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Web 2.0 Tools

Web 2.00 refers to a perceived second generation of Web-based services -- such as social networking sites, wikis, communication tools, and folksonomies -- that emphasize online collaboration and sharing among users.
-- Wikipedia

A recent blog posting by David Warlick really resonated with me. An advocate of 21st century teaching and learning technologies, David has been crisscrossing the world, sharing how teachers can use blogs, wiki, podcasts and other applications to extend student learning. His blog is an up-to-date report-out on how Web 2.0 tools are affecting how we use and share information and how that applies to education.

On a much smaller scale, Ive been doing the same thing. Like David, Ive stood at the front of a room watching my audience, nodding in agreement, take notes. Those nodding heads belonged to educators who, for the most part, agree with what Im talking about -- teachers who like to keep up with how the Web can transform their classrooms into places where student engagement is accelerated, leading to significant learning gains.

In spite of the interest shown during my workshops, however, a nagging question has been plaguing me. Ive never put it into words but when I read Davids blog, I saw my nagging question staring back at me.

David wrote:
The question persists, Is Web 2.0 going to lead to School 2.0? Is it truly transformative, or just more geek lust and magic tricks for consultants to perform on stage for the applause?"

That is a question that should be directed to national and district leadership; those who establish the overarching focus educators must follow in their classrooms. If standardized testing, assessment, and a broad curriculum is the main focus of education leadership, it doesnt matter whether or not Web 2.0 has the potential to better prepare students for the 21st century workplace. Until technology is viewed as a mindtool that fosters critical thinking and the implementation of curriculum, it will be seen as being in competition with a districts primary focus, instead of supporting it.

I have no doubt that emerging technologies are much more than geek lust and magic tricks. Teachers across the world have demonstrated how blogs, wikis, and podcasts have the potential to recharge the schoolhouse.

Many systemic obstacles get in the way of that happening, however. I hear about those obstacles every time I sit down for lunch with the classroom teachers who attend my workshops. Over sandwiches and soup I hear how they are encumbered by lack of time, high accountability, bloated curriculum, aging computers, and insufficient access to technology. I hear story after story of how teachers can barely keep up with teaching as usual, let alone look for new and innovative ways to prepare students for the future.

So I ask myself the same question that David Warlick asks: Will the potential of Web 2.0 find its way back into the classroom, or will it serve only as the content for an engaging PD workshop?

The reality is that without the support of national and district leaders, teachers will fail to integrate those powerful learning tools into their classrooms. Instead they will file into hour- or day-long sessions led by people like me. Theyll enjoy the live educational entertainment- -- watching and imagining how, in a different time and place, they too might have used these tools to create learning environments filled with student authors, creators, problem-solvers and moviemakers.

Who Is Brenda?

Brenda Dyck is a sessional instructor at the University of Alberta, in Edmonton, Alberta (Canada). In addition to teaching preservice teachers, Brenda is the moderator of MiddleTalk, a listserve sponsored by the National Middle School Association (NMSA). Her "HotLinks" column is a regular feature in NMSA's magazine, Middle Ground. Brenda also is a teacher-editor for MidLink magazine.

Author: Brenda Dyck
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Updated 10/21/2010