Don't Be Afraid to Explore Web 2.0

By Thompson, John | Phi Delta Kappan, June 2008 | Go to article overview

Don't Be Afraid to Explore Web 2.0


Thompson, John, Phi Delta Kappan


WEB 2.0 is a hot topic. The term "Web 2.0" refers to the next generation of Internet applications that allow (even encourage) the average Internet user to collaborate and share information online. It signals a major change in Internet use, since in the computer world "2.0" indicates a major upgrade to an original program.

Web 2.0 sites allow anyone to contribute content and to participate with other users in editing and even combining or remixing existing content with other material to repurpose it for additional uses. Thus content on the Internet is no longer static; it is changing and dynamic. A distinguishing Web 2.0 feature is the increasing significance of the individual user, as anybody (even a fifth-grader) can create and upload text, as well as audio and video, to the Internet. Another characteristic is the reliance on user participation, often referred to as the "wisdom of the crowd" and the "architecture of participation." Web 2.0 has an inherent trust in people and what they can contribute when working together toward a common goal for the greater good.

If Web 1.0 (even though we did not know it was "1.0" at the time) was a read-only medium, today's Web 2.0 is read/write. The Internet's first era of mass use required users with programming skills to contribute (upload) material to the Internet. Early Internet users found that material in a manner similar to going to the library to find and take home a book. In contrast, Web 2.0 users still go to the library (i.e., the Internet), but instead of figuratively just taking home a book to read, they now enjoy other possible uses, including contributing comments, changing the contents, and having others simultaneously read the material in real time.

So perhaps you are thinking that all of this is very interesting, but you're wondering, What effect can Web 2.0 have on me and how I do my job? Maybe your favorite FM radio station is WII-FM (What's In It For Me?). Read what educators are saying. Kim Estes, a secondary instructional technology specialist in the Burleson (Texas) Independent School District, says Web 2.0 is "shifting the focus from individualized work to collaborative efforts, from individual learning to collective knowledge, from passive reception to active creation." Kathy Schrock, a technology administrator in the Nauset Public Schools in Orleans, Massachusetts, and keeper of the Kathy Schrock's Guide for Educators website, relates that the "ability to add to the body of knowledge about a topic, offer additional information, or state an opinion via public commenting on a blog or social networking site allows students to understand the importance of producing information for an authentic audience."

Several thousand Web 2.0 applications have become available in the last few years. These applications are generally free to individuals. One suite of online applications that promotes creating, sharing, and collaborating is Zoho (http://zoho.com), which offers a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation tool, and note taker, among other services. Another increasingly popular and diverse online productivity and collaboration application is Google Docs (http://docs.google.com), which requires a free Google account. Google is increasingly becoming more than just a search engine. Google Docs is a suite of applications that allow you to import existing documents or create new documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. As with other Web 2.0 applications, it is Web-based so you can create, edit, and store your material online. Using online applications instead of programs installed on your desktop or laptop computer is a hallmark of Web 2.0 applications, so much so that it has acquired its own name: "cloud computing." The all-encompassing Internet is the "cloud."

However, Google recently announced that it will begin permitting word processor users to store files on their personal computers in addition to using Google's online storage, thereby giving you access to your work when the Internet is not available, such as when you are on a plane. …

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