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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Promise of Web 2.0 and eLearning 2.0 - Comparison to Macros, IDEs, and Visual Basic

There's lots of debate going on as to whether there really is anything new and/or different about Web 2.0 (and eLearning 2.0).

From a technical perspective, there really isn't that much new, BUT...

When you step in and experience the use of Software as a Service, Add-ins and Mash-ups, it is remarkable how different it feels. I have a Ph.D. in Computer Science. Have been involved in software development since 1980. Taught undergrade and graduate Programming Languages. And, I've only really had a similar reaction a few times:
  • Macros in Spreadsheets - incredibly easy creation of powerful data manipulation
  • Turbo Pascal - first IDE
  • Visual Basic - IDE with visual components and easy attribute setting, wiring
Each of these had pretty big impact on ease of development, accessibility and productivity.

It honestly feels like that again with Web 2.0 with the caveat that we aren't quite there yet. In fact, this has the potential of being bigger than any of the above because of the software as service, distributed nature of the data/content and the integration of communication/people/time. But, even if its in the same ballpark as the above three we are talking something pretty special.

To get a handle on part of this picture I would first point you to look at:

eLearning Technology: What is eLearning 2.0?

Just like how Visual Basic allowed you to put components inside your application, you can now put components into your Web Applications. Look on the right side of this blog and you can find various components. For many of them, I would go to a site, tell it the attributes I wanted to use (size, color, field values) much like I would in Visual Basic. They hand me a little snippet of code that I literally cut and paste into my Blogger site. It's not quite drag-and-drop as in Visual Basic, but its awefully close. And while this is very much like Visual Basic, the data and applications are distributed, and provide as a service that I just go and use. Visual Basic was much less accessible in comparison.

Of course, we are still working on the wiring and the platforms. On the wiring side, we have Microformats - Bill Gates at Mix06 - “We need microformats” and a lot happening in Identity and Security (which are big issues).

On the application platform side, we don't yet have Visual Basic. We seem to have a divide between:
  • Content publishing type platforms (Blogger, PBWiki) - where you can manually embed script (but they don't have any support for real scripting),
  • Database oriented development sites (DabbleDB, ZohoCreator) - where you can easily build applications but that don't have the add-in stuff at all, nor scripting
  • Application development platforms (

You've got to figure that someone is going to build out the Visual Basic of Web 2.0 in a Software as Service manner.

All that said, while I started as a skeptic, I actually think this is easily as big as Macros, IDE or Visual Basic, and my gut says that it's bigger.


Darryl Toney said...

I agree with his assertion that Web 2.0 tools have the potential to make a huge impact on how we present information. Corporations have been forced to build their learning protals with manual HTML to simulate this capability. But that can only take you so far. I have been advising LMS vendors to evolve their applications to include this modular web services functionality. The first ones to get there will win big. The others will go the way of the dodo.

Referenced at
Learning Technology Consultant

Mark said...

Tony - You beat me to the punch. I just posted about yourminis here. I also went ahead and made a public tab with a comments module on it here

I've been following this whole webtop/startpage category for a while (see also Netvibes, Pageflakes, webwag, goowy, etc) and think that if nothing else, then the dynamic interactions in all of these sites/applications really does offer use a vision of our future learning environments.