Semblio, which was formerly known as 'Grava,' is a software platform geared towards developing educational content. Currently, Semblio is only available as an SDK for developers, but Microsoft is also planning to release a version for teachers that will allow them to easily assemble text, video, and audio into interactive lessons themselves. This new tool for teachers will be available with the next version of Microsoft Office.Microsoft's
Semblio allows content providers to create interactive lessons on top of the .NET framework and the Windows Presentation Foundation, which give developers the opportunity to easily implement relatively sophisticated graphics for their products. Microsoft is positioning Semblio as a platform that will include the SDK, tools for educators to create their own lessons, and a desktop runtime media player for students.
Today, Microsoft announced a lineup of educational content creators that are already building products with Semblio. These partners include Cambridge University Press, Educational Testing Services, and Wolfram Research, the developers of the Mathematica.
It is important to note that Semblio, in its current state, is not geared towards educators themselves. Microsoft explicitly states that is is targeting educational organizations that employ professional developers and designers, though it is also targeting independent developers that can integrate Semblio's reporting and tracking features with existing learning management system. This will change, however, when Microsoft releases the Semblio tools for teachers with Microsoft Office, which is slated for a release by the end of 2009 or in early 2010.
Fulfilling the Promise of Electronic Textbooks
In their current state, electronic textbooks are often relatively static versions of their physical counterpart, with maybe a few videos thrown in for good measure. As these electronic textbooks are slowly making a push into the textbook market, tools like Semblio should allow publishers and teachers to create interactive textbooks that actually fulfill the promise of the medium instead of just recreating the traditional textbook experience in the digital world.
Semblio is geared towards the desktop, though, and a lot of publishers are moving towards publishing their content online (where the used book market can't eat into their margins). It will be interesting to see if Microsoft will also release an online component to Semblio in the future.