When it was first invented, the Internet was merely a place to store and locate information. It was static and non-interactive in that website visitors could only read content. Examples might be a news website that publishes news stories or a personal web page that provides information about the site owner, but readers might not be able to make comments or contribute much. Web 2.0 refers to a set of technologies for web design and execution, which has brought about great changes to the Internet. Static web pages have become more dynamic and readers can even contribute content on news websites such as CNN.com using its iReport and interact with the owner of a blog or a Facebook page, as opposed to passively reading the content. A Web 2.0 site allows users to interact and collaborate with one another as content creators in a virtual community using wikis, blogs, web applications, social networking sites such as Facebook or video sharing sites such as YouTube, and more.
Chances are, you have already used Web 2.0 tools. For example, Wikipedia, where you might look up definitions and explanations of objects and events, is a wiki that allows users to generate them after proofreading. Its Web 1.0 “version” is online encyclopedia, which does not allow users’ editing of its content. What you read on online encyclopedia is static, but what you read on Wikipedia is dynamic in that users like you may make changes to make explanations more accurate and comprehensive. It is believed that collective intelligence, when is harnessed using Web 2.0 tools can generate more powerful and comprehensive content.
Students these days are probably using Web 2.0 tools in their daily lives. They might use Doodle to schedule a meeting with multiple dates and time slots proposed to multiple attendees. They might use Pinterest to showcase how they match their finds from clothing stores and receive feedback from viewers. They might also use Twitter to get the most current news from friends or thought leaders in a field of interest. One of the challenges we educators face today is adapting to a generation of students who have grown up using the Internet and Web 2.0 tools.
You might ask, “What’s the benefit of using Web 2.0 tools in teaching and learning?” Because Web 2.0 tools allow users to collaborate to generate/upload content, it is an excellent means to engage learners and help foster a community of learning in your course. For instance, you can ask students to create a glossary by taking turns to define concepts using their own words on a wiki page in CourseWeb. At the end of the semester, your students would have created a glossary in a “language” they understand. Another example is using a mind mapping tool like Popplet to help students brainstorm ideas asynchronously, meaning they do not need to contribute ideas at the same time (synchronously). Students in a group can create a mind map on one space by adding their own ideas or commenting on group mates’ ideas at different times without meeting each other face-by-face. If necessary, students can even add multimedia files into their mind map to make it more comprehensible. In the end, each group can have its mind map that is ready for sharing and feedback due to the convenient setup by those Web 2.0 tools.
There are many Web 2.0 tools available, and most of them are free or have free versions. Consequently, choosing the appropriate ones might be challenging. The following pyramid might be a helpful guide, as it looks at available Web 2.0 tools from the perspective of the Bloom’s Taxonomy . The applicable Web 2.0 tools that support instruction are inserted to each learning domain, although one tool might be applicable to multiple domains. It is important to note that sound instructional design strategies should be in place in order to decide which tool can be used to support learning objectives.
Web 2.0 tools are fast-changing, just like the web itself. While many Web 2.0 tools may be improved in a short period of time, you might find out the tools that you were using are no long free or do not exist anymore. This can be one of the drawbacks of using free Web 2.0 tools. Making your decision after reading credible reviews of the Web 2.0 tools can help you consider the pros and cons of using them before investing your efforts. For example, Edudemic.com listed the 100 best web 2.0 classroom tools chosen by teachers. This list may give you ideas of what tools are reliable and how they can be used in the context of teaching and learning.
In summary, when selecting an appropriate Web 2.0 tool, ask yourselves these questions: Does the tool help learners achieve the objectives? Does it enhance their learning experience? Does it engage all of them and allow learner-learner interaction? Does it require extensive user-training? What is the cost of the tool? How likely is it to disappear in a semester or two? As long as you consider the above factors, Web 2.0 tools can be a useful addition to your course design.