Lately I have been thinking about what the term Web 2.0 really means. According to Wikipedia, Web 2.0 “allows users to interact and collaborate with each other in a social media dialogue as creators (prosumers) of user-generated content in a virtual community, in contrast to websites where users (consumers) are limited to the passive viewing of content that was created for them” (para. 1). The description of users as passive consumers refers to Web 1.0, the era when most people did not create content online; they simply used the Internet to research information so it travelled only one-way, from the computer to the person.

The following YouTube video posted by jleister titled, 3 Phases of Educational Technology, does an excellent job of explaining the progression of student and teacher technology use from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 by breaking it down into three parts. jleister emphasizes that all three phases are equally important in the learning process, and that during a single lesson, all three may be present.


  • Phase I – teachers use technology as one-way mediums for disseminating information, such as showing video clips or PowerPoint presentations to a passive student audience. The visuals help students to understand concepts more clearly. This use of technology maintains the teacher’s role as the disseminator of knowledge and controller of the structure and organization of the classroom.
  • Phase II – students begin to interact with the technology to acquire content knowledge instead of full reliance on textbooks or teacher lectures. They conduct online research, read, or view media that they search for themselves. However, the structure of the lessons may still mimic phase I.
  • Phase III – students become producers of media. They create images, presentations, audio, and/or texts, and what’s more–they share their creations with others and interactively review others’ work. jleister argues that we need to focus on modern skills of communication, collaboration, and creation during this phase and think of students as producers of information, not just consumers of it. I feel that this is the essence of Web 2.0.

Next, I found an excellent animated video titled, Evolution Web 1.0, to Web 2.0 to Web 3.0 by davidEPN. It highlights how Web 2.0 is moving into Web 3.0. Web 3.0 is:

  • The development of an intelligent, omnipresent web that is an extension or continuation of what we presently understand the web to be
  • Involved in a continuous learning process that anticipates users’ preferences, such as the recommendations that Amazon provides as you shop
  • Increasingly interconnected appliances including cars and phones that communicate with each other, becoming more and more present but less visible. They learn about our lives and make individualized recommendations in increasingly automatic ways
  • Web 3.0 opens the door to machines converting data into useful, meaningful information, otherwise known as the semantic web

Finally, I will refer to the thoughts of someone who was way ahead of his time. Marshall McLuhan, considered by many to be the father of media theory (and a great Canadian thinker, I might add!), contributed to our understanding of technology’s influence on us before we even knew it was happening in the 1960’s and ’70’s. In the following clip, marshall mcluhan on the media posted by matsutakneatche, McLuhan explains:

  • All media is an extension of human faculties: the wheel is an extension of the foot, the book is an extension of the eye, clothing is an extension of the skin, and electric circuitry is an extension of the nervous system
  • The extension of any one sense displaces the other senses and alters the way we think of ourselves and the world
  • The literate (book) world emphasized the visual, and made us detached and isolated from the other people since reading is a relatively private activity. McLuhan calls it “not involved”
  • The electric revolution and the information age is where “involvement is total”
  • The information explosion becomes the culture
  • Artists are the only ones who live in the present on the edge of change while most people live in the age just behind them because it is safer


I am completely intrigued by each one of these videos and thinkers, but even more interested in what happens when we take them together in the context of Web 2.0, 3.0, and beyond. My thoughts are:

  • Perhaps after the information explosion (that McLuhan identified), the semantic web will begin to limit our access to information by bombarding us with only the ‘recommendations’ that have come about from the complex programming that goes into semantic systems. There will be a semantic culture if you will, that will develop from the interpretation of billions of tiny bits of information that users input into the web connecting everything, without even knowing it. And this semantic culture will not only be invisible, but will continue to evolve until what began as ‘recommendations’ will become automatic ‘decisions’ that are made for us.
  • After jleister’s phase III, we must consider students themselves to be learners as well as teachers in a never-ending learning cycle of researching, learning, synthesizing, creating, and reviewing. McLuhan’s term, “total involvement,” defines the role of schools as helping students develop their skills and understanding of this cycle. Furthermore, we will have to re-think what we refer to as curriculum, since the value that we place on particular ideas or knowledge isn’t half as important as how we interact with it. This draws upon McLuhan’s famous idea that “the medium is the message“. Instead of focusing on curriculum, we will have to focus on the learning cycle.
  • What does it mean to live in the present as opposed to the age that has just passed? I believe that technology has become a medium that extends our thinking and the way in which we connect ideas, learn, and think. Our concepts of time and collaboration have also changed through the immediacy of information and access, the range of people that we can collaborate with, and the permanent nature of what we share online. Perhaps living in the present means accepting that we will be forever less private and more connected with people, things, and places, even when we think that we aren’t.
  • Will there still be phase I and II learning in this world? Of course! If I know nothing about a particular topic and ask someone about it or look up an article online, then I am engaging in the first two phases. However, I believe that our notion of ‘baseline understanding’ of any given topic will change completely. After all, with so many more sources of information, the lines between opinion, educated opinion, and fact will become increasingly blurred. Baseline knowledge may decrease in importance while sound arguments based on a wide range of sources will become more important. Thus, phase III will become much more prevalent and may put ‘untouched’ baseline knowledge to the test.

I will definitely delve into the thoughts of McLuhan and the road to Web 3.0 in future posts. This topic is incredibly intriguing to me! What are your thoughts on our journey into the future? What about living in the past or present? And what of technology as extensions of ourselves? Please share!

(Image: Brains, by neil conway. 2009. Available under a Creative Commons Generic License.)

Three Approaches to Web 2.0 (and Web 3.0) including a Marshall McLuhan Moment
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