Web 1.0 to Web 3.0: A wolf in sheep’s clothing or a new culture of learning?

Judy O’Connell
School of Information Studies, Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga

Educators have been captivated by the possibilities of Web 2.0 — not for the sake of a Web 2.0 gimmick, but for attracting and absorbing the interest of learners. Web 2.0 allows students and educators to create and interact both synchronously and asynchronously, formally or informally, at school, at home, in distance education programs, in the workplace, on all manner of devices. This shift has required an open mind about future possibilities, while also documenting innovative or exemplar practices and their relationship to curriculum. Now Web 3.0 heralds a further development in online information behaviours and knowledge discovery techniques. Are we keeping up-to-date with the relevant network and social media changes that are affecting the online learning environment that we wish to embrace?  Can you spot the wolf in sheep’s clothing?

The Internet has become a participatory medium, giving rise to an environment that is constantly being changed and reshaped by the participation itself, changing the flow of news, effecting tacit as well as explicit knowledge, and embedding a new culture of learning (Thomas & Brown, 2011).  The Horizon Report K-12 edition (2011), issued annually since 2009, has identified and described emerging technologies that are having a significant impact on K-12 education, re-iterating the diversity of influences in the learning spaces of our schools. The Horizon Report: Emerging Trends in Education Technology (2011) issued annually since 2005 also describes six areas of emerging technology that may have significant impact on higher education and creative expression over the next one to five years.

Clearly, Web 2.0 has revolutionized the ways available to filter and share information. Whether by managing information with social bookmarks and RSS,  or communicating within learning communities via blogs, wikis, podcasts, Youtube, and Facebook,  many students and educators have adopted digital information behaviours. Widgets, portals, apps, feeds, aggregators and more provide the ‘tools of trade’ for information curation and knowledge organisation.

In addition, social media is driving the creation of new types of online communities, new forms of collaboration, and different strategies for gathering and distributing information to build knowledge. This is the portable, personal web, focused on the individual, on a life-stream, on consolidating content, which is powered by widgets, drag and drop, and mashups of user engagement.

Social media requires that educators understand and deploy:

  • Personalized learning with web tools
  • Personal learning ‘one-to-many’ networks
  • Cloud computing environments
  • Mixed reality and multimodal mashups

In such a Web 2.0 environment, ‘searching’ can be a dangerous undercurrent. The ongoing developments in Google search provide a clue for the need for watchfulness.  For example, Google instant, (that shows results as you type) has both enhanced and hindered our information seeking habits by its quick response to search terms, so making keyword term customization seem less relevantThe recent implemented Google Verbatim provided a ‘fix’ for exact keyword search, without removing the treacherous swell, and related search is just another cross current!  In fact, recent changes in the search algorithm (Caffeine) and key-board shortcuts in Google highlight the transient nature of our ‘favourite’ search strategies, and the need to keep ‘up-to-date’ with decisions at search engine level which can dramatically impact the natural/organic search result listings.  Diversity and flexibility in search tools/choices, coupled with fluency in social media and information seeking strategies must replace working with a skill-set that reflects a less dynamic age of the Internet. The extensive range and options possible in search can be explored further at Knowledge 2.0.

Now a Web 3.0 environment is enhancing searching needs in unexpected ways. Web 3.0 is a third generation of internet-based services, which is gradually allowing the emergence of the intelligent web – otherwise known as the semantic web.  The semantic web holds three key features that are of interest.  The first is the capacity for effective information storage and retrieval. The second is the capacity for computers to augment the learning and information retrieval and processing power of people. The third is the resulting capacity to ‘mix and match’ to extend and expand knowledge and communications capabilities in multiple formats.

According to Ohler (2008), in the future the semantic web will become our personal learning agent, identifying relevant information from any source that is semantically accessible, and providing an information synthesis tailored to our personal learning objective.  For now, we are still building those intelligent connections, but semantic search engines are already impacting on the nature of our search and knowledge ‘tactics’.  Wolfram Alpha allows teachers to explore complex mathematic problems without students having to calculate complex data problems, so that students can leap to analysis and synthesis of results (Harris, 2011).  This search engine also provides the option to interact with results using sliders and controls, to rotate and zoom 3D graphics and visualizations, and to manipulate results directly in the browser.  Another example, Kngine tries to understand the documents and the search queries in order to provide customized meaningful search results.

In a Web 2.0 environment social connections allow easy communication and collaboration. The social media dimensions of Web 3.0 are continuing to enhance social networking, making possible more powerful search, location, and recommendation services. The impact on knowledge work and scholarly research will also extend as the semantic connections of contexts, content and ‘linked data’ become more powerful. But before these environments become natural and intuitive, educators must still be the ‘bridging connection’ ~ modeling exemplary use of social media, search engines, and collaborative research strategies.

As the Semantic Web becomes more of a realization, new technologies will also continue to enhance the learning process making flexibility and adaptability a keystone in our knowledge building structures. The unlimited ‘mashup’ of dynamic information, all portable and tailored to personal preferences will be the vehicle of learning in the future.

But right now, the social media dimensions of Web 2.0 coupled with the semantic dimensions of Web 3.0 are already providing a new context for information seeking, synthesis and analysis.  A wolf in sheep’s clothing or a new culture of learning?  You decide.


Dede, C. (2005). Planning for Neomillenial Learning Styles: Implications for investments in technology and faculty. In D. G. Oblinger & J.L. Obliger (eds.), Educating the Net Generation.

Harris, C. (2011). Wolfram/Alpha Figured Out. School Library Journal, 57(1), 64-66.

Johnson, L., Adams, S., and Haywood, K., (2011). The 2011 Horizon Report: K-12 Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

Johnson, L., Smith, R., Willis, H., Levine, A., and Haywood, K., (2011). The 2011 Horizon Report. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

Ohler, J. (2008) ‘The semantic web in education’, EDUCAUSE Quarterly 31(4), pp. 7–9. Viewed 08 july 2011. net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/EQM0840.pdf.

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change. CreateSpace.


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