The idea of VivaCognita was born in 2012 at the Institute of Mathematics and Informatics at the Bulgarian Academy of Science (IMI). At the beginning of 2014 IMI started a joint project with Vivacom – telecommunication company, and Union of the Bulgarian Mathematician.
The result of this project is a Web-based knowledge sharing and knowledge building platform with a free and open access for anyone interested in mathematics, computer science or IT.
VivaCognita is a virtual community for exchanging knowledge, opinions, sports, fun, games, helping those who are entering into the endlessly fascinating world of science and technology, and encourage those who have ideas how to change the world and make it better.
The portal VivaCognita is developed as a platform for providing materials and activity as the Theme of the Month and supporting the online competitions.
The Theme of the Month appeared initially as a tool to help students and their teachers in the preparation for the competition Mathematics with Computers. It gradually acquired self-importance as a didactic concept. Each Theme of the Month consists of five tasks, united by a common mathematical idea and arranged in the direction of increasing difficulty. The Theme is published in the beginning of the month on the project portal Vivacognita and contains an invitation to students to solve the problems and send responses (online) by the end of the month. Some of the problems are accompanied by auxiliary GEOGEBRA-files, which allow the students to explore the mathematical problem, to find suitable properties, to try out different strategies and find (usually approximate but sufficiently accurate) answer.
To solve more difficult problems from the Theme, the students have to adapt the auxiliary files from previous problems or to develop their own files for testing and solving the problem. The students can submit together with the answers of the problems also these modified or newly created files. Thus the participating students develop programming skills and algorithmic thinking. Their digital competence significantly exceeds that of the traditional passive users of information technology. The mathematical knowledge gained in the process of solving the Theme problems is deeply rooted in the mind because it is based on own research and observations of mathematical facts and phenomena. In addition, students deepen their understanding of the importance of mathematics and particularly of Mathematics with computer.
Due to the fast dynamics of emerging e-learning solutions the main priority of the Vivacognita development team was to quickly achieve a minimum value product (MVP) – a version of the product that has enough functionality to be used by all interested parties. The functionalities of MVP were supposed to be further expanded using a project approach.
Under these circumstances we considered that our development activities have to evolve around the following three main principles:
- Building on small iterations, constantly increasing the value of the system;
- Reusing ready or modified components wherever we can;
- Actively involving the community;
The project partners agreed upon a future road map, which includes organization of two online competitions, several contests and community games. At this point there was enough data to build functional and performance requirements for MVP. Functional requirements were provided in the form of high-level user stories
All functionalities can be found in existing virtual community building frameworks or e-learning frameworks so we made a market research and identified 37 products that claimed they have at least one of the features that we needed. This list was revised over 6 criteria for stability and maturity – post sales support, active community, presales support, number of implementations, number of users, available documentation and as a result of expert judgment 14 products were shortlisted and received numerical assessment on each functional requirement.
The virtual community VivaCognita provokes the students to work outside the classroom in mathematics, computer science or IT. The high-level experts create the challenges (Theme of the Month, competitions).
The VivaCognita is a platform accessible by everyone and could be supportive instrument for the teachers. It is oriented to the Bulgarian audience (It is on Bulgarian language only).
Toni Chehlarova, Petar Kenderov: Mathematics with a computer - a contest enhancing the digital and mathematical competences of the students
Todor Branzov: Viva Cognita: Virtual Community Software and E-Learning Software as a Framework for Building Knowledge Sharing Platform
George Gachev: A system for online assessement of mathematical knowledge
Kovatcheva, E. and Sendova, E. Eds (2015) Quality of Education and Challenges in a Digitally Networked World, Proceeding of the UNESCO International Workshop, Publisher Za Bukvite, OPismeneh, Printed by Faleza-OFFICE 2000, Ltd., Sofia, Bulgaria, ISBN 978-619-185-163-8 - onlinehttp://unesco.unibit.bg/sites/default/files/QED-15-book-ff.pdf