Web 3.0 and education

Eric Feinblatt, Steven Zucker and I are preparing a presentation (for SUNY’s TLT conference) on web 2.0 tools, teaching, and the limits of the lms. We are continuing to think of learning as a conversation, but one that does not fit the synchonous/asynchronous framework established by the lms. Also, in the lms, you are either engaged in those types of discussions, or you are engaged in exchanging documents with the instructor or students. There is no flexibility in these communications models. But in reality, technology has brought us many more ways of communicating — of having conversations — than the lms allows. If you think of a blog for example, a blog is a monologue that participates in a conversation. You can also think of text messaging which sits somewhere between synchronous and asynchronous communication. For our talk, we imagined a learning activity where students collaborate to produce a learning object (based around an image) using web 2.0 tools, such as deli.cio.us, flickr, wetpaint, google groups, google notebook, wikispaces etc. So…with all this on my mind… an article in the NY Times today on web 3.0 (or the semantic web) inspired me to google “Web 3.0 and education,” and I turned up an article, or a working draft of an article by Derek Keats..

Derek has this to say — and I think he is right on:

Three generations of education
Education 1.0 is, like the first generation of the Web, a largely one way process. Students go to universities to get education from professors, who supply them with information in the form of a stand up routine that may use or generate class notes, handouts, textbooks, videos, and in recent times the Worldwide Web. Students are largely consumers of information resources that are delivered to them, and although they may engage in activities based around those resources, those activities are for the most part undertaken in isolation or in isolated local groups. Rarely do the results of those activities contribute back to the information resources that students consume in carrying them out.

Education 2.0 happens when the technologies of Web 2.0 are used to enhance traditional approaches to education, but education itself is not transformed significantly although the groundwork for broader transformation is being laid down. Education 2.0 involves the use of blogs, podcasts, social bookmarking and related participation technologies but the circumstances under which the technologies are used are still largely embedded within the framework of Education 1.0. Education 2.0 is here and it is growing fast, so higher education institutions had better understand it, and figure out how to embrace it. Otherwise they will be bypassed, like a Formula 1 car roaring past a horse and buggy, or like the Internet roared past Microsoft in the 1990s. But even Education 2.0 is a transitional state; Education 3.0 is where the transformation of higher education lies. Leaders in educational institutions need to be aware of what is happening, the speed of evolution, and understand how to shape their institutional participation in the future now. (my italics)

Education 3.0 is characterized by rich, cross-institutional, cross-cultural educational opportunities within which the learners themselves play a key role as creators of knowledge artifacts that are shared, and where social networking and social benefit outside the immediate scope of activity play a strong role. The distinction between artifacts, people and process becomes blurred, as do distinctions of space and time. Institutional arrangements, including policies and strategies, change to meet the challenges of opportunities presented.”

And in a very helpful table that compares characteristics of these three types of education, Derek writes that education 1.0 was characterized by elearning enabled through an lms, and limited to participation within one institution, international collaborations between institutions (that happened on a one-to-one basis), whereas education 3.0 is characterized by loose affiliations between institutions, the breaking down of regional and institutional boundaries, flexible social learning that happens outside of the discipline, institutional and nation, driven by personal distributed learning environments, and free/open educational resources.

The part that really hit home:

“We believe Education 2.0 represents a step in the direction of a fundamental transformation of higher education, and when this transformation is complete, we will have arrived at an entirely new form of higher education that we refer to in this article as Education 3.0 (Education three point oh). We argue that the higher education environment is approaching a tipping point, enabling the radical step to Education 3.0, and that institutions need to take the necessary steps today, in order to remain relevant institutions and lead higher education tomorrow.”

How many of us work at institutions of higher education that seem to be willing to ignore this “fundamental transformation” of higher education? What can we do to get others to listen, to insure that the institution “remains relevant”?

We have been thinking the very same thing as Derek — and did a panel presentation on this topic at CIT last year titled “Does technology endanger the Academy”: “it is likely we will see emergence of new types of organizations and institutions, which might begin competing with today’s universities in any combination of higher education services, including research, teaching and acceditation?” “We must ask, what will happen to education when the vehicles are provided, and students begin to make their own choices facillitated by an abundance of remixable content, and flexible opportunities for acceditation? What will happen to those institutions who are not able to survive on reputation alone, and who have not embraced Education 3.0?”

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