Sunday, 11 January 2009

Web 1.0 and Web 2.0
This blog has been inspired by recent conversations with a number of colleagues. The buzzword is, without doubt, Web 2.0 leading to education 2.0, a rethinking of student engagement, teaching and learning. There are some that would have us believe that the elements of a Web 1.0 environment are somewhat old-fashioned and that somehow transmission of information is less desirable. Web 2.0 and Education 2.0 are where the up-to-date teachers are now!

I prefer to think of a Web 1.0 and 2.0 applications as offering a possible synergy of potential activities and engagement that can be conveniently organised and managed. Web 1.0 applications, particularly in education (for example, learning management systems) offer a number of affordances that are useful in large institutional settings. A little bit of bureaucracy is a necessity when faced with multiple groups of students undertaking a myriad of different subjects and taught by a variety of academic staff. In particular, learning management systems help structure groups of students with common interests and provide mechanisms for scaffolding and organising learning. Personally, I prefer the mix master approach. Does everybody remember the Mix Master? You bought your basic machine for mixing eggs and creating cake mixes. However, you could also buy attachments which could slice onions and carrots, beat dough for bread, juice oranges or lemons, and grind coffee or nuts. Modern learning management systems such as Moodle fit the idea of a mix master, with the LMS providing the 'engine' for managing the student learning experience. For example, creating student profiles, enrollments in courses/subjects, grouping students, grading and grade books, access to content, forums and glossaries, to name a few. Into this environment one can now add Web 2.0 applications such as YouTube videos, Blogs and Wikis, ePortfolios, and RSS feeds, for example. For too long learning management systems have been not unreasonably described as being too teacher centred. The flexibility (for example Moodle) offered by a second-generation LMS allows teachers to enrich the learning environment by adding additional Web 2.0 applications and links to these applications as required by the learning outcomes. One of the combinations I have been particularly impressed with is combining Moodle and Mahara, or what is now described as MaHoodle. The two applications provide a learning environment that can be co-constructed with students. The organisational component is provided by Moodle with single sign-on into Mahara. In Mahara students have the ability to organise their own groups, publish and tag blogs, develop and present a personal eportfolios, embed media created by them or from external sources (e.g., YouTube) and comment on other student work. In effect, the two applications provide an environment which supports what teachers are expected to be able to do well (designing an effective learning environment) and what students are encouraged to do well in enlightened learning environments (articulating their ideas, mentoring others, interacting with and creating a variety of media artifacts which may also be used for presenting and structuring arguments). Moodle supports RSS feeds and Delicious or Diigo bookmarking, to name just two Web 2.0 applications. Mahara supports publication of student work in the form of an ePortfolio, Blogging and tagging. Initial observations in a recently taught Masters subject (module) suggest that students value the organisational framework provided by Moodle while relishing the freedom offered by Mahara to express their ideas and collaborate with peers of their choosing. Feel free to share your comments about these two applications.