from Technology & Learning
Web 2.0: What's all the fuss about?
No one would dispute that today's Internet has become a pervasive influence on the daily lives of a significant number of citizens across the world. It quickly revolutionized the way we access information, conduct business, and find entertainment. The Web has replaced libraries, classrooms, bookstores, yellow pages, telephones, even paper. And yet, it is increasingly apparent that this is just the tip of an iceberg that promises to broaden and expand as we move into the new century.
Building on the read/write applications that have emerged in new and improved, user-friendly ways, Web 2.0 has essentially transformed the Internet from an e-commerce and Web page publishing venue to a planet-wide networked community where every citizen is invited to create content. This shift of the Internet from passive to active, from consumer-to participant-oriented, is what characterizes the transformed Internet.
The New Culture of Participation
To be sure, Web 2.0 has proved an exceptional conduit for connecting users—via social networking sites such as MySpace, YouTube, and Yahoo! Groups—and for allowing worldwide collaboration through Open Source technologies that allow users to build on and customize "free" code. Moreover, the opportunity for instant and global publication of information, thoughts, opinions, and ideas is something our "digital native" students take for granted as normal and commonplace.
Second Nature to Kids
Results of a 2007 national survey conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project show that 55 percent of all online American young people between the ages of 12 and 17 use social networking sites for communicating about everything from school-related issues to where the next party is taking place.
Education Must Get on Board
Clearly, this generation—poised to shape the future—has already found Web 2.0 applications integral to daily life. And for education not to step up and maximize these resources for teaching, learning, and driving innovation is to risk becoming marginalized as a viable influence in helping to shape the 21st century. In the following pages, we offer a glimpse of how educators can harness Web 2.0 tools to enhance professional development and to open up worlds of new possibilities for learning.