Tiropanis, Thanassis, Davis, Hugh, Millard, David and Weal, Mark
Semantic Technologies for Learning and Teaching in the Web 2.0 era - A survey.
In, WebSci'09: Society On-Line, Athens, Greece,
18 - 20 Mar 2009.
The strengths of semantic technologies for learning and teaching and their benefits in the areas of digital libraries, virtual communities and e-learning have been identified and well established. The case for semantic technologies in education has been on the expressive power of metadata to describe learning content, people, and services, and on how these could be intelligently matched for added value services and an advanced learning experience. However, certain concerns on the feasibility of ontology consensus and of the annotation of the enormous amount of content currently available on the Web have arisen making globally available and interoperable semantic-rich metadata for learning resources a long term vision. At the same time, progress towards a more modest machine-readable Web has been made, and pragmatic solutions to interoperability based around REST and XML have emerged in the last few years along with prototypes of SPARQL server implementations and new RDF/OWL annotation tools. Web 2.0 systems have enabled a lightweight knowledge modelling approach (sometimes called folksonomies) based around techniques such as community tagging, clustering, and community authoring. These are strong indications that consensus on ontologies can be achieved within a virtual community and that content can be efficiently annotated by community members provided adequate tools become available. Seen in this broader context it can be argued that Semantic Technologies are already impacting on the way in which we learn and teach, and will have an increasing impact as the sophistication of the tools increases (as identified at the recent JISC CETIS Conference 2007). The UK JISC funded SemTech (Semantic Technologies for learning and teaching) project is conducting a survey on the use of semantic technologies in higher and further education today taking into account these recent developments. The survey addresses the availability of semantic tools and services and their relevance to teaching and learning activities as well as their pedagogical intent. The semantic tools and services that were surveyed are categorised according to a number of criteria: - What is the education context in which they can be used? (formal learning, informal learning, higher education administration and services) - Which are the established teaching and learning activities that the surveyed tools and services relate to? A distinction between activities designed for the individual and group activities is made. - Which are the emerging e-learning activities enabled by these services? Where is the underpinning pedagogy in these activities? In addition, the survey distinguishes between the following different types of semantic technology use in education: - Use of semantic technologies with lower expressiveness in annotation to enable interoperability with databases and legacy systems within educational institutions - Use of semantic technologies with lower expressiveness in annotation to enable interoperability across institutions - Use of semantic technologies with higher expressiveness in annotation for application requiring advanced inferencing - Use of non-semantic metadata but with the intent of semantic enrichment in the future to enable more intelligent applications - Use of Web 2.0 technologies for learning content creation and annotation with the intent of semantic enhancement in the future This paper discusses the initial findings of this survey for each of the above categories and discusses the extent to which the success of Web 2.0 can be leveraged to enable ontology consensus, mass annotation and semantic application deployment in a higher education setting. In addition, the criteria for categorising teaching and learning activities in the above context are discussed. The significance of the distinction between individual and group learning activities when examining the impact of semantic technologies in Web 2.0 environments is elaborated on further. This survey is a living document to which the community will be able to contribute both in terms of including additional semantic technologies and in terms of refining the template for conducting the survey over the Web. Additional findings based on community contribution will also be reported and discussed.
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