Web 2.0 and education – a good partnership

We viewed the arrival of the Web as revolutionary. Today we look back at Web 1.0 and find that it was slow, passive, formally structured, dense with text, inconveniently centralised in a static environment. Once Web 1.0’s copiously linked information and global connectivity was accessible on multi-functional mobile devices, a truly revolutionary innovation became possible: Web 2.0!

Web 2.0 tools, such as Twitter, allows user created content to be shared and distributed instantaneously, globally.

Web 2.0 affords users ways to become producers and distributors of “rich and multifaceted” information (Conole, 2012, p.47). The open, social and participatory media that made the evolution of Web 2.0 possible, allowed new ways to produce, communicate, share and collaborate information. The participatory nature of Web 2.0 technology enabled users to actively create, remix and repurpose content and to develop new practices of sharing it. The social nature allowed people to connect and encourage new levels of collaboration. The open nature encouraged building societal knowledge through collective aggregation and peer critiquing and encouraged new supportive communities of practice. An important contribution of Web 2.0 is not only the technological advances it brought, but that (through social media), human intelligence and passion is amplified.

Conole (2012) showed clearly how the open, social and participatory nature of the Web 2.0 environment changed the way that we produce and interact with information and knowledge, as well as how we share and communicate it. She also pointed out that, because of this central repository of linked information and the multiplicity of connectivity, the scale of user participation enabled it to effectively change all aspects of our society (pp. 47-48). It is changing the environment where learning and teaching takes place – redefining the boundaries between the traditional and formal educational contexts and the non-formal and informal learning contexts (p. 204), or, as she calls it the “changing digital landscape of education” (p. 48).

Web 2.0 tools allow for a more personalized learner-centered approach, where learners are more motivated as independent directors of their own learning: The learning environment is more social and collaborative, allowing for dialogic and peer learning and reflection. These characteristics of Web 2.0 align well with modern pedagogy, promoting a constructivist approach, where learners can actively construct their own understanding through experiential– and problem– and inquiry-based learning (pp. 57-8). It is a fertile environment where reforming new educational approaches, such as the connected learning model, can be collaboratively developed, implemented, evaluated and discussed by educators.

It can be argued that these new initiatives, such as connected learning, need the open, social and participatory media of Web 2.0 to be successful. Web 2.0 encourages all basic principles of connected learning: User generation of content support a production-centered approach. The open-networked nature of the Web allows interest-driven inquiry and exploration. Collaboration tools allow and encourage shared-purpose and peer-supported sharing and working.

Our school benefits from the advantages that Web 2.0 holds for education through adaptation of an integrated Google Apps for Education environment. Our students create, communicate, share, collaborate and reflect – seemingly seamless – on their Chromebooks, while their teachers collaborate, direct, guide, evaluate and assess in the same environment. What can be questioned is if this somewhat exclusive platform gives our students sufficient exposure to alternative tools and broad digital literacy. It is, however, true that students access their Google environment from other devices at school as BYOD is encouraged, or have at home. The Web 2.0 platform allows us important steps in reimagining the educational experience for the information age.

I cannot help but wonder how we will view this revolutionary Web 2.0, once it is replaced by Web 3.0 or another successor.

Conole, G. (2012). Designing for learning in an open world. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.