Web 2.0 is full of a range of tools that can be used effectively in the learning environment, however, like any tool one needs to justify why they are using it and not all tools are used for the purpose they were created. Screwdrivers were made for getting screws in or out of an object but many of use use them for other things: opening paint tins, scrapping small thing out small spaces etc...
Making a decision regarding a tool to use is the easiest part, however, sometimes the decision is not the best one. Let's take three Web tools that can be found in many learning platforms of used as separate entities from the web: Blogs, Wikis and Forums.
Why do we use these? How do we use these? Is this the best tool for the job? Could we do the task more effectively using another medium?
According to Warlick (2005)
, each of these tools have specific purposes:Blog
- used to communicate or deliver a message to a specific audience.Wiki
- content management system used to construct a collaborative document.Forum
- a conversation that builds on ideas through constructing new knowledge by reflecting and reacting.
Many educators use blogs personally or with children to communicate to a wider audience information. It is used as a way of sharing information. A bit like a news board but reaching a wider audience and with a facility to retrieve old posts through effective tagging. I used this style of blogging when a primary teacher at High School of Dundee
to share our learning with the wider community or to publish our fortnightly radio shows.
I did not, however, use the blog in isolation due to the moveable nature of the blog posts where items can be lost in archives, wikispaces
were also used to have a permanent quick visual record of what we had created similar to a website.
Using wikis as a means to store and share information is the prime method of implementation in education rather than the collaborative document creation that they were designed for. The reason being is that wikis are only collaborative asynchronously meaning that children can not collaborate real time.
The last tool, Forums, which are in many virtual learning environments, are used in many educational settings from schools to further education. In Scotland's National Education Network GLOW
, many schools are implementing the use of Forums to connect, share and collaborate with children inside and outside school. Many are using the tool effectively to deepen and extend knowledge through the discussion aspect and many are using ineffectively through posting content to these areas without the collaborative conversation taking place. Should another tool be used instead to publish if no communication is initiated?
Out of the three tools, Forums appear to be the least effective tool due to three aspects: non-instant chat, no facilitation or goal and no RSS feeds on some. Today's technology enables instant communication and collaboration with others that Forums can sometimes not provide. The delay in response can be frustrating that a different method of communication is chosen. There is, however, a positive side to this delay, it provides thinking time and does not pressurise the reader to respond. The other aspect, facilitation, is what can keep a forum alive. To create a question on a forum and never return to engage with others provides a simple statement rather than a conversation. Facilitation can be through only opening a Forum at a specific time where the users know there will be someone there to read and respond to their posts. An open forum, where facilitation is as and when needed will only work effectively if there is an RSS feed attached to the forum discussion. The forums in Ning
use RSS effectively by notify the members when a new post has arrived. Members can respond freely, however, what keeps these forums alive are the key players who create a forum question returning and interacting with their members where a conversation is developed.
Do you use blogs, wikis or forums in your educational setting and are you using the correct tool for the job?