Web 2.0: A Medium to Shape Teaching and Learning

Can Web 2.0 as a Medium Shape Teaching and Learning in a Significant Way? 





Starting in 2004, Web 2.0 becomes a collective term for a mass movement in society: a movement toward new forms of user engagement supported by Web based tools, resources, services and environments. Just as the WWW in the first half of the 1990s brought a step change in how people communicated, amused themselves, organized themselves and engage in business, so also is a next step change seen to be occurring. Time Magazine responded to this step change by voting for “You” as the person of the year in 2006, “you” being the users empowered by the tools and systems of Web 2.0 technology to take new forms of control of many traditional processes. (Collins & Mooneen, 2008)


         Web 2.0 is a term coined to highlight the function of the web that provides both read and write possibilities contrasting the read only function that was attributed to its predecessor version. In this paper, the author asserts that Web 2.0 as an educational technology medium has the potential to shape teaching and learning in a new way, that is to be unleashed by the education community at large.Before exploring further, the author would like to set a parameter in presenting how educational technology is interpreted in this paper. Saettler (1990) presents the communications system paradigm that associates education technology as to the entire process that focuses on teaching and learning as opposed to the physical science/media movement which identifies education technology as a medium that aids instruction. In this paper, Web 2.0 is presented as a media tool highlighting its potential to shape teaching and learning. The next section will briefly view the origin, development and tools that characterize Web 2.0.



2.Origin, Development and Characterization of Web 2.0



            Web 2.0 has its origins from web based technologies extending the use and application from earlier versions of the Web. The history of the web could be traced back as far as 1958. A brief overview as highlighted by Bloch (1999) is used below to provide context to this evolution. In 1958 the Department of Defence in the United States developed a very basic form of the internet through a series of advance research projects. In 1960, Leonard Kleinrock developed the first online hyperlinking system as well as the mouse that supported the growth of the World Wide Web 20 years after. Ray Tomlinson developed the first electronic mailing system which is still a popular use of the web today. Ethernet was also developed during this period. In 1984 the domain name system was introduced that translated domain names to IP addresses. In 1989, Tim Burners – Lee published a paper highlighting how the World Wide Web would operate through a hyperlinked based database in a close system. In 1990, Tim Burners-Lee coined the term World Wide Web; the first web server and the web page that was tested later that year. In 1991 Burners-Lee made the web server public and by 1992, there were 26 publicly accessible web pages. While there were many other developments, the main feature of the original web was that users could have access to content more conveniently, provided they had access to the internet. This was the birth of Web 1.0 (referred to as web hereafter) although it was not called by this name in the early days. Windschitl (1998) identified specifics of the web that could be related to educational use in the classroom and advocated its use in three main areas as in using the web as a source of student inquiry, student communication via web (mainly through mail), and the use of web based learning methods. The main argument for the use of the web was the potential of its vast information repository that could promote richer inquiry experiences for students. However, during this period the web was still considered as an educational resource media similar to a book, an overhead transparency, or as a means of receiving information listening to a televised show (Wallace, 2004). The users browsed, read and obtained information from the web like any other resource.


          The term Web 2.0 was officially coined in 2004 by Dale Dougherty. However, there is no one individual who has been credited as founder of Web 2.0. By the time it was coined, Web 2.0 was already being used without its newly named term (Anderson, 2007). “The read and write possibilities of Web 2.0 facilitated participation, collaboration and distributed practices within enabled formal and informal spheres of everyday activities” (Lankshear & Knobel, 2006 as quoted in Greenhow, 2009). There was no separation between producers and users of content. One individual could both be a producer as well as a user of content. These features led Web 2.0 to be called a “Participatory Media” (Bull et al, 2008) which was a new feature altogether. Figure one below as identified by Greenhow (2009), classifies the tools that makeup of Web 2.0, its uses, interconnectedness and its affordances which will help the reader to characterize Web 2.0 as an educational technology medium.


          Crook et.al (2008) presented a similar classification which categorised media tools associated with Web 2.0 as trading, media sharing, media manipulation, data/web mashup, conversational arenas, online games/virtual worlds, social networking, blogging, social bookmarking, recommender systems, collaborative editing, Wikis, syndication based tools. While there are many other categorizations, the above two categories unfolds the idea of the characterization of Web 2.0 in terms of its applications and the tools that it has created to be applied for teaching and learning situations. In the following sections, the author will iterate how the above characterization of Web 2.0 has potentially led to new opportunities to shape teaching and learning in a new way.


3.Web 2.0 as an Idea : A Closer Look


The following quotations will highlight how Web 2.0 is presented as an idea that could shape the way we operate.


Web 2.0 is more than a set of ‘cool’ and new technologies and services, important though some of these are. It has, at its heart, a set of at least six powerful ideas that are changing the way some people interact. (Anderson, 2007)


Web 2.0 is, in our view, is a technology with profound potential for inducing change in the HE

Sector (Franklin & Harmeleen, 2007)



Web 2.0 has provided a version of internet experience that encourages individual users to upload: that is, to offer up their own contributions to a vast and interleaving exchange. ……… the barriers to production and distribution have been loosened: an invitation for widespread participation is in place. The consequence of this increased participation is that the internet has become a much larger enterprise of knowledge building, involving a larger constituency of participants (Crook, et al, 2008)


         There is no common agreement to what Web 2.0 represents. The above authors describe Web 2.0 as a medium that allows users to interact with one another, facilitating greater collaboration, participation, while some claim that it can have a profound impact on the way people interact. On the contrary, Sir Tim Burners-Lee who has been credited as the inventor of the web in the early days states that, Web 1.0 (the predecessor of Web 2.0) or the traditional web as it was called was designed to connect people and meant to be an interactive space (Langingham , 2006, quoted in Anderson , 2006). He further goes on to say that Web 2.0 is not a new medium but it is the implementation of the original promise incorporated in the traditional web. O’Reilly (2005) claims that Web 2.0 has become such a marketing buzzword where companies and individuals are using it with no real understanding of it. Anderson (2007) is of the view that Web 2.0 is beyond a new buzz with many powerful ideas that could change how people interact. Krishnamurthy (2008) quoted in Greenhow (2009), states that Web 2.0 is a platform and a space which allows innovative technologies to be built, allowing users to upload, share and interact with content and with each other. O’Reilly (2005) points out that within a time period of one and a half years, the term Web 2.0 has appeared in more than 9.5 million citations in various literatures.


         Inspite of  the lack of a common consensus of what Web 2.0 stands for, the author asserts the biggest transformations from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 is the functionality of the latter to incorporate both read and write forms into the Web. So why is this write function so revolutionary? The author argues that this write ability of Web 2.0 provides a potential shift in shaping the way we learn and teach combining the traditional read functions associated with the Web. Web 2.0 is shifting from “being a medium, in which information was transmitted and consumed, into being a platform, in which content was created, shared, remixed, repurposed and passed along” (Downes, 2005).       Web 2.0’s ability to transform the consumer from simply being a user to a creator, co-creator as well as a user of content has allowed this medium to develop opportunities for teaching and learning with rich pedagogical applications. The next section will explore how Web 2.0 as an idea is supported and drawn to support teaching and learning by others.


4.How the Idea is Supported and Drawn by Others


         There are many studies that highlight how Web 2.0 educational technology media has influenced learning. Appendix one will draw upon a more extended list of them. Crook et al (2008) makes an interesting analogy as to how Web 2.0 tools could be used to support behaviouristic, cognitive and constructive learning theories. Crook et al (2008) argues how Web 2.0 exchanges are strongly social in nature and they are rich in providing inter subjective opportunities allowing its applications to be used to support behaviouristic learning principles. As for constructivist, the ability of Web 2.0 to support learner exploration, the richness of exchange possibility between other learners makes Web 2.0 environments a potential setting for socially constructive learning (Crook et al, 2008). As for cognitivism, the structural and the describing architecture of knowledge creation facilitated through Web based tools and its ability to provide immediate feedback etc., provides opportunities to promote principles of this paradigm.  The author asserts that the read and write forms associated with Web 2.0 has opened up new opportunities that allow designing various applications to supplement teaching and learning principles associated with various learning theories as highlighted above that would have not been possible otherwise.


         Williams & Chinn (2009) draws how Web 2.0 support active learning experiences. They attempt to understand how Web 2.0 tools could improve student engagement and active learning strategies among net generation students. They highlight how Web 2.0 tools have helped some challengers in improving information technology literacy in an interdisciplinary environment increasing engagement of students as active learners. In the course of this study, they also noted that a broader level of learning occurred as students considered the application of Web 2.0 tools in a given context. Vaughan (2010) further highlighted how Web 2.0 tools could enhance student engagement using some of the five clusters of education practices identified by the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). Out of the five principles, they tested the first three: active and collaborative learning, student interactions and level of academic challenge, by designing a research study carefully integrating Web 2.0 technologies into their courses, shifting teaching and learning from a passive to a more collaborative approach. The study identified significant differences in active and collaborative learning principle with the use of Web 2.0 technologies.


         Rosen & Nelson (2008) identifies that Web 2.0 has led to the creation of a wholly new generation of learners. They present how different Web 2.0 tools have created this shift. Along with the shift they present a clear definition of Education 2.0 as “the use of digital tools to transform teaching and learning by having learners, as well as teachers, participate in knowledge creation and interactively build distributed communities of learning” (Rosen & Nelson, 2008). Here they argue how Web 2.0 has provided opportunities to promote social constructivist pedagogy. Dohn (2009) highlights that “Web 2.0 mediated learning places implicit competence demands on students along with more explicit ones of reflectivity, participation and knowledge construction”. Although this argument is later used to highlight some of the conflicts associated with Web 2.0 learning, it provides a reasonable argument supporting how Web 2.0 is fundamentally changing the way students learn through a generative process. McLaughlin et al (2007) highlights the pedagogical choices offered with Web 2.0 technological affordances and presents emerging pedagogical models that we now have access through Web 2.0 tools allowing greater learner choice and self-direction. Herwig et al. (2007) explains the background of Web 2.0 and investigates the implications for knowledge transfer in general and presents some key attributes such as “trust, openness, voluntariness and self-organization” that Web 2.0 supports in a learning context. The above studies have used Web 2.0 as an idea and has presented interesting findings how it’s potential to support, supplement and augment teaching and learning in a new way.


         There are other studies that have drawn on the Web 2.0 to facilitate instructional design. Craig (2007) presents an interesting study that highlight the inadequacies of learning content management systems (LCMS) which are more traditional and inflexible contrasting them to  Web 2.0 tools that are more user centered. He presents prescriptions in redesigning the underlying architecture of the LCMS model considering some of the affordances provided from Web 2.0 ideas.  Norton & Hathaway (2008) using modeling and a situated learning framework explains the lessons learnt in designing a graduate course on teacher education and the implications of using Web 2.0. The lessons learnt highlight that Web 2.0 and its associated media tools have “supported and facilitated virtual collaboration, social interaction, publication and the social construction of knowledge. To use these tools in isolation or to view them as merely techniques would contradict their intent and affordances” (Norton & Hathaway, 2008). The lessons learnt also highlight that from a design perspective, each of the Web 2.0 “tool affords a unique aspect to the whole” (Norton & Hathaway, 2008). The study also goes on to suggest course design that would be applicable to K-12 education for a classroom and in a schooling context. Collis & Moonen (2008) presents three views of quality from instructional, institutional and technical perspectives that would relate to learning and design. They argue that technology perspective have the potential to drive change and quality in higher education. However, they say that Web 2.0 although empowers new pedagogies in higher education, the inertia in higher education institutions to consider new views that are supported through these technologies may not drive this change. Pollacia & McCallister (2009) presents a study that shows results of how they incorporate “Quality Matters which is a set of standards to measure the quality of instruction and design in online courses” (Pollacia & McCallister, 2009) and concludes that Web 2.0 technologies could be used to meet the required quality parameters in instruction design. The above set of studies indicates the potential of how Web 2.0 could be used to support design of instruction in a new way.


         The next sections will further highlight some of the arguments for and against this view in supporting the notion of Web 2.0 ability to shape teaching and learning in a new way.



5.Important Contributions of Web 2.0


         In this section, the paper will explore some of the major contributions of Web 2.0 to the field of educational technology media that will show promise to shape teaching and learning. Greenhow (2009) presents a strong argument that Web 2.0 media is well suited to enhance the scholarly process of teaching and learning.


         One of the biggest contributions of Web 2.0 has been the opening up of opportunities for the extensive growth of educational technology media tools (web based) that could be used for a variety of teaching and learning purposes. The following section will explore them further.


         Social bookmarking tools associated with Web 2.0, would provide rich pedagogical applications that allows “collaborative information discovery” (Alexandra, 2006). A student or a teacher could discover and store information sources, categorize them in a manner that could be retrieved easily than otherwise which would have been laborious and even impossible. Since these sources are stored in the cloud, the issue of transferring and accessing them does not become an issue. One could build this information base over the years and access it almost from any place. The ability of these tools to tag sources and edit them will allow the user to change the classification system without changing the database, making changes in a seamless manner. Alternatively it could also be done through a collaborative process. This allows finding people with similar research interests, seeking new perspectives on one’s own research by tagging bookmarks of others, giving insights to others about one’s research interests (Alexandra, 2006). The collaboration of information sources between different people will enrich the databases of each other and will provide a much quicker and an insightful collection of rich information sources. Collaboration is possible not only among peers but also between teachers and students in finding and storing a rich set of information sources. This will support knowledge building as a community. Dede (2009) argues how Web 2.0 educational technology tools have allowed opportunities to create collective wisdom that would benefit the community as a whole. He presents arguments on how the virtual settings of Web 2.0 connects different stakeholders of a given area of interest to facilitate a dialog, how rich artefacts grounded in practice and policy allow this delineation of wisdom and how social support systems encourage a given community.


         Social writing platforms such as blogging, wiki pages allow collaborative writing, editing as well as to inform current trends in content on a given topic etc. Blogging will allow several people to collaborate on an idea on a time based sequence directed by one who initiates the blog. In a teaching and learning sense, each student could have their own blog posts commenting on common questions posed by a teacher or a student session leader. Wiki’s allow tremendous opportunities to support co-creation of knowledge between people in different time and geographic zones. It creates a meeting place for people who aspire to build a common knowledge base with common interest. The famous Wikipedia encyclopaedia is a good example of this form of knowledge assimilation. Teachers could use wiki’s in an online environment allowing small groups to brainstorm and assimilate knowledge in a given area.


         Social search tools, RSS feeds “will open up a rich set of possibilities that can further enhance the pedagogy of current events” (Alexandra, 2006). This will help students and teachers to sort, receive and manage the vast set of information that is generated on a daily basis to be current in an area of interest saving time and effort looking for them. The list of possibilities of these and other tools would be long.


         One would ask whether the above possibilities could be provided by non-web based tools? The short answer would be yes but, at what cost? The web has the enormous potential to provide many things for free. Anderson (2010), the author of the New York Times Bestseller “Free” presents how the Web has promoted many viable business models of providing applications for the users for free. Other than the cost factor, Web 2.0 has provided opportunities for people to connect from multiple locations at multiple times extending teaching and learning beyond the classroom. These are not features that other non-Web based tools could deliver in a viable mass model.


         The extensive growth of Web 2.0 tools has given opportunities to mash up and use multiple tools within one tool. For example, an iGoogle page created for an education purpose would deliver e-mail messages, Facebook, Tweets, RSS feeds all to one platform allowing single access of multiple tools. This would allow learner and teachers more options to use a variety of educational technology based tools conveniently.


         Web 2.0 has also contributed to education technology by “lowering barriers to entry and has influenced a variety of cultural forms with powerful implications for education” (Alexandra, 2006). Web 2.0 tools such as discussion forums, chat sites, online conferencing tools allow and invite experts around the world to contribute towards topics as well as to create recordable conversations that could be accessed at any time. This has opened up possibilities that would have not been possible otherwise. Social networking platforms and other web based e-learning environments has allowed learners and teachers to have conversations on a given topic or share thoughts and feedback. While this is something that one could experience in a typical face to face situation, these tools have opened up spaces to limitless geographical spans and have broken barriers of access, time which are natural constrains of a typical classroom, meeting space. The author asserts that by breaking these barriers, Web 2.0 tools hold the potential ability to transform teaching and learning in a way that was not possible before.


         On the same lines, Web 2.0 tools have been able to break several natural barriers that existed in service based products like education for ages. The inseparability of production and the consumption process of a service such as education had created many issues that surround tangibility and transfer. Due to the intangibility nature of services, the teacher (or a student for that matter) while producing the idea, the other students had to consume it then and there. Web 2.0 tools have transcended these barriers and have allowed tangibalizing non tangible educational activities. The storage and the retrieving ability of Web 2.0 tools have now allowed a teacher or a student to tangibalize a non-tangible education activity. A teacher could post a lecture online. An online discussion will record a discussion as opposed to a synchronistic classroom discussion. The perishability nature of a service has been overcome through this process. Web 2.0 has allowed typically intangible, inseparable, persishable service items to change its face allowing the potential of teaching and learning to be defined in a new way.  Could non web based technology tools deliver the same results? The answer is yes. On top of cost associated with them, technological capabilities required to deliver the above benefits. Limitations relate to access and it is seen that licensing would supersede the benefits offered. The write functions allowed in Web 2.0 has allowed amateur uses of technology to reap these benefits leading to widespread use of Web 2.0 tools.  These are few other examples of how Web 2.0 tools present potential opportunities to transform the way we teach and learn.


          Web 2.0 has created a sense of openness through the “flow of micro content between participants breaking silos and services that were mutually exclusive” (Alexandra, 2006). What this means is that Web 2.0 based educational media tools has also responded more to user needs by breaking cultural, personality and even language barriers associated with learners who typically face challengers in a typical classroom. Students from Asian and some eastern cultures do not find it comfortable to openly challenge a point of view poised by a teacher or another peer in a face to face context. Challenging authority or a fellow team member openly is considered to be taboo in these cultures. However, they could respond effectively in an online asynchronous environment that is viewed as a non-confrontational communication channel. Students who are more introverted in nature will respond to these forums better overcoming their natural sense of shyness. For students who have barriers in spoken language due to issues of pronunciation between different dialects of the same language will overcome these barriers of feeling embarrassed and those who fear not been understood would respond differently in a writing based environment. On the same area on learner participation, Web 2.0 allows learners to create, consume, cross fertilize and share independently produced information, remixing content in creating new content (Greenhow, 2009). This would encourage more participation by learners as well as bringing more enriched ideas to a discussion allowing the development of a new pedagogy for learning that promotes participation.


          Another important contribution of Web 2.0 is that it has allowed the creation of identity formation of the learner. “Today students experiment with different identities online through fiction writing, multimedia presentations, use of various digital communication tools for role plays and immersion in virtual worlds” (Greenhow, 2009). The interactivity of Web 2.0 educational technology media has given new opportunities for learners to voice their opinions rather than subjected to common ideas that are promoted with the traditional schooling system. This will allow students to develop character, skills and be more confident as a person facing the world.


         Zhang (2009) presents a series of points that highlights how Web 2.0 tools have contributed to teaching and learning. “Web 2.0 elaborate the potential for supporting collaborative knowledge creation and sharing, embedded representation of community knowledge, support to progress and advancement, the ability of the Web to foster creativity by opening to new ideas, self-efficacy” (Zhang, 2009).


         Greenhow (2009) presents a series of arguments that indicate how Web 2.0 education technology based media tools have transformed the way academics engage in scholarship. While the contents of this discussion is comprehensive and beyond the scope of this paper, the body of research indicates clever use of Web 2.0 media to enhance scholarship. Owston (2009) as quoted in Greenhow et al (2009) also states that Web 2.0 technologies has not only allowed education researchers but has also allowed teachers to develop their professional knowledge through learning communities and other tools.


         Anderson (2007) highlights six powerful ideas of Web 2.0 educational technology media that has changed the way people interact for educational purposes. These six ideas relate to many of the points highlighted in the above argument. According to Anderson (2007) Web 2.0 media tools

  1. Have transformed user content to individual production and user generated content.
  2. Has the ability to harness the power of a crowd to support learning and scholarship through crowdsourcing and folksonomies,
  3. Has allowed  “mighty rivers of information to be fished” (Anderson, 2007)
  4. Has changed the architecture of participation through openness
  5. Created a network effect through a long tail where small sites make the bulk of the internet content
  6. Creation of the concept of openness to expose data and information that supports teaching and learning.


 These six ideas along with the other points presented in this section highlights the potential of Web 2.0 as a medium to shape teaching and learning in a way that other non-web based media has not been able to do so. Overall, the above arguments presented in this section will provide evidence to make this claim.  The next section will explore some of the challengers associated in using Web 2.0 tools for educational purposes and some of the criticisms levied against it.  


6.Some Challenges and Criticisms of Using Web 2.0


It is important to highlight that some of the challenges mentioned in this section are not criticisms per se but factors that may inhibit the successful implementation of these tools. The second component of this section will highlight specific criticisms levied against Web 2.0 that will dilute its value as potential pedagogical tools to support education.


One of the challenges faced in attempting to use Web 2.0 applications for teaching and learning would be the access to internet and computers itself. Although during the last decade, internet connectivity in schools has explored from 35% to 100% in North America, internet access in classrooms have tripled reducing the ratio per students to computers and internet access from 12:1 to 3.8:1 (Wells & Lewis, 2006 as quoted in Greenhow, 2009) and more than two thirds of people having internet connections in the United States with broad band. However, the biggest limitation to use Web 2.0 in classrooms still would be accessibility. Especially in a post-secondary context, as class sizes become larger in universities, accessibility will be limited for obvious reasons. Also logistical issues in terms of connectivity, speed, reliability as well as cost in running a class solely powered by Web 2.0 technology tools will be a logistical nightmare. Personal experience of the author in attempting to use web based tools in the classroom for the last ten years will further acknowledge this frustration. If this discussion was to be taken beyond the developed world, internet access would be the sole inhibitor in promoting Web 2.0 in developing countries. The author agrees that these challenges are real. However, some of these claims in relation to access could be somewhat over exaggerated by the sceptics. The digital divide in various countries except the poorest are gradually narrowing. While it is true that all students may not have access to internet in their homes, there are many institutions like schools, public libraries and internet cafes that allow access to people to a larger extent. Like any new technology, time will provide opportunities for it to be delineated to the masses.


Levin et al. (2002) as quoted in Greenhow, 2009 identifies digital disconnect between students, their schools and teachers to be yet another challenge in using Web 2.0 tools in the classroom and beyond. Lenhart & Madden, 2007 as quoted in Greenhow, 2009 identifies a discrepancy between how students use and would like to use Web 2.0 based tools for education and how schools and their teachers responds to this. The tension between digital natives (referred to Millennial who grew up with computers and web based technologies) vs. digital immigrants (adults who are now forced to adopt the use of technology and are recent users of computers and web based technology) (Prensky, 2001 as quoted in Burhanna et, al. 2009) will continue to pose tensions in unleashing the full potential of the Web 2.0. In a recent study, Perera (2010) identified in terms of how faculty and students expectations of using learning management systems operated in a Web 2.0 environment; with more than half of the faculty members using the learning management system simply for information dissemination purposes and many of them cited reasons as their lack of knowledge or willingness to change over to use technology to support their teaching purposes. On the contrary, over 72% of students expected their teachers to use the system beyond an announcements board. The issue of disconnection between users verses non-users and resistance to use technology are claims that are old as the existence of civilization. A statement quoted in Collins and Halverson (2009) from 1815 from a principles publication indicates how this resistance to use existed from very early days.


Students today depend on paper too much. They don’t know how to write on a slate without getting chalk dust all over them. They can’t clean a slate properly. What will they do when they run out of paper? (Collins and Halverson , 2009, pg 30)



Cuban (1986) in his study of documenting the classroom use of technology since 1920, highlights that from the early days when institutions were attempting to use films, radio, television and eventually computers in the classroom for teaching purposes, teachers showed resistance towards using them for their teaching purposes. This along with the quotation highlighted above will indicate that resistance to use a new technology is as natural whenever users are exposed to life changing technologies. History repeatedly has proven that these resistances have been there before any new form of technology has been adopted and used. These resistance claims are in fact indications that changes made by a media is having some impact that led people to change their behaviour. This is true for Web 2.0 media as well.


Burhanna et al. (2009) further found that “students despite being heavy users of Web 2.0 technologies are less sophisticated and expressive in their use of Web 2.0 tools. Students set clear boundaries between educational and social spaces on the web”. (Burhanna et al. 2009). He claims that we tend to assume that students who use Web 2.0 tools for entertainment or leisure purposes will use them in the same level of competency and sophistication for education purposes. They caution not to assume that any Web 2.0 tool will be embraced naturally even among the net generation students.


There are many other challenges that have been identified by others. Greenhow, 2009 states that the web is still perceived by many, as an information retrieval source, and this perceptual barrier will be in a way promote Web 2.0 as a more interactive tool in designing instruction. This notion will gradually change as Web 2.0 completes the full diffusion cycle of adoption. Alexandra (2006) highlights that many Web 2.0 tools are hosted outside the academic organizations as a challenge in terms of losing control. Also he raises questions about the ownership ofinformation and security, since many Web 2.0 tools tend to use the cloud based technologies to store information. One challenge that we have been faced here in Canada is the dilemma of using Web 2.0 tools where information is stored in the US which is subjected to the Patriot Act that may violate privacy laws in Canada. In order to overcome this barrier, many organizations are making arrangements to host our own servers within Canada. These are issues that time will solve by itself.


While the above are challenges that may inhibit the successful implementation of Web 2.0 as an educational technological tool, the following are criticisms that are levied against Web 2.0 that will dilute its pedagogical value. Many of these are empirical while some are theoretical.


Anderson (2007) argues that the power of the crowd through the web will ultimately form new learning communities and groups that will cause unnecessary tensions in creating online identities and privacy issues. While creating online identities itself was identified as a main contribution of Web 2.0, giving everyone a voice with limitless access will create issues that will compromise quality and consistency overheating the system unnecessarily in the pursuit of using them for teaching and learning purposes. Anderson (2007) further argues that “the growth in the user or self-generated content, the rise of the amateur and the culture of DIY will challenge the conventional thinking of the expert, who has the knowledge, status and hierarchy”. The author is of the view that this is not a criticism levied against Web 2.0 but a criticism of opposing constructive learning theories arguing against learner generated knowledge. This is an epistemological difference between objectivist verses constructionist thinking and not one for a media.


Zhang (2009) highlights “the open, emergent and the chaotic nature of Web 2.0 tools often conflicts with rigidly organized structure of formal education that involves standardized goals and curricula officially generated schedules”. While this might be true, the author is of the view that this is once again more of an epistemological difference of what learning is rather than a weakness of Web 2.0. Zhang (2009) seems to acknowledge a cognitive or a behaviouristic paradigm leading to the belief that the above notion is true, but a constructivist will disagree with the above notion outright.


Alexandra (2006) cites the Web 2.0 potential to violate copyright and intellectual property rights as one of the biggest criticisms of these tools. The Web 2.0 ability to mash up (Anderson, 2007) data in modifying existing data and creating them as own will no doubt augment this claim. However, the author raises the question whether a tool’s potential to misuse intellectual and copyrights and the act of committing such as academic crime is as one of the same. For example a knife could be used to productively aid day to tasks that we do, as well as, it has the potential to be used as a devastating tool to harm or destroy life. The potential of it to be used to harm another is a pure issue of intention and not the weakness of the tool.


Reeves (2009) criticises the” short-termism’ that is advocated and promoted through many Web 2.0 educational tools, and questions the pedagogical value associated in using them to support and aid learning. Many teachers may use Web 2.0 tools to associate themselves as being contemporary and modern, ignoring the pedagogical value, leading to a myopic use of such tools discounting the long term effects and benefits. Also the notion of building relationships by electronic means depriving the high touch connection that is inherent in face to face interaction is another criticism against Web 2.0 tools (Reeves, 2009).  This is not a fair criticism against a nature of media but on the correct use of it. The correct choice of Web 2.0 tools will help manage this tension to some extent. For example, using video conferencing web based tools, such as Skype, where two or more could interact real-time seeing each other would still create a similar face to face experience that cut across time and location barriers.


It is evident that the above points highlight some of the challenges that need to be managed as well as some pointed criticisms that will dilute the value of Web 2.0 as effective educational technological tool. Some of them are real and could be dealt with, while others are very superficial and may not hold ground.



7.Current State and Future Outlook




As highlighted in the above paragraphs, Web 2.0 has drawn a lot of attention currently to different areas of teaching and learning. Although there are numerous Web 2.0 based tools introduced on a daily basis, there was not much research done in the past in understanding the pedagogical value of Web 2.0 in an educational context (Norton & Hathaway, 2008).  Greenhow (2009) highlights the current body of research in these areas. There are many research studies that highlight Web 2.0 tools and its applications. In terms of how Web 2.0 supports instructional design and learning, there seem to be a reasonable volume of research emerging. Many of these tools are empirical studies and hardly any theoretical studies associated with this concept can be found, as yet.


In characterising the current state of Web 2.0, it is important to identify some of the current perceptions associated with it. Reilly (2008) states that many still associate Web 2.0 as a new buzz word; a new marketing term that presents the Web with a new form of packaging. Greenhow (2009) highlights although Web 2.0 is identified as an interactive medium supporting both read and write features, it is still primarily perceived as an informational retrieval source. Personal experience of the author in discussing Web 2.0 with many personnel indicate that many still do not know what Web 2.0 is as a term and tend to associate the idea of interactivity purely with social networking predominantly identifying Facebook, twitter applications.


In terms of characterising the face of Web 2.0, the author believes that many have not understood the full potential of this medium to support teaching and learning. There seems to be a larger body of literature that present Web 2.0 as an interactive technology media. However, research pointing out the pedagogical value of this medium is emerging and we may see many contributions in time to come.


The other question to raise would be the future direction of Web 2.0. Burners-Lee (2006) has predicted the semantic web as part of Web 3.0. Semantic Web “is a group of methods and technologies to allow machines to understand the meaning or semantics of information on the World Wide Web” Wikipedia (2010). Although the contents of this direction is beyond the scope of this paper, the read & write features of Web 2.0 will continue to dominate its influence in future activities that will shape teaching and learning practices.





The author was presenting the main thesis of this paper around the notion highlighting the potential of Web 2.0 as an educational technology medium to shape teaching and learning in a significant way. It was iterated that there is a debate whether Web 2.0 is wholly a new idea or is it the implementation of the promise of the original Web 1.0 concept. The main point of differentiating Web 1.0 verses Web 2.0 was the latter’s capability of presenting both read and write features. The author argues that the write function has led to an explosion of applications that would increase the potential for using Web 2.0 in a new way to shape teaching and learning. The author also highlighted that although there are other non-web based tools that could deliver some of these innovative applications, time, space and cost based advantages that Web 2.0 tools provide outweigh the benefits provided by the others. Throughout this paper the author was highlighting arguments that pointed towards unleashing the potential of Web 2.0 tools to shape teaching and learning. There were also some rebuttals presented against this idea. While some of these are real, some were superficial and could be avoided. The author asserts the true potential of Web 2.0 media to shape teaching and learning will be unleashed as researchers, teachers and students continue to engage with this rather new medium and time will provide evidence to support this claim.



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