Issues in Digital Technology in Education/Web 2.0 Learning Environments

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By Kevin Pitts and Renu Kumar

Introduction

Web 2.0 is a term describing a new era in the way users interact with the World Wide Web. The term ‘Web 2.0’ was officially coined in 2004 by Dale Dougherty, a vice president of O’Reilly Media Inc. (the company famous for its technology-related conferences and books) during a team discussion on a potential future conference on the Web . The team wanted to get everyone re-excited about the Web despite the dot-com bust.1

There are a number of Web-based services and applications that demonstrate the foundations of the Web 2.0 concept. Some of these include blogs, wikis, Facebook, and YouTube. The services vary from data ‘mash-ups’, tracking, aggregation, and content filtering to social networking and collaboration services.

Whereas Web 1.0 can be thought of as static, consumptive, and individualistic, Web 2.0 can be thought of as dynamic, participatory and social. The primary tenet of Web 2.0 is that users add value. Although there is some debate whether the name Web 2.0 is deserved, there is no denying that change has occurred in the way the Web is used.


Impact on Education

The impact of Web 2.0 services and technologies on education is profound.

Web 2.0 services and technologies expand the learning options available to educators. For example, Wiki technology enables collaborative learning as users (e.g., students) collectively create, edit, link, and share web content. Blog (Web Log) technology enables active, reflective learning as users regularly publish personal content to the web and invite comments back to expand on and share experiences. Wikis, Blogs and similar Web 2.0 technologies provide a means for users to easily participate in the creation of new knowledge rather than consume pre-existing knowledge. These technologies also provide alternative assessment options for educators. The result is often a more engaging and collaborative teaching and learning experience.

Web 2.0 services and technologies foster a more open approach to learning. The ability to easily access and share educational materials, create derivative works, republish and redistribute these works provides access to a wide variety of learning materials and enables teachers and learners alike to meet specific learning needs and focus on specific outcomes. The result is often a more empowering learning experience. This openness expands beyond content. Web 2.0 services and technologies allow users to tap into the affordances of social networking. Here learners construct identities and foster wide ranging relationships resulting in a more community oriented approach to inquiry and practice.

As Web 2.0 services and technologies become more commonplace and become easier to use, particularly in the educational milieu, educators can shift their attention away from the technology itself to the pedagogy to find the best value and most appropriate uses of Web 2.0 technology in enhancing teaching and learning.


Issues and Implications

Although there are several advantages in using Web 2.0 technologies, there are also several issues that require awareness and attention. Some of these issues include: equal access, information control, intellectual property, copyright, authorship, trust, privacy, security and cultural considerations.

Web 2.0 technologies allow users to participate and express themselves; however most producers are individuals and organizations with access to technology, computer skills, and money, resulting in what has come to be known as a ‘digital divide’ been haves and have-nots with respect to digital technologies. The great strength of Web 2.0 is its participatory nature, but if one cannot participate then its effectiveness is lost. In collaborative environments (such as Wikis) questions of credibility, accuracy, authorship, and vandalism have arisen. Although open content is seen as a panacea for information and knowledge sharing, lines are being blurred in terms of rightful ownership, authorship, and copyright. Further, social networking brings to the fore issues of trust, privacy and security. The social and cultural impact of Web 2.0 technology is not yet fully understood. As such, as more and more of us adopt Web 2.0 technologies, we need to remain informed and aware of the changing nature of the Web and the benefits and drawbacks made possible by such technologies.


The Future

Tim-Berners Lee, the inventor of World Wide Web, and his colleagues at MIT propose the emergence of “Web Science” as a discipline. The goal of Web Science is to understand the growth of the Web, to describe emergent trends and patterns within it, to develop new scientific approaches to studying it, and to perform research to understand its social impact.1

This raises a question about the future of Web 2.0; that is, what’s next? Web 3.0 has been proposed as a possible future and consists of the integration of high-powered graphics (Scalable Vector Graphics or SVG) and semantic data . There have also been discussions around 3-D social networking systems and immersive 3-D internet environments that will take the best of virtual worlds (such as Second Life) and gaming environments and merge them with the Web . Others argue that Web 3.0 will be a backlash to Web 2.0 where software will ‘clean up’ after you, erasing your digital identity and path if needed . Regardless, it will be very interesting to see what the future holds.


Conclusion

The World Wide Web is evolving, and as such the way users interact with it is changing. Web 2.0 is a term used to describe a change to a more dynamic, participatory and social Web. Education is a beneficiary of such change. Web 2.0 services and technologies afford more empowering, engaging, and open learning experiences that foster more social, community-driven lines of inquiry and practice. Nonetheless, there are issues that require our awareness and attention; not the least of which revolve around privacy, security, and credibility, particularly within an educational context. The use of Web 2.0 services and technologies is becoming commonplace and is shaping the way think about and participate in the world. What is certain is the Web will continue to evolve in ways that we can in some respects predict, but in others can’t imagine. Regardless, it will be most interesting to see how it all unfolds.


Further Reading

1. Anderson, P. (2007). What is Web 2.0? Ideas, technologies, implications for education. JISC Technology and Standards Watch. Retrieved April 28, 2008, from http://www.jisc.ac.uk/media/documents/techwatch/tsw0701b.pdf

2. MacFayden, L. (2006). In a world of text, is the author king? In F. Sudweeks, H. Hrachovec, & C. Ess (Eds.), Cultural attitudes towards technology and communication (pp. 285-298). Murdoch, Australia: Murdoch University.

3. O’Reilly, T. (2005). What is Web 2.0: Design Patterns and Business Models for the next generation of software. O’Reilly Media Inc. Retrieved April 28, 2008, from http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/oreilly/tim/news/2005/09/30/what-is-web-20.html

4. Richardson, W. (2006). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful tools for the classroom. Corwin Press.