Opening Up the Web 2.0 Potential

I shared some of the wonders of Web 2.0 to my staff yesterday. As I expected, I endured some good natured ribbing as most of the sixty or so members of the Harold Martin staff know all too well how much I love technology. As I shared in a previous post, it’s crucial that we don’t take the time, resources, and energy to implement technology simply because it’s fun or cool. Instructional time is sacrosanct. There’s not enough of it to begin with.

My argument for Web 2.0 for my staff is primarily that it’s a tool to grow their own professional learning community, within the school, but more importantly outside the walls of our building. Secondly, as adults we share a deficiency that does not exist within our students. They were born with a mouse in their hands. The Web 2.0 tools of social communication are a part of their DNA. Third graders already are on Club Penguin and Webkinz, and by the time they are teenagers they are communicating through Facebook and My Space. Thus, we must know the language of Web 2.0 and help them discover the delights and pitfalls.

With a tap of my cap to some ideas posited by Kathy Schrock, I gave the staff an overview of the major components of what we call Web 2.0:

Blogging: obviously, this is one of the mainstays of the Web 2.0 movement. The ability to have a forum for one’s opinion and provide an opportunity for feedback with no geographical borders is the bedrock of Web 2.0. And whether one uses Blogger, WordPress, or another option, the process is generally free. In order to keep up with the massive volume of blogs out there, it makes sense to use an aggregator such as Google’s Bloglines or a client based RSS reader such as NewsFire (what I use currently) or the popular NetNewsWire.

Of course, as long as you have a solid Internet connection, the trend is to move to online applications such as Google Docs or the rest of the Google suite. There’s obviously a financial advantage over using Word or Pages but the ability to share documents with others is the main benefit.

During the staff meeting, it was clear that teachers were most familiar with online photo sharing mostly as a way to display pictures. But with the advent of services such as Flickr, we can begin to grow our personal learning network (PLN), in this case by sharing digital photos and growing legions of viewers who subscribe to one’s photo feed and choose to comment on individual pictures. As of yesterday, Google’s Picasa has opened their software to Mac users.

Both Nancy Alibrandi (our Media Specialist) and I have entered into the world of podcasting. I described my podcasting process in an earlier post, and admittedly, this a difficult venture without some direct training. Yet, Nancy and I plan on doing a workshop demonstrating how to use Apple’s Garageband and iWeb to create simple podcasts and I am confident we’ll get some takers within the district.

I believe that the most “bang for the buck” comes from social networking, and the leader in this area is clearly Twitter. It took a few weeks to convince me of Twitter’s value after reading too many posts such as I’m eating breakfast now or Time to go to work. But once I developed a bit of a network with educators, I have found Twitter to be potentially the best technological tactic to open up my thinking. I also see the value of Diigo and Delicious as ways to share our own web perspectives with  colleagues.

There’s also great potential in sites such as Ning and Classroom 2.0, not to mention the now legendary YouTube and the fledgling TeacherTube.

The great technologist Will Richardson (one of my Twitter mates) succinctly wraps up the great potential of Web 2.0: The most sweeping change in our relationship with the Internet may not be as much with the ability to publish as it is the ability to share and connect and create with many, may others of like minds and interests.

8 comments Add yours
  1. Boy, I wish that I had you at one of my staff meetings. Our school district has all of the tools to be able to implement all of the Web 2.0 tools but we have yet to have any kind of training on it.
    I am currently enrolled in an online university course dealing with integrating technology in the classroom and I have been reading about what web 2.0 actually means, and I must say, up to a few days ago I didn’t really know what it meant. Since I am new to all of this it can be a bit overwhelming to try and navigate through all of the information. One of our assignments is actually to create a delicious account. Hopefully by the end of my courses I will be able to better understand all of this!
    Thanks, Susan

    1. Hi Susan:

      It’s a difficult road for sure, but a fun one. I’m really very new at it myself. My staff is wonderful but it is so important for this to be relevant. That’s why they need to hear from a teacher, not just an administrator. Let’s keep on chatting. Get a Twitter account and you’ll jump in quickly.


  2. Hi Bill – as I mentioned on Twitter, I’m glad to hear that things went well with your staff meeting. Re: Google Docs, one benefit I’d add – and probably identify as the best for teachers – is that it auto-saves all edits and identifies the person that made the change(s). It’s a great way to quantify the contributions of each collaborator in a group writing project. It also helps us to see the writing process in action by comparing different versions to see what changes took place over time.

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