Overview of semantic technologies

Read/Write web have produced a really concise guide to the use of semantic technologies – Semantic Web patterns: a guide to semantic technologies. They have also just introduced a new monthly podcast feature called “The Semantic Web Gang”. The first episode is called “readiness for the semantic web”. Although taking a primarily business view of things, I’m sure that there will be lots of cross over with the e-learning community and a good way to keep abreast of developments in the use of semantic technologies.

Pedagogy planners – where next?

A meeting was held on 4th March to get some ‘real world’ input into how the development on the two pedagogy planning tools in the current JISC Design for Learning programme should progress.

The audience was made up mainly of teaching practitioners, most of whom have an interest in staff development and e-learning. Introducing the day, Helen Beetham (consultant to the JISC e-Learning programme) outlined some of the challenges around the changing economic, technical and pedagogical issues that face the teaching and learning community today. The role of planning teaching and learning is becoming of increasing importance as is the recognition of the need to share and represent practice. Although technology offers tantalising visions for the potential of shared learning design practice, the tools we have available at the moment still seem to fall short of the vision. Very few (if any) tools can capture and delivery the myriad of teaching practice that exist. So, is it time to start thinking about a set of teacher tools and services instead of trying to develop more one size fits all tools?

During the day participants had a the opportunity to have “hands-on” time with both Phoebe and the London Pedagogy Planner (LPP). Grainne Conole (0U) has already written about the day and reviews of Phoebe and LPP. The projects then presented their vision of how someone could use Phoebe to create an initial design, look for case studies and exemplars and then export that design into LLP and start ‘fleshing’ out the plan with actual teaching contact time etc.

While both prototypes offer a different (but complementary) approach to planning, they are both very much at the prototype stage. A key question that keeps arising is what is it that they actually produce? XML output allows a level of interoperability between the two just now but this needs to be extended much further so that there is a useful output which can relate to other institutional systems such as VLEs, CMS etc – “where’s the export to moodle” button was heard a few times during the day:-) During the feedback sessions it was clear exporting and importing data between systems will be crucial if such tools are to have any chance of having take up in institutions.

IMS Announces Pilot Project Exploring Creative Commons Licensing of Interoperability Specifications

IMS (GLC)have just announced announced plans to initiate a pilot project in the distribution of interoperability specifications under a form of Creative Commons license. According to the press release “IMS GLC has conceptualized a novel approach that may be applicable to many standards organizations.”

I’m not exactly sure just what these novel approaches are, and even less so about how they would actually work. But not doubt we will be hearing more in coming months. Any moves towards more openness of the standards agenda can only be a move in the right direction.

intralibrary repositories conference 2008

I managed to get along the the second day of the recent intralibrary conference the other week. Although a many of the presenters had links with Intrallect and/or were intralibrary users the discussions did focus on much broader issues than the specifics of that particular system. As I missed the first day I can’t really give a complete overview of the whole conference so I’ll concentrate on a couple of items that caught my interest. Neil Fegen has provided an excellent overview of the conference as a whole.

The first presentation of the day caused a lot of interest. Ian Watson (Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services) gave a demo of a new web based interface his team have developed for intralibrary call opensearch. Although at the early stages of development this did look like a really useful tool as it had lots of user friendly features. The team are hoping to extend the tool to incorporate federated searches, implement SWORD and it will be released as open-source. I’m sure this is one project my colleagues in the MDR SIG will be keeping an eye on.

There was also a presentation of a packaging tool called Compendle – which I had never heard of. The tool is basically a content aggregator/packager, and has quite a nice user-friendly drag and drop interface. However when probed a bit deeper, it does really only offer quite basic functionality. However the team did seem to be keen to develop it further to allow for more advanced editing sequencing functionality.

Probably the most interesting part of the day (for me anyway) was the workshop session led by John Casey (JORUM). John has recently joined the JORUM team and is leading the way in investigating ways to make the service more open – the ultimate goal is to have an open (at point of access) service, possibly called OpenJORUM. Plans are at a very early stages and John outlined some ideas he has been mulling over including an intermediary phase (possibly called JORUM UK) which would be open only to those in the UK. This idea didn’t seem to go down too well with the audience and parallels were drawn with the experience of the BBC with only allowing certain services (e.g. the iplayer) available to the UK.

In terms of IPR and licencing it looks like there will be a move to a more creative commons approach. This would hopefully bring about a much needed driver for greater clarity and leadership from institutions over IPR. Citing his previous work in the TrustDR project, John stressed that IPR is not the problem – it only becomes a problem for the teaching and learning community if there are no clear institutional guidelines. John, did emphasise that no decisions have been made, and that the driving factor of any such extension of the JORUM service would be providing something that is quick and easy to use.

Any developments with JORUM are of obviously of great interest to the CETIS community and the next EC SIG meeting (end of May, Manchester – watch the list for more details or contact me about it) will feature a session from John and colleagues and an opportunity for more community discussion around the open resources debate.

Presentations from the conference are available from the Intrallect website. Thanks to all at Intrallect for organising another stimulating conference.