Education 3.0: Students as Connectors, Creators, & Constructivists

The way that users have utilized the Internet has changed since its inception. References to Web 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0 allude to an evolved relationship with online information and interactivity. Web 1.0 refers to a primitive Internet that did nothing more than connect the world with information assembled and published by a select group of experts. Web 2.0 is an iteration of this which provides us with the opportunity to interact with the Internet and even create our own content to share with others. Web 3.0 takes user and information interactivity even further by creating a more intelligent, responsive, and personal online experience. But as Internet-based technology continues to influence every aspect of our lives, what might the evolution of the Web mean for education?

Like the Internet, our education system has experienced its own paradigm shifts throughout history as the needs of society have changed. In fact, as with iterations of online ecosystems, the 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0 monikers have been used to identify these shifts in education as well.

Education 1.0 embodies an approach to learning where meaning is dictated and pre-determined curriculum is taught by the teacher to his or her students with a focus on rote memorization. Students in Education 1.0 were being prepared for factory jobs, and graduates of this education system were largely disposable.

Education 2.0 adapted the previous model to become one where meaning is socially constructed and the teacher is no longer viewed as the sole dispenser of valuable knowledge. Instead, students teaching students is encouraged for learning to occur too. This shift resulted as society’s dependence on industry transformed to a knowledge-based economy. Emphasis in Education 2.0 is given to new ways of teaching and learning. Unfortunately, what and how students learn in this model is simply preparing them to become assembly line workers in a world without assembly lines to work on.

It’s Education 3.0 that really pulls the rug out from under our feet. This approach to learning gains meaning from socially constructed and contextually reinvented experiences. Teachers are still teachers. However, so are students. In fact, in Education 3.0 students teaching teachers is as essential as teachers educating their students. But the role and responsibility of teaching doesn’t end there. Instead, it extends to everybody, everywhere through the use of social media. Now, instead of an education system preparing learners to fit into a specific role, Education 3.0 creates lifelong learners who are viewed as content entrepreneurs. Rather than students simply receiving, responding, and regurgitating information, Education 3.0 learners are connecting, creating, and constructing personal meaning from learning experiences.

Terry Heick, on TeachThought, said, “Here, the curriculum is authentically personalized, based on thinking and making (which is internal and intrinsic) rather than an ability to parrot a carefully choreographed ‘performance’ (which is not).”

To be more specific, Education 3.0 relies on autonomous learners engaged in self-directed learning. Contrary to being laissez-faire, this student-centered learning model is, according to Instructional Psychologist Dr. Charles Reigeluth, “attainment-based” allowing for an “additional focus on thinking skills, creativity, personal qualities, and other 21st century skills.”

Reigeluth defends Education 3.0 saying, “We need to refocus education from sorting students to helping all students reach their potential.”

To describe what this looks like, Dr. Jackie Gerstein writes, “[Students] can engage in self-determined and self-driven learning where they are not only deciding the direction of their learning journey but they can also produce content that adds value and worth to the related content area or field of study.”

Fundamentally different from previous models of learning is Education 3.0’s reliance on technology. Personal computing devices and Internet access are no longer left at the door when the school bell rings, but used to enhance students’ abilities to gain access to information and experts while also publishing and sharing their own learning with the world. Gerstein says, “We are living with open education resources and information abundance.” She believes that we should, “use technology in more transformative ways, such as participatory and collaborative interactions and for higher-level teaching and learning that is engaging and relevant to students’ lives and future plans.”

At the heart of this move to Education 3.0 is learner engagement, something that has been lacking in classroom learning thus far. Contrary to being a fault of any teacher, low-engagement is simply a byproduct of curriculum’s irrelevance to students’ immediate and future situations.

What are schools for? What is important for people to learn? How do we learn best? And, Why does learning matter? The answers to each of these questions create a confluence of ideas that suggest that 21st century students need to connect, create, and construct meaning from relevant contexts in order to survive and thrive in a world that demands such abilities. Would the learner choose to learn about this if given the choice in his or her free time? That’s a question that all educators should be asking. And paying attention to the answers, prepared to respond accordingly, is the essence of what we now understand as Education 3.0.


  1. What a way to take last night’s #IDedchat and then blow it out of the water!! :-) Education 3.0 is so plump with learning possibilities! I am struggling with how to get staff to make the transition from 2.0 to 3.0 without overwhelming them.

    Yesterday I was able to participate in Discovery Education’s #futurenow event. One superintendent that was on a panel discussion talked about how the “curriculum” has bloomed from the classroom through teachers experimenting with ideas you share in this blog – how do we learn? why do we learn?

    We are in the process of re-aligning our curriculum with Idaho Core – one thing I am trying to get teachers to understand is that having “standards” doesn’t automatically means “standardization.” I am afraid that many of our hardworking teachers are trying to create unit plans to “fill a requirement” for me – rather than developing units based on what they are actually doing in the classroom. The “requirement filling” can be exhausting – I know – I was there once. So Dave – any advice on how I can help lift the burden of me being seen as a requirement maker?

    We are in such an exciting time – I see Idaho Core as the vehicle to really spur creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking with both teacher AND our students…..just not able to get that vision shared with all staff.

    I digressed a little from your blog – but collaboration through here is important too, right? ;-)

    • Have you incorporated the “tight-loose” leadership approach of PLCs into your district’s vocabulary? If you’re not familiar with the idea, think of it as two sets of expectations. The first set is “tight”, or uncompromisable. This tight set of standards would be your district’s vision, mission, and goals. The second set of expectations, the “loose” set, includes how your teachers meet those tight standards that the district administration has set. This system of “tight-loose” leadership encourages individual and team autonomy while providing staff with guiding principles for assessing ongoing decisions and actions. Obviously, teachers shouldn’t be able to do whatever they want with respect to their jobs. However, they should be given room to experiment and explore in order to own their learning. Perhaps at this point, teachers would feel less like they are simply meeting requirements and more like they are creating meaning for themselves in the context of district/building goals.


Leave a Comment.