HTML5: The Web Beyond Web 2.0

And the potential impact of Google Wave on instruction

There are various ideas of how HTML5 has already changed and will continue to change how we view and use the Web. Scott Loganbill suggested:

HTML5 represents the biggest leap forward in Web standards in almost a decade. Unlike the specifications that came before it, HTML5 is not merely intended to present content to a Web browser. Its goal is to bring the Web into maturity as a full-fledged application platform--a level playing field where video, sound, images, animations, and full interactivity with your computer are all standardized. And it may be a long way off still, but elements of HTML5 are already reshaping the way we use the Web.

The implications for all of this are huge for instruction.

The Basic Concepts
There are several foundational concepts that are motivating HTML5 development. These are summarized by Loganbill (2008) as follows:

  • A new, sensible tagging strategy. Instead of bundling all multimedia into object or embed tags, video goes in video tags. Audio goes in audio tags, and so on;
  • Localized databases. This feature, when implemented, automatically embeds a local SQL database Web sites can read and write to, speeding up interactive searching, caching and indexing functions, or for offline use of Web apps that rely on data requests;
  • Rich animations without plugins. The canvas element gives the browser the ability to draw vector graphics. This means configurable, automatic graphs and illustrations right in the browser without Flash or Silverlight. Some support for canvas is already in all the latest browsers, except for IE;
  • Real apps in the browser. APIs for in-browser editing, drag and drop, back button "waypoints," and other graphical user interface abilities; and
  • Content presentation tags will be phased out, and CSS will rule.

In general, coding languages used will be more thorough, which, in turn, will make the machines more intelligent in terms of actions and functions. The human factor will be able to focus more on application, context, and construction of meaning. In terms of instruction, then, teaching and learning can focus more clearly on the processes of thinking and application than on the manual skills needed to network and connect items.

The Poster Child: Google Wave
As we are evolving toward this more intuitive and intelligent Web, there are various software environments emerging that bring together several of the foundational concepts listed above. Once such environment has been created and called "Google Wave."

The concept of "wave" is already interesting as it explores the idea of continuous movement and momentum building through exchange and development (the key idea being a "developing" environment).

Some quotes from the introductory site include:

  • Google Wave is an online tool for real-time communication and collaboration. A wave can be both a conversation and a document where people can discuss and work together using richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more.
  • A wave is shared. Any participant can reply anywhere in the message, edit the content and add participants at any point in the process. Then playback lets anyone rewind the wave to see who said what and when.
  • A wave is live. With live transmission as you type, participants on a wave can have faster conversations, see edits and interact with extensions in real-time.

The developer preview (below) illustrates these concepts in great detail. (If you can't view the video below, it may be blocked by your organization's Web filter.)

Therefore, again, the idea of development is front and center--as participation increases ideas, items, thought flows ,and objects, so the purpose and scope enhances and continues to develop a "wave" of participation and growth.

Additionally, spatial reference becomes immediate as real time is necessarily the most powerful wave of all. Therefore, now, teaching and learning can maximize the idea of real time without losing the publication and development potential of online exchange; that is, integrating the most powerful aspect of online or hybrid learning (real time) without losing the more published aspects of the entire online experience.

The Implications for Learning
Quite clearly, the idea of students (users) being the developers and movers (momentum builders) of course content and flow is what drives this technology. While some instructors may still struggle with the redefinition that has been taking place with previous evolutions of the Internet, the larger challenges lie ahead as future waves will challenge teachers to truly support processes of thinking and development. Therefore, students will become their own problem solvers, their own resource centers, and their own learning coaches. Instructors will become knowledge constructionists of the first order. We can move more directly to the ideas themselves and their implication within sustainable contexts of use.

Some possibilities within Google Wave include:

  • Group Projects
    Collaboratively work in real time to draft content, discuss, and solicit feedback all in one place rather than sending e-mail attachments and creating multiple copies that get out of sync.
  • Photo Sharing
    Drag and drop photos from your desktop into a wave. Share with others. Use the slideshow viewer. Everyone on the wave can add their photos, too. It's easy to make a group photo album in Google Wave.
  • Brainstorming
    Bring lots of people into a wave to brainstorm; live concurrent editing makes the quantity of ideas grow quickly! It's easy to add rich content like videos, images, URLs, or links to other waves. Discuss and then work together to distill down to the good ideas.

The Future of the Web: Still the Defining Technology
Yes, this technology is already with us; however, it is emerging and evolving with the potential of new embedded and more logical code tags and enhanced capability for media and multimedia engagement and exchange--particularly within real time contexts of use.

While current distance and online education uses chat technology for real time connection as an augmentation to asynchronous exchange, the future will have immediacy as central to every exchange. The future will also have actual realities being exchanged and developed as ideas are immediately applied and integrated into reality development. Therefore students will not be passive receptors of anything but will rather be fully engaged in all processes of exchange and will also be central to the development of their own learning--customized learning at its fullest.

As always, the bigger challenge will be to educators themselves and to accrediting bodies who will probably lag in their acceptance and understanding of the technology. Our challenge, as educators and co-learners with students, is to engage sooner rather than later and while there is still time to influence emerging technology uses for better instruction.