Web 2.0 and cultural transformations

Today learners use words in different formats (e.g., on paper, images, audio files, weblogs, video editors, web editors, presentation software, instant messaging etc). All these formats can be integrated within one product when users interact through Web 2.0. According to Alexander (2008), Web 2.0 is a way of creating web pages based on microcontent and social connections between people.

Learners increasingly use Web 2.0 and develop new structures of mind and literacies. For this reason, educators are exploring and developing new ways of teaching (Alexander, 2008, p. 151). However, K-12 institutions are often behind the evolution and management of Web 2.0. Alexander exemplifies this by representing how the current classrooms are constructed physically and socially along decades old patterns (Alexander, 2008, p. 152). Sir Ken Robinson (2011) and Marc Prensky (2001) sustain that we must redefine the way in which we think about and we practice education, in order to promote in our students creativity and allow them to develop the skills and values that they will need in the future. According to Prensky we should ask ourselves how to approach to the current languages and needs of students by implementing and old curriculum. Prensky argues that we need to come close to ours students’ forms of communication in order to engage them with learning. If we are teaching based on outdated methods we are not considering our students’ learning needs. Probably our learning outcomes will not be achieved.

Web 2.0 is one example of how we can approach to our students needs. According to Alexander (2008) Web 2.0 is composed of:

  1. Social software and social networking (e.g. blogs, wikis, podcasting, and videoblogs).
  2. Microcontent: small content that does not require a great effort from users to deliver (e.g. building a page layout, designing menus or developing a look and feel).
  3. Social filtering.: multiple-authored works, social connection, openness and combination of microcontent into another.

Alexander presents some examples of Web 2.0 (e.g. Social Bookmarking, and CMS) in order to illustrate its pedagogical potentials and possible disadvantages. According to Alexander, one of the major effects of Web 2.0 is that learners are developing dual digital literacies. Some authors speak of digital literacy or multiliteracies (NLG, 1996). Indeed today students (digital natives of Marc Prensky) are developing new ways of communicating, viewing and understanding the world. New London Group (NLG, 1996) claims that youngsters have developed new designs and formats in the way of producing and sharing content: our students not only create content through text, but also do so through audio-visual components. The integration of these components in consumption and distribution of content has led to the development of a new way of understanding. The latter has caused a transformation in the structure of our language to multiple forms of literacy (multiliteracies). Alexander, NLG, Prensky and Robinson encourage educators to adapt their methodologies, design and content to the way of thinking of the new “net.generation” by expanding their prior technological skills in order to address the new literacies that Web 2.0 involves, foster creativity, and guide our students in their formation for the future.

In his chapter, “Hyperlink, the instability of the text”, James O’ Donnel argues that before the relative stability of printing, texts were often labile and reliable (O’Donnel, 1999, p. 44). Text technologies have evolved in new forms of writing and reading (e.g., hypertext or electronic text). According to O’Donnel hypertext is transforming its stable nature into an instable one. The latter brings negative effects on the organization of texts, which makes more difficult to preserve information over time. Today, technologies are evolving and transforming so fast that the world “promise rapid replacement of what we have” (O’Donnel, 1999, p. 45). The abundance of word-processing formats has generated a large amount of forms of text (e.g. PDF, HTML, SGML) that represent a very different conception of how text may be arranged and designed. On his time, O’Donnel predicts the advent of Web 2.0: “Give us another generation and surely vast quantities of information will slip away from us this way”. Like any technology, Web 2.0 might bring positive and negative effects. Therefore, its use in education can offer benefits or disadvantages, depending on the way in which educators use them in their practices.

Bryan Alexander and Alan Levine (2008) argue that digital networks and social media are transforming the way in which we think about and practice storytelling. Stories now are open-ended, branching, hyperlinked, cross-media, participatory, exploratory, and unpredictable (Alexander & Levine, 2008, p. 40). According to the authors, Web 2.0 is composed of microcontent, social media and findability (ability to offer comprehensive search). Storytelling is a complex concept that can be either fiction or non-fiction.

Web 2.0 has broadened the concept of storytelling by giving to the author the power of representing multiple possibilities and formats. Within Web 2.0, there are new forms of expression that has allowed storytelling to evolve from narrating stories to consisting of practices through the Web (Alexander & Levine, 2008, p. 47). Considering this, all the interactions held through Web 2.0 are part of storytelling. The nature of this activity has transformed, which implies changes in its structure, authoring and distribution. Web 2.0 stories have placed the possibility of multi-authored content. The combination of social media and microcontent facilitates the redistribution of stories across multiple sites. Web 2.0 storytelling is a distributed art form that can range beyond the immediate control of a creator.

Web 2.0 has transformed different aspects of our culture. All authors analyzed here speak of the need to rethink the structure of our educational system in order to build an education that addresses the cultural transformations that our students have been developing. This new conception about education should move us towards creativity, autonomous learning and collaborative construction of knowledge within the integration of new technologies.


Alexander, B (2008). Web 2.0 and Emrgent Multiliteracies. Theory into Practice 47(2), 150-160. Retrieved October 23, 2011, from http://dx.dol.org/10.1080/00405840801992371

Alexander, B, Lvine, A. (2008). Web 2.0. Storytelling. Emergence of a New Genre. Educause Retrieved November 11, 2011 from http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ERM0865.pdf

NLG (1996). A pedagogy for Multiliteracies. Harvard Educational Review 66(1). 60-92

O’Donnel, J (1999). Hyperlink, the instability of the text. In: Avatars of the word. From Papyrus to Cyberspace. Cambrdige: Harvard University Press. 44-49.

Prensky, M (2001). Digital Natives Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon 9(5). 1-6.

Robinson, S.K. (2011). Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative. West Sussex: Capstone.

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