As part of this years forthcoming JISC CETIS conference Phil and I are proposing to run a half day “brainstorm session on semantic technologies and their use, or not, in the teaching and learning space. I should add that I know very little about semantic technology developments and this is one reason Im keen for the session to go ahead. I have a persistent lurking suspicion that theres lots of really interesting work going on out there somewhere but I dont know what, I dont know where and I dont know whether its likely to be of use to teachers and learners. Im inclined to think that the answer to the last of these questions is a resounding yes.
In the course of fleshing out a brief description of the planned session I couldnt help noticing that most of the references to semantic technologies, including those turned up by Google and Wikipedia, date from 2003 and 2004. Clearly the semantic web has been supplanted by Web 2.0.
So whats been going on in the meantime? Have semantic technologies failed to deliver? Are they now restricted to interesting but niche research projects? Or have they been quietly successful to the extent that they are now so ubiquitous that we no longer notice them? RSS anyone?
I was still wondering if there were lots of really interesting educational applications of semantic teachnologies out there but a rather cursory search didnt turn up anything new. I did get very excited when I discovered the W3C Semantic Web Education and Outreach Interest Group. However I was a bit disappointed to discover that rather than reaching out to the educational community the group aims to:
œincrease awareness among the Web community of the need and benefit for the Semantic Web, and educate the Web community regarding related solutions and technologies.
Still, its a noble aim and the group does provide a lot of very interesting and relevant information.
Another interesting resources I came across on more than a few blogs is the Semantic Technology Primer. This includes a run down of those sectors implementing semantic technologies: government, financial services, manufacturing, logistics, transport and communications, energy, health and life sciences, media, and business services. No education. The Primer also includes a detailed schematic of œApplications Today, again no education.
I know that there are semantic technologies that are widely use on the domain of education such as FOAF, RSS, Atom, etc but its arguable whether they have made a significant impact in the teaching and learning space, as opposed to the enterprise and identity management end of things. Its possible that there are piles of semantic technology developers out there who would say that this is all rubbish and that these technologies are already happening. If so thats great, you can come along to the conference and tell us all about it!