In most schools in the western world the internet, or web, has become an integral part of education. The internet has created a global world that is interconnected in a way that we never thought possible; however, the early applications of the web, Web 1.0, were such that users could view webpages, but there were a relatively small number of people that were authors. For most, whilst the web was intriguing, it became simply another source of information. Today we have transitioned to a different type of web, Web 2.0. While it is difficult to give a simple answer as to what the differences are between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 one of the key ideas is that “with Web 2.0 we don’t just use the internet we interact with it” (Josay, n.d.). Instead of just using the internet to view webpages and obtain information we now have the ability to interact with that information and with its various authors. This type of social, interactive experience is one of the reasons that Web 2.0 tools are becoming popular in the field of education. Another reason that Web 2.0 is important to the field of education, at all levels, is its ability to aid teachers in differentiating instruction in their classrooms.
In ‘Web 2.0: A New Wave of Innovation for Teaching and Learning,’ Bryan Alexander discusses in detail how Web 2.0 tools such as wikis, blogs, social bookmarking sites and social writing platforms are being used in higher education. Although we cannot yet say that these tools are being used in all K-12 settings, it is apparent that these types of social software are becoming more and more common in elementary, middle and secondary classrooms. Social software such as blogs, wikis, podcasting and social networking sites like facebook and twitter are very popular among our K-12 students. Not only are they highly motivated to use these tools in their own personal lives, to interact with others, most are intrigued and willing to learn about how to use these tools in an educational way.
Blogging is one of the Web 2.0 tools that I use on a regular basis in my grade six classroom. For most subjects, I have created a blog space on our class website and I often post questions, ideas, or quotes for students to discuss. It has been fascinating to see how students use the blog space to collaborate and share information with one another. Students are able to comment or add to another students post and I see the students learning from one another on a daily basis. I have also found that some of the students that struggle to participate in discussions in class are much more confident to share their ideas over the blog space. Through this process students can communicate, collaborate and build communities of learners with each other. They are able to share information and this information is able to be reused and remixed in a variety of ways.
Not only do Web 2.0 tools allow for students to interact and collaborate with one another these tools can also help teachers to differentiate instruction in their classrooms. All educators know that no two students are the same and therefore no two students learn in the same way. As educators we are expected to be flexible and to be able to meet the needs of all of the students in our class, regardless of where they are at emotionally, socially and intellectually. In order to do our best to meet the needs of all of the students in our class we must be willing to differentiate our instruction. It is important for educators to understand that “by varying learning activities and assessment materials teachers challenge students at different readiness levels, appeal to students’ varying interests, and accommodate students’ preferred ways of learning and expressing themselves” (Government of Alberta, n.d.). While differentiating instruction is something that most educators agree is important, it is also an area that most teachers find difficult to put into practice.
Technology, and especially Web 2.0 tools, enable educators to differentiate instruction more effectively, efficiently, and easily. With the plethora of tools available to anyone the possibilities are endless for what students can do to both learn and demonstrate their understanding of concepts. One example from my own teaching is the use of Web 2.0 tools when studying a class novel. Once we have completed the novel students work individually on an after-reading activity. The students have a number of different activities that they can choose from and in each activity there are two or three interactive Web 2.0 tools that they can use to show their understanding. Students can use Pixton or Storybird to summarize the novel, they can use Glogster to create interactive posters about the characters, students can create a song on Garage Band about a topic in the novel, use a Wordle to look at key ideas and terms or use digital story-telling software to create an alternate ending. These are just a few of the many tools that are available to educators. There are interactive tools for every subject and every level and with some preparation by the teacher these tools, when paired with effective instructional practices, are a way to ensure that we are meeting the students needs and interests and taking into consideration the variety of learning styles in our classrooms.
While Web 2.0 tools such as wikis, blogs, social bookmarking sites and social writing platforms are popular in higher education we are also beginning to see their uses in education at all levels. Along with these types of social software we are also beginning to see the increasing popularity of other interactive Web 2.0 tools, such as the ones discussed above. Web 2.0 tools have become an important part of an educator’s teaching practices. These tools not only allow for teachers to effectively differentiate instruction, but they are also motivating for students who can collaborate and show their learning in a unique way that takes their distinct learning needs into consideration.
Alexander, B. (2006). Web 2.0: A new wave of innovation for teaching and learning. Educase, March/April, 33-44.
Government of Alberta. (n.d.). Differentiated Instruction. Alberta Education. Retrieved November 27, 2012 from http://education.alberta.ca/teachers/aisi/themes/differentiated-instruction.aspx
Josay, M.S. The Difference between Web 2.0 and Web 1.0. Retrieved November 27, 2012 from http://msjosay.hubpages.com/hub/The-Difference-between-Web-20-and-Web-10
I remember when I was first introduced to what exactly Web 2.0 was, this was shortly after I figured out what a wiki was. Immediately I became one of the biggest advocates of this new wave of technology within my school. It was quite amazing how a lot of people that I worked with would sit back and say “wow, this is going to change everything I do!”, but to this day few have successfully managed to integrate the tools into their classroom.
I appreciate that you mention how Web 2.0 tools can be used to efficiently differentiate lessons for students. Just today I had my math class use their Google Apps account to log into kahnacademy.org and complete a revision assignment, their progress was then sent back to me for grading. This gave the strong students a chance to challenge themselves, while the weaker students could get help and explanations of concepts they were struggling with.