The Semantic Web – 2.0 Moving On

FullSizeRender-6 Reading the last of our Internet Cultures topics this week and was intrigued with Richard Noss’s foreward to the ‘Education 2.0? Designing for teaching and learning’. A Commentary by the Technology Enhanced Learning phase of the Teaching and Learning Research Programme’ [TLRP] that concludes ‘Web 2.0 is a reality, Education 2.0 is an aspiration’.

I took up my position as Learning Technology Manager in the same year this document was written, in 2008 and there has been such an amazing transformation from ICT (Information Communication Technology) into technology for learning, learning technologies and the now renamed ‘Computing’. Reading this week prompts me to reflect on my own practice and how technology in education has changed its game during the course of web 2.0. The way we teach and learn with and through technology is almost unrecognizable from where we stood 7 years ago.

Boyd refers to teenagers wider engagement in networked publics to ‘write themselves and their community into being” (2008:120). Selwyn elaborates on the importance of ‘creation, collaboration and communication’ that forges technological potential for education. He highlights that web use it not about the tools, but more the ‘spirit’ of how they are used.

Educational use of technology provides a wealth of opportunity – but only by adopting a growth mindset!

I found it interesting to read about Leander et al’s (2010) notion of ‘‘Classroom as Container’ in Ernstad (2012). Education is not defined by ‘place’ – a classroom location or slot in the timetable – hurrah! This is definitely the situation at out school, where the climate of learning embraces flexible learning zones and use of mobile technology. The classroom-container analogy draws multiple parallels, e.g. Computing/technology lessons not standing as a separate subject, but reach and are embedded in cross-topic learning.

Learning is a continuum of real-life and academic events that are not confined to lessons or timetable and don’t really have a stop and start point. Our brain, imagination and ability to absorb, translate and assimilate new information does not have an on-off switch.

The last decade has been dominated by a ‘push of technology into school settings with a focus on implementation and access’ and studies by (Kløvstad et al., 2009, Somekh, 2007; Erstad, 2008) suggested that ‘schools show many obstacles and limited use‘ (Erstad 2012:27). I agree that access has been a key factor in schools over the last 5-6 years and that implementation, app sets, software and licensing can often be contracted by schools before they have robust debate about WHAT learning (with technologies) will look like. The fundamental reason for bringing technology into learning spaces is to support and enhance learning opportunities.

I’d challenge the ‘limited use’ quote above, as this will depend school to school and am happy to acknowledge it’s vibrant and engaging use at our schools.

Yes, we need learners to acquire Web 2.0 skills, or in 2015, Web 3.0 that are fit for purpose alongside pedagogies and practices that are too’. Thankfully, this is becoming more common practice. ‘Only then can the undoubted educational potential of web 2.0 be fully realised’. I’m not convinced they have been fully realised before we move into web 3.0. Learning needs and social dynamics change rapidly as does meaningful agency potential.

Web 2.0 personified (2008) embodied 4 ‘typically human dispositions’, socializing the:

  • Playful: from the individual into collaborative, competitive and multi-user challenge.
  • Expressive: sharing of media files, the growth of Internet use for sharing, publication or broadcasting of user generated content.
  • Reflective: a variety of formats, communities of reflective users, e.g. blogs, FB, My Space where we cultivate online IDs and relationships by posting & sharing info. Collaborative building of knowledge, e.g. Wikipedia, Instagram.
  • Exploratory: syndication by subscribing to info channels/sites/blogs ‘subscribe to or publish a regularly released digital media file’ (6) [TLRP, 2008]

One term that I came across for the 1st time here is ‘folksonomy’ which denotes user ownership through own choice to bookmark or subscribe which includes some categorization, tag clouds etc. Erstad distinguished this from the more formal and ordered traditions of ‘taxonomy’ (6) [TLRP, 2008].

Upon reflection, some aspects written about in 2008 are still equally valid today, such as an ‘always-on population’ (2012:6). Digitally mediated everyday lives are characterized by constant change ‘with technology lying at the heart of mobile, reflective, ‘liquid’ lifestyles’ [TLRP, 2008]. Today even more complex social networks and the ‘emergent patterns of communication’ of web services have now become embedded in social and cultural practice.

An Educational Web:

Selwyn refers to the education market being ‘always inadequately served’ and calls for technologies that are ‘sensitively designed in collaboration with a range of educational stakeholders’ (2012). This is changing in recent years, but I also find the wink at this being the fault of the business markets [producing educational resources] problematic. I feel it is the responsibility of educators to engage with changing technology and ultimately, regardless of the tools on offer, it’s not about the tools, tech or apps that counts, but how you use them creatively to encourage and enhance learning. The latter requires both ownership and responsibility by educators.

There is a need to help developers realize products that are fit for purpose, and I often find myself describing some products as ‘not what they say on the tin’. This is in part due to mobile technology designed for individual personal or home use, and not, as we use it, across multiple devices, accounts and classes. Developers often create products missing the multi-user potential for schools where creating mashed-up media is a part of the daily lives of young learners.

However, there are some companies out there that are really switched on to fast-changing learning with technology and are utilizing web and collaborative networks to invite user feedback and expand existing functionality in response to learner needs. This engages socio-cultural learning theory by enabling new features to be mapped through co-constructed and distributed participation (Erstad, 2012: 6).

A few examples:

PurpleMash welcome feedback on any online issues and frequently update their content, although do not always make it to adjusting content based on snags fed back from users.

Hopscotch: brilliant – openly invite active Beta testing pre-product launch/version updates. The app features user created gallery content sharing students work, tips and How Tos.

Maily: a great start-up! I trialled this for a communication module in Y2 this year and met some snags setting up multiple accounts on multiple devices to enable cross-class messaging. No sooner had I sent them some feedback and ‘Could we please’ function requests from our students, they got straight on it, requested a Skype to see what our needs were and we continue to keep in touch with new ideas or challenges. Offers online and app access to content.

Then there’s THE best: developers at BookCreator are continually making major changes to include new expansive features and user interface, in addition to developing interconnectivity across platforms and collaborative cloud services such as Google docs and Dropbox.

In conclusion, it surprised me to read ‘Educators should now be striving to work with technologists to shape the learning technologies of the near future’ (Selwyn, Crook, Noss, Laurillard, 2008). Thankfully, this now occurs and there is a huge edtech community using the web to curate, debate, share and coordinate learning networks.

Collaboration will be the key to building knowledge on educational practice and engagement within an anticipated Semantic Web 3.0. This in turn will help us to explore the possibilities that it holds for learning and teaching.

Sources:

Education 2.0? Designing for teaching and learning. A Commentary by the Technology Enhanced Learning phase of the Teaching and Learning Research Programme [TLRP] http://www.tlrp.org/tel (Source of Blog Header image)

Ola Erstad (2012): The learning lives of digital youth—beyond the formal and informal, Oxford Review of Education, 38:1, 25-43 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03054985.2011.577940 g

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