The First Rule of Web 3.0: Stop Calling It That

The term Web 2.0 or 3.0 was never meant to be a version number according to Tim O’Reilly of O’Reilly Media who coined the term Web 2.0.  It had more to do with the return of the internet after the dot-com bust.  However, regardless of what you call it, it does indicate a major shift in the thinking behind technology in education.  As I considered what Web 3.0 would mean for my teaching and the learning of my future students it become clear that things were very unclear in my head.  As Andrew aptly pointed out, “It’s the internet…but it’s really, really smart!”  I enjoy boiling things down to simplest terms as I’m always telling my math students, “don’t forget to simplify.”  In a 2012 article on the EDtech Website, Web 3.0 was summarized as,

“widely available videos as educational tools, the blending of the physical and digital worlds, and a web that’s capable of applying context to its processes.”

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Several key themes emerge from this article but some are not necessarily new.  The semantic web emerges as a major step forward in our interactions with computers. Conversing with computers à la StarTrek would potentially be more like a conversation with a human and, therefore, searching for information or creating content will hopefully be much more intuitive.  The second big shift will potentially occur in the implementation of wireless links between various physical objects.  Again, this is not new.  Vehicles have had computer technology for several years now and smart appliances and smart homes are more and more the norm.  So what does this mean for education?   Photo Credit

In many ways, it may be that the lines will be greatly blurred with respect to operating systems, devices and software.  At present, school divisions have to commit to single companies in many ways because there is now interactivity between systems, devices, and software.  Students bring a myriad of devices into school across the world each day.  I’ve experienced frustration with the fact that our division is largely Google based but many students use personal Apple devices for their video projects.  Uploading and sharing becomes an issue considering student privacy and we are left searching for dangles and dongles to help us show what we’ve learned on the projector.  Hopefully, in the new web, devices will be able to seamlessly interact to allow students to learn, share and grow as a community of digital citizens.

The second big piece that is already seen in education to some extent is the move to data analysis to help us determine whether learners are indeed learning.  The future classroom will have massive amounts of analytics based on the students experiences using adaptive tech.  Having a deep online profile will also be a must in the next web.  Video will also continue to be a major theme as the flipped classroom model becomes refined.  Students will also have access to personalized learning opportunities as we become more interconnected.  Teachers will hopefully be able to provide more 1-1 support to students as they navigate and plan their own learning pathways.

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Benita alludes to the fact that Web 2.0 is still in it’s infancy and I believe this is a key and crucial factor in the development of web advancements in education. Many teachers are just now coming to terms with things like project based learning, maker spaces, and inquiry based learning.  However, if we truly think about the developments that are eminent in the world of technology, I believe that teachers will have more freedom to implement strategies for the betterment of students.  I also believe we may slowly see a decrease in teacher workload as students become able to drive their learning forward on their own and learning moves beyond the physical walls of school buildings.  The fact remains that the role of teachers will be to stand firm as a “guide” for the students as they make their way down the learning pathway.  Photo Credit

Through reading Lindi’s blog, I came across the reality of teacher awareness of these web 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 monikers and the reality of the fluidity with which technology progresses.  As seen below, many still have little idea what web 2.0 really is.  Sure, as Amy pointed out, those of us that have grown up with these technologies are comfortable giving students the chance to become creators of web content, allow them to create online connections with others around the world and allow students choice in their learning explorations.  However, I think we are being naive if we think this is the way things are done in the majority of classrooms.  I have students in my homeroom that routinely complain of taking notes every hour of science class for days on end.  Are notes inherently evil?  No, but I think as teachers we are drawn to tradition and the ways in which we were taught.  All this to say, I think we still have a long way to go with the proper adoption of Web 2.0 use in the classroom.

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kung-fuSo what does this all mean for my current practice?  I hope that as I continue to develop the use of web 2.0 tools, I will be prepared for what’s to come.  With the rate at which technology is moving, we may not be too far from something akin to the knowledge uploads seen in the Matrix.  Does this mean we as teachers should fear the future or be wary of losing our place in society?  I don’t think so.  Teachers always have been and will continue to be the professionals that drive the new generation.  However, I do believe we must take into account several factors as we seek to be reflective practitioners with respect to Edtech.   Photo Credit

  1. Stay connected and grow your PLN
  2. Let students build their roadmap of learning
  3. Move students from simple search for info to network for info (Instead of searching for ‘what people eat in China?’, try to connect with someone in China and ask them.)
  4. Don’t be afraid to try new tools and become a master of the ones that work well for you.

The future is a place that will look very different for us and for our students.  Let’s be sure that we are giving students tools for success, not simply tech tools for the sake of tech.

“It’s kind of a red herring to introduce this idea that it’s Web 3.0 or some new version of the web that’s driving this innovation,” says O’Reilly Media’s Tim O’Reilly. “I would say it’s more that the web, having disrupted media, is now looking for new targets of disruption and settled on education, which hasn’t had a great deal of disruption of innovation in a long time.”

As I continue to struggle to get my head around this, I would like to pose these questions: Other than access and data management issues, what limiting factors is Web 3.0 facing in regards to education?  Does education need a major disruption?  What’s our role in an educational disruption with regard to Edtech? Let me know in the comments section below.  

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The More We Share, the More We Have

I’ve been thinking recently about openness, sharing, and their places in education.  As technology has made its way further and further into education systems across the globe, the ability to share information has been  made vastly more accessible in recent years.  With a powerful device in almost every student and teachers’ pocket, there are limitless possibilities to how information and learning can be shared.  Teachers are using sites like Twitter, Facebook, Edublogs and Wikispaces to document and share their learning with the wider world.  Open course sites like Coursera, and Massive Open Online Courses are changing the way that information is disseminated and online collaboration tools such as Google and Mindmeister have afforded people the opportunity for amazingly creative works.  This is truly the age of open source learning.  However, open source learning without sharing is moot.

So, is sharing all that it’s cracked up to be?  We now live in a world in which sharing every minute detail of each moment of our lives has become normal.  We share photos of what food we’re eating, the shoes we just bought or the thoughts that pop into our head.  With openness comes inherent dangers as this video demonstrates.

Due to these types of online sharing in which no filter is applied, I have often asked the following questions, how much sharing is too much?  Is sharing inherently dangerous?  What is the role of online sharing in education?  Do the benefits outweigh the costs?  In my teaching career thus far I have been what I would call a cautious sharer.  I have a very detailed form that goes home to parents on the first day of school explaining the different platforms we use and allowing parents to give permission for the use of student photos.  We have student blogs but they are viewable only by parents, teachers or other students.  We also have a class twitter account but tweets are composed by myself or in conjunction with students to share what we are learning in the classroom.  Often the tweets are focused not on students themselves but on the projects or learning happening in the classroom.  Is this true sharing?  I think it’s a start. However, it is limiting in many ways.  First of all, the students’ writing is seen only by classmates and a select few parents.  Opening the blogging platform to open comments would allow more readers and therefore, more feedback and engagement.  Studies have shown that as students perceive a larger readership, their writing improves.  The connections formed with other classrooms through Twitter could be strengthened by allowing more control to be passed to the students.  So why is it so hard for me to open up our learning environment and allow deeper and more meaningful connections?

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There are several factors that can tend to negate the full potential of connected and open online learning in classrooms.  Firstly, there are inherent risks involved with sharing information online regarding what students are doing.  Location services and GPS tracking in many apps can compromise the safety of students.  There are also many instances in which students need to be protected and anonymous do to court orders or protective custody.  Secondly, there must be an incredible amount of trust between teachers and students in order to allow students the control to share and connect openly and freely.  Obviously this looks different for various age groups.  High school students for example,  are often quite capable of deciding how to share their learning online.  However, this does necessitate some deeper conversations around what should be posted.  For younger students who lack the same discernment skills, this must be modelled and taught. Douglas Park School’s Aaron Warner is a great example of this mentality.  He routinely teaches and models the use of social media and online sharing with his Grade 7/8 class and eventually turns the reigns over to the students.  I believe this is one of the key components of open classrooms.

Education is not a secret, although aspects of good teaching practice can seem illusive at times.  It is a public and necessary part of our society.  I often cringe when parents express to me that they don’t know what is going on in their children’s classrooms.  With the tools we now have at our disposal, parents should have a clear and complete picture of their child’s experiences at school, even if the student themselves is vague on the details.  This was demonstrated during the debate with the short skit about what was being learned at school.  If there is something tangible and real to demonstrate, students will also be more engaged in the sharing process.  There is also a permanent record of what the learning goals are, steps taken to achieve them, and what the outcomes are.

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As is demonstrated by the above sets of data, teens and young adults are some of the most pervasive sharers of information online.  In addition, the reasons why people share online are telling according to the New York Times study.  Let’s look at some of the top reasons people share online and apply an educator’s lens shall we…

1.To share relevant Information…Teachers and students should both be in the habit of sharing information.  Information is wealth and whether it’s teachers sharing lessons and resources with one another, or students sharing their successes and failures (failures?..yes I said failures because this is when true learning occurs).  Application: Teachers need to model for students which information is relevant and useful to be shared as well as who to share it with (how public?).

2. To support causes or issues they care about… This seems like a no brainer.  What a great opportunity to engage students in meaningful conversations about what’s going on in the world around them.  Students can be surprisingly charismatic, caring and engaged when it comes to supporting causes in the community or around the world.  Many times the students are the first to take action, quickly suggesting a support video for Laloche students, or organizing a bake sale to raise money for Cerebral Palsy. This is how meaningful connections are made and global citizens are produced.

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Application: Let students share their passions and the things they care about.  Pick a list of causes that the class wants to connect with or support.  Discuss what it means to be a global citizen.  Challenge students to dream big and to change the world.

3. Connecting with others who share their interests… This is a great opportunity to network with other classes in your age category.  It also allows a chance to model who should be in our followers or friends lists as individuals.  Some of the best lessons I’ve used have come from connections with other classrooms in Saskatchewan and throughout the world.  As students share interests on blog sites or through Twitter, they build a wider audience and engage with the world outside the classroom.  Genius hour is a great example of this.  When we look at genius hour projects of other 7/8 classes the students up the anti.  Application: Let students explore passion projects.  Encourage students to share what they are learning or what they’ve created.  Model at first and compose Tweets or posts together as a class.

4. Expressing self identity and feeling of involvement in the world…This is an opportunity to model the permanency of our digital identity.  Students should build an awareness of how the class is perceived online and what our digital footprint will be.  Discuss with students which parts of our identity we wish to share with the world.  How involved should we be?  Application: Extend this thinking to students’ own personal sharing.  Engage them in discussions about how they should present themselves online.

Let’s take the time and get this one right.  Let’s show our students the power of positive sharing through meaningful connections.

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