Sunday, October 4, 2009

What is ED 2.0?

What is ED 2.0?

ED 2.0 is the use of web 2.0 applications in education.

To make this initial definition useful it is necessary to say something about the meaning of "Web 2.0".

Web 2.0

The term "Web 2.0" was coined by Darcy DiNucci in 1999. She noted that "The Web we know now, which loads into a browser window in essentially static screenfuls, is only an embryo of the Web to come. The first glimmerings of Web 2.0 are beginning to appear, and we are just starting to see how that embryo might develop The Web will be understood not as screenfuls of text and graphics but as a transport mechanism, the ether through which interactivity happens." She added that this interactivity will migrate from the computer screen to mobile devices, especially cell phones.

The term "Web 2.0" gained traction in 2004 when Tim O'Reilly organized a now-famous conference to consider the status and future developments in the new interactive or participatory applications on the Internet. Since that time the term has come into common usage. Web 2.0 has also been called the read/write web, the participatory web, the user-generated content web, and other terms.

At this point is may be easiest to define Web 2.0 in terms of familiar examples. The advantage of this sort of definition is that almost everyone interested in learning about Web 2.0 is completely familiar with most of these examples. The downside is that the definition will tend to limit imagination by making users of the term think about possibilities by reference to those examples and not the underlying concept or technical capabilities.

Web 2.0, thought of in terms of the most familiar examples, is the Web of wikis, with Wikipedia being the most familiar, blogs with comments, eBay and Amazon as platforms for businesses, UTube and Flickr, social networks such as Facebook, Linkedin and Myspace, microblogging networks wuch as Twitter, etc. What is common to all of these Web applications is that users not only download static content they seek, but also upload content: documents, videos and photos, entire business enterprises, and in the process form links, user groups, and networks.

Web 2.0 depends on certain features of software which enable this sort of interactivity. However it is unhelpful to think about Web 2.0 in terms of technical features. It is the social uses, not the technical capabilities, that make Web 2.0 different, and interesting.

Network Effects

O'Reilly has emphasized 'network effects' as the key driver of Web 2.0. What are 'network effects'?

We can think of many social situations as networks, with each unit as a node. There are in any network positive or negative effects to each node from such features of the network as size, or speed, etc.

Let's first consider a negative network effect of size. Thinking of the road network of LA as an example, and the roadway between Santa Monica and City Hall as a piece of the network, imagine the effect of the number of drivers (the number of nodes) on each driver. If there are no other drivers, then the network affords the one driver on the road between Santa Monica and City Hall a frictionless connection. Up to a certain limit, each additional driver does not affect the value of the network. But past a certain size (which is in fact passed every day) each additional driver decreases the value of the road network, adding friction (traffic) and making it more difficult for each driver to get where they want to go. The more additional drivers, the more traffic, the slower the drive, the less value the roadway.

Now for an opposite example, think of the FAX network. The first FAX machine user gets no value at all, because he or she cannot use the machine; there is no one to send a FAX to because no one else has a FAX machine. Up to a certain limit the situation does not improve very much, because the users can only use the machine to FAX documents to a small handful of others. But past a certain limit and the FAX machine becomes useful, as many businesses have FAX. Then it becomes expected for businesses to have FAX machines, and the FAX becomes a highly valuable, then necessary tool. The more users in the FAX network, the more value the network has for every FAX user (node).

Some simple arithmetic shows that positive network effects grow rapidly. If there are only two nodes A and B in a network the number of connections between them = 1. If we add another node C, the number of connections = 3 (A-B, B-C, A-C). If we add one more, D, the number of connections now = 6. Add one more, E, and the connections = 10. The point: the number of connections grows much more rapidly than the number of nodes.

Back to ED 2.0

The task of imagining and building ED 2.0 consists of constructing a platform upon which can be established an indefinite number of teaching-learning networks. In a comprehensive learning materials network, anyone -- teacher, scientists or researcher, homeschool parent, commercial provider, etc., can post useful materials.

Imagine for example a "wiki-riculum" where every conceivable topic might be developed, amplified, tested, assessed, for use by anyone interested in teaching about or learning about that topic.

I take the notion of "every conceivabnle topic" seriously, because the voluntary contributions of users, motivated by the urge for creativity, by sheer vanity, or by social virtue (the desire to contribute to the good) will extend the range of topics far beyond what any administrative organization can create and establish.

Few schools can field a course in Vietnamese literature, for example, because the costs of developing the course and making it available as a for-credit option are too great. But the Vietnamese community, including the many teachers from Vietnam (located in the US, France, Viet Nam and elsewhere) can readily contribute such a course through the gifts economy. As a result so many students of Vietnamese origin can have access to an on-line course in their national literature, perhaps on a very low cost-no-cost basis.

Imagine endless edblogs developing support materials for every topic in every subject matter, with comments and useful links to additional materials, resources, problem sets, assessment tools.

Imagine a Facebook-like application for teachers, breaking through the barriers of teacher isolation, providing support networks, assessments of tools, links to worked out lesson plans and curriculum units, etc.

These are among the ideas that we will be exploring in this Blog.

Please add comments, or communicate directly with me to add your voice to this exploration of ED 2.0


  1. love the phrase "wiki-riculum" - fab

  2. I'm very interested in applying this web 2.0 tech/concept to education as it's my org's main business (provincial gov of education). Thanks for your insight, and I'll certainly visit again. :)