What is the Semantic Web?

The idea behind the semantic web is that although online data is available for searching, its meaning is not: computers are very good at returning keywords, but very bad at understanding the context in which keywords are used. A typical search on the term “turkey,” for instance, might return traditional recipes, information about the bird, and information about the country; the search engine can only pick out keywords, and cannot distinguish among different uses of the words. Similarly, although the information required to answer a question like “How many current world leaders are under the age of 60?” is readily available to a search engine, it is scattered among many different pages and sources. Semantic-aware applications infer the meaning, or semantics, of information on the Internet to make connections and provide answers that would otherwise entail a great deal of time and effort. New applications use the context of information as well as the content to make determinations about relationships between bits of data; examples like TripIt, SemaPlorer, and Xobni organize information about travel plans, places, or email contacts and display it in convenient formats based on semantic connections. Semantic searching is being applied for scientific inquiries, allowing researchers to find relevant information without having to deal with apparently similar, but irrelevant, information. For instance, Noesis, a new semantic web search engine developed at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, is designed to filter out search hits that are off-topic. The search engine uses a discipline-specific semantic ontology to match search terms with relevant results, ensuring that a search on "tropical cyclones" will not turn up information on sports teams or roller coasters.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • your response here
  • A new understanding of information seeking behaviour (in multimodal environments) is needed. Strategies to support learners in the evolving environment of stored knowledge online must be revised from 20th and current 21st century understandings to something that better encapsulates the effects of the Semantic Web. Our informatoin seeking behaviours come to be shaped by the information we seek. Devices and the access channels we seek information through will further define our search behaviours. The computer is only one of these devices; interacting search technologies another.
- judy.oconnell judy.oconnell Feb 8, 2010
  • At a point in time education will be forced (most likely) to move away from printed text, or at the very least rely much, much more on search engines to retrieve information that students will need. Having the capability to search within context as well has content is going to be very beneficial.- jan.morrison jan.morrison Feb 6, 2010

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • Folksonomy and tagging are very useful making context information aggregatable and shareable , but they are not the Semantic Web – not in the way Tim Berner-Lee imagined. All we are doing is aggregating our information (and our collective intelligence), but we are doing so idiosyncratically. Without standards, we have erratic compilations. The onotology of our data structures are the challenge – if the data strings don’t match, then the inferences won’t hold across data sets for the meanings of the content being expressed. It is important to also mention/explain that linked data is not the semantic web - i.e. the machine does not understand the meaning. - judy.oconnell judy.oconnell Feb 8, 2010
  • Explanation of search in relation to the developments in the Semantic Web is needed. We are starting to treat the web as an inversion - where the web itself is the database To a human, we can read the information with ease, but for a machine, it is near impossible to actually understand the text". Read the Future of MicroFormats and Semantic Technologies. You can’t escape metadata, and you have to rely on markup languages.- judy.oconnell judy.oconnell Feb 8, 2010
  • another response here

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, or creative expression?

  • your response here
  • another response here
  • I think it will cut down on time spent researching and help to shift the paradigm from content driven instruction to learning that is relevant to the student.- jan.morrison jan.morrison Feb 6, 2010
  • Will it important to teach how to effectively "search" for information or is it simply evolution that the answer will be as simple as asking the question? Some people claim we no longer need to teach penmanship.- jeffrey.bajgot jeffrey.bajgot Feb 6, 2010

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

Please share information about related projects in our Horizon K-12 Project form.