Another dot in the blogosphere?

The age of context

Posted on: January 20, 2017

My earliest recollection of an article that mentioned “the age of context” was this 2015 piece describing the music service, Spotify.

If Web 1.0 was the age of expert-created content and Web 2.0 was and still is the age of user-generated content, then Web 3.0 is the age of context.

These ages are not discrete periods. They overlap and all three are present in our lives today. If you are interested in a medical condition, you might get information from an official health service, Wikipedia, and an RSS feed or an IFTTT applet.

Web 3.0 is sometimes called the semantic web because meaning is made in context. Applied in learning, it is context that defines content that learners need. However, instead of requiring learners to seek it, the content finds its way to learners in their situations.

For example, a pharmacist filling in new forms in the office gets information from a performance support system that is different from the strategies s/he needs while promoting a new drug to doctors in a hospital.

A student might work on a community project in different contexts: School, a neighbourhood library, at home, and the venue of the project. A project management system (uh, PMS?) driven by Web 3.0 would provide different scaffolds and information to guide and suit the context.

For example, that student might need help on interviewing and recording while meeting someone at the community project venue. When the context changes to group work in school, the information and scaffolding might be about planning and conflict resolution.

How might students and teachers change in the age of context?

Learners will adopt and adapt quickly. They will also shape the technology as it shapes them.

However, some teachers will likely go kicking and screaming into the future because they already do that now.

  • Allow phones in class? No!
  • Or optimise phone use in class? How?
  • Operate outside a walled garden? It’s not safe!
  • Share openly? Why should I?

For teaching to change in the age of context, teachers must figuratively make the classroom walls transparent. Content should be learnt not for an assignment’s or curriculum’s sake, but for usefulness in context. They need to recognise that context is not limited to exams or the school environment.

One way for teachers to think outside the schooling context is to learn what happens in other jobs. They do not have to abandon their careers to do this. They need only remind themselves that they should be lead learners first and be driven by curiosity to find out what their non-teacher family members and friends do.

Another way teachers can think outside the box while operating inside one is to link what they already see and do in their lives outside of their classrooms. How do they leverage on social media? Why do they pursue hobbies or passions? What do they use to keep learning after they get their teaching qualifications?

These are things they can transfer from one context to the other. It is called the age of context after all.

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