Web 2.0 is all the rage. You can tell it’s hot because half the sessions at educational technology conferences have 2.0 in the title. Soon they will be labeled 3.0 to show that they are really, really, really cutting edge.
Web 2.0 is a collective term for the “read/write” web, meaning that people who use the Internet are no longer passive content consumers, but are actively creating material for themselves and others. Grandmas, nuclear physicists, army privates and cab drivers are blogging, podcasting, uploading videos, sharing photos, finding friends, socializing, and much more. For many teachers, these tools offer exciting opportunities for students to express themselves and take command of technology that stretches the mind and reaches outside school walls.
There are obstacles to the use of Web 2.0 tools in schools, such as time, security concerns, lack of vision, and resistance to anything new. Media hype has scared parents and school boards into equating technology with sexual predators. Luckily, there many cutting-edge educators working on these issues and sharing solutions. The bottom line is that these tools are here to stay and are a significant presence in the lives of many students. Ignoring/banning them reinforces student perceptions that school is not relevant to their lives.
That light at the end of the tunnel is Train 2.0.
It’s a daunting task to figure out all the options with Web 2.0 tools and choose the “best” one to introduce to students. But this pain can be turned into a gain – by including students in the adventure.
- Research solutions and present options with pros and cons
- Test hardware – even young students can scrounge up old microphones, tape recorders and cables and test them
- Try out applications and report on results
- Maintain lists of add-ons, plug-ins and new options for old tools
- Debate how these tools can be used within the boundaries of school or district policy and technology use plans
- Figure out how to use available technology in new ways
Instead of demonizing and banning cell phones, why not use them to record interviews, or use the cameras to document science projects or field trips? Let students help figure out the nuts and bolts. How do you transfer the files? Where? Do you need a Flickr account? Is that blocked? What other options are there? Have you heard about Gcast?
Want to make audio tours of your school in different languages? Can visitors listen to them while they walk around? Should you put them on loaner ipods? Too expensive? Can you rig up an old tape recorder or portable CD player? Can you find some? Do they work? What audio software do you need? Does it cost money or can you find a free version? Do the school’s computers meet the system requirements? Do you have microphones that work? Where can you upload the files? Hey, why don’t we make a 3D virtual tour too!
Why is this important?
Authentic problems inspire creative thinking and empower students to exceed expectations and think outside the box. These are true 21st century skills.
- Figuring out how to use these tools has no right or wrong answer–just like real life.
- The best solution today won’t be the best tomorrow. By opening this problem up to students, you will get better tools and more up-to-date solutions than if you stick with the same tools year after year.
- Your students will be more forgiving of the inevitable technical glitches if they understand the tradeoffs that were made in choosing the tools.
- Your students will be able to share their new understanding of educational uses of Web 2.0 tools with their peers (and maybe even other teachers)
- In choosing and setting up these tools, you and your students will have to wrestle with the real issues of security, privacy, and policy. Instead of resenting and ignoring rules handed down from on high, students can see the basis for these rules. They may be a lot more restrictive than you expect, or they may decide to protest and lobby for change in district policies they don’t agree with. Since you are on their team, you can direct their energies in positive ways. Either way, by giving agency to the students, you are encouraging them to think for themselves and take responsibility for their own actions.
- Who has time for all this (besides students)?
Besides, why should you have all the fun!? Share your Learning Adventure 2.0 with your students and you will all benefit from the experience.