Thinking about integrating Web 2.0 in higher education?






The use of technological tools for teaching and learning has proven to be useful and an effective strategy for many educators in different areas of knowledge. The Internet offers a wide array of tools that may serve for multiple purposes, some more specific than others (e.g. create a digital presentation, organize data, edit images, edit/create videos, write and share a text, etc.), and these may not be necessarily focused on education.

When the Web 2.0 (“Social Web”) appeared between early and mid-2000’s, the way the world saw Internet changed, allowing users to produce content and share it with anyone in the globe. This new approach opened up new doors for different fields, education included. However, it is really hard to take the principles or philosophy of Web 2.0 and make them fit or work naturally in the education field.

One may say that the collaborative approach of Web 2.0 is enough to determine the effectiveness in a classroom setting (whether it is a face-to-face, a Blended, or an Online class). In the XXI century, knowing how to use technologies—including Web 2.0—may be a day-to-day activity, this may be easy to understand given that these tools started to appear around 15 years ago, and then become more noticeable in many fields: for example, people started to consume their regular “paper-based” products in digital form and also had the opportunity to be part of emerging communities online (commenting on a post from their favorite newspaper or magazine; becoming part of an online forum about topics of their interest; their church community page on Facebook; following their favorite Youtuber) and being able to contribute to these communities with their ideas.
That stated, it is important to notice that the collaborative nature of Web 2.0 may carry a different approach to how collaboration may be expected in an educational context. This has been brought up in some studies (I encourage you to check Bennet et. Al, 2012, given the way they share some examples of using Web 2.0 in higher education and how every experience went), where educators were expecting students to work in an “equally-distributed” collaborative work (which did not happen).

In this study, there are many recommendations shared by the authors, based on the experiences they describe:

1. It is important to design “effectively” a Web 2.0-tool-driven activity. Keeping a balanced equation of pedagogy and technology. This is making sure that the activity was design for the sake of the learning outcome and not for the mere use of technology.
  • The promotion of the development of technological skills is truly valuable in these experiences. However, students may want to clearly see that the activity had a “real” purpose (beyond just learning how to use a set of digital tools).

2. It is relevant to know the capability that each institution (school, university, etc.) has to implement Web 2.0 practices. For instance, some restrict the use of “externally” hosted applications, limiting the use of Web 2.0 to those included in their institutional Learning Management System (LMS)—e.g. Blackboard, Moodle, Canvas, etc.
  • The Web 2.0 applications included in these systems are meant to be closer to the “ideal alignment” of education-technology. However, sometimes these tools are not as user-friendly (usability) as some of the tools available outside of the LMS.

3. Designing an activity with Web 2.0 implies a lot of energy and time from educators. This includes the learning process given that it is important to understand how the tool works—at least to meet for the requirements of the activity. Also, the learning activity design process to guarantee the activity is well balanced and allowing students to reach the desired outcome (learning reflecting, developing certain skills, among others).

4. Despite being born surrounded by technologies, we may find students who have not used some of these platforms or tools (Wikis, Blogs—Blogger, WordPress, Tumblr, etc.—, Digital repositories—e.g. Flickr, Pinterest, etc.—, among others), ending up with difficulties in understanding how those use them.
  • It is suggested to provide technical support to students, given that technical problems may result in low levels of excitement and engagement towards the activity.
    • Designing tutorial on how to use the tools they will use for their activities/projects
    • Having staff to give support when needed.

5. Create clear guidelines for the activity
  • What is needed to be accomplished?
  • How are they going to do it?
  • What kind of interactions we want them to generate?
  • Is the activity going to be assessed? If so, how?
6. Try to avoid repetition in the activity dynamics
  • Sharing and checking peers’ work may be nice, but you do not want them to check more than 30 posts per week.
    • Try to apply group strategies in a way to prevent this to happen
      • Instead of checking 30 posts (this is just an example), you can try having 6 groups of 5 students. They can check their group members contributions first and choose what they want to share with other groups. 
      • The final check between groups will be less overwhelming

7. It is Web 2.0 — they do expect to hear from you!
  • Being approachable to students to answer task-related inquires
  • Promote participation from other students to check their peers’ work
  • Take the time to give feedback, they want to hear from a “knowledgeable” or “expert” person too.


Comments

  1. These are excellent and practical recommendations gleaned from the article. For researchers, the different studies in a number of different fields could be interesting, but for many of us teachers, it is useful to have a summary of the most specific recommendations from the studies that can inform how we use certain tools for teaching. Of course, instructors have to align appropriate tools with their particular learning contexts.

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