Web 2.0, a term used to demonstrate the way in which the Internet has changed since its first launch, has opened doors in classrooms to new tpyes of learning and thinking. Previously, students sat in classrooms, passively listening as a teacher told them all they would ever need to know. The Internet (Web 1.0) worked in much the same fashion, with creators publishing information that was read and used by consumers for specific purposes. There was no interaction between creator and consumer, no widespread sharing of information or collaboration with other authors. This is no longer true today.
Today’s web is a dynamic, versatile, and interconnected network of people, places, ideas, beliefs, and knowledge. The information is always changing as people edit, respond to, and add to what has already been published. Take Google docs for example, in which multiple people can edit the same document at the same time and the changes appear in real time as they are made. A student in Los Angeles and one in Tokyo can have an instantaneous exchange of information using the new web. This is just one example of an amazing tool in the new web that opens all kinds of possibilities in the classroom.
Teachers are finding ways to implement the capabilities of the new web every day. Building multimedia projects using photos, videos, and audio clips helps students synthesize a variety of media and information types into one cohesive project. Students can complete reading surveys using Google docs and see how their answers compare to classmates’ to spark discussion and debate about literature. Students can feel free to ask any question, even one to which the teacher does not know the answer, because the class can quickly consult articles, blogs, journals, and other sources to find information about the topic. Learning is happening continuously thanks to the resources of the new web.
However, with all good things there is usually a downside. The mass amounts of information available that seem to just be floating in nebulous space, reading for the taking, have resulted in copyright infringements and illegal downloads. These can happen accidentally, but it is difficult for students to grasp that there is a real live human being who owns the information they have such easy access to. Teachers have modeled poor Internet use by using pictures, audio, and video from others in their own presentations or activities without citing the source or ensuring that their usage follows the Fair Use Policy. There is also the issues of Internet safety and digital footprints. As many students do not consider the owners of the material they find online, they usually do not think of themselves as authors who can be traced and linked back to anything they post online. This digital footprint follows them for the rest of their lives, which for some students can be a terrifying thought. With the dynamic nature of the web, there is also the potential for people to post false information. Students often believe that if it’s online, it must be true. This is obviously wrong. The new web also raises new problems with classroom management. With such a huge network to explore, it can be tempting for students to get off-task and embark on their own Internet explorations. While discovery is a noble exploit, class time should be used to its fullest potential and students should be focused on the tasks at hand.
As teachers, we need to help balance the benefits of Web 2.0 with the potential dangers by modeling appropriate use of the Internet and its resources. Teachers should help students distinguish reputable sources from bad ones to ensure that factual information is used. Students should learn how to appropriately cite sources and should have a working knowledge of Fair Use policies to prevent copyright infringement. Students should also learn that the information on the web does not simply exist; it belongs to a real person and that also leads to issues of safety with the people students communicate with online. Teachers should monitor student activity online to ensure that students are staying on task and using technology appropriately. Teachers and students should be aware of their school’s Acceptable Use Policy and adhere to it to prevent any legal or personal issues online. Safety and consideration are key, but if these are kept in mind then teachers and students should be free to access the huge wealth of information that exists online and connect with people around the globe.