Posted in Web 2.0 tools

What is Web 2.0 and why does it matter?

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Recently I started an online professional development course on Web 2.0 tools. I am embarrassed to admit that although I had heard the term bantered around in educational settings, I was really quite ignorant as to what it actually meant, even though I was already using these very tools in my classroom.  I am glad to say I now understand that web 2.0 refers to the read/ write web in which the consumer of information from the past is now the pro-sumer of information – that is they have a much more participatory role in the information they locate and use in the online world, This is clearly demonstrated in the image below.

web 1 v web 2

As you can see, information in the past has been fixed, provided by a few only. Digital text is now more flexible and fluid. Consumers of this information now have more control over that information and are able to edit, collaboratively share and exchange information in a much more social way. It is said that a blog is created every ½ a second. People are much more willing to take information and comment on it. Digital text, including visual text, is not only more accessible, it is easier to control, change and share.

The world is changing…..

This digital text is fast outgrowing the use of print text at a rapid rate of knots. Traditional print media sales (including televised news) have rapidly dropped in recent years whilst online media and social networking use including twitter, youtube and facebook have skyrocketed. Why would someone wait for the news to come on tv that night or the paper to be printed the next day to find out if a lost boy has been found, when you can follow what’s happening on twitter or look at the police facebook page to get updates instantaneously?

This convergence of information means that it is easier to connect with more people and be more accessible to a worldwide community than ever before. Ironically personal connections are becoming harder. There has been a significant move from the web in the past as one way deliverance of information to individuals to a more two way web where individuals not only read information but contribute to it, create it and collaborate this information. This is done whenever blogs, wikis, podcasting, video/photo sharing, social networking, etc is done. There is now an explosion of digital information available and as more and more people engage with web 2.0, this explosion is exponential as more and more sites become participative.

There is a lot of the research on the implications of Web 2.0 in education. This is based on students in secondary and higher education, usually in America. As an Australian educator of primary students, whilst the impact of Web 2.0 is yet to be researched extensively, it is potentially enormous. Junior primary teachers are now faced with students that are not only more connected than their teachers but are more connected that their older peers or siblings – the very group that most research has been done on. These  students today are switched on and they are use to multitasking. They do not know what life was like before FB and similar social media or digital text.

We now live in a world where geographical barriers no longer exists. Students in Australia can do online courses in some of America’s more renown universities and whilst these courses do not attach any credit yet, it is only a matter of time. The concept that anyone can study anything, anywhere is today’s reality. At a recent conference, I expressed my frustration at how a presenter had not shown me how to create a podcast, only to have a much younger colleague reply why should he when you can just go home and find the information on youtube! Of course she is right.

Differentiated learning can happen when any student can go online and learn anything they are passionate about and gain the skills they need to do it themselves. They can then contribute what they have learnt back into the digital world.

The implications on education does create some issues. We need to rethink concepts of copyright, censorship, authorship, credibility, privacy and our digital online presence. Current government enforced restrictions on what students can see online at schools are prohibitive and outdated, especially when these sites are accessible at home. Instead we need to be teaching students about how to manage their internet surfing, what are safe sites and what are not. Educational settings need to ensure that there is equal access for all their students. Despite the infiltration of the internet in most homes, we still have students that do not have access outside of school. Not only that but how do they keep up to date with technology and infrastructure which are costly and continually evolving?

Teachers need to rethink how they teach in the classroom and what their role is.  They need to embrace Web 2.0 – learn what it is, how to use it and develop their skills in using it. It is by this participation that they can help their students to engage with and contribute to web 2.0.  By teaching students about content production and sharing, teachers can facilitate their learning. Teachers need to not only help students understand how to sort reliable information from the deluge of overabundance of information but also teach them how to be good digital citizens. Teachers need to help them to develop real thinking skills. Students need to learn how to be connected. They need to build their own PLP’s and develop skills to access and validate information to ensure its credibility. They need to know that blogs reflect the opinions of the author rather than facts.They need to understand creative commons licensing.

In my classroom, the use of web 2.0 has slowly increased. Students have used the internet to research inquiry based projects for quite a while now but increasingly my students have started to publish what they have learnt on the web on our class blog. They are also using youtube to learn and they have skyped teachers in other countries. In the past they have used Storybird to publish their stories and collaboratively get feedback from their peers. We are currently using Book Creator to produce their own narratives, during this they are working collaboratively on their character development and plot complication and helping each other improve, getting valuable feedback from each other and their teacher, as well as their parents and other teachers. We are in the process of setting up our class youtube channel where the students can produce videos on anything from creating imovies to demonstrating knowledge about what they have learnt by creating a short video explaining it to a much wider audience and then getting global feedback on these. In the future, I would also like to set up for my students their own e-portfolios, so that they can start to share their own ideas and celebrate their successes as well as be a digital collection of  their work that illustrates progress and achievements in their learning journeys that they can share globally and receive input from a much more broader audience.  I am currently experimenting with tools that allow students to develop skills in computer programming through tools such as Scratch (older children might like to use Greenfoot). I am also trialling tools based on Augemented reality, such as coLAR Mix – 3D below.  I am curiously excited as to where these web tools may take my students in their learning.

coLAR Mix

In my own professional practice the use of Web 2.0 tools and social media has enabled me to develop a much broader PLP. I am able to connect with teachers and leaders from around the world, have access to current research in educational settings and can get professional feedback and advice on anything. My use of a professional blog not only enables me to reflect on my current teaching practice, sharing of ideas and resources, recent professional development and sharing matters of professional concern but also receive input and digital dialogue from a much broader spectrum of educational professionals.

Peter Albion wrote an interesting report on the use of Web 2.0 in Teacher Education in which he states; “The classroom of the Read/Write Web is one of seamless transfer of information; of collaborative, individualised learning; and of active participation by all members of the class” (Richardson, 2006, p. 127). In his view, the technologies are driving ten major shifts in education which he describes as open content, multiple teachers & 24/7 learning, social and collaborative construction of knowledge, conversation rather than lecture, know “where” learning, more active readers, web as notebook, writing beyond simple text, working towards mastery rather than the test, and striving for contribution rather than completion. 

The impact on Web 2.0 tools in education is only just beginning and it is a very exciting time to be teaching. I wonder how other teachers are using these tools in their classrooms and what successes they have had?

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