The Internet and how we use it is experiencing a very exciting revolution with the advent of Web 2.0. In the beginning, users would come to the Internet to perform keyword searches and retrieve information from various sites. We certainly still do that but there has been a growing change in the way we access information and our role as contributors of that information. We now have the ability to subscribe to websites, blogs, podcasts and much more so that new information is fed to us rather than us having to go find it. There are also many different ways for us to add content to the Internet through Wikis, Blogs, Podcasts, digital videos (think YouTube), photo sharing (Flickr, BubbleShare) social network sites like MySpace and Facebook and much more. In fact, you can even create your very own social network with a tool like Ning. Web 2.0 is all about this idea of user generated content and can be thought of as the Read/Write Web whereby we as the users of the web can both read content and then write and contribute new content. I follow a blog called the Read/Write Web, which reports and comments on a variety of different new Web 2.0 type tools that are constantly becoming available online. This blog doesn't have an education specific focus but I often find that the tools discussed could certainly have a use in the k-12 classroom. I have included a video at the end of this posting that I think does a great job of looking at the evolution of the Internet. It gets a little bogged down in the middle with information about HTML coding but I think the overall message is right on point. As you watch the video (if it doesn't play properly you can access it directly through YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gmP4nk0EOE) I want you to think about what implications this has for your students and your approach to using technology. For instance, before we had Web 2.0 capabilities we could have our students create concept maps in Kidspiration or Inspiration to demonstrate their understanding about a particular content area. Now using a tool like Mindomo we can have our students collaboratively create a concept map with students (and content experts) from outside our classroom and that map can be shared online for others to see, comment on, edit and learn from. We are able to move beyond just having pen pals or e-pals to having learning pals and online mentors that can help contribute to our understanding of different subjects. However, just because we have this capability doesn't mean we have a clear understanding of how to harness it and use it to create effective learning experiences for our students. What ideas, concerns, suggestions and thoughts do you have on taking advantage of the read/write nature of the net and all the tools (mostly free) that are available to you and your students.
Another issue that arises with the read/write nature of the web is that we have to be even more careful about looking at sites and their respective content and determining their credibility. I always cringe a bit when I hear someone say, "I looked up the information on Wikipedia." My first response is, "Did you bother to cross check your information with any other source?" It can be a lot harder to determine who the author of online content really is and we need to make sure our students are aware of this. What do you think we can do to insure that kids are being diligent in their online research?
Finally, I want to touch on the issue of convincing the tech coordinators, media specialists and other technology gate keepers in your respective buildings and districts to allow access to these powerful read/write tools. I know this issue has been discussed a lot in your 501 class, for those of you taking that class, but I feel it should be revisited here as well. I think it is very important that we make a clear case for the educational benefit of using these tools when we ask for permission to make them available to our students. I have heard about the troubles some of you have had in getting new technology into your classroom but I would like to hear about your success stories now. What approach or approaches have worked for you to get new technology approved, new websites unlocked and new tools available for your students?