Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Are Web 2.0 tools designed to support learning?

Whether it is Web 1.0 or Web 2.0 tools, we need to understand and evaluate the affordances of the tools and their abilities to support and deliver learning effectively. Today, I came across a case study that evaluates the pedagogical affordances of web 2.0 technologies.

The case study makes some interesting points about the pedagogical affordances of web 2.0 technologies. To put it across in layman’s perspective, the case study analyses the abilities of web 2.0 tools to deliver training.

1) Very few of the current crop of Web 2.0 technologies started life designed as educational tools. (Which is very true. Web 2.0 technologies are designed for collaboration, sharing, content creation etc. They are not designed exclusively to deliver training.)

2) The specific design and functionality of a particular tool or technology does not define its pedagogical usefulness. Rather there are other important ingredients required including the imagination and creativity of the individual user as they conceptualize problems or issues in their own environment that the particular tool might facilitate or help solve. (I agree. As a consequence of point 1, most web 2.0 tools cannot by themselves deliver training. To help integrate into the formal structure of training delivery, trainers and learners have to tweak and modify them with the features and functions to support training-related tasks.)

3) Categories of ‘affordances’ associated with Web 2.0 or social software: • Connectivity • Collaborative information discovery and sharing • Content creation • Knowledge and information aggregation • Content modification

However, what is interesting is that these affordances need not necessarily lend themselves into “training or learning” affordances. Let’s map the affordances of Web 2.0 tools to evaluate their applicability in a training framework.

What are the typical learning/training needs and how can Web 2.0 tools support these needs?

1. Learners should be able to relate concepts to real life application. To facilitate this, Web 2.0 tools must support streaming media and dynamic content in order to show application of concepts through cases, scenarios, and examples. Trainer can post video clips visuals or presentations, learners can reflect on these and post their comments. Examples: YouTube, discussion forums, blogs.

2. Learners want to practice what they have learned and preferably in a real-life or realistic situation. Therefore, Web 2.0 tools must have features that support free movement of learners within an environment that is close to real. The environment should show consequences, offer alternative paths to explore, make decisions, deconstruct, move, and respond to stimuli. Trainers can design a dynamic environment that simulates real life. In this environment, learners are exposed to situations or offered options where they can practice in a fail-safe mode. Examples: Virtual world, simulations

3. Learners today need to work in groups during the learning process. The Web 2.0 technologies must support multiuser activities such that multiple learners can interact in a dynamic learning environment. The learning environment can facilitate interaction among many learners and allow them to interact, share, and create. Examples: Virtual worlds, blogs, and wikis.

4. For learning to be effective, it needs to facilitate interaction among learners, trainers, and experts in a synchronous mode. To make this happen, Web 2.0 tools need to support instant exchange of messages and feedback among multiple users. They should provide a platform where learners can post comments and trainers/experts can view them and respond. Examples: Virtual world, web-conferencing tools like WebEx, Twitter

5. Learners want to have the freedom to take notes, make handwritten annotations on visuals, video, comment on specific audio files etc. The Web 2.0 tools should enable learners to scribble notes, make annotation on the video or the image, and rip information bytes from the videos, podcast or audio files. Both trainers and learners should be able to display annotation (feedback) from each other instantly or selectively depending on the training need. Examples: Web-meeting and conferencing tools, web learning applications

You can view a list of Top 100 Tools for Learning compiled by Jane Hart of Center of Learning and Performance Technologies.

Therefore, to conclude, Web 2.0 tools are designed to facilitate collaboration, sharing of information, content creation, easy updation, and democratization of the web world. Trainers, learners and instructional designers can capitalize on these facilities to design and deliver effective learning solutions.


Elaine said...

nice post geeta. got my thought juices flowing. I like how you have mapped learning and training needs to web2.0 tools. I'm just about to design some training for academics in using web2.0 tools and you have given me some great ideas. thanks for the article too.

Geeta Bose said...

Thanks Elaine. Glad you found them useful. You can bounce your ideas off me when you design your training, will be happy to help. We're conducting a workshop on how to use Web 2.0 tools for training. Shall blog about the findings/learnings from the workshop on Jan 31.