The Changing Spaces of Reading and Writing

Commentary #3: Web 2.0 Collaborative Learning

In “Web 2.0: A New Wave of Innovation for Teaching and Learning?”, Bryan Alexander (2006) examines how social software has become an important part of Web 2.0 enabling people to connect with other people all over the world. Alexander (2006) compares social software applications to “static or database-driven web pages” (p.32) whereby users can modify social software sites such as wikis, but can only read information on static web pages (p.32). Web 2.0 builds on the microcontent that users have been creating for years and enables them to develop “web content often collaboratively and often open to the world” (p.34). Alexander (2006) emphasizes the importance of Web 2.0 users being information architects who create microcontent in an open environment (p.34).

Alexander (2006) then describes and compares the various types of Web 2.0 tools that exist. Folksonomy is a type of metadata that users assign to data to tag it so that it can be easily identified, retrieved, and shared with others (p.34).

Social bookmarking is a “service for storing, describing, and sharing bookmarks” (Alexander, 2006, p.34) that plays an important role from a teaching and learning perspective because social bookmarking allows for “collaborative information discovery” (p.36). Social bookmarking is also beneficial because it provides a location to post links and facilitates networking with peers who share common interests which can lead to collaborative learning with others. It also offers new perspectives on one’s research: “as clusters and tags reveal patterns” (p.36). In addition, for groups who are collaborating on a project, each member can upload their own bookmarks to a central location without being co-located and an instructor can easily track their students’ “progress in their research” (p.36).

The wiki is the best Web 2.0 tool for facilitating social interactions and collaborations (p.36). In addition, some Web 2.0 tools exist to enable users to create websites using user-friendly graphical user interfaces (p.38). These tools are similar to wikis in that they offer social interactions like wikis, but differ in that they are more user-friendly than wikis and identify the authors (p.38). From a teaching and learning perspective, wikis and these websites that exist for creating websites easily promote collaborative work environments where many people can work together on group assignments (p.38).

Blogging is an important tool for digital writing and there are various search services that exist to “let users search for content within blogs” (p.38). From a teaching and learning perspective, creating blog entries and the ability to search for blog entries enables students and teachers to track a search throughout a semester (p.40).

Blogdex and other similar sites combine news and social software to enable people who share a common interest in news stories to connect with each other. These sites contain powerful search engines that “enhance the pedagogy of current events” (p.40) enabling classes to explore the various perspectives contained in these sites (p.40).

Although in closing Alexander (2006) is hopeful and excited about the prospect of Web 2.0 tools continuing to evolve and offer easy to use social collaborative environments in which to teach and learn, he raises concerns about IT support being an issue and copyright violations posing a problem as well in the future (p.42).

Dalsgaard (2006) concurs with Alexander (2006) that Web 2.0 tools offer innovative ways for teaching and learning: “social software tools can support a social constructivist approach to e-learning by providing students with personal tools and engaging them in social networks” (p.2). However, Dalsgaard (2006) recommends that social software tools be designed specifically to support learning considering the fact that social software such as wikis, weblogs and social bookmarking were not developed with teaching and learning in mind (p.9).

Uribe, Klein, and Sullivan (2003) examined the effects of learners first learning a four-step problem solving process on their own through an eLearning course. Then, they examined the same learners working in computer-mediated pairs or alone to apply the four-step problem solving process to a problem-based learning exercise. The learners who worked in pairs using a computer-mediated collaborative environment: a chat room in a virtual classroom hosted through a learning management system did better than the students who worked on the same problem alone. As a result, “the study indicates that computer mediated collaborative learning is a more effective strategy when teaching problem-solving skills than is individual learning” (p.17).

When it comes to computer supportive collaborative learning, Lou, Abrami, and d’Apollonia (2001) affirm that learners learn better when they collaborate in groups of 3 to 5 people either asynchronously or synchronously as opposed to learning on their own “by comparing alternative interpretations and solutions, correcting each other’s misconceptions, forming a more holistic picture of the problem if the task is complex, or simply pooling resources” (p.479).

Clark and Mayer (2008) also state that synchronous and asynchronous social software help facilitate group collaborations for learners in e-Learning courses: “chats, breakout rooms in virtual classrooms, wikis, blogs, and discussion boards offer a variety of channels for online collaboration” (p.259). Similarly, Bennet and Bennet (2006) state that a learning management system (LMS) facilitates learning by providing social software applications within the LMS for collaboration and sharing of knowledge amongst learners (p.4).


Regardless of whether Web 2.0 asynchronous and synchronous social software applications are located within a learning management system or on the Internet, they offer wonderful tools for facilitating collaborative learning without learners needing to be co-located. In addition, learning in small groups with social software has proven to be a better method for learning than learning on one’s own due to the rich collaborative environments that these applications provide to their learners.


Alexander, B. (2006). Web 2.0: A New Wave of Innovation for Teaching and Learning? EDUCAUSE Review, 41, (2), 32-44.

Bennet A. & Bennet D. (2008). e-Learning as energetic learning. The journal of information and knowledge management systems, 38, (2), 1-12.

Clark, R. C., & Mayer, R. E. (2008). e-Learning and the Science of Instruction: Pfeiffer San Francisco.

Dalsgaard, C. (2006). Social software: E-learning beyond learning management systems. European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning, (2), 1-11.

Lou, Y., Abrami, P.C., & d’Apollonia, S. (2001). Small group and individual learning with technology: A meta-analysis.  Review of Educational Research, 71 (3), 449-521.

Uribe, D., Klein, J.D., & Sullivan, H. (2003). The effect of computer-mediated collaborative learning on solving ill-defined problems. Educational Technology Research and Development, 51 (1), 5-19


1 Clare Roche { 11.29.09 at 4:01 pm }

An interesting commentary. I have just one question. How were the students evaluated?

2 Maureen Coyne { 12.01.09 at 10:05 am }

Uribe, Klein, and Sullivan (2003) used a rubric to assess the answers of 4 essay questions that mirrored the 4-step problem solving process. Each learner regardless of whether they were working alone or in pairs needed to submit their own answers so that they could be individually assessed (p.9).

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