Web 2.0 is more than a menu of “cool” and new technologies but rather ideas that are changing the way many people interact online. It is a collaborative learning process that transfers to the life skills and team player mentality that all children must adapt to as they advance in their education and quest for knowledge. Web 2.0 is a term that is a mix of familiar and emergent technologies that encompass various tools and learning strategies utilizing cross-media, participatory involvement with auditory, verbal and kinesthetic programs.
Today, Web 2.0 is the popular term for advanced Internet technology and applications including blogs, wikis, and social bookmarking. These technological advances are enabled by Ajax, RSS and Eclipse. These applications can empower teachers and students in the construction of their own learning. They allow for multimedia sharing services, content syndication, podcasting and content tagging services.
Ajax is short for Asynchronous Java Script and XML and is a group of interrelated development techniques used on the client-side to create interactive web application. It allows the user to interact with information presented and provides a method for exchanging data asynchronously between the browser and server to avoid full page reloads.
RSS is most commonly referred to as Really Simple Syndication however others refer to it as Rich Site Summary and is a family of web feed formats used to publish frequently updated works such as blog entries, news headlines, audio and video in a standardized format. It benefits readers who want to subscribe to timely updates from favored websites or to aggregate feeds from many sites into one place.
Eclipse is a multi-language software development environment comprising an integrated development environment and an extensible plug-in system. It is written in Java and can be used to develop a variety of applications. It is an open source community whose projects are focused on building an extensible development platform for building and managing software programs
For the past few years there has been an explosion of new ideas, applications and start-up companies working on ways to extend existing services and to be more practical and relevant within education. According to Paul Anderson in an article titled: “What is Web 2.0? – Ideas, Technologies and Implications for Education (JISC Technology and Standards Watch 2009), there are six categories of Web 2.0 services including:
- Social Networking
- Aggregation Services
- Data "Mash-ups" Tracking and Filtering Content
- Replicate Office-Style Software in the Browser
These six “big ideas” are based on concepts that build on the global information space. In fact, these ideas revolve around the social and collaborative opportunities that can enhance teaching and learning. Students become more engaged in their learning process as they develop a storyboard, cartoon, word art or photo story.
We have seen the excitement of students describing their field trips to museums by constructing the pictures they had taken on the trip and adding in video, music and posting it on their school website for anyone to view by utilizing a program called www.animoto.com. We have also seen how students creatively develop an avatar, working in small groups and developing a dialogue between two fictitious characters pertaining to a topic assigned by the classroom teacher and then presenting their work to the class. Parents are able to see the final projects and support their children in the creative learning process.
Drawing on the “wisdom of crowds” discussion, Web 2.0 consists of words that users generate and attach to content. It involves somewhat more constrained yet easily collaborative projects that involve writing, spelling, storytelling, making cartoons, and digital pictures while drawing on the creative thought processes that students incorporate into their learning projects.
Now, let’s take a look at several Web 2.0 applications that can be used in the classroom.
- One of my favorites is www.animoto.com. You can sign up for Animoto for Education and begin to incorporate digital pictures and music into a presentation of an event with your students. One of our 3rd grade teachers took her students for a nature field trip to an arboretum. The students loved putting their pictures and some video clips into the program and had to build consensus on the music.
- Another is www.pixton.com. Pixton lets you create your own comic strip without having to draw anything by hand. Select from a ton of pre-made characters, customize them as you see fit, and put them in different poses and add text to make a coherent storyline.
- Go to www.voki.com. Voki is a talking voice character, a computer-generated version of oneself. The more generic term for Voki is a speaking avatar, a digital representation of a person. Teachers can use Voki to introduce a course or topics. It can also be used to aid in instructing those who are more audio/visual learners. Voki is also a great way to get shy students involved or to share comments with students in other locations.
- www.xtranormal.com is aText-to-Movie (TTM) that gives you a choice of “showpaks," which consist of a setting and your choice of one or two actors. You can write a script, and then drag various "action icons" into the script for things like camera angles, facial expressions, gestures, and animations. I found that you can utilize small groups of students to produce a movie pertaining to a particular subject matter. It is quite fun and engaging.
- www.wordle.net is an application that many teachers are using. You can have students go to a computer lab and have them type in as many words and concepts they can think of pertaining to one of your lesson plans. It will reinforce words and thoughts and help with student recall of educational content.
These are a few Web 2.0 sites to get you started, however there are hundreds of others. It is important that your technology coordinator allow these websites to come through your filter so make sure you do that first. After all, Web 2.0 is an adaptation to the cultural change that puts your learners closer to state-of-the-art resources. It encourages collaborative learning, creativity and the incorporation of differentiated learning styles.
Below is a partial listing of other Web 2.0 resources you can begin to explore.
Education-Based Blog Sites
Here are some fun Web 2.0 sites that you may also wish to explore and determine their applications in the classroom. Some of these might be a stretch, but those teachers that can think outside the box can make good things happen:
Michael Bloom provides educational technology training for schools throughout Ohio and Arizona and provides “hands-on” workshops for teachers in areas of school improvement, technology integration, grant writing and strategic planning. Michael was awarded the technology coordinator of the year for Northeast Ohio in 2005 through eTech Ohio.