Facing the Web 2.0 Social Networks in Education

            While the Web 2.0 provides a mix of familiar and emergent technologies (Alexander, 2006), I believe that educators are facing new challenges at how to choose and integrate them into their pedagogical practices.  Nevertheless, it has become also challenging to face the Web 2.0 in education as interactivity between students is growing.   Students have to learn how to use the blogosphere in a proper and respectful manner with educators guiding them.

Digital Literacy and Online Social Networks

            Alexander (2008) has defined the Web 2.0 “as a way of creating Web pages focusing on microcontent and social connections between people.  It also exemplifies that digital content can be copied, moved, altered, remixed, and linked, based on the needs, interests, and abilities of users” (p. 151).  Readers become “visitors” (Bolter, 2001); the remediation of the reading and writing spaces in the Web is now undeniable. 

            Clearly, the openness of the Web 2.0 allows students to link onto many spaces filtering content with tags.  The flexibility and interactivity of hypertext (Bolter, 2001) also enforces the use of students’ critical thinking skills as they search for resources in order to be creative and productive citizens.  

            Further, online social networks are also part of the Web 2.0 where digital literacy is quickly maturing.  For instance, as cited by Alexander (2008), social networking such as blogging can be viewed as a “powerful stimulus for questioning personal identity, representing oneself through writing, and understanding an audience” (p. 156).  More than ever, students can create and share information with their growing audiences. 

            Moreover, using social networks enhances the online social skills students require to perform in this digital age.  As students share thoughts in multiple spaces, Alexander (2006) noted that “blogging has become, in many ways, the signature item of social software, being a form of digital writing that has grown rapidly into an influential force in many venues, both on- and off-line” (p. 38).  Indeed, the influential force Alexander (2006) refers to is showing how powerful social networking has become and why digital literacy has developed so rapidly.

            Blogging and other social networks affect the way people are interacting with their environment in which they have an influence both consciously and unconsciously. 

 Using Social Software or Social Networking Tools in the Classroom

            A diversity of social writing platforms are now supporting people’s writing and creating; they have also become spaces where people can edit others’ content (Alexander, 2008).  These new writing spaces can be used in the classroom. 

            In fact, some online tools allow browsing on topics of interest and may be helpful to enhance teaching in regular or online classes.  Also, various social software or social networking tools may be embedded and used in websites to evolve discussion (Alexander, 2006) between students and/or with educators.  The distance between people in the blogosphere does not exist and it makes it easier for everyone to discuss and share information.  

            Additionally, new forms of interactivity between various ethnic backgrounds are now possible by using social networking tools; it infers openness to the entire world and this certainly benefits the classroom by giving students numerous learning opportunities.  For instance, as suggested by Alexander (2006) “a professor might include the del.icio.us feeds from a research group and senior seminar alongside a series of blogs from colleagues around the world” (p. 42).  Indeed, educators may use networking tools pedagogically with limitless possibilities using these powerful online discussions.

 Limitation of Social Learning using the Web 2.0

             In recent years, while “our networked information ecology” (Alexander, 2006, p. 44) has been transformed by a burden of innovation coming from Web 2.0 projects that are constantly growing, it is noticeable how these projects are often coming from bottom-up, which is good news in many ways.  

            Indeed, the “Web 2.0 lowered barrier to entry may influence a variety of cultural forms with powerful implications for education, from storytelling to classroom teaching to individual learning” (Alexander, 2006, p. 42).  Interestingly, this has given access to new communities where people may not have reach opportunities and success previously.  

            However, the positive influence coming from the Web 2.0 to explore knowledge and experience resourceful collaboration is great, but it might also have its limitation.  In fact, the web space, being a place where resources are in constant transformation, people might be confronted when facing new challenges in innovation.

 Intellectual Property and Privacy Concerns

             Interestingly, ways of communicating are changing as more technologies are developing which may bring some challenges in terms of preserving information.  As data moves from space to space, it is getting more difficult to keep track of everything (Alexander, 2008).  

            Indeed, intellectual property can become an issue as content holders may find it more difficult to prove that some content belongs to them.  Moreover, it is clear that copyright violation might be done more frequently as any citizen with little knowledge in technology can access online contents at any time.  “Storytelling by blog, for example, has already appeared, as has publishing novels through podcast” (Alexander, 2006, p. 42).  Consequently, it has become crucial to teach our students not to plagiarize work found on the World Wide Web and respect people’s authorship in any form at all time.  

            Using the web might also raise the question of privacy.  Clearly, divulging our identity on the Web may be subject to consequences; educators must inform students about keeping their personal information private as one never knows who is going to read or use it.

 Conclusion

             What a great feeling it is accessing the Web 2.0, creating and sharing resources with new audiences.  However, as suggested by Bolter (2001), how can we preserve all that content to build on while it is constantly moving and changing?  How can we adapt to this unstable and what seems to be disorganized new culture?  Now, in the 21st century, is the growth of our society safe in this new environment?  We need to take a moment to face and ponder these questions.

References

Alexander, B. (2006). Web 2.0: A new wave of innovation for teaching and learning. Educase, March/April, 33-44.

Alexander, B. (2008). Web 2.0 and emergent multiliteracies.  Theory Into Practise, 47, 150-160.

Bolter, J. D. (2001). Writing space: Computers, hypertext and the remediation of print. NY: Routledge.

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