Interactivity on the web is more than a decade old, but the term Web 2.0 has only been widely known for a couple of years old. I’m sheepish to admit that I only became aware of this term in the last few months as I have explored technology options for my own classroom teaching.
My current understanding of Web 2.0 applications: They are characterized by interactivity, collaboration, and information sharing; they are webpages that are not simply static but involve the ability to share content and to social network. The main characteristic of a Web 2.0 application is the emphasis on human collaboration. It’s not so much the particular applications but the actual behaviour of the people using the Internet.
Examples of Web 2.0 characteristics that could be used on a website to engage a user and encourage social interaction and human collaboration:
- BLOGS with a subscription and invitation to comment on the articles
- WIKIS that invite users to collaborate by adding content about a particular subject
- RSS FEEDS (Really Simple Syndication) that encourage users to subscribe to future writings (like a newspaper or magazine subscription)
- PODCASTS that can be downloaded and listened to on a portable device are another entity that could also be a subscription feed
- SOCIAL BOOKMARKING to share content with others who may be interested
- INTERACTIVE TOOLS: online email, calendar, reader, documents, maps, etc. (i.e. Google tools)
- SOCIAL MEDIA AND NETWORKING SITES like Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Delicious, MySpace, Ning, etc.
- Social Media is the user-created video, audio, text or multimedia that are published and shared
- Social Networking is the interaction in the social environment
- PHOTO MANAGEMENT AND SHARING applications, i.e. Flicker or Photobucket
- FORUMS – online community discussion groups—which are focused on a particular topic or theme; others may comment on or answer by posting
The internet applications described above, however, are only one factor in the equation! The application is only a Web 2.0 application when people without specialized technical knowledge to create online content –websites, audio and video files—share their textual, audio and visual information. It is the interactivity and the further encouragement of social interaction and human collaboration that makes the application Web 2.0.
How should these tools be utilized in the English literature and language classroom?
There is certainly great opportunity to structure class learning around some of these tools. Have the students blog about the current class topic or build a blogging structure into the class to encourage collaboration and interaction within your class. Students could research a topic and create an audio podcast. A course could be structured around building a wiki or a website where every student has their own page to develop during the course. The Digital Swarm products provide fully optimized professionally designed websites.
If your school or school board (district) has an open policy on the use of social media, you could subscribe to a social networking site like Ning for the sharing of information, student collaboration, and the posting of relevant content.
I have personally used a discussion board assignment to have students post about a particular topic of discussion and to comment on at least two other postings each week. It was quite successful! The teacher structured discussion board is much like a forum, but the teacher provides some structure and direction.
There are a plethora of options that collectively could never be used all in one course. Choose one to three Web 2.0 tools to incorporate into your classroom learning environment and reinforce the effective use of these tools.