The Changing Spaces of Reading and Writing

Commentary # 3

Is Web 2.0 Selling out the Younger Generation?

Commentary # 3

By David Berljawsky

Submitted to Prof. Miller

Nov 29, 2009

There is one underlying theme that involves technology and text education that I need to touch upon. Are we sabotaging the upcoming generation with the way that we teach technology? Or is it the opposite and we are actually giving them the proper tools to succeed? It is possible that in the shift to modern web 2.0 technologies we are neglecting to educate about the simplest things that we take for granted? This can include key knowledge’s such as social skills, communication and even basic literacy? Students are engaged in the web 2.0 process like never before. These technologies are creative based and offer the user a newfound ability to edit and modify information to fit into their respective wants and needs.  According to Alexander “In American K-12 education, students increasingly accept these kinds of technology-driven information structures and the literacies that flow from them (Alexander, P.2).” To me this quote acts as a double edged sword. Students are engaged in the new literacies (web 2.0) like never before, but are these new literacies appropriate and conducive to meeting proper educational standards? Or do they simply aid in creating an individualist society that is lacking a sense of community? This paper will examine some of the positive and negative aspects that occur when Web 2.0 is taught without providing the proper scaffolding. This commentary will examine its potential consequences both socially and educationally.

One needs to examine the benefits of these technologies and understand their positive influences before one can criticize them. According to the New London Group, in its article “A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures, “As a result, the meaning of literacy pedagogy has changed. Local diversity and global connectedness mean not only that there can be no standard; they also mean that the most important skill students need to learn is to negotiate regional; ethnic, or class-based dialects… (New London, P.8).”  This melds together education, literacy and even community in a newfound manner. It is a mix-up or mash-up of sorts. Students are required, due to the changing landscape of the world and technology to concentrate on learning communication skills with other cultures in an online environment. One would assume that this is a positive and worthwhile endeavour to achieve towards. However, this can increase the creation of a more macro centered community. This will only increase the affects of globalization and prevent local communities from prospering and expressing themselves.

One benefit in using these technologies is that students are likely engaged in the process and the multicultural aspirations of our society. These are promoted like never before. However I can think of an obvious negative aspect. There is little actual social interaction. In Web 2.0 social interaction is promoted through websites that offer social networking in an online environment.  This certainly does have its benefits.  “Web 2.0’s 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, P.42).” What may occur is a socially constructed generational divide. Generation A’s perceived culturally appropriate way of communication (web 2.0) will conflict with the older generation who still use older technologies. This makes me think of an Orwellian future where we communicate entirely through electronic means, where physical interaction is seen as being against the norm. This is somewhat true already in our use of technologies such as Facebook and MySpace, where people communicate more through them then with old fashioned telephones. We are currently text electronically instead of talking with our own voices. Educators need to be aware of this paradigm shift and change their practices accordingly.

Another danger in using web 2.0 and modern computer technologies in the classroom occurs when the educators do not educate the students about why they are learning these new technologies. Simply providing the student with a blog or a wiki and expecting them to formulate appropriate arguments and concepts is unlikely to happen without the proper scaffolding. “They don’t link ideas,” the teacher says, “They just write one thing, and then they write another one, and they don’t develop the relationships between them (Dobson & Willinsky, p.3).” This can be seen as a failure in the education system. Regardless of one views of technology use in the classroom it still remains an imperative process to educate students about the proper forms of literacy and writing. Without the proper knowledge and skills communication with older generations can be difficult, especially in the workplace.

There is an inherent danger in education that occurs when any form of technology becomes dominant. What is previously seen as integral and important becomes seen as archaic and becomes lost. Educators need to allow the younger generation to develop the multiliteracies and computer intelligence needed to proceed in their career paths without ignoring teaching the traditional educational foundations. That is a huge challenge. Educators need to accept that the younger generation has different forms of communications and multiliteracies and adjust accordingly. Both educators and students need to respect the knowledge being transmitted. “We have our unique ways of knowing, teaching and learning which are firmly grounded in the context of our ways of being. And yet we are thrust into the clothes of another system designed for different bodies, and we are fed ideologies which serve the interests of other peoples (Donovan, P.96).”

If we do not accept this evolution and work on actually decreasing the social and communicative gap between the generations the divide will only be extended. The generations will have trouble relating with the each other both socially and in the workplace. This might ultimately lead to both generations harbouring feeling of resentment because they feel that their leanings and ideologies are being put down and disvalued.


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

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

New London Group. (1996). A pedagogy of multiliteracies: Designing social futures. Harvard Educational Review, 66(1), 60-92. Retrieved, August 15, 2009, from

Dobson, Teresa, & John Willinsky (2009).  Digital Literacy. (OlsonD., TorranceN., Ed.). Cambridge Handbook on Literacy. [Book Chapter]

Donovan, Michael (2007). “Can Information Communication Technological Tools be Used to Suit Aboriginal Learning Pedagogies?” Published in “Information Technology and Indigenous People”. Editied by Dyson, Laurel. Hendriks, Max and Grant, Stephan. Idea Group. USA. 2007.

1 comment

1 Clare Roche { 11.29.09 at 3:10 pm }

I think you make some very vaild points. I am just concerned that at every stage we should be careful to evaluate the changes we make.

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