A Taste of Web 2.0

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In the initial launch of Collaboration 2.0, Dave Nagel (2008) reported that during 2008 educators can look for "a continued trend toward more and more hosted, mashed-up, collaborative tools in education, from assessment platforms to collaborative learning tools (such as blogs and wikis) to online delivery of audio and video to full-blown productivity tools, such as Google Apps for Education and others" (p. 2). Everything on the Web sounds good.

However, setting aside security issues associated with using Web 2.0 applications, educators have concerns about risks for K-12 students and wasting time. Many are banning school use of the very applications (e.g., social networking, blogs, wikis, chat) integral to online learning systems (Nagel, 2008). Even without a ban, another contributing factor for avoiding Web 2.0 might be educator fears about changing their teaching methods to better engage learners. The International Society for Technology in Education's (2007) release of National Educational Technology Standards for Students: The Next Generation indicates that to learn effectively and live productively in an increasingly digital world, students should know and be able to use technology for creativity and innovation; communication and collaboration; research and information fluency; critical thinking, problem solving, and decision making; digital citizenship; and technology operations and concepts. Thus one might say such banning limits development of skills valued for the 21st century.

Maybe the concerns for Web 2.0 are presumptuous, as there are safe sites that educators can use. It takes time to explore for what's available, time to experiment with tools of interest, and extra time is something that most educators don't have. But, if you can convince yourself of the potential of Web 2.0, you might be able to convince others. Here's a primer for the unknowing and those who want to take their technology use to the next level.

What's Web 2.0?
Terms like Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 suggest the latter is a software upgrade, but the upgrade is really in terms of what users now can do on the Internet. Initially the Internet was a place to go to find information within static Web pages, those now linked with the term "Web 1.0," a read-only, one-way medium.  Web 2.0 is an evolution to a two-way read/write medium, with Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 coexisting on the Internet. Jeff Utecht's Web 2.0 video on YouTube will help you learn more about those differences.

There appears to be no unique definition of Web 2.0. At Wikipedia, one finds that "Web 2.0 can refer to a trend in Web design and development, a perceived second generation of Web-based communities and hosted services ... which aim to facilitate creativity, collaboration, and sharing between users." It's been defined by an IBM social-networking analyst as "a knowledge-oriented environment where human interactions generate content that is published, managed and used through network applications in a service-oriented architecture" (Wikipedia 2.0). Wikipedia itself is one of those 2.0 technologies. As a public wiki (think community-developed encyclopedia), educators have criticized its use as a source for credible and reliable content. There is some truth to this, but Wikipedia is attempting to remedy charges against it by strongly advising editors of its content to cite their sources and by providing citation guidance (Wikipedia: Citing Sources). You'll see superscripts within content linking to references and phrases like "citation needed" next to questionable content. The key to its use is to teach students how to critically evaluate content at any Web site.

With Web 2.0 comes a list of new jargon, which in itself might make you say "Forget it!" Readers might have the general idea behind blogs, wikis, Webcasts, podcasts, social networks, and social bookmarks, as those have been popularly critiqued. (If you need some "Explanations in Plain English," view Lee LeFever's short video clips on those topics at You Tube.) But what are AJAX (no, not the household cleanser), aggregator and RSS feeds, folksonomies, chicklets (no, not chewing gum), mash-ups (no, not what you do to potatoes), and walled garden (no, not what's in your backyard)? In addition to Wikipedia, Webopedia's Web 2.0 terms will help expand your vocabulary.

RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds are of particular interest to Web 2.0 advocates. When paired with an aggregator, a collection service like Bloglines.com or Google Reader, educators and their students can take advantage of having current information from favorite blogs and news sites come to them directly in a central location, rather than going out to search multiple sites individually. LeFever has a very concise explanation of RSS in his 2007 video, RSS in Plain English, also available at Classroom 2.0 for those who opt out of YouTube. Will Richardson's (2005) RSS: A Quick Start Guide For Educators provides more information on setting up a RSS Feed Reader, how to find and add feeds, and using RSS feeds in the classroom.

RSS is a time-saver for busy educators. Consider how valuable RSS would be for research on course-related topics of interest, keeping up with advances in technology from leaders in the field, or for sharing information and learning from other teachers in your subject area. Imagine the impact on teaching students critical thinking skills, if they could get quick access to up-to-the minute world news from sources offering contrasting perspectives (Freedman, 2006). Look for the RSS icon at Classroom 2.0, a social networking site for educators interested in Web 2.0 and collaboration. It might be one of the first sites you add to your aggregator. The collection of RSS feeds is vast, as you will find in the RSS Compendium, which provides links to major collections of feeds in several categories.

Productivity and Collaboration Tools
Many productivity and collaboration tools, comparable to those that come with a hefty price, now reside on the Web, including storage. Many are free and might be open source, making them quite attractive to schools. Wikipedia provides a list for open source software packages. Nedwolf maintains Best Free Web Applications, which can serve as a general resource for Windows.  You'll find free Web development tools, software for creating portable media, and software for online Web applications. The latter includes bookmarking managers, file storage/transfer, productivity, collaboration, and internet/network tools like Web-based e-mail, online fax, online chat, and more.

Google is so big that most people probably don't know all of its products and services. The good news is that you will only need to bookmark one page, Simply Google, to learn about those offerings, including its many desirable Web 2.0 productivity and collaboration tools. Educators would be interested in Google Calendar, Docs, and Spreadsheets; Picasa for photo editing and sharing; and Gmail with its mobile access and lots of free Webmail storage. There's Talk for instant messages.

Parents, students, and others who don't speak English as a native language can benefit from everything on your class Web site or other relevant sites of interest, if they know they can translate the content into another language. The Web offers several free translation services. Google Translator works, but you might also compare its output to that from AltaVista's Babel Fish Translator.

Teacher tools abound. Chalksite, a total Web package for extending the classroom, includes the templates for creating Web pages, as well as online access to grades, assignments, class messages, and discussions in a secure environment. Initial set-up is free for teachers who wish to subscribe five students; expanded accounts have a small monthly fee. Engrade is a totally free online gradebook suite, which includes the gradebook, an online calendar for homework and events, attendance book, student reports, and online messaging for parents and students. Teachers will be interested in Quiz-School, a free online quiz service from ProProfs.com. Create and customize your quiz, share it with others, post the quiz on any Web page, including at your classroom Web site, or link to it from any Web page.  You can create printable versions, too, add discussion on the quiz, set criteria for passing, and provide feedback on what the correct answer should have been. Assign keywords to your quiz for easy retrieval. The site also has a section for creating flashcards for free.

New online tools make conducting research on the Web, be it serious or just for personal knowledge, a lot easier and more productive. Answers.com is a free and safe "one-stop guide to the initial research process." Comprehensive, authoritative facts are available on each of 4 million topics from leading publishers, with Wikipedia also a source. Diigo, the "Digest of Internet Information, Groups and Other stuff," is all about social annotation. It's also free and features "social bookmarking, clippings, in situ annotation, tagging [i.e., keywords for searching], full-text search, easy sharing and interactions." Users can add highlights and sticky notes on any Web page and designate private notes or public comments. i-Lighter also features a tool for highlighting online text in yellow and adding your notes just as you would on paper or with post-it notes. The free software is downloaded to your desktop and an icon displays on your browser toolbar for when you want to use the highlighter. Folders contain your highlighted information, notes, and links back to source pages. You can choose to make your highlights private or public. Content can also be e-mailed to others or posted to a blog.

In the Classroom
Some Web applications can be used in specific subject areas. Certainly Google Earth can be a powerful tool for studies in social studies, geography, and science. You can search for just about anything, zoom in, then tilt and rotate to see the terrain and buildings, and search the sky. Google Maps is more than a source for directions to places of interest. You can create personalized, annotated maps, and see actual street views in select cities. Best of all, you can save your searches and share those with others.

Newsvine.com is a great find for current events in multiple fields. Yes, it's a source for local, national, and world news from services like ESPN and Associated Press. But, the developers of the site wanted to promote a different way to read, write, and interact with the news. By putting users in control, news adjusts according to what users find important. Best of all, students can set up a column and write articles for friends and the world to discuss. Newsvine's Code of Honor helps control its content.

I'm captivated by the potential of VoiceThread, which has made its premium account available to K-12 educators for free. "A VoiceThread is an online media album that can hold essentially any type of media (images, documents and videos)." The beauty lies in the commentaries that people can add to the media using a mix of voice with a microphone or telephone, text, audio file, or video with a Webcam. This allows group conversations to be collected and shared in one place. Even doodles can be added in feedback. You can designate your media as public, private, or accessible by a select few, the last of which is a good safety feature for students. For a nominal fee, K-12 educators can ensure their students are collaborating in a secure and safe network by using the Ed.VoiceThread. It's a private space by default "for creating digital stories and documentaries, practicing language skills, exploring geography and culture, solving math problems, collaborating with other students, or simply finding and honing student voices." Plus, there's an option to make those creations public. Public sharing does tell students their creativity has added value.

Students, ages 8 and up, can create interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art using Scratch and share their creations on the Web. According to MIT Media Lab, the developers of this free software, as young people create Scratch projects they "learn important mathematical and computational ideas, while also gaining a deeper understanding of the process of design." (See THE Journal's case study on the use of Scratch in K-12 here.)

Of course, Web 2.0 offers learning in game-based environments and virtual worlds. Tabula Digita's DimensionM games for mathematics are among those. This award winning 3D immersive software for pre-algebra and algebra 1 can be implemented for single-players or multiple-players. The intrigue for using this commercial product is that students, classes and schools can compete internally or across the Web with others from around the globe. The top ten players and schools are posted at the Web site. Representative virtual worlds for K-12 learning include Whyville for ages 8-16; Indiana University's Quest Atlantis where students aged 9-12 complete a variety of quests linked to academic content standards; and Harvard University's River City for science in middle schools.

Safe social networks, blogs, and wiki spaces are available for educators to create private, protected environments for learning. Elgg, named after a town in Switzerland, is free open source social networking software. It "offers blogging, networking, community, collecting of news using feeds aggregation and file sharing features. Everything can be shared among users with access controls and everything can be cataloged by tags as well." If you are concerned about using Elgg in K-12, consider that you can install it on your own servers and have complete control over it. You can also create your own customized social network for students using Ning.

Think.com, from Oracle Education Foundation, is free and provides a safe password-protected environment for K-12 students from around the world to collaborate on projects. Simple publishing tools enable teachers and students to create their own Web pages and engage in discussion. TIGed (TakingITGlobal) offers a collaborative environment in which students gain access to global perspectives on global issues and new options for expressing their creativity.  They can engage in project-based learning.  A database of lessons is included.  The environment is under control of the teacher, making safe social networking possible. TakingITGlobal.org membership is free, but small fees are attached for TIGed virtual classrooms, activity database, and teacher discussion boards.

There's Class BlogMeister for teachers interesting in using blogging to publish their own articles and those of their students.  After setting up a class account, teachers can set up student accounts and maintain control of content that students wish to publish. If you prefer a blog that can run on your own Web site, consider the free open source platform of b2evolution.  It has additional features beyond those of traditional blogs, such as file and photo management, user and group management, and options to make posts private or protected. Wikispaces for Educators offers K-12 educators space to create their wikis--all for free and without advertising.  Designate your wiki as public, protected, or private.  Public wikis can be viewed and edited by anyone.  Protected wikis can be viewed by anyone, but only members can edit content.  Private wikis might be preferred by educators, as only members can view and edit pages.

Still not convinced? Check out the Edublog Awards from 2004-2007 in best of everything categories (e.g., individual, group, new, and teacher blogs; best educational use of audio, video, social networking service, virtual world, wiki and more). Of course, you can then visit those sites.

Get Going and Get that Promise
Get the courage to use the tools that students are already using, but in many cases without role models for responsible use. Update your school acceptable use policy to address Web 2.0 and all those mobile devices that students use now and the emerging technologies that are sure to follow. Chances are that you need a little help. Len Scrogan (2007) provides just that in his AUPs in a Web 2.0 World. Get that promise from students to be LARK, and when they cross the line, ask them if what they did is LARK, that is Legal, Appropriate, Responsible, and Kind. It's an acronym they most likely will remember, suggested by Pamela Livingston (2007, Aug. 3) in her Classroom 2.0 blog post on AUPs. The term has no copyright.

Promise yourself to try at least one Web 2.0 application. If you need a little more inspiration, read Web 2.0 Coming of Age: An introduction to the NEW worldwide Web edited by Terry Freedman (2006). This free 93-page booklet, also available in audio format, provides more practical advice on how to get going and applications in education.

And there you have it: a taste of Web 2.0 ... and mostly free, too.

Extra Credit
Web 2.0 Resources Online

The resources mentioned in this article can be found at the links below.

--P. Deubel

References
Freedman, T. (Ed.) (2006). Web 2.0 Coming of age: An introduction to the NEW worldwide Web. Available: http://www.shambles.net/

International Society for Technology in Education (2007). National educational technology standards for students: The next generation. Available: http://cnets.iste.org/

Nagel, D. (2008, Jan. 16). Web 2.0 in education: Trends for 2008. T.H.E. Journal. Available: http://www.thejournal.com/articles/21839

Richardson, W. (2005) RSS: A Quick Start Guide For Educators. Available: http://www.Weblogg-ed.com/ Accessed February 8, 2008.

Scrogan, L. (2007, Aug./Sept.). AUPs in a Web 2.0 world. EdTech magazine. Available: http://www.edtechmag.com/

Wikipedia (n.d.). Citing sources. Available: http://en.wikipedia.org/ Accessed February 8, 2008.

Wikipedia (n.d.). Web 2.0. Available: http://en.wikipedia.org/ Accessed February 8, 2008.

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About the author: Patricia Deubel has a Ph.D. in computing technology in education from Nova Southeastern University and is currently an education consultant and the developer of Computing Technology for Math Excellence at http://www.ct4me.net.

Proposals for articles, news tips, ideas for topics, and questions and comments about this publication should be submitted to David Nagel, executive editor, at dnagel@1105media.com.

About the Author

Patricia Deubel has a Ph.D. in computing technology in education from Nova Southeastern University and is currently an education consultant and the developer of Computing Technology for Math Excellence at http://www.ct4me.net. She has been involved with online learning and teaching since 1997.

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