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Over the years technology has experienced rapid development, spanning from the days of information sharing via telegraphs, telephone, publishing houses and television to the days of information sharing via the internet.
The internet in recent years has established itself as the bedrock of human networking and information sharing, it has, over the years experienced some kind of revolution. Various Individuals have explored and are still exploring new technologies that can emerge via the internet platform; the most recent of all is the web 2.0 technology.
This paper seeks to discuss the impact of web 2.0 technologies in the educational industry, how these technologies will cause a revolution in the present educational system and finally efforts that should be made to ensure that this new technology is adapted to the educational system around the world.
Brief History of the web2.0 Technology
The web 2.0 technology is a product of different inventions and trends, and whose first signs emerged from the ARPANET. The ARPANET, if you like could be seen as the first internet; it was the first area packet switching network and was developed by the information processing techniques office. It was put into work on the 30th of August 1969.
In 1984, the internet still an area packet switching network took the place of the ARPARNET; and initiated the journey into rapid technological revolution.
Tim berners-lee an oxford graduate invented in 1989 what we know today as the World Wide Web (WWW), which is an “internet-based hypermedia initiative for global information sharing”(www.w3.0rg).
This World Wide Web (WWW) was created with the intention to share information via browsers which are client softwares that are used to access information from the servers. Web fast became the universe of network accessible information and through the use of hypertext and multimedia methods; the web became a tool for roaming, chatting, browsing and contributing.
Information sharing fully began after the creation of the World Wide Web and the internet became the new platform for data exchange, information sharing and social activities, at this point the existent technology was the web1.0.
Web 1.0 technology was all about publishing information via the web in a static manner. Like word documents, easy corrections could not be made by just anyone. Here, adjustments and the sharing of information were very difficult as information needed to be carefully edited before being shared. The only features of this technology were bookmarking and hyper-linked pages.
After web 1.0 came internet's 21st century technological breakthrough, a revolution that emerged after the dot-com crash, a technology whose popularity was initiated by Tim O'Reilly in 2004 i.e. the Web 2.0.
This technology gave a different dimension to the internet, many tools in this technology are similar to desktop applications, but in this case browsers are used instead of softwares that are installed on computers. Here, information usability and sharing is of very high importance, tagging, blogging and wikis are the highlights of this technology as opposed to the previous technologies that were existent in the web 1.0 concept.
What is Web 2.0?
The web 2.0 concept is one that is very tricky to define; this is because its concept O'reilly, (2005) says “does not have a hard boundary but a gravitational core”. That is to say that this concept cannot be restricted to one firm definition, but when defined, must have certain attributes.
With this, we could attempt to define the web 2.0 concepts by looking at it from the following perspective (O'Reilly, 2005):-
* Strategic position:-seeing the web as the platform
* User positioning:-having full control of your own data
* Core competencies:-
* services not packaged software
* architecture of participation
* cost effective scalability
* remix able data source and data transformation
* software above the level of a single device
* harnessing collective intelligence
What it means is that web 2.0 is a concept that allows people have full control of the data over the web (flexibility) by providing users with information storage, creation and sharing abilities. It is designed to enhance participation and promote collective intelligence. It is cost effective because of its nature to reach out to many people across the world at the same time.
In an attempt to give a clearer definition of web2.0 technology, below is a table which shows the difference between the web1.0 technology and the present web2.0 technology
Licensed or purchased
Source Web 2.0 new tools new schools
Common Web 2.0 Technologies
Some of the common web 2.0 technologies are(Tapscott and Williams,2007):-
* Wiki:-Is a kind of software that enables users to easily add, delete and edit the content on their web pages.
* Blogs:-is a web page that is controlled by an individual, it could also be seen as an interactive publishing platform. This page could contain regular entries of comments, graphics videos and events.
* Social networking:-It is usually a site used to building online communities. It allows for members of that community to create a public profile with their interests and expertise, post text and all manner of data
* Media sharing:-Media sharing usually occurs in online social networks; here images text, applications videos audios games amongst others are being shared by individuals who are members of the online community.
* Discussion forums:-This is also known as discussion groups and it is designed to build online communities of people who share the same interest. In a discussion forum, non instant messages can be sent for the members to reply at their own time and pace; they are dedicated to more specific subjects like education, travel, etc.
Who uses these technologies?
The web 2.0 technology has become the most sought after technology in many industries. Today, the use of these technologies have gone beyond trivial issues like sharing local community gist and have delved into more serious work like sharing business and academic ideas.
Industries likes the automobile industries, educational industry, banking industries and many others have started using these tools to enhance business. They are taking advantage of the social nature and flexibility and scalability of these tools to reach their potential global customers, with these tools; they have been able to reach out to various business partners in and out of their business community. These tools so far have been exploited by some major banks, automobile businesses and have in some way had a great impact on the various internal and external businesses processes.
How would the applications of these technologies impact the educational industry?
Being the most recent technological breakthrough, many industries are trying real hard to get their fair share of it.
Web 2.0 as it exists today has been widely embraced by the educational industry. Presently, it is been seen as a tool used to mainly to promote the image of the various schools through online marketing and for general library uses. These tools have been used to aid the business processes of academic institutions but so far have been silently refused access as a teaching tool in most of these institutions.
The educational industry is one we could call a stiff necked industry; it is so because new technologies that constantly spring up in the market sometimes are last adopted by this industry. We may tend to see reason with their late adoption of new technologies, being that the industry is a very delicate one and could be termed the citadel of knowledge. It is the ground where trusted information is shared and the most delicate part of man which is the human brain is being developed. Reasons like that make one think again if adopting such tools is worth the risk.
With doubt in the minds of the academia about the credibility of the information shared via these tools, it is very normal for them to be defensive and believe that these tools could do more harm than good. But again could that be the case?
Web 2.0 technologies have already changed the way some businesses operate; it has removed the top down organisational structure enhanced collaborative work. These according to their feedback have given them a competitive edge over their competitors who have not adopted this new technology.
The Educational industry should definitely not be left out during this time of technological revolutions. Education as we know is a very monotonous process, year in year out it is the same concept of teachers delivering lectures to a large class. Web 2.0 is seeking to bring an alternative and dynamic learning process into the educational industry by enforcing a change from the “teachers know all concept” of learning, to learning by borderless information sharing collaboration and team work.
According to statistics by Clark (2009) there are about 200,000,000 blogs worldwide, another statistics done by Nielsel(2009) revealed that there has been an increase in the minutes spent on social networking sites, from 5 billion minutes in 2003 to about 20billion minutes in February 2009.This goes to tell us how much effect the web2.0 tools have on individuals worldwide.
Also a 2009 US department of Education study revealed that on the average, online students did better than the students getting face to face instruction, this means that online education exposure is bringing about an improvement in the performance of students. Taking this statistics into consideration a realisation of the amount of impact these tools are bringing generally to mankind definitely should make the educational industry see reason to apply the use of web 2.0 tools in their curricula.
A report done by the partnerships on learning for the 21st century in 2004 identified six elements of 21st century learning and they are:-
* Emphasize core subjects
* Emphasize learning skills
* Use 21st century tools to develop learning skills
* Teach and learn in 21st century context
* Teach and learn 21st century content
* Use 21st century assessments that measure 21st century skills
They went on to say that “Today's education system faces irrelevance unless we bridge the gap between how students live and how they learn”.
“As educators, we can't sit on the sidelines watching it happen. We have to recognise that students' use of technology is stronger and work from our own strength which is teaching. This means that we harness the technology and help them use them wisely. They may know the tools better but we have to help them use them wisely.”
Web 2.0 tools are mainly used by the individuals of school age, most of the time they are used to either catch up with long lost friends or just pass some messages usually on social events. The educational industry can take advantage of these tools and help the students channel their energy into doing more constructive things with them like learning. Teachers need to be familiar with these tools so as to reach out to their students using the
Also Friedman (2005) points out the fact that “technology will literally transform every aspect of life and every aspect of society. The world is [experiencing a revolution] from a primarily vertical command and control universe to a horizontal connect and collaborate one”
This statement by Thomas Friedman makes one understand that the world is now a technologically based one and would pass by anyone who is not willing to adjust to the recent trends in technology it also affirms the fact that the world is turning to one of collaboration. Businesses today are already adopting web 2.0 technologies; individuals who come out of academic institutions are expected to join these businesses when they are through with school. How can they cope if in their various institutions these tools have not been exposed to them, how can they thrive in the existing economy without the knowledge of these tools? The solution to this is incorporating web 2.0 tools into the academic curricula so that the students are familiar with them before they leave their various institutions to join the work force and then the world of competition.
(Solomon and Schrum,2007) says “using collaboration and communication tools with educational methods that also promote these skills such as [learning and team work] will help students acquire the abilities they need for the future”.
Professor Andrew McAfee (2006), identified some key elements in the Enterprise 2.0 framework, this concept he termed SLATES which means Search, Links, Authoring, Tags extension and signals. This elements he identified as business impacting capabilities enabled by web 2.0.Borrowing his concept and applying to the educational industry, we would see how these elements can impact the learning capabilities in the academic world. They are:-
* search:-finding information through keyword search
* links:-connects information together in a meaningful information ecosystem
* Authoring:-the ability to create, share and update collaborative work
* Tags:-categorizing of content by users adding a particular word of description to facilitate easy searching
* Extensions:-a software that makes the web an application as well as a document server. The mining of previously gathered data relating to a users activities or transactions which allows users to be guided to initiate other valuable activities or transactions.
an example of this could be seen by the phrase "other customers who purchased this book also purchased these books"
* Signals:-the use of syndication technology such as Really Simple Syndication (RSS) to notify people of changes that has taken place.
a) Search:-In the academic world researches are being done constantly to discover new theories and techniques that could benefit man and his environment. In times past only a few people had the patience to go round different books in the library and get the information they need to propound such theories. The search tool of web 2.0 has made work a lot easier, now academics who really want to do some research can use this tool to streamline their research procedures and share the results they got faster than before. This feature can be found in blogs, social networks wikis amongst others
b) Links:-No academic institution can exist as an island; the connection of information through links is very helpful. It increases the span of information that a students and teachers can get when assignments and researches need to be done. The kind of information that is not just within their locality but all over the world. Learning goes away from the local to the global environment via these tools. This feature can be found in blogs wikis, social networks amongst others.
c) Authoring:-the use of blogs and wikis encourages collaborative work. It enhances joint research by students and lecturers from different parts of the world. It brakes educational boundaries and gives every one of them a chance to rub minds and get different perspectives from different people within and in different parts of the world. This tool makes students more involved in the learning process and gives them a sense of responsibility. It makes learning exciting to them and gives them the zeal to do more work in order to bring about right answers.
d) Tags:-Tagging is also a feature of web 2.0 that allows for easy searching. Since a particular word or feature is added here to facilitate easy searching, students and lecturers could use this tool to further improve their searching and sharing of information processes. This feature is existent in social media and blogs
e) Extensions:-This feature allows for students and teachers to know different useful materials which can be used for their academic work. It is so because it allows for individuals to know related materials which their fellow colleagues worked with and use them if they so desire.
f) Signals:-the use of RSS feeds is a very important part of the web2.0 technology, in the academic world this tool can be used by students and lecturers to constantly send updates on latest researches done as regards their various subjects. It can also be used by lecturers to send information on assignments that need to be done and classroom reminders. This element is present in most web 2.0 tools like social networks, blogs amongst others.
All these above mentioned elements are the features that are existent in the web 2.0 tools. Combinations of some of them exist in the wikis, blogs, social networks, discussion forums, etc. Taking these features and deploying them via the existing web2.0 tools such as blogs wikis social networks and discussion forums in the learning institutions will cause an extraordinary revolution in the academic world and a great impact.
All technologies that have positive sides also have their negative sides which could be termed as its loop holes.
(Ala-Mukuta,et al,2008) identified some risks that this new technology could bring to the educational system and they are:-
* Lack of formal structure:-this implies that the use of web 2.0 tools in education may create a disorder in learning patterns. It will challenge the provision of structure to support learning, creative thinking and creative construction of knowledge.
* It might lead to a reduction in the quality of educational content which will result in poorer educational material.
* It could aggravate social and digital divides it will empower those that are already most empowered
The positives of using these web 2.0 tools in education far outweigh the negatives, like other technologies solutions can be found in order to address these risks that web 2.0 tools pose. Web 2.0 tools have allowed for the web to become a participatory and interactive place where students can create information as a team and share results.
The recent technological revolution is a wakeup call for all industries. It means that technology is growing rapidly and so placing more demands on individuals. Smart industries have started taking advantage of these tools, these industries coincidentally happen to be the same industries that the products of these different academic institutions will join when they leave.
The educational industry cannot afford to be left behind; it has to take a new turn in its teaching and learning methods. The use of these web 2.0 tools for now is the way for them to catch up and also remain relevant in the society.
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