Web 2.0

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Web 2.0 refers to the use of the Internet for two-way communication, hence the term read/write web coined by Will Richardson. Web 2.0 is allowing teachers, students and administrators, really anyone, to post thoughts, ideas, opinions and have conversations without the need for advanced web design knowledge or a printing press.

This article is written to overview several Web 2.0 tools being used in schools. Each tool will be briefly described and include links to articles within this wiki as well as web links to resources for the tool described. This is only a short list. One of the biggest concepts behind web 2.0 is that the web is becoming a platform, not simply a place to find information.

Contents

RSS

File:128px-Feed-icon svg.png
RSS symbols indicate that a feed is present

VIDEO: RSS in Plain English

RSS or Real Simple Syndication is used to "feed" information from a website. Saving the trouble of visiting a website to see if there is any new information. Websites with an RSS feed can be "subscribed to" allowing the information contained within the website to be fed. Most of these subscriptions are free and can be collected in one location (see Feed Aggregators below). RSS feeds may contain news, blog posts, as well as media such as .mp3 files (see Podcasts below).

How It Works

RSS feeds are written or generated using XML code that is read by the aggregator. When a new item is published to the web, a feed aggregator will recognize the updated RSS feed and download the new item to your aggregator. With a subscription to a feed, there is no longer a need to search for and visit bookmarked web sites for the latest articles and news. In the simplest terms RSS is the paperboy of web 2.0 it makes sure that all of your subscriptions end up on your doorstep.

How to Get Started

Beginning to use an RSS Reader or aggregator is important step in understanding how to access and filter relevant information in our increasingly digital world.

Sign Up
Once you decide on an aggregator to use (see Feed Aggregators below), create an account. Follow the online instructions to set up your account and login using your username and password.
Subscribe to Blogs/News Sites
Option 1

When you browse the web, train yourself to look for the RSS symbol (see RSS symbol above) or a similar button indicating that there is a feed to subscribe to the sites content. Depending upon the web browser you are using, you may see another page with some instructions/options to select. Follow these directions to subscribe.

Option 2

You can copy the feed URL (web address) and paste it into the subscribe field. To do this, right click on the RSS symbol or button and select Copy Shortcut or Copy Link Location.

Feed Aggregators
Google Reader
Bloglines
NewsGator
NetVibes
Mac OS X Widget

Weblogs (Blogs)

VIDEO: Blogs in Plain English

Weblogs or blogs are most easily defined as web pages that are written in a chronological order using a web browser as the web editing tool. There are many different ways to use blogs from simple personal journals to more complex community portals.

When using a blog in the education setting we are speaking to the more complex use of this medium. Blogs are a place to begin a conversation around different issues of interest. For example using a blog to post thoughts and concepts about libraries and education is the goal of Doug Johnson's weblog The Blue Skunk. The conversation that Doug has started has many different ways of creating community. There is at its base a community of readers who are interested in his opinions and thoughts. This community is similar to what we want students to be able to do. We want students to be able to take ideas and concepts and construct and share their own thoughts and opinions.

Another server for hosting log that shows how questioning can be used for promting discussions is Alan November's blog. Alan is using this with teachers to ask questions and have them reflect on what they are doing in the classrooms. Being able to engage students in this type of reflection about their classroom work will help to engage them in their learning and the metacognitive process.

Another part of a blogging community (a.k.a - blogosphere) becomes the web pages or ideas that the author reads and links. The learning process of blogging is a cycle of reading, writing, and thinking about what other bloggers have posted or commented. This cycle leads to the discovering of new authors and blogs and ultimately to personal growth.

Blogging has changed the way people can interact with a web page. Instead of the web being a one way street where the publisher publishes their thoughts or information, blogging and the tools of Web 2.0 allow for contribution from a larger group.

Podcasts

Podcasting is another form of blogging, although in an audio format. Podcasting has become popular through the advent of the iPod, hence the "pod" in term podcasting. The term has caused some confusion about the use of podcasts and that one needs an iPod to listen when in fact all that is needed is a computer or other .mp3 player. Podcasts can be downloaded to a computer or a portable device for playback at a later time.

Uses of Podcasts
Uses of podcasts in education range from student use to use by teachers for professional development. Uses for students may take the form of recorded lessons for absent students, student created podcast as an product of a learning experience, conducting interviews with experts or peers with in a class or school. There are many creative ways to use podcasts view one representation here of how one group of teachers use podcasting.

Creating Podcasts
Creating a podcast is as simple as making a recording using a computer and a microphone and saving the recording in the .mp3 file format. When learning to podcast, begin by learning how to record and edit audio and then save it as a an .mp3 file. What makes a podcast a podcast is the RSS feed attached to it, otherwise it is simply an audio file. While writing an RSS file is a somewhat frustrating, it is common practice to combine a podcast with an existing blog in order to utilize the RSS feed associated with the blog.

Wikis

VIDEO: Wikis in Plain English

Put simply, a wiki is a quickly editable web page. In practice it is about collaboration, community, knowledge construction and open discussion. Another tool within the Web 2.0 world is the wiki. Most people, when they hear the term wiki, instantly think of Wikipedia. While it is the most widely known wiki, Wikipedia is but one example.

The premise behind a wiki is a contributing community that leverages the collective knowledge of many, rather than that of the few. One shouldn't have to look any farther that the concept of Metcalf's law to understand why this might be of value. This concept was part of the design behind wiki software, originally created by Ward Cunningham. The software created a place for programmers to share and collaborate on code that they were writing.

Wikis In & Out of the Classroom
One example is the Flat Classroom Project where students in Dhaka collaborated with students in Georgia in examining concepts from Thomas Friedman's The World Is Flat.

Two more examples of teachers that are using wiki for the writing process are Bud the Teacher and the High School Online Collaborative Writing wiki. Both of these wikis are being used to document on going projects related to online writing.

Social Networking

VIDEO: Social Networking in Plain English

Social networking sites (SNS) have taken the web by storm. You may be familiar with some of the mainstream names in social networking, such as MySpace.com or Facebook.com, however, social networks take many forms on the web. Social networks provide a common space where friends, family or colleagues can connect (or reconnect) to communicate, share ideas, photos, videos and much more.

Ning
Ning is a website that allows people to create their own social networks. This is a popular site for educators, one great example of this is Classroom 2.0 which has thousands of educator members worldwide.
MySpace
MySpace is a very popular site among teenagers, young adults as well as adults. Owned by Fox News Corp. this social network has been a poster child for both the positive and negative sides of social networking.
Facebook
Facebook is emerging as a very popular social networking site with similar age groups as MySpace, though it is seems most popular with a post high school, college age students.
Del.icio.us
Del.icio.us is a social bookmarking site where users share bookmarks online with others via tagging. Del.icio.us is free, and is a very powerful way to share resources within a group or individually.
VIDEO: Social Bookmarking in Plain English
Flickr
Flickr is an online photo sharing site where users can post photos (publicly or privately) to network with friends, family or the world. Photos can be organized, tagged, commented on among other dynamic features included in Flickr. Flickr is free, however, users can sign up for a "pro" account for more upload capability and additional features.
VIDEO: Online Photo Sharing in Plain English

Other Web 2.0 Tools

Web Browers
Most web browsers are becoming more friendly with Web 2.0 tools (i.e. - RSS feeds and blogging). Browsers are being released with the built in capability to aggregate and display RSS feeds for reading. Plug-ins are also available that allow users to create blog posts directly from the browser to their blog. For examples of Web 2.0 friendly browsers check out Firefox, Flock, Opera, and Internet Explorer.

Resources

Books
Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms by Will Richardson - ISBN 978-1412927673
Web 2.0 - new tools, new schools by Gwen Solomon & Lynne Schrum - ISBN 978-1-56484-234-3
RSS for Educators - Blogs, Newsfeeds, Podcasts, and Wikis in the Classroom by John G. Hendron - ISBN 978-1-56484-239-8
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