Dec 7, 2006

Web 2.0 in education?

The latest term everyone seems to shouting on the street corners is Web 2.0. There is even talk of it being the new great thing for the classroom. This may very well be, but what is Web 2.0 and why do people see the importance of it?

The largest problem of Web 2.0 is that it is often presented as, and people assume, that it is some kind of technological standard. This isn't the case. The technology that is behind Web 2.0 has existed and been in use a long time before the term Web 2.0 was coined. To put it simply, Web 2.0 is what a few people called the natural (technical) evolution that has taken place in technology and use of the internet since the collapse. More and more sites and tools have come out that allow the sharing of information and resources, the collaboration and cooperation between individuals on the internet, and the idea that this sinformation and participation is controlled by the users themselves.

Common examples of these are wikis and blogs, but it is far from limited to these. Many services and systems have been introduced that draw on the same ideology: youtube, flickr,
elgg.... So, Web 2.0 isn't a technology in the respect we are familiar with. It's an umbrella term meant to cover the sociocultural developement in technology, and use of this technology that has been observed.

But how does this play a role in the classroom? The key here is that learning takes place in a social environment. Even in the classroom students are often encouraged to work together to solve problems in order to gain insight into other possible solutions or views of the subject matter. It can than be concluded that a social environment on the internet can be used to enhance learning, and possibly even further engage students in their own education.

Wikis could allow collaboration on assignments remotely, and in a manner that allows changes without the need to cooperate at any given time. Changes are reviewable more directly and easily that several versions of seperate documents that is traditionally used. In addition, publishing of this information on the internet allows for feedback from people outside of the group doing the actual work. Blogs work in much the same manner, but can be seen as individual work allowing feedback. This feedback can be used by the author(s) for further consideration of the published work, and as such leads to more thinking and more learning about the subject matter. This has to be a good thing, right?

In general, yes. But like any tool used for educational purposes it's use must be considered, advantages and disadvantages weighed, and the right tool needs to be used for the right job.

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