The Changing Spaces of Reading and Writing

Web 2.0 tools: educational friend or foe?

Commentary #3 ~ K. Kerrigan

After reading Bryan Alexander’s article, “Web 2.0 A New Wave of Innovation for Teaching and Learning? (2006), my assumption that I was a teacher who was “with the times” came suddenly crashing down. Alexander gives even a modest techie a run-down on what Web 2.0 can now offer. As a teacher, one must ask: are these tools an educational friend or foe? Within the classroom, the importance of using Web 2.0 tools, such as social networking, has a mixed reaction among educational professionals. Walling (2009) points to two different camps in education, those who think that social networking is a distraction to the education process, and those who see this tool as way to exchange ideas and enhance the education process. Motteram and Sharma (2009) discuss that by using Web 2.0 tools it allows students to be social in many sorts of ways: textually, orally, visually, and aurally.  For example, podcasting, weblogs, wikis, Skype, Google Docs, and chat programs like MSN Messenger. “The process of creating Web 2.0 materials involves the engagement of a community, consisting of developers who create tools and the users who produce the content using a range of digital technologies” (Motteram & Sharma, 2009, p. 88). Current debate is whether those users should be students within a classroom.

Why would a teacher want to use these tools?

Alexander states that “ …Openness remains a hallmark of [the Web 2.0] emergent movement, both ideologically and technologically” (Alexander, 2006, p.34). For today’s students, this openness is an easy task, whereas for teachers and parents it is a bit harder to grasp. This open, social environment can be conducive to learning with the right teacher and the right tools.  “Tech-savvy teachers who work with students to produce media will find that openness to exploring Web 2.0 strategies for idea networking and creative sharing can be highly productive” (Walling, 2009, p. 23). One might argue that it shouldn’t just be those ‘tech-savvy teachers’ who utilize these resources. Are other students and entire schools missing out on Web 2.0 and what it has to offer? For benefit of all students,  it will require for some teachers to move away from their technophobia and worries about the constant sharing of information.

Motteram and Sharma (2009) state that  “…when we stop seeing such technologies as somehow extras and when they blend into the background, they will have become as accepted as books are now, as a part of the classroom furniture” (p. 86).Teachers must first look at the inherent value of these tools and the effect it will have on their students. Web 2.0 responds more deeply to its users versus Web 1.0. As Motteram and Sharma (2009) declare, “Web 1.0 tools deliver information to people, Web 2.0 tools allow the active creation of information by users”  (p. 88).  Students are a lot more social today with the utilization of these tools. For many, it is almost second nature to blog, bookmark, or tag something for themselves and for their peer community to view. Within the classroom these tools, especially social networking sites, create a new and exciting environment for the students. “It enables the face-to-face class to be extended in various kinds of ways and also extends the time that the students spend on tasks” (Motteram & Sharma, 2009, p. 90). Students are also encouraged to be more collaborative within this environment. This can be accomplished by using wikis or weblogs.  As Alexander reminds us that “these services offer an alternative platform for peer editing, supporting the now-traditional elements of computer-mediated writing-asynchronous writing…” (2006, p.38). Editing, reading, and writing are affected when a student uses one of these tools. When they realize that their peers are going to be reading their work (via a weblog or wiki), many students create work surpassing that done within the f2f classroom. The changing face of literacy in today’s classroom also allows for the student to become the author, the producer and the critic of text. They are now active learners with these technologies, rather than passive consumers of text (Handsfield, Dean & Cielocha, 2009).  Having students who are active learners, who are passionate about literacy, and who want to post their work, means that the teacher can spend more time supporting and encouraging their students rather than fighting them on basic assignments.

In short, Web 2.0 tools need to be embraced by all teachers within the classroom. It will not only enhance their curriculum, but excite and motivate all students. Web 2.0 tools are friend to the teacher and ultimately the student, offering a plethora of resources and opportunity for collaboration among peers globally.


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

Cox, E. (2009). The Collaborative Mind: Tools for 21st-Century Learning. MultiMedia & Internet@Schools, 16(5), 10-14. Retrieved on November 26, 2009 from Academic Search Complete database.

Handsfield, L., Dean, T., & Cielocha, K. (2009). Becoming Critical Consumers and Producers of Text: Teaching Literacy with Web 1.0 and Web 2.0. Reading Teacher, 63(1), 40-50. Retrieved on November 26, 2009 from Academic Search Complete database.

Motteram, G., & Sharma, P. (2009). Blending Learning in a Web 2.0 World. International Journal of Emerging Technologies & Society, 7(2), 83-96. Retrieved on November 26, 2009 from Academic Search Complete database.

Walling, D. (2009). Idea Networking and Creative Sharing. TechTrends: Linking Research & Practice to Improve Learning, 53(6), 22-23. Retreived on November 26, 2009 from doi:10.1007/s11528-009-0339-x.


1 Clare Roche { 11.30.09 at 7:28 pm }

You make some interesting points, but who will evaluate which “Web 2.0 tools” students and teachers should use and who will train the teachers in their use?

2 Drew Murphy { 12.02.09 at 11:24 pm }

Hi Kelly: I like your enthusiasm for the potential of web 2.0. Your Motteram and Sharma quote,

“when we stop seeing such technologies as somehow extras and when they blend into the background, they will have become as accepted as books are now, as a part of the classroom furniture”

is, I think, at the heart of your essay. I keep wondering if the current crop of web 2.0 is close enough to becoming “furniture”. Most of the tools aren’t specifically aimed at classrooms. It makes me wonder if we really need classroom 2.0 tools.

Thought provoking paper!


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