This week at NECC 2009 I definitely had my eyes opened to the web 2.0 debate. For me, it’s never really been a debate. When I started learning more about the technologies that are available to teachers and students through web-based applications, I jumped right on the bus. As a sat in a panel discussion moderated by Steve Hargadon, founder of Classroom 2.0, it was interesting to see that not everyone is feeling that way. Somehow I had envisioned that the others attending the National Educational Computing Conference were like minded and up to speed on the same ed tech trends. I was truly taken aback by the numerous people who I overheard questioning what exactly web 2.0 is anyways. I’m certainly not saying there’s anything wrong with it (now I sound like Seinfeld), but I was surprised that there are still those who are totally unaware of the tools and resources that are available to enhance learning and teaching today.
One of the best questions that was asked during that panel was something to the effect of the following: Is Web 2.0 just a fad? A passing trend? Many responses were shared by the panel, but I have been thinking heavily on this topic ever since.
The term “Web 2.0” by nature sounds as if it is just a fad. When we add a number to something, it sounds as if it is going to be replaced by another version new and improved. There is already talk about Web 3.0. In education, we are constantly faced with a pendulum swing of methods and philosophies. How can we expect educators to want to learn more about a trend that, by name, seems to be something that will pass? Why would they want to? There are plenty of web 2.0 companies that haven’t survived. As one panel member pointed out, free doesn’t tend to be a good business model. If we are constrained to seeing Web 2.0 as a compilation of web based tools, then I am afraid that it will be a passing fad – or at least it will be viewed that way by a great percentage of educators.
Instead, we must stop looking at web 2.0 as a collection of tools and more as a different mind set. What can these web-based tools offer to teachers and students? First, I believe it offers a voice. Great change in history has come from when brave individuals discovered their voices and found ways to share them with the world – from Martin Luther and the 95 Theses he nailed on the Catholic church in Wittenberg to Anne Frank and the memories she recorded while hiding in the attic of a home in Amsterdam to the students of Erin Gruwell‘s high school English classes who came to be known as the Freedom Writers. These people effected change and drew attention to important issues because of their ability to find a way to share their stories. Collaborative and sharing tools that are free and web-based have made it possible for our students to have a voice – to share their stories and learn the stories of others.
Teachers also have the ability to benefit greatly from web-based technologies such as Twitter, nings, Facebook and other social networking sites. For me, these web 2.0 applications have re-opened the world of learning for me as a professional. Through connections that teachers can freely develop, we have the opportunity to make self-driven learning decisions without regard to cost, geography or time constraints. While I may not be able to glean relevant and applicable learning from all the required workshops that I must attend, I know that I can investigate current trends in education for the benefit of myself and my students. Frankly, I believe that the successful implementation of these new opportunities for classrooms must begin with the teacher’s learning. It is my belief that it isn’t until the classroom teacher experiences the powerful results of these online networks that they can truly foster this learning in their students.
So, is Web 2.0 a trend? I think the term itself will, in fact, fall to the wayside. Actually, I hope it will. I can’t imagine that the opportunities that come from what these web-based applications have to offer will go away. I know that my learning and teaching have truly been transformed. Why will students give up the chance to be connected global learners? Will teachers? I hope not. So if you aren’t diving into the tools being offered through this transformative trend in education, start now. Don’t do it because it is “popular.” Investigate these trends and opportunities because you can benefit from them greatly – both personal and professional. Try it. Don’t start with your students. Start with you!
Filed under: 21st Century