The 3.0 Era of Schools in China

ChinaI wrote recently about Web 2.0, 3.0 and even the coming 4.0, but this post was inspired by an article that asked if traditional classrooms would become obsolete when schools in China usher in the "3.0 Era." 

A keynote by Zhang Zhi, director of Shanghai Educational Technology Center, said that "while ushering in 3.0 era (in China), schools will be marked by individuation and innovation, embracing massive amounts of information."

I have posted here in the category of Web 3.0, but my Education 2.0 category seems to be one step behind.

Is the "3.0 Era" referred to in that article about the Web 3.0, Education 3.0 or the merging of the two? Zhi sees the school of industrial age as School 2.0. For me, that is School/Education 1.0. I agree that this is education based on a classroom teaching model designed to prepare students for an industrial society. 

We moved into Education 2.0 when we started to move away from a classroom with a teacher in front giving out information. I say we are still moving through the 2.0 information age in education.   

What Zhi sees as a school in the 3.0 era is what I see happening now. Classroom and campus boundaries are becoming less clear. Online learning did this more than anything. The role of teachers is changing. Artificial intelligence is changing how we learn and how we will teach.

When asked how schools in this new era will look, Zhi replies: "Now, the role of teachers has shifted from the authority to facilitators, companions and supporters. The time-space of learning has become ubiquitous. The future of school 3.0 will empower every learner by data including teaching, interpreting, making the decision, management, and innovation, which is the trend of school evolution.” 

This sounds like my version of Education 2.0, but in Zhi’s vision, the focus is on elementary and secondary school more than higher education. In these schools, he says these scenarios will exist. I don't know that in the United States we are doing these things - or that we want to do all these things.

  1. Each student will have a digital profile in light of the continuous data collection of his or her learning activities since the first day he or she is enrolled and this digital profile will be constantly updated through the individual’s growth. 
  2. Every teacher will have an AI assistant. 
  3. Each subject is interwoven with a knowledge map.
  4. Each teaching task is likely to be outsourced. For example, the workload of school principals will be significantly lightened, but they will need to evaluate and select the services providers.
  5. Every physical school is a part of the overall virtual school similar to the concept of Cloud Classroom.
  6. All the learning activities will be recorded. People used to read books and now “read the screen” but we also  interpret and better serve each learner through the analysis of eye movements, expression changes, internet operating behaviors and results.
  7. Each learner’s learning tasks are personalized. Thanks to the advanced technology, every student will be assigned different homework according to their level of knowledge mastery which is difficult to achieve relying on traditional education. 
  8. The length of schooling for each student will be flexible. Students move at their own pace.
  9. Every legitimate approach to learning will be admitted.
  10. Education will focus on collaboration and symbiosis. Future schools should be learning-centered communities and students will no longer see each other as competitors.
  11. Each family will form a unique educational unit. 
  12. Every piece of educational equipment tends to be intelligent. 
  13. Every school will embrace a hidden curriculum such as museums, sports games, and film festivals. Future schools must place great emphasis on the design of this so-called hidden curriculum.

One thing that is not revolutionary or radical in this vision of the next era is that Zhi sees physical schools as still necessary because “attending school is for communication, and exchanging ideas is for verification which can help us know ourselves. People cannot be taught but need to be guided to find the true self.”

This school 3.0 era is driven at all levels by technology but he cautions that "technology cannot replace emotion, experience, and communication, which should not be overlooked. Education is a process of exchanging feelings of affection in the collision of two hearts. From this perspective, the education industry will always be flourishing. Although much work may be accomplished by the advanced technology, the jobs that entail teachers to devote their love will never be replaced.”

From Web 2.0 to Web 4.0

I saw an article online about "Web 4.0" recently and thought "I know there was a Web 2.0, but did we jump over Web 3.0?"

Back in the early days of this century (Can we say that yet?). I was hearing about, speaking about, and writing about Web 2.0. It was known by a number of names: the Participative or Participatory Web, the Social Web, and my personal favorite moniker the Read-Write Web.

The idea was that the early web that would now be considered Web 1.0 was pretty much a one-way web. It was a passive web. We consumed content. The next phase of the Web was the shift to websites that emphasized user-generated content. These websites were easier to use and allowed participation, interaction, and interoperability. They were active. 

The term Web 2.0 was coined by Darcy DiNucci in 1999 and later popularized by Tim O'Reilly and Dale Dougherty at the O'Reilly Media Web 2.0 Conference in late 2004. But this was a gradual change so you can't point to any one date as the start.

By 1999, there are approximately 3 million websites but the majority of these sites are static, read-only sites. But change was coming. Blogs were one of the tools of Web 2.0. It was a major change. You could get free webspace and be your own publisher.

I started a wiki, this blog, got into social media and began podcasting between 2000-2006. By 2006, there are approximately 85 million websites. Two of the big Web 2.0 sites that changed many sites to follow were Wikipedia and Facebook. That year I wrote about "Web 2.0 Colleges." 

By 2014, the Internet had more than one billion websites.

So, when did the Web go 3.0 and what is it? Some people have been calling Web 3.0 the semantic web. The venerable  Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, said that a Web 3.0 would be a “read-write-execute” web which would include semantic markup and web services.

Actually, Web 3.0 is the one we use today. It is a “semantic web” in the way search engines try to understand human language. It is the way we can execute through mobile devices and the cloud. 

The semantic markup means presenting data in a way that can be understood by software agents so that it can be “executed.” One definition of the semantic web I found is that it is a virtual environment in which information and data are connected and organized so that they can be processed automatically. This is a Web in which the machines read content and also interpret it.

Some of this is happening now, but we're not fully there. That is also true of the Web using artificial intelligence. AI can work along with machine-readable content. Talking like this about a 3.0 or a 4.0 version of the web might excite you or it might scare you. Machines directly interacting with each other. Exciting or scary?

From what I read about Web 4.0 it seems to be a fully mobile web. The search engines we are used to using become virtual assistants. Sure, you're already talking to Alexa and Siri, but the experience is not fully functional. It's great that they are starting to understand natural language that is spoken and written. You can ask questions, but too often you get a list of possible websites where your answer might be, rather than the answer. It's coming.

Again, 4.0 can be exciting and scary. You ask your device to book you a room in New York City for next Friday and since it already knows your preferences, your price range, your credit card information and other data it can do it without your additional help. Scary? But if you had a really good human assistant, he or she could also do this for you. Did that scare you? Yes, trust and privacy are concerns for Web 3 and 4.

Here is Tim Berners-Lee giving a TED talk in 2009 about the new "Open and Linked Web."
Take a look and decide how close we have come in a decade.

The Online Learning Perfect Storm

online learnerAwhile back, edX CEO Anant Agarwal wrote in Forbes "How Four Technologies Created The 'Perfect Storm' For Online Learning." The four technologies are cloud computing, video distribution at scale, gamification, and social networking. A commentary by Stephen Downes doesn't question the impact these four have had on online learning, but he does question Agarwal's claim that each is a part of edX.

For example, he notes that the claim that "social networking" is present is because it uses a discussion board. That is certainly a stretch. For gamification he cites "simulation-based games, virtual labs, and other interactive assignments," none of which is integral to edX.

Downes considers the article "lightweight" but though there may not be a perfect storm it is worth noting the impact of those four things beyond edX.

Cloud computing has allowed exponential scalability in many sectors including online learning. Online learning platforms (Does anyone say learning management systems anymore?) became more responsive and faster.

Scalability was certainly key to the emergence of MOOCs. When some colleges tried their own MOOC offerings they realized that they couldn't handle the jump from courses with 25 or 100 students to ones with thousands of students. Of curse, even if you are still offering smaller online courses, the cloud allows all students to benefit from faster, more responsive platforms.

Video has been a part of online learning for 40 years if you go back to ITV, videotapes, CDs and DVDs. Broadbandallowed video to stream and sharing and distribution really hit about the same time as MOOCs were starting to gain initial momentum. YouTube and Vimeo allowed some smaller institutions a way to distribute high-quality videos.

When I was at NJIT, I got the university to sign on in 2007 as one of the first of 16 universities to use Apple's iTunes U. That gave us a much larger presence in online learning. I wrote about it extensively on this blog. But iTunes U didn't grab the market share the way MOOCs and YouTube did. The interface was not friendly to universities or to users. You don't hear it mentioned much by educators now and I doubt that it will exist in 2020.

iTunes U was important for sharing university lectures and some supporting documents. It was more open than what we would expect from Apple because the content was opened up by the institutions (colleges and also educational institutions like museums). I consider it an early tool in the MOOC movement. 

Gamification has been a buzzword for a long time, but it still hasn't made its way into most learning platforms by for-profits or in colleges. There's no doubt that instant feedback and more active engagement in the learning process produces better success, but I find faculty still back off at the word gamification. Some of that fear or disdain is because they associate it with videogames and gaming sounds less "educational." This is a misconception, but one that has persisted. I always used to say that just say "simulation" instead of gamification and you'll get more buy-in from faculty. Sometimes that worked.

Simulations that use game strategies and components can be used in virtual labs and many interactive activities, knowledge checks (graded or not) and assignments in order to promote higher-order thinking tasks such as design, analysis, synthesis and evaluation. The "fun factor" shouldn't be ignored although that is part of the hesitation from faculty. There is this sadly persistent idea that learning is supposed to be difficult and not fun.

Social networking came on strong in the era of Web 2.0. Today it comes in for a lot of criticism. I believe that many educators who were using Twitter, Facebook and other social sites in their teaching have backed away. part of that is the criticism and privacy issues on such sites and part of it is that there are some tools built into platforms that allow for a more private social experience. However, posting your thoughts in an LMS for the rest of the class really doesn't duplicate or approach the experience of posting it online for a large part of the world. Twitter boasts 330 million monthly active users (as of 2019 Q1) and 40 percent (134 million) use the service on a daily basis (Twitter, 2019).    The chance to interact and possibly collaborate across the globe is no small thing.

What will create the next perfect storm in online learning? Agarwal suggests that the next four high-impact technologies will be AI, big data analytics, AR/VR and robotics.

Is There a Cobra Effect in Education?

cobraThe "cobra effect" is the term used for when a well-intended attempted solution to a problem makes the problem worse. This unintended consequence is often is used to describe environmental, economic and political solutions that work in reverse.

The term Cobra Effect" originated when there was still British rule in India. The British government wanted to reduce the number of dangerous, venomous cobra snakes in Delhi. They offered a bounty for every dead cobra. So, people were killing them and collecting the bounty. At first, the idea worked. But some enterprising people began to breed cobras to collect more bounties. The government became aware of this abuse and ended the reward program. The cobra breeders had no use for the snakes and released their stock (though it's not clear why people didn't just kill them while they had them in captivity) and as a result, the wild cobra population further increased.

I wrote about this term on my origins site and included a more modern example of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change trying to reduce greenhouse gases by offering carbon credits for destroying harmful gases (particularly HFC-23, a byproduct of a common coolant). As with the cobras, companies began to produce more  of the coolant so that they could destroy more of the HFC-23 byproduct waste gas and get additional credits

Is there a Cobra Effect in education? Are there solutions to a problem that make the problem worse? If you think you have an example, send me an email.


This is a good RadioLab program that gives many other examples of the Cobra Effect