The Effect of Web 2.0 on Teaching and Learning

Article excerpt

We are nearly a full decade into the 21st Century and unfortunately many schools are still using the term "21st Century teaching" as a far-off, futuristic idea.

The fact of the matter is that the longer schools wait to use technology in their classrooms, the further behind their global peers students will become.

In many cases the resistance from school administrators comes in the form of, "we don't have the money." At the same time resistance comes from some teachers who claim, "I've done it this way for X number of years, and my students have done just fine." A third claim that school administrators and educators occasionally make is, "technology won't improve student performance." There is an element of truth in those claims, but that does not excuse not making a full-fledged effort to integrate technology into K-12 classroom instruction. With some research, creativity, and professional development, any school can stop talking about becoming a 21st Century school and confidently become a 21st Century School.

MERGING TECHNOLOGY WITH TEACHING

Can a teacher be confident that if students embrace all the wonderful tools, they will go beyond minimal test scores and on into the world of deep understanding, critical thinking, and creative thinking, and gain the technological expertise they need to excel globally? Absolutely yes!

Three years ago I was not aware of 10% of the free educational resources available on the Interact that I am aware of today. The acquisition of new knowledge began when I was given the opportunity to pilot the use of classroom laptop computers. At the time I was teaching a social studies survey course for high school freshmen.

One element of the course was an exploration of the policy-making process of the United States Congress. I had taught the course before and students had to complete two assignments for the unit: a flow chart and a mock debate related to a current policy issue. Suddenly, having laptops in the classroom gave me an opportunity to try something new. For instance, a quick Google search for "teaching about Congress" brought me to The Center on Congress at Indiana State University, http://congress.indiana.edu/index.php. One of the featured activities on the site was an interactive activity called How a Member Decides to Vote, http://congress.indiana. edu/learn_about/launcher.htm. This free, web-based activity provided students with the opportunity to take on the persona of a congressman or congresswoman. Throughout the activity the students would receive calls from constituents, talk with special interest groups, attend committee meetings, and attend votes in Congress. The calls from constituents would come in at random intervals throughout the activity. This activity gave students the opportunity to experience the chart rather than just study and create flow charts. At the end of the unit of study on the policy making process, that year's students had a better understanding of the process than did the students of prior years.

This story is one of personal success in one classroom, but more important, it began a grassroots movement of teachers interested in learning about the free technology resources available for classroom use. For the most part, the teachers' interest was piqued by hearing students talking about what they were doing in my class. It is no secret that students who are excited about coming to class and are engaged in class will perform better. Technology in and of itself does not create engaged students, but using web applications that allow students to create new content does engage students in learning.

So can a teacher be sure of that students will perform better, delve deeper, and become more creative because they have integrated technology into their classroom? The answer is a resounding yes if you believe improved student engagement improves learning.

TECHNOLOGY, IT IS NOT JUST A BUNCH OF PLAY TOOLS

Technology in and of itself will not create more engaged students or better students. …