Web 2.0 is the future of education. (Hargadon, 2008)
Storytelling is a standard part of education that has taken many forms over time. In Bryan Alexander and Alan Levine’s article, Web 2.0 Emergence of a New Genre, they explore the history of Web 2.0 and its implication for storytelling. While their article effectively describes the vast possibilities for storytelling offered with Web 2.0, I was left wondering how teachers can be expected to properly guide students through storytelling lessons amidst the immeasurable vastness of the Web 2.0 world.
As Alexander and Levine explain, Web 2.0 content is rather easy to create. An individual simply needs to make some selections from menus, choose from a variety of templates, or add a page name to a pre-made wiki page (Alexander & Levine, 2008). Consequently, participation and publishing to the world becomes vastly accessible compared to the world of books and magazines. Teachers do not require an extensive knowledge of website editing and local campus web directory structures, but rather a brief lesson about blogs and wikis to begin broadcasting to the world (Alexander & Levine, 2008). Since this technology is user friendly, more attention can be focused on content. This ease has allowed the amount of rich web media and content to grow in quantity and diversity, which means there are many opportunities and methods for today’s students to use for storytelling.
Regarding social media, Alexander and Levine describe how Web 2.0 tools are built to combine microcontent from different users with shared interests. Posts, comments, bookmarks, descriptive tags, wiki authors, etc. are all different ways that Web 2.0 projects can be built by multiple people via numerous areas (Alexander & Levine, 2008). Search engines also are a major help for story creators to quickly locate related microcontent, while bookmarking allows content that has already been found to be easily retrieved (Alexander & Levine, 2008).
The ease of content creation, combined with increased social connectivity, allows for more interactions to occur and extend outside a single environment. These distributed discussions offer many entry points for readers and co-writers, which offers a new environment for storytelling (Alexander & Levine, 2008). This new world means that there are numerous new paths for teachers and students to approach when creating stories.
Typical digital storytelling follows a singular flow where the author creates a linear narrative bound to a clear story arc direction. Web 2.0 narratives can also follow is this timeline, such as podcasts. However, they can also link in multiple directions. Web 2.0 creators have many options regarding the paths they set before their users, while being fully hypertextual in its multilinearity (Alexander & Levine, 2008). At any time, the audience can also venture outside of a story to research further information from sources (Alexander & Levine, 2008). Thus, a Web 2.0 narrative can also follow paths that do not necessarily follow routes and destinations entirely generated by the story’s creator.
User-generated content is another key element Alexander and Levine explore, which can be found in Web 2.0 stories. A reader can directly contribute content into a story platform via wiki, commenting, replying, video response, etc. (Alexander & Levine, 2008). These interactions have an impact on the overall experience of the story for subsequent readers. In addition, Web 2.0 stories can be distributed and accessed across multiple sites and platforms (Alexander & Levine, 2008). Thus, Web 2.0 stories tend to expand into layers of content over top of the original story core. Original content can also be taken beyond the control of a creator to be redesigned via Web 2.0 tools to produce a completely different kind of story (Alexander & Levine, 2008). Consequently, all of these affordances mean that the boundaries of Web 2.0 stories can often be blurred at best. So how can an educator expect to focus on a student’s Web 2.0 story, which by nature is free and expanding rather than contained?
Alexander and Levine make it clear that they do not support a blanket endorsement of using Web 2.0 storytelling for all educational purposes. Rather, they feel it can be very educationally effective during certain times, and believe that new storytelling tools will emerge soon. Their recommendation for incline teachers is to, “…jump down the rabbit hole,” and explore Web 2.0 storytelling for themselves (Alexander & Levine, 2008). While I agree that exploration is a great starting point, I chose to explore for myself how other teachers have made further steps for integrating Web 2.0 storytelling with their students.
When Web 2.0 storytelling is interpreted from a pedagogical perspective, students’ digital fluency, initiative and responsibility, imagination, creativity, communication and distinct collaboration, and problem solving skills must be considered. Many teachers have shared their advice online to help other teachers reach these objectives. They recommend others to give up frontal teaching and adapt a form of activity based teaching on both group and individual work (Grosseck, 2009). Students need to be encouraged to collaborate and get involved in actively creating content and to share online information, rather than being penalized for not being independent and linear (Grosseck, 2009). Though this shift in practice aligns well with Web 2.0 tools, how can teachers keep a focus on their students’ needs and ensure they’re on task in a boundless environment?
Once teachers are confident with Web 2.0, they can provide their students with clear guidelines and expectations and then let their students lead the direction of their storytelling project. Some teachers advise to begin their unit planning with a consideration of the story objectives (character development, concept to explain, etc.), audience, and acceptable platforms (Alexander, 2008). Teachers should discuss and finalize risk controls with their students and establish a project timeline (Alexander, 2008). Assessment and expectations must be clearly stated and numerous examples should be presented to students to refer to. So in essence, managing Web 2.0 storytelling in the classroom is no different than managing most types of lessons. Teacher just need to focus on the areas they have chosen to explore with their class, with the scope being as far as the teacher is prepared to venture.
As Alexander and Levine stated, the biggest challenge teachers will face when integrating Web 2.0 storytelling is jumping down the rabbit hole. Educators online have warned others to expect a great deal of time to be set aside to familiarize yourself with Web 2.0 tools, lesson examples, rubrics, and management, all of which can be found online (teachwithweb2, 2012). For those who are ready, they will likely find themselves taking the role of a facilitator looking over the shoulder of their digital native students, rather than leading students through a step-by-step process. If this is done well, teachers will not only allow their students to learn about narratives, but also build upon their Web 2.0 skills through the age old art of storytelling.
Alexander, B. (2008). Web 2.0 storytelling overview. NITLE workshops. Retrieved November 17, 2012 from http://www.slideshare.net/BryanAlexander/web-20-storytelling-overview#btnNext
Alexander, B., and Levine, A. (2008). Web 2.0 story-telling: The emergence of a new genre. Educause Review. 43(6), 40-56. Retrieved November 17, 2012, from http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ERM0865.pdf
Grosseck, G. (2009). To use or not to use web 2.0 in higher education? Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences 1, 478–482. Retrieved November 16, 2012, from http://webpages.csus.edu/~sac43949/pdfs/to%20use%20or%20not%20to%20use.pdf
Hargadon, S. (2008). Web 2.0 is the future of education. Web 2.0 Labs. Retrieved November 17, 2012, from http://www.stevehargadon.com/2008/03/web-20-is-future-of-education.html
Teachwithweb2. (2012). Digital Stories. Wikispaces.com Retrieved November 17, 2012, from https://teachwithweb2.wikispaces.com/Digital+Storytelling