By Ken Piercey
Rarely does a day go by that I haven’t checked Facebook and my email account. The same is true for most of today’s students, the digital natives. Students today learn through multitasking, videos, interaction, and creation methods not well supported in the far too common large student lecture hall (Prensky, 2001). We are entering a workforce that will require increased use of technology and collaboration with teams to solve increasingly complex issues. Simply knowing information is not enough anymore. With Wikipedia boasting over nine million articles (Eijkman, 2008) and Youtube posting seventy million videos a day (Skiba 2007) students need to know how to filter out the useless from the useful. The answer to future education may well be the incorporation of web 2.0 technologies.
What is Web 2.0?
Web 2.0 technologies are the social side to the Internet; it encompasses wiki’s, blogs, podcasts, and social networking sites (Parker, & Chao, 2007). These technologies have made collaboration online cost effective, simple to use, and accessible virtually anywhere (Parker, & Chao, 2007). Parker and Chao (2007) connect the use of Web 2.0 technology to meeting cooperative and constructivist learning theories. Competencies students gain in these learning environments include: connecting meaning to learning, intrinsic motivation, increased self direction, conflict resolution, research skills, communication skills, advanced problem solving, time management, challenge and debate, respect for others, and digital competency (Fernández, Pulido, & García-Ruiz, 2014).
What are the challenges with using web 2.0?
Integrating these technologies is not without its challenges. Cochrane (2014) identified six critical success factors for implementing web 2.0 technologies and expanded on two in particular. The first is the need for technological and pedagological support. Teachers and students need to be trained on the use of the technologies as well as the change from a pedagological learning style to more of an andragological (more self directed) and ultimately heutalogical (constructing new knowledge within a community) style. In a number of longitudinal studies a lack of ongoing support and training led to the majority of web 2.0 projects failing. The second critical success factor was the scaffolding required to shift the pedagogy. Obtaining buy in from teachers and students in the ontological shift from teacher as the authority of knowledge and student as the passive learner to student as active learner and teacher as facilitator proves to be a great barrier. This shift requires introducing students to web 2.0 technologies gradually and increasing its use as the student’s progress through their programs. The instructors require ongoing mentoring until they are proficient in the use of web 2.0 technologies.
Is there proof that it works?
The answer is not really. There is little empirical evidence to show the effectiveness of web 2.0 technologies. Two studies that I found identified that the use of web 2.0 technologies in higher education may not produce the competencies in students that many articles claim they will. Thomposon, Gray, and Kim (2014) found that students evaluated after a class in which web 2.0 technology was used described the experience as an more individual focused than collaborative. Students felt they were engaged cognitively as individuals, they were self motivated, and felt they did not share ownership of the work they created. Fernandez, Pulido, and Garcia-Ruiz (2014) had students rank four teaching modalities by the competencies acquired using each modality in relation to collaborative and constructive learning competencies. The students ranked the use of web 2.0 technology as number three behind peer tutoring and problem based learning.
There is a definite need for further research into how and which web 2.0 technologies could or should be integrated into higher education curriculums. For now we should consider these tools to be added to alternate teaching modalities that support constructivist and collaborative teaching modalities.
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