Jane Trotter, Instructional Technology Specialist
Today’s social and interactive web allows students and educators to communicate and collaborate in new and exciting ways. Location and time lose significance as we are able to connect and collaborate with others around common interests, anytime and anywhere. Perhaps one of the greatests advantages to today’s new web 2.0 is also disadvantageous – we have too many choices! Like a child in the candy shop, where do we begin? Tools available today include, Twitter, Skype, Edmodo, YouTube, Diigo, Google, DropBox, Flickr, VoiceThread, EverNote, Pinterest , Blogger and the list goes on and on. One-way communication, like newsletters and calendars of events, have grown obsolete.
Applications such as Facebook, Edmodo, and Google Drive are being incorporated into classes to improve communication, allowing students and teachers to easily message, question, and collaborate with each other. Events may be scheduled and reminders posted regarding upcoming assignments and projects due. Supplementary materials and links to articles and videos may be shared via social media. The dog can no longer eat the assignment notebook!
Twitter is a major contributor to many educators’ professional development as teachers follow others to keep up with latest teaching trends, get ideas and support one another. Such networks have been found to increase communication and build community. Teachers may set up feeds for individual classes to tweet about upcoming assignments, events and class news.
Today’s social and interactive web is empowering teachers and students to curate resources through social bookmarking applications such as Diigo and Delicious. YouTube is a hosting site for teacher and student made videos providing a rich library of resources. iTunes may be used to organize playlists of video and audio recordings created by and for students and teachers.
Blogs and wikis allow writing experiences for students to apply critical thinking skills. Students are more prone to reflect on their own writing as well as others when the writing is published, intentional, and meaningful. The new web 2.0 allows all to participate and publish.
Collaborative projects requiring the input of many around a common learning goal can be facilitated through video-conferencing and social media over the web. Applications such as Skype and Facetime “break down classroom walls” as students have face-to-face conversations with others who may be conducting similar studies. Collaborators may not be in the same classroom, school district, or country!
With such interactive capacity available via today’s technology, why must students simply sit, listen, and passively receive new content and information. Now they can interact with others and with the content. We can provide more active learning experiences, improve students’ understanding, and effectively develop higher order cognitive skills as students become more engaged in learning.
The integration of the social and interactive web in our classrooms may require a change in pedagogical practice for many of us. We must include proven, research-based, student-centered teaching strategies in our classrooms. A case study conducted by Chen and Bryer indicates that “social media participation is informal and unstructured, which contradicts the orderly and organized flow of regular classroom teaching.”(1) The stand and deliver lecture model is orderly and organized but may no longer meet the needs of our students. Learning is “mucky” as learners jump in to collaborate and contribute. Today’s web 2.0 demands inquiry, collaboration, critical thinking, and digital citizenship. Are we meeting that demand in our classrooms?
(1) CHEN, B., BRYER, T.. Investigating instructional strategies for using social media in formal and informal learning. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, North America, 13, jan. 2012. Available at: <http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/1027/2073>. Date accessed: 19 Oct. 2012.