This post is for the EdTec 498 class through PSU’s World Campus. I’m happy to be making a guest blog appearance for the EdTec 498 class. I’ve been asked by Phil Tietjen, the course instructor, to define web 2.0 and/or social media and to identify some distinguishing features of web 2.0 that support learning.
I would define web 2.0/social media as, “Any two-way medium that allows people to connect, share, and collaborate for the benefit of all parties.” Read, write and share are the important elements of web 2.0 and social media. Web 2.0 is often referred to as the “read/write” web. But, “share” is a crucial element in my mind. Without “share”, “read/write” has the potential for a limited, circumstantial audience. It’s the sharing that connects our contributions to the network to build upon the work of others and/or create new thoughts. The contributions then travel throughout the network for validation and additional contribution. Ideas, comments and thoughts ideally grow and expand along every network node. The profile-based and random connections along the network are what make web 2.0 and social media truly powerful. Contribution without connection presents limited opportunities.
The four Cs of web 2.0 (Bersin & Associates, 2008) highlight some distinguishing features that support learning. Web 2.0/social media enables content Creation, Conversations, Connections and Collaboration. Content is no longer king, but it is still key. Without content; conversations, connections and collaboration have little meaning. Content creation in web 2.0 can be traditional content creation with tools like blogs, SplashUp or Prezi, but content aggregation and web highlighting with Diigo could also be considered content creation (or re-creation).
Conversation is probably the most relevant web 2.0 feature that supports learning. Feedback is an important part of learning and web 2.0 conversations enable feedback from instructors and peers in the class, but also experts and colleagues from around the globe. Conversations can also aide learning (based on social learning theory) by providing opportunities to observe the ideas, comments and “behaviors” of others in the community and then adopt those actions to improve our own understanding of concepts and successful communication techniques.
Web 2.0 connections also expand the opportunities for learning. We often learn through the direct assistance or inquiry of those around us. The web expands “those around us” beyond any geographic boundaries. And, it often enables us to filter the network (through profiles) to identify those who are most likely to provide the best assistance. So, the web can widen our connections, but also make them more efficient and effective. Have you ever asked someone for directions, only to have them tell you everything about the surrounding location, except for how to get where you want to go? While these encounters are sometimes “entertaining”, they usually don’t help with your intended goal. Web 2.0 can reduce the inefficiencies of random communication.
Increased collaboration is another way in which web 2.0 can benefit education. Group work is often a part of academic projects. It provides opportunities for interpersonal development, active learning and peer feedback. It also mimics how we often work. Rare are the days when work tasks are completed without some form of collaboration. One challenge of group work in academia (and business) is that there are usually one or two people who complete the bulk of the actual “work.” Time and activity tracking of collaborative work on the web doesn’t alleviate a similar scenario in web-based group work, but it does provide an opportunity for the group members to self-regulate via a review of each member’s electronic contribution. Faculty can also intervene and/or grade appropriately based on tracking data from collaborative activities. Besides policing, another benefit of collaboration on the web is that it can be done without time and distance considerations. This flexible, collaborative environment allows for different work and communication styles to work productively in the same group.
The four C’s provide an organized way in which to look at the benefits of web 2.0. However, it is difficult to group web 2.0 tools into precise categories. Many tools cross the boundaries and provide opportunities for content creation, conversation, connections and/or collaboration – all in one tool. The C’s do provide an opportunity for thinking critically about tool selection though. As you evaluate web 2.0 tools consider them in the context of what your primary goal is. Which “C” do you want to support the most? While they cross boundaries, some tools have primary functions and may be better for one “C” than another.
A few questions to consider:
Have you considered the four C’s previously or any other web 2.0 categorization? What are the benefits of viewing web 2.0/social media through the lens of categories? What are the dangers of categorizing web 2.0/social media benefits or approaches?
Do you also think “share” is the most important element of web 2.0? Why or why not?
Can you describe any successful applications of the theories described above? What have you done or what have you seen that supports that web 2.0 supports content, conversations, connections or collaboration to improve education?
Thanks to Phil Tietjen for inviting me to be a guest blogger in the EdTec 498 class. I’m looking forward to reading and responding to comments from the students.
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