What’s happening inside the Semantic Technologies for the Enhancement of Case-Based Learning, the big U.K. project to enhance 21st century learning we reported on earlier this summer? To find out, Semanticweb.com recently caught up with Dr. Patrick Carmichael, project director and head of the Evaluation Group at CARET, the Centre for Applied Research in Educational Technologies at Cambridge University.
Semanticweb.com: How did CARET come to be involved in this project?
Carmichael: CARET’s mission is to support teaching, learning, and researching across the university, but also to take on broader projects like this — externally funded research. Historically we have tended to do broadly educational technology projects concerned with developing virtual learning environments. But I also head up the unit concerned with developing teaching and learning with and without technology, and some of the projects have very minimal tech components — developing approaches to teaching more generally, for example.
So, one of the interesting things is that we have people who have an educational and social sciences background, and people who are software developers and content developers under the same roof. This new project is interesting because it really is specifically designed to be interdisciplinary, where the technologists and social scientists are working and learning with and from each other. That is central to the project.
And we’ve had a number of projects in which you can probably see the genesis of this one, such as digital repositories that have supported a lot of the big digitization projects at Cambridge in the university library and museums, for long-term digital preservation. One of the key applications we’ve identified there is the Fedora digital repository, which is very well set up to be adaptable for semantic web applications.
Also, we’ve had a number of teaching and learning projects to do with teaching complex or rapidly-changing or controversial issues — we have teaching staff very interested in how you prepare undergraduate and post-graduate students to deal with complexity through problem and case-based learning. That’s where the project emerged for us, from a dual interest in developing robust and scalable architectures and doing really high level and effective teaching around complex issues. The semantic web fits in as way of supporting both our technology concerns and those teaching and learning issues.
Semanticweb.com: What are the specific roles for your group?
Carmichael: There are two specific roles for our group. One is that this is where the actual technology development is going to take place. We will be drawing on our prior experience with digital repositories, linking with the MIT team [that developed SIMILE (Semantic Interoperability of Metadata and Information In unLike Environments)], and also we have a very close working relationship with the Economic and Social Data Service, which is the electronic digital repository for social sciences in the U.K. They are the long-term guardians and brokers of social science data from research projects in the UK. So Cambridge is at the center of the group of technology developers and service providers, within the project