The Changing Spaces of Reading and Writing

Web 2.0



Bryan Alexander’s article “Web 2.0: A new wave of innovation for teaching and learning” relays the emergence and importance of Web 2.0 in information discovery. It highlights a number of important aspects of Web 2.0 including social networking, microcontent, openness, and folksonomy, and than continues on to describe how it can enhance pedagogical ideologies. Each of these characteristics will be examined below.

Information on the Internet is presented in a variety of ways. Graphics and multi-media now define the Web, challenging the very definition of literacy. Information flows in numerous directions and paths offering the ‘reader’ or ‘visitor’ multi-layered information. Web 2.0 is based on interactions between people in asynchronous and synchronous communication, offering flexability and accomodation. This has a significant impact on our society, education system and our culture.


There is much debate over the definition of Web 2.0. Alexander (2008) defines Web 2.0 as “…a way of creating Web pages focusing on microcontent and social connections between people” (Alexander, 2008, p. 151). Wikepedia defines Web 2.0 as “…commonly associated with web applications which facilitate interactive information sharing, interoperability, user-centered design and collaboration on the World Wide Web” (Wikepedia, 2009). Many argue that this is not something that is a recent technological invention, but more of an evolution of sorts.

Social Networks

Social networking is one of the major characteristics of Web 2.0. This includes listservs, Usenet groups, discussion software, groupware, Web-based communities, blogs, wikis, podcasts, and videoblogs, which includes MySpace, Facebook and Youtube (Alexander, 2008). Facebook alone has thousands of users, allowing people to stay connected using a variety of methods.

 “Social bookmarking is a method for Internet users to share, organize, search, and manage bookmarks of web resources” (Wikepedia, 2009). Social bookmarking and networking are constantly evolving, changing and metamorphing ways to acquire knowledge and stay connected. It allows various people from around the world to bond together and engage, where otherwise this would not be possible. It enlarges the definition of community and links people by topic, concerns, human interest, educational needs, political perspectives, etc. For example, Twitter allows people to instantly communicate with their ‘followers’. This type of social networking was used recently during the American Presidential campaign to keep voters and constituants in touch. Instant messaging allows spontaneous contact with others, which is strongly associated with the characteristics of immediacy within our society.


One critical aspect of social networking is microcontent. Microcontent is an important building block of the Web as information is in bite size pieces that can be accumulated, edited, manipulated and saved. Microcontent allows participants to contribute small pieces of information that can take little time and energy, is easy to use, and provides foundational pieces to web pages. An example of this is Blogs and Wikis.


Another characteristic that Blogs and Wikis share is openness and accessibility. Openness is “…a hallmark of this emergent movement, both ideologically and technologically” (Alexander, 2006, p. 34).  Users are considered the foundation in this information architecture (Alexander, 2006), and therefore play a pivotal role in developing, creating and designing spaces. Participation is key and Web 2.0 encourages openness and participation from all.


“A folksonomy is a system of classification derived from the practice and method of collaboratively creating and managing tags to annotate and categorize content” (Wikepedia, 2009). Managing tags and collecting information from peers is an important aspect of social networking and Web 2.0. Tags and hyperlinks are two of the most important inventions of the last 50 years (Kelly, 2006). By linking pages each book can refer to multiple other books. References and text are endlessly linked to each other, creating exponential knowledge.

Pedagogical Implications

There are many pedagogical implications that come with the advent of Web 2.0. A list of beneficial websites, ideas and tools for teaching with Web 2.0 applications were put together by myself, using Webslides, and can be found at These tools can be a valuable asset in the classroom. 

Social bookmarking can play a role in “collaborative information discovery” (Alexander, 2006, p. 36) allowing students to connect with others, follow links and research references. It can also enhance student group learning, build on collaborative knowledge and assist in peer editing (Alexander, 2006).

“The rich search possibilities opened up by these tools can further enhance the pedagogy of current events” (Alexander, 2006, p. 40).  This allows students to follow a search over weeks, semester or a year (Alexander, 2006). The ability to analyze how information, a story or an idea changes over time allows collaboration between classes and departments and provides the ability to track progress (Alexander, 2006).

Wikis and Blogs can chronicle student’s development over a semester, provide occasions for partnering and discussion, and provide opportunities to practice literacy skills and communication techniques. Blogs and Wikis can give each student a voice and provide equal opportunities for all participants. Storytelling provides creativity and allows students the opportunity to tell their own story. Chat can develop critical thinking skills while podcasting and voicethread can develop opportunities for documentation and interaction.

 The interactivity that Web 2.0 offers encourages group productivity and consultation. Projects like connecting students with real-time astronauts or with sister schools in another country heightens learner interest. Whether it is Science fairs or projects, English literature, history or social studies, Web 2.0 can enhance the multiple aspects of the learning paradigm.

Alexander’s arguments are compelling, however, he does not address the downside of Web 2.0. This would include cyberbullying, cyber-predators, web cameras used for pornography, and the unreliability of the Internet. Accessibility and openness is all inclusive, meaning right and wrong information can be contributed. Learners need to be taught how to find reliable sources on the Web while sifting through mountains of information with a critical eye. The Internet is a Pandora box of sorts – the good comes with the evil. Not every technology and Web innervation has acceptable pedagogical implications, or can be used appropriately in the classroom. Applications can be unstable, come with technical issues, and can be cost prohibitive for those that come with licenses.  Applications are tools to be used to assist in learning and not to replace exceptional teaching methods. However, even with multiple tools available, teachers may not use them as they may not be available for every class, they do not have the knowledge to use them, or find them too time consuming.

The Future

The future of Web 2.0 is Web 3.0, which will be a highly interactive and user-friendly version. The advancement of the above characteristics will ideally enhance applications that are already being used, and provide new applications/opportunities for learning. Skills that are developed in the classroom now will prepare students with the necessary skills that they will require in their future workplaces.


The evolution of the Web will continue to ebb and flow and evolve over time, bringing learners and creators together (Alexander, 2006). Gone are the days of ‘reading’ web pages, which are now designed to be more interactive and purposeful, inundating the user with myriads of information. The availability of social networking, microcontent, folksonomy and openness on the Web will continue to provide learners and educators with multiple learning opportunities. With guidance from the educator, learners can be provided with positive learning outcomes, while using multi-layered applications.


Alexander, B. (2006). Web 2.0: A new wave of innovation for teaching and learning? Educause Review, 41(2), 34-44. Retrieved April 5, 2008, from

Alexander, B. (2008).Web 2.0 and Emergent Multiliteracies. Theory into practice.47(2), 150-60. Retrieved July 20, 2009, from

Kelly, K. (May 2006). Scan this Book. The New York Times.

Wikepedia. (2009). Folksonomy. Retrieved November 11, 2009 from

Wikepedia. (2009). Social bookmarking. Retrieved November 11, 2009 from

Wikipedia. (2009). Web 2.0. Retrieved November 11, 2009 from

1 comment

1 Clare Roche { 11.29.09 at 3:17 pm }

The problem I suspect is who will train the teachers.

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