current costs for the materials, but the content tagged with LRMI metadata will be easier for teachers to find, Gladney said.

Awareness of the LRMI is growing rapidly. A national survey of educators and publishers found 86 percent of publishers knew about LRMI, compared to just 47 percent in 2012. However, only about 9 percent of teachers and media specialists surveyed knew of the LRMI.

The LRMI project is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. The organization received a $400,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to raise awareness and win support from educational publishers.

"CIO leaders should keep in mind that the LRMI is a useful set of properties for anyone creating tools around digital learning," Gladney says. Districts can decide to purchase only materials from publishers that tag their content to encourage more to do so, he added.

More information can be found at the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative's website.

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