Do you tweet using Twitter?
Do you post to a blog?
Have you commented on someone else's blog?
Have you collaborated using a GoogleDoc or a Wiki?
Have you interacted with others using TodaysMeet, Typewith.me or Wallwisher?
If so, you are using a Web 2.0 tool.
According to Wikipedia, a Web 2.0 tool is a web application that facilitates participatory information sharing, interoperability, user-centered design, and collaboration on the World Wide Web.
Nowadays, what is clear is that the Web is no longer 'read-only' technology. People have a read and write relationship with others where they can share perspectives, contribute ideas and collaborate to build information. Facebook, MySpace and personal blogs make it very easy for people to publish text, images, audio and video, to be shared privately within small networks or with the general public. People who publish content do so with the intention of having others view, comment and collaborate with them. The connections that people are able to create is what truly makes Web 2.0 so powerful.
With the increase in networked learning come some uneasily answered questions. How do people find one another with whom they can learn? How do people make themselves findable by others? How does one choose who to interact with? What roles do one another play in a virtual sharing and collaborative process of learning?
Most of our students use this technology to stay connected with friends and family who they already see in person or have spent significant time with in the past. Through the use of online and mobile technology their connections remain mainly 'friendship-based'. There are however, some students who are using the technology to connect and collaborate with others around a specific interest. Some of the people they connect with online are people they know in person, others are people they do not yet know offline. We must acknowledge that through these networked interactions, students are learning, sharing and contributing to a body of knowledge.
According to Will Richardson,
"learning - formal or informal - is no longer restricted to a particular place at a particular time. Individuals can learn anytime, anywhere, as long as they have access to the Web and, in turn, to other people with whom they can form groups. Learning is creative and collaborative, cross-cultural and conspicuous, and products are shared widely for others to learn with and from."Becoming an online networked learner requires much more than searching for people and filtering information. The people in our learning networks must include more than just people who share similar views as we do. We must embrace diversity in the connections that we establish to include people with different ideas who are willing to challenge our opinions and philosophies. It is through these types of connections that we become able to engage in debate and dialogue.
Think of the times when you read someone's blog or tweet and it sparked a new thought and a desire to respond. You can respond in many different ways. You could contribute a comment to the blog, write your own blog post in response to what you've read, reply with a tweet, email the person directly, create a video response or even pick up the phone. How does one choose the method through which to respond? How does one disagree or challenge an idea in a respectful manner that honors the other person's contributions?
These are the kinds of situations that our students find themselves in almost daily and undoubtedly will find themselves in throughout their personal and professional lives. In education, we frequently refer to the importance of preparing our students with the skills they will need to be successful in the future. With the growth of social networking by working professionals, it is undeniable that students need to become online networked learners and learn how to interact appropriately in virtual environments.
Before we can bring this literacy to students so they can take advantage of the learning opportunities that social networking offers, we must become networked learners ourselves. It is crucial that we model for students our online connections and demonstrate to them how powerful these interactions are in our own learning. Most educators have not received training in how to use social networking. Consequently, the idea of becoming an online networked learner comes with much hesitancy. For those who are embracing the social revolution, most are still experimenting with how best to apply social networking to their own learning and current practice.
Pockets of innovative educators who are using social networking to support learning are finding the following:
- it provides access to a wealth of primary sources of information
- it provides access to multimedia and interactive learning resources
- learners can share knowledge, skills and expertise with people all over the world
- interest-based learning networks can form quickly and easily
- learning can happen anywhere and anytime
- it enables many people to engage in discussion
- it gives a voice to individuals who are less likely to contribute in person
Recently, Global TV's Sophie Lui (@sophielui) visited Delta Secondary where she captured Ms. J. Heiden's (@jenheiden) Communications students responding to comments made on their class blog, Communications at DSS by their counterparts in Merritt, BC. She also witnessed Ms. S. Motohashi's (@samotohashi) Science students interacting with each other before and after demonstrations using Twiducate, an educational social networking site.
These are just two examples of innovative teaching and learning practices supported by the use of social networking. Congratulations to both Ms. Heiden and Ms. Motohashi on embracing the use of Web 2.0 tools and leading us forward in the social revolution!