Working the Web: Interactive Web 2.0 Technologies May Help Improve Teaching and Learning, as Well as Staff Productivity

By David, Chelan | University Business, April 2007 | Go to article overview

Working the Web: Interactive Web 2.0 Technologies May Help Improve Teaching and Learning, as Well as Staff Productivity


David, Chelan, University Business


THINK OF THE EARLY WORLD WIDE WEB AS VERSION 1.0. Progressive for its day, it primarily served as a reference tool and provided a static experience for cybervisitors. Now we have entered a second phase, dubbed "Web 2.0," and it's a whole new ball game. This next generation of web-based offerings is designed to foster collaboration and encourage interactive activities.

The shift toward user-generated content is having a major impact on education. Already the new version of the web is providing learning opportunities that just a decade ago were unimaginable. Educators are taking advantage of photo and video sharing services, podcasting, wikis, blogs, and other social software to instruct learners through the latest in internet technologies.

Although not specifically designed for classroom settings, such web-based technologies provide a fertile source for creating excitement among faculty and students. These technologies are not only useful for educational purposes, but for administrative processes as well.

The Power of Collaboration

What distinguishes the Web 2.0 phenomenon from earlier online educational tools is its connective nature. Key aspects of the movement include web architecture that encourages user contributions, the continuous updates of software and data, and the freedom to share and edit content. Essentially, anyone with an internet connection can consume and remix data while collaborating with others.

Educators can use social bookmaking as a tool for locating, organizing, and sharing online resources. Think of social bookmarking as version 2.0 of the personal bookmarks on your browser. In contrast to the bookmarks on your computer, social bookmarking sites are available to you from any computer. Also, you can: add tags (free-text keywords) to your posts; see what others are posting and what tags they're using; and sort items of interest by tag, project, or user.

In essence, social bookmarking allows users to organize their resources in a tailored manner and share this information with others. The research and administrative applications of such a system are plentiful. Researchers of all stripes can set up social bookmarking pages to assist them in their inquiries. They act as a giant electronic file capable of storing links that might otherwise be lost over time, either dispersed across different browser settings or distributed in printouts and languishing in forgotten folders. Also, discovering others with similar academic pursuits can lead to collaboration.

Harvard's collaborative "H20" project is an example of how an open source, educational platform can connect educators, researchers, and students online. The project encourages the free creation and exchange of ideas within and beyond the university setting. With H20 playlists--a shared list of readings and other content about a specific topic of intellectual interest--visitors can turn to broad communities of expertise for educational recommendations.

The site is designed to aggregate knowledge by promoting an exchange of ideas and expertise. Interested parties can subscribe to "playlist updates" and receive the latest information related to their prospective fields. Reading lists of renowned scholars and cultural leaders can be shared. And instructors can transform traditional syllabi into interactive global learning tools.

Staying true to the Web 2.0 mantra of collaboration and user contribution, H20's source code is open, so its users can play a central role in its continued development.

"We wanted to accept the internet's invitation to its users to build new things as users, rather than waiting for dot-com firms to provide them for us," says Jonathan Zittrain, cofounder of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School.

Video Sharing for Faculty Members

Jeff Clark hatched the idea of using video sharing for faculty orientation purposes after watching a PBS segment in which YouTube's cofounders were interviewed. …

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Working the Web: Interactive Web 2.0 Technologies May Help Improve Teaching and Learning, as Well as Staff Productivity
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