The architecture of learning

One of the characteristics of Web 2.0, according to the man who coined the phrase, is to be found in its architecture. As far as Tim O'Reilly is concerned, Web 2.0 tools are configured in such a way that they 'get smarter the more people use them.' This facet was explained very clearly in Michael Wesch's excellent video Web 2.0 .. The Machine is Us/ing Us, which shows how web tools work better the more people use them. Social tagging for example, becomes increasingly stronger as people populate it with content and links. Blogs rely not only on content, but on users, and ultimately on the dialogue that ensues between all those who read the content. In his famous Wired article, Kevin Kelly predicted this by suggesting that Web 2.0 was about leveraging collective intelligence. Web 2.0 has marked a shift in emphasis from the personal computer to the web, and the services it conveys. Web 2.0 is qualitatively different to what preceded it. Essentially, where Web 1.0 was about pushed content, and a 'sticky internet' where users could change very little, the evolution of the web into Web 2.0 has been viewed as epitomising the power of participation, and arguably, it's also about the democratisation of the internet.

So how does Learning 2.0 fit into this landscape? In order to deconstruct Learning 2.0 - Stephen Downes was the first to coin the phrase eLearning 2.0 - we first need to decide what we mean by Learning 1.0. For me, Learning 1.0 (if there ever was such a thing and it can be equated to Web 1.0) represents a relatively passive individual learning mode where expert generated content is pushed at the learner. It represents a top-down, hierarchical delivery of content (and content really is king in this mode), which ideally demands specific (observable) behaviours from the learner that can be measured and assessed objectively.  Behaviourism and Cognitivism are theories that could comfortably be applied to describe the activities seen within a Learning 1.0 scenario. Bloom's taxonomy is also a framework that might be applied to underpin and explain the levels of activity that would ensue from Learning 1.0 type activities. It is reminiscent of the 1980s Computer Assisted Learning model, where learners sat at a computer, received linear sequences of content, responded to it by answering multiple choice questions, and were presented with remedial loops or 'relearning' when they failed to reach the required standard of understanding.

By contrast, Learning 2.0 is recognised by more active and participatory modes of learning, and they are rarely isolated learning activities. As Web 2.0 has evolved, we have seen an increasing amount of interactive content becoming available. This content is generated not only by the experts, but also increasingly by the learners themselves, and tends to be organised by the community rather than by the experts. It is not a hierarchy and it does not obey top down rules, but in more likely to be a heterarchy. The emergent properties of content organisation are folksonomies, and are the product of loose organisation that is bottom-up rather than top-down. One of the best theories to describe how learning is organised in Web 2.0 environments is social constructivism, because learners increasingly rely on social interaction, and appropriate tools to mediate dialogue. Collaborative, shared online learning spaces such as wikis and discussion forums are characteristic meeting places where content can be created and shared, and the community also organises and moderates this content using specialised services such as aggregation, curation and tagging tools.

When we talk about web versions, we inevitably travel down a road where significant step changes in the evolution of the web mark new ways of using it. If there really is a Web 1.0 and a Web 2.0, then we can expect eventually to see a Web 3.0, and can expect to see new forms of learning and social interaction advancing as a result. In my next blog post, I will try to describe what we can expect from Learning 3.0 using a similar explanatory framework.

Photo by Steve Wheeler

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Martin King said…
When considering what comes next Tim O'Reilly and John Battelle came up with the powerful concept of Web Squared

Imagine applying the concepts of Web Squared to Education - Education Squared.

Exponential, Mobile, Real-time, Social and Sensory Education

Web Meets World = Education meets world (Learning 2.0 ideas in the real world)
Steve Wheeler said…
I like the concept of Education Squared, and would assume that the next level of development would be Education Cubed? Either way, we are treading on unknown territory, but in past posts I have written about the mobile, real-time, extended and 3D visualisation capabilities of Learning 3.0. I intend to expand on these ideas in the next blog post, and provide a table comparing a number of features from Learning 1.0 through to Learning 3.0. Watch this space ;)
Martin King said…

What I liked about the concept of Web Squared is that linear concepts of change don't capture the combinatorial effects of multiple interacting factors that emerge exponential and radical (revolutionary) change thus I just don't think Education 3.0 or Web 3.0 really hack it.

However, in the world of education maybe more pedestrian and linear change is the norm - we could have education 3.0 while we have learning squared.

I have a feeling that learning squared is starting to happen with the rise of OER and to some extent with MOOCs in education.

My interpretation is that Web cubed and learning cubed may happen when we add AI into the social, mobile, realt-time, sensory mix

Steve Wheeler said…
This is a comment from Michael Vallance posted on his request:

I think it is disingenuous to associate the early days of Computer Assisted Learning with simply mass producing MCQs and a ‘Wrong – Try Again’ approach in its testing and activity resource development. Much of technology use today in education contexts (especially LMS) consist of instructors or developers including ‘Wrong – Try Again’ activities within their courseware - whether it be on an iPad or in the Cloud – probably because it is easy to do so. If it was so prevalent in the early days of Computer Assisted Learning then not much has changed, in my opinion. The instructional paradigm has not changed. In fact, I would argue that much more interactive, collaborative and challenging use of technologies to support learning development occurred in the earlier days of Computer Assisted Learning. Examples include text –based global communication (often within game scenarios like Dungeons and Dragons) using telnet commands, use of ‘what-if’ scenarios in Physics, Chemistry and Maths developed in Hypercard where students could test their hypothesis, data-driven corpus analysis in languages (search for Tim Johns), the magister-pedagogue dichotomy proposed by John Higgins (circa 1984) which criticised back then the use of the computer as a MCQ generator, and Papert’s LOGO and microworlds to name a few. I’m sure there are other wonderful examples where Computer Assisted Learning in the days of so-called 1.0 were far more innovative, effective and thought-provoking than the consumerist, collective, consensus (read unchallenging) driven 2.0 technologies of today.

Always read your posts, Steve. Don’t stop!

Michael in Japan.
Steve Wheeler said…
Thanks Michael. I think perhaps 'disingenuous' is too strong a word, and does not represent what I'm trying to argue in this post. I'm certainly not being insincere or deliberately misleading - merely offering my take on something I was immersed in during the 1980s - developing content and promoting the use of what was then called 'computer assisted learning.'

In my experience, CAL was mostly about MCQs, remedial loops and instruction through the screen. It was very much expected in the area I was at that time working in, i.e. medical and nursing education. If the trainee got it wrong, lives were at stake. There was only one instance of what could be considered 'interactive and challenging' CAL produced within this genre, and that involved pushing the computer processing power of the time to the limit in order to create the software.

I agree that in many ways, not a lot has changed, but would point out that 4 things have been ground breaking and have brought change. The first is the social element of learning through the screen - which we did not have in any vastly accessible way during the period I refer to. Secondly, the ubiquity of mobile devices now makes learning in any time and just about any place also a reality. Thirdly, the use of collaborative software and social games based learning are a great leveller in education, narrowing the dichotomy between learner and teacher to such an extent that we now talk about paragogy. Finally, the ability of learners to be able to create, organise, repurpose and share their own knowledge simply adds to the impetus created in the previous uses mentioned above.

I don't think we are retrograde in our use of social media. Read between the lines, and peek under the facade and you will see (as I know you do) that a great deal of creative, innovative and exciting learning is teaking place.
mvallance1234 said…
Thank you for posting on my behalf. I agree that a lot creativity is taking place but not all learners engage with the
opportunities, or they do not know how to effectively utilise the tools as no-one has trained them because many educators simply assume.
Our experiences of early CAL differ.
In my career using technologies in education – teaching BTEC engineering at a FE College, English to business students, Information Technology to teacher trainees, Media Architecture to science & design undergraduates, and Research Methods to post-graduates – I have recently come full circle. Using Hypercard to help students to grasp mechanics was, upon reflection, a lot more effective than my fairly recent tasks setting students collaborative problems to solve (e.g. a WebQuest with the student goal being to collectively seek information which would lead to a solution).
Of course, it all comes down to good task design, but involving students in the creation of the problem as well as the solution is more engaging. So for the past two years I have been involving my science and design students in robot-related challenges, participating in virtual world simulations and communications, designing solutions, and recently printing artifacts on our 3D printer. Integrating subject knowledge from other courses is essential and I can react and act upon student questions immediately; or outsource the query to a colleague or other students.
The point is, I think, constructionism is central in my task design. Constructivism-inspired social media play a supporting role and certainly students enjoy using various so-called Web 2.0 tools, but the greater challenges to students lie within the physical tasks they are asked to solve with the available (and sometimes imagined) technologies; which, in my opinion, lead to better learning. I feel I am back to the late 80’s with LOGO and microworlds but updated to LabView and OpenSim in 2013. And it’s much more fun.
Thank you for that excellent blog. I feel much more comfortable explaining the difference between the Web 1.0 and 2.0 models now and we can use both to support our professional learning as well as the classroom instruction we offer our students. I'm enjoying your writing!

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