Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Making the Case for Web 2.0 Tools

The educational landscape as we once knew it is experiencing a time of unbelievable growth and change. Bob Dylan said it best: “…the times they are a-changin’”. Living in the Age of Information has prompted educators to rethink, revamp, and revitalize the goals of curriculum to prepare students for living in the 21st century; a new world where exponential changes in technology are happening.

Many researchers have acknowledged that the way students learn today has changed from a generation ago. As Ian Jukes (The Committed Sardine) explains:

Kids today are different. Clinical research shows that children neurologically adapt to their pervasive digital experiences, and that they absorb and process information in ways fundamentally different from their predecessors.

Technology has changed, and will continue to change education.

Students must be given the opportunity to actively construct their own knowledge, and to develop the ability to understand and apply key content concepts and ideas, to solve problems, ask questions and question answers, link disciplines, and explore multiple routes to knowledge. Digital Learners like to receive information quickly from multiple multimedia sources, multi-task, process pictures, sounds and video before text, have random access to hyperlinked information, network with others, learn "just in time", have instant gratification, and learn things that are active, relevant and instantly useful.

Education changed from the Agricultural age to the Industrial Age, and it needs to now change from the Industrial age to the information age (Ian Jukes, The Committed Sardine).

Will Richardson (Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms) also provides some key questions educators need to address about the impact of the Internet – the “Read/Write Web” on our futures:

* What needs to change about our curriculum when our students have the ability to reach audiences far beyond our classroom walls?

* What changes must we make in our teaching as it becomes easier to bring primary sources to our students?

* How do we need to rethink our ideas of literacy when we must prepare our students to become not only readers and writers, but editors and collaborators as well?

* How do we best put to use the reams and reams of “digital paper” that Weblogs provide?

We begin to realize that literacy is more complex than ever before; it is being re-conceptualized to encompass the multiple forms of literacy that students will need to develop in order to participate fully in the 21st century.

Make way for the teaching of the NEW literacies: the Internet and ITC (information technology and communication) which are central to the use of information and acquisition of knowledge (Asselin, 2005).

It is generally agreed upon that these new literacies are important goals in education, but how are classroom teachers really addressing and teaching these literacies? Are Web 2.0 tools an important part of how we teach the new literacies? The answer is, yes. As Richardson explains: “…these tools have considerable relevance to state and local core content curriculum standards, and there is much reason to believe their implementation in schools will better prepare students for a slew of new literacies and competencies in their post-education lives” (Richardson, 2006, p. 5).

Additionally, Web 2.0 tools support multiple intelligences and constructivist learning. All of these reasons point to the need for integration in our teaching practices.

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