Commentary #3 – Alexander’s Web 2.0: A New Wave of Innovation for Teaching and Learning? and Web 2.0: Storytelling, Emergence of a New Genre

Alexander (2008) defines the Web 2.0 as a way of creating Web pages focusing on microcontent and social connections between people, which exemplify that digital content can be copied, moved, altered, remixed, and linked, based on the needs, interests and abilities of users. Microcontent refers to small bits of data (usually, text or visuals) that are posted on a Web page where users can respond to the data through conversation, including their approval, or disapproval of it. According to Solomon and Schrum (2007), Web 2.0 has “morphed from static HTML pages where readers could find and copy information to interactive services, where visitors can create and post information.” They include that Web 2.0 tools transition users from isolation to interconnectedness. Alexander adds that Web 2.0 platforms are organized around people and their interests, instead of hierarchies and directory trees. Solomon and Shrum list some features of the transition from the old Web 1.0 to the new semantic Web 2.0 as Web-based, collaborative, online, free, open source, as well as having shared content and multiple collaborators. Schools and teachers are striving, and sometimes struggling, to teach students with Web 2.0 tools in their classrooms in an attempt to remain current and give students every technological advantage possible. Twenty-first century skills, including Web 2.0 tools, are proving difficult to teach as schools struggle to keep up with technological innovation. Web 2.0 has become a part of our everyday lives as we use the technology to interact and connect with those around us, which in turn, is making our online interactions more human.

The New London Group (1996) noted that the Web needed to overcome regional and ethnical bounds, creating a community of learners. Web 2.0 tools currently accomplish this community through common literacy, reflection, and feedback mostly from anonymous visitors. Solomon and Schrum (2007) suggest 21st century literacy skills include Web 2.0 use in the teaching of content areas like global awareness, financial literacy and health awareness. They go on to expand on how today’s students are surrounded by Web 2.0 tools; schools need to teach students how to use these tools to acquire new skills, not just play with them. Today’s kids are surrounded by websites and Smartphone apps such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and Wikipedia. They use these Web 2.0 tools to socialize with friends, follow the news, research school projects, and communicate with each other. These programs are constantly changing as the users mature and new technologies become available. Evidence of how Web 2.0 creates a community has been observed lately as it has assisted in political uprisings and social change. As more people and businesses find ways to apply Web 2.0 tools they become solidified parts of our technological society.

Web 2.0 is continually evolving as the collective users overcome hurdles such as online information storage, security issues (Solomon and Schrum, 2007), computer crime, and low publishing standards (Alexander and Levine, 2008). As with any online platform, there are some inequalities among users and programs. Bates and Poole (2003) address these inequalities in technology through their SECTIONS framework. They explore how each portion of their framework (Students, Ease of Use, Cost, Teaching and Learning, Interaction and Interactivity, Organization, Novelty and Speed) needs addressing before educators can effectively use them in their teaching. Some Web 2.0 tools are not appropriate for academia, as Alexander (2006) suggests, and institutions often block sites, as they feel students cannot use the tools effectively, without distraction. These reasons may be why some educators are reluctant to use Web 2.0 tools at all in their classrooms. Solomon and Schrum (2007) argue that these tools need to be fostered as they, “promote creativity, collaboration, and communication, and they dovetail the learning methods in which these skills play a part.” They go on to support their stand by adding, “The new way is collaborative, with information shared, discussed, refined with others, and understood deeply.” Twenty-first century students are immersed in technology at home, but often suffer a lack of it at school, where they are forced to write with pen and paper without links or visuals. Many students may become bored, uncreative, and complacent because of little or archaic technology in their classes. These are all real issues that educators and students face in these uncertain technological times. Ironically, Web 2.0 tools can help us discuss these issues in education and we can collectively find solutions to the problems at hand.

Web 2.0 may not be here to stay, but many aspects of it are making technology more human in its features. They way humans connect with each other, explore their surroundings, approach tasks and even process information are becoming mirrored in technology use. The more human-like technology becomes, the more apt we are to use it as a society. Web 2.0 is no exception. As we catalogue, tag, and share information we become a part of the technology that we use. I echo Alexander’s (2008) closing remarks where he invites educators to, “give Web 2.0 storytelling a try and see what happens.” You will never know what is behind a closed door until you step over the threshold.

References

Alexander, B. (2006). Web 2.0: A new wave of innovation for innovation for teaching and learning. Educause Review. March-April, 2008.

Alexander, B. (2009). Web 2.0 and emergent multiliteracies, theory into practice. National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education. 47(2). p. 150-160.

Alexander, B. & Levine, A. (2008). Web 2.0: Storytelling, emergence of a new game. Educause Review. November-December, 2008.

Bates, A.W. & Poole, G. (2003). Effective teaching with technology in higher education: Foundations for Success. New York. Wiley, John and Sons Incorporated. P. 75-105.

Bolter, J.D. (2001). Writing Space: Computers, hypertext, and the remediation of print. Mahway, NJ. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Solomon, G. & Schrum, L. (2007). Web 2.0: New tools, new schools. International Society for Technology in Education. Washington, DC.

The New London Group. (1996). A pedagogy of multiliteracies: Designing social futures. Harvard Educational Review. 66(1). p. 60-92.

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