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Can Web 2.0 Tools enhance Students Learning Outcomes?

Let’s cast our minds back to some decades ago. We got up from our comfortable chairs to converse with colleagues, ask a question, and discuss issues of the day end even exchanged greetings. Well, I don’t see that happening these days? The rapid advancement in technology has tremendously transformed our communication channels, the way we learn, live and work.  I am also marveled at the pace of events. Not long ago, we were fascinated by the capabilities of the internet to support a network of individuals connected through social technologies such as e-mail, chat and discussion board. Guess what! These tools are now classified as Web 1.0 tools.  Even though we have not fully grasped the full potential of Web 1.0 tools to enhance student engagement and learning outcomes, another plethora of very fascinating and amazing tools, termed Web 2.0 tools are with us. Web 2.0 tools not only support social interaction, conversation, networking and feedback but also can be used to create and share content very easily. They are seen as the communicative form of the internet or the Read-write-web.  Web 2.0 tools promote active participation, collaboration, connectivity and sharing of knowledge. Examples of Web 2.0 tools include Twitter, Facebook, Second Life, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr, Screencast-o-matic, VoiceThread and many more.

 How many are we talking about? Jane Hart’s Directory of Learning Tools 2011 includes over 2,000 tools for learning and working in education and the workplace. But can these tools enhance the way I teach, communicate with my students, improve my students learning, etc. In other words, can these tools be used in accordance with the Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education? That is;

  • Encourage contacts between students and instructor,
  • Develop reciprocity and cooperation among students
  • Encourage active learning techniques,
  • Gives prompt feedback,
  • Emphasizes time on task
  • Communicates high expectation
  • Respects diverse talents and ways of learning.

 Evidently, Web 2.0 tools can support and expand various aspects of the seven principles as well as social learning as they allow users to communicate, collaborate and create content in the online environment. More importantly they function on the concept of “wisdom to the crowd”. We participate, share, construct knowledge, connect and interact as a community; allowing any user to combine and recombine contents of others to produce new knowledge, images, representation etc.

With over 2,000 tools to choose from, instructors and students can make decisions with regards to what tools will enable them to better express their thoughts, ideas, knowledge and creativity. Many of these tools support active participation, learner self-direction and personal meaning construction. The varied opportunities to engage in different forms of conversations and interactions enable students to explore and develop their own identity and personal learning styles. For many years the dominate mode of expression of thought and communication has been to use text. Content creation tools like VoiceThread enables users to navigate slides and leave comments – using voice (with a mic or telephone), text, audio file (MP3/WAV), or video (via a webcam). Others such as Skype, Flickr, YouTube provide engaging two-way experiences for users that involves creating and sharing multimedia content.

According to Fink (2003) students learning experiences should be significant and must have lasting value to the individual and the wider community. Web 2.0 tools can promote student-generated content, student engagement, development of critical thinking skills and can foster a sense of community. Any artifacts created can be easily shared with anyone in the community and worldwide. Effective learning occurs through meaningful conversations. Web 2.0 tools promote social interactions though communication, dialogue and shared activities. It is easy to connect and communicate with individuals, groups and the entire world through social networking such as Facebook, and Twitter. The urge to actively participate is very strong and attracts students, instructors, politicians, religious leaders, scientists, etc.; in short, people of all ages and profession and worldwide. Published work is consequently viewed by many and evidently anyone could invite feedback from a wider audience than ever before.

 CTLT will be offering short courses and workshops on some of these tools this fall. For more information or to register, call 309-438-2542 or visit our website at http://www.ctlt.ilstu.edu/.

I hope you will find some time to try out some of these web 2.0 tools and please share your experiences. Also if you have used any web 2.0 tool that would be useful to other faculty members we would be glad to learn from you.

Join the conversation.

 

References

 

McLoughlin, C & Lee, M. J. W (2007). Social software and participatory learningPedagogical choices withtechnology affordances in the Web 2.0 era. Retrieved at www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/singapore07/procs/mcloughlin.pdf

Fink, L. Dee (2003). Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

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