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Web 3.0 and Its Relevance for Instruction

While Web 3.0 has been talked about for some time, there has been increasing and ongoing discussion as to how it should best be defined and what the foundational characteristics of the technology are or will be. The reality is, however, that while there are attempts at clear definitions, the ideas and concepts continue to evolve as users make sense of where things are going. The actual term "Web 3.0" does not in itself have value at this point (owing to the lack of clarity); however, it is being used as a term to identify changes and modifications emerging as a new Internet develops, largely based on the new functionalities and features of HTML 5.

Some agreement exists that Web 3.0 is about an enhancement of time and space (including Web 3D developments evolving from spatial and simulative technology) and the development of the intelligence of making code to code and machine to machine more intuitive and directed. As such, the consensus seems to be the title "Semantic Web" in that the evolution of the technology adjusts reality through mechanical augmentations and adaptations to the computer languages similar to the function of semantics on natural language.

Defining Web 3.0
Todd Lucier blogged last year that Web 3.0 is, in his opinion, "the location-aware and moment-relevant Internet." Lucier continued to support his argument by situating Web 3.0 into an historic context of meaning:

Web 3.0, a phrase coined by John Markoff of the New York Times in 2006, refers to a supposed third generation of Internet-based services that collectively comprise what might be called 'the Intelligent Web'--such as those using semantic Web, microformats, natural language search, data mining, machine learning, recommendation agents, and artificial intelligence technologies.

Lucier provided his definitions of Web 1.0 (information sharing) and Web 2.0 (social tools) and then characterized Web 3.0 as follows:

If there is a moment that ushered in the era of Web 3.0, it might best be represented by President Obama's Inauguration address in the United States on January 20th, 2009, an event experienced by millions in person and shared with many more millions of people simultaneously around the world. Content relevance in Web 3.0 is heightened by location and time. Intimate connections are made between the real world and the Web, often with the use of handheld data-enabled phones like iphone and other devices.

Along with this enhanced spatial reality comes the embedded tags and information that work to direct synthesize and organize information within contexts of use and relevance. Detailed references to these programming advances and machine capabilities are found in HTML 5 documents rather than Web 3.0 references.

The Essence of the Evolution
What seems to be the essence is that the connectivity is governed by intelligent and efficient location indicators and immediate and enhanced representations of individual and collective presence. What that means is that human interaction and connectivity will become much more efficient and require less human intervention or manual directives.

The human users, then, can better spend their time on the reasons the connections are made and also experiencing more of the connection made in time and space and the various implications of that connection--rather than on making the connections themselves or sustaining the communal networking.

Implications for Learning
Web 2.0 has afforded users with the capability of developing and using individual voice within courses of study and even more specifically within student and instructor exchanges throughout a course. I have written on this in several articles and experienced it with students in a wide variety of classes. Web 3.0, however, takes the customization to another level--not only to the personalized Web spaces of current technology but the creation and sustainability of entire cultures based on thoughts, ideas, and perceptions.

A 2008 Educause article explored more of the implications of the Semantic or Intelligent Web as follows:

Among other things, the semantic Web makes information more meaningful to people by making it more understandable to machines.... Web 3.0 makes the leap from "display only" to meaningful information by tagging information with descriptors like "mailing address." Further, it allows users to find relationships between tagged information using inference rules and data organizational tools called "ontologies" that provide logic and structure to the information embedded in Web pages. As a result, machines can do a lot of the information grunt work currently required of humans.... Ultimately, the goal of Web 3.0 is, in a phrase, data integration.

The implications for knowledge construction and applied learning increase considerably from spending time locating information and organizing information to an assumption that information is not only there but embedded and tagged so that time can be spent on constructing knowledge from the existing information immediately.

Having integrated data also means that students can develop skills based on integrated information. This is incredibly valuable in learning and provides more holistic perspectives from the start. Additionally, while instructors currently struggle with the concepts of published and distributed environments and look for ways to enhance the perspective of students, with Web 3.0 instructors can work on the thinking processes of students more directly and immediately, which is a huge leap forward in education.

Much time and effort is spent by instructors trying to develop skills in students to identify legitimate information, organize and synthesize the information, integrate it with other information from multiple sources, and ultimately produce new knowledge that can be applied directly to a real context of use. This is a complex process and requires skills and manual interjection at each level:

  1. Information gathering;
  2. Information integration;
  3. Information synthesis;
  4. New knowledge construction; and
  5. Application of learning.

As we have discussed in previous papers, while students are engaged in these complex processes, grades tend to still be assigned to the final product rather than to the entire process. With new technology already connecting and integrating relevant information and providing a webbed rather than linear view of those connections, students can now spend time on synthesizing the information, creating new knowledge, and applying learning. These are the centerpieces of critical thinking and, as such, have the potential of moving learning into a more sophisticated level of work before now only associated with certain disciplines and even institutions--thus democratizing of education may truly become a reality.

The most attractive current characteristic of Web 3.0 is that it is continually evolving and can be shaped by those who use and develop the ideas and technology. This means the faster educators become engaged in the discussion and begin experimenting with the technology, the more likely it is that instructional interest can influence the emerging technology. Ohler (2008) suggested:

In fact, the Semantic Web is far enough into the future that we can actually help shape it. Educators would do themselves, students, and the world a tremendous favor by jumping into the discussion now and helping Web 3.0 developers realize a vision that recognizes education and promotes the public good as top priorities.

References

Lucier, T. (2009). What is Web 3.0 Definition? http://www.tourismkeys.ca/

Miller, Paul. "Sir Tim Berners-Lee: Semantic Web Is Open for Business," The Semantic Web, posted February 26, 2008, http://blogs.zdnet.com/

Ohler, J. (2008).The Semantic Web in Education Educause Quarterly, vol. 31, no. 4 (October-December, 2008) http://www.educause.edu/

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