Web 2.0 and Virtual World Technologies: A Growing Impact on IS Education
Harris, Albert L., Rea, Alan, Journal of Information Systems Education
Whether it is a social networking site like Facebook, a video stream delivered via YouTube, or collaborative discussion and document sharing via Google Apps, more people are using Web 2.0 and virtual world technologies in the classroom to communicate, express ideas, and form relationships centered around topical interests. Virtual Worlds immerse participants even deeper in technological realms rife with interaction. Instead of simply building information, people create entire communities comprised of self-built worlds and avatars centered around common interests, learning, or socialization in order to promote information exchange.
With information systems (IS) classrooms quickly filling with the Google/Facebook generation accustomed to being connected to information sources and social networks all the time and in many forms, how can we best use these technologies to transform, supplement, or even supplant current pedagogical practices? Will holding office hours in a chat room make a difference? What about creating collaborative Web content with Wikis? How about demonstrations of complex concepts in a Virtual World so students can experiment endlessly? In this JISE special issue, we will explore these questions and more.
2. TYPES OF WEB 2.0 TECHNOLOGIES
Web 2.0 technologies encompass a variety of different meanings that include an increased emphasis on user generated content, data and content sharing, collaborative effort, new ways of interacting with Web-based applications, and the use of the Web as a social platform for generating, repositioning and consuming content. The beginnings of the shared content nature of Web 2.0 appeared in 1980 in Tim Berners-Lee's prototype Web software. However, the content sharing aspects of the Web were lost in the original rollout, and did not reappear until Ward Cunningham wrote the first wiki in 1994-1995. Blogs, another early part of the Web 2.0 phenomenon, were sufficiently developed to gain the name weblogs in 1997 (Franklin & van Harmelen, 2007). The first use of the term Web 2.0 was in 2004 (Graham, 2005; O'Reilly, 2005a; O'Reilly, 2005b)
"Web 2.0" refers to a perceived second generation of Web development and design that facilitates communications and secures information sharing, interoperability, and collaboration on the World Wide Web. Web 2.0 concepts have led to the development and evolution of Web-based communities, hosted services, and applications; such as social-networking sites, video-sharing sites, wikis, blogs, and folksonomies" (Web 2.0, 2009). The emphasis on user participation--also known as the "Read/Write" Web characterizes most people's definitions of Web 2.0.
There are many types of Web 2.0 technologies and new offerings appear almost daily. The followng are some basic categories in which we can classify most Web 2.0 offerings.
A "wiki" is a collection of Web pages designed to enable anyone with access to contribute or modify content, using a simplified markup language, and is often used to create collaborative Websites. (Wiki, 2009). One of the best known wikis is Wikipedia. Wikis can be used in education to facilitate knowledge systems powered by students (Raman, Ryan, & Olfman, 2005).
A blog (weblog) is a type of Website, usually maintained by an individual with regular commentary entries, event descriptions, or other material such as graphics or video. One example of the use of blogs in education is the use of question blogging, a type of blog that answers questions. Moreover, these questions and discussions can be a collaborative endeavor among instructors and students. Wagner (2003) addressed using blogs in education by publishing learning logs.
A podcast is a digital media file, usually digital audio or video that is freely available for download from the Internet using software that can handle RSS feeds (Podcast, 2009). The file can then be played on a personal computer or mobile device at the listener's convenience. The digital media file may be audio, audio enhanced with graphics (quite often with slides from a PPT presentation), or full video. YouTube is currently the most popular site to post and see podcasts.
There are three kinds of podcasts. An audio podcast is usually an MP3 file and is the most common type of podcast. Enhanced podcasts can have images to go along with the audio. They can also have chapter markers, making it easier to skip to different portions of an episode. Enhanced podcasts may be an AAC file and not supported by all devices. Video podcasts (VodCasts) are movies, complete with sound. Video podcasts can be in a variety of formats, but MPEG-4 is the most popular. As with many Web 2.0 technologies compatibility can be a challenge, but software such as DoubleTwist (2009) works on these issues.
One of the reasons for the popularity of podcasts is that they can be played using laptop computers, iPods, PDAs, mobile phones, MP3 players, or other portable devices.
2.4 Social Networks
A social network is a social structure made of nodes, generally individuals or organizations, which are connected by one or more specific types of interdependency (Social Networks, 2009). Facebook, with more than 200 million active users (Facebook, 2009), and MySpace are the two largest social networks.
Twitter is a combined social network and micro-blog service that enables its users to send and read messages known as tweets. Tweets are text-based messages of up to 140 characters in length (hence the "micro") which are displayed on the user's profile page and delivered to other users who have subscribed to them (known as followers) (Twitter, 2009). Twitter is currently the fastest growing social network.
Table 1 shows statistics for the top 25 social networks for January 2009.
2.5 Virtual Worlds
A Virtual World is a computer simulated environment that enables users to interact with each other without geographical confines. Each user is represented by an avatar. This avatar may be a generic representation assigned to him or her, somewhat resemble the user (e.g., gender, hair color, etc.), …
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Publication information: Article title: Web 2.0 and Virtual World Technologies: A Growing Impact on IS Education. Contributors: Harris, Albert L. - Author, Rea, Alan - Author. Journal title: Journal of Information Systems Education. Volume: 20. Issue: 2 Publication date: Summer 2009. Page number: 137+. © EDSIG Fall 2008. COPYRIGHT 2009 Gale Group.
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