Essay about Web 2.0 tools
As educators, one of the most important learning tools for your classroom is incorporating the social web into your curriculum. Teachers are delving into Web 2.0 tools to make classroom experiences more interactive and engaging for students. Throughout this course we have been fortunate enough to explore some of these resources and put them into action. What we have discovered is that some tools are more accessible than others depending on the technology that is readily available to the students within the classroom.

Richardson highlights the importance of using social networks such as Facebook and Ning to embody context and curriculum. These social networking sites are meaningful to the lives of our students, and yet they need someone to communicate how to use this resource for learning. “In the process, we can teach students all sorts of important lessons about digital citizenship, safety, information literacy, and more” (Richardson, 133). One major downside with Facebook is that students can choose to use in negatively and then parents may hold the schools accountable for this. Not to mention “about 90 percent of public schools block it and would rather it didn’t exist” (Richardson, 133). Ning, however allows educators to pilot student participation, add samples of student work, and build a collection helpful resources as well. Richardson stresses some drawbacks to using Ning as well. “The Ning interface can get a bit overwhelming as more and more content gets added” (Richardson, 140).

While I have not had success getting permission to utilize these sites for the classroom, minimal opportunities have be granted for using Twitter and Skype. Various teachers within the building have classroom Twitter accounts and this allows them to connect with students outside of the classroom walls. Students can connect with their teachers and ask questions about homework or materials that may be a challenge for them. While Skype has provided opportunities for Foreign Exchange students to communicate with their family and friends back home. This great resource has been used to learn about cultures and other ethnic groups around the world. “You can use the cell phone feature of Twitter to get instant feedback to a formative-assessment type question or as a public notepad” (Richardson, 89). Yes, you guessed it! Big problem, cell phones are banned in the classroom.

Some technologies I have had an opportunity to introduce into my class include: Google Docs, Blogs, and Wikis. These tools have been especially helpful in aiding my Language arts class. My students have used Google Docs to write personal narratives or collaborative stories. It is also used for students to take notes in both science and social studies. Teachers have created shared folders to help keep track of important information or planning events. Some setbacks for Google Docs are that students need to be 13 to access an account and I teach 6th-8th graders. One way around this loop hole is creating a class account and making it a shared folder. My students have also had limited experience in blogging. I have my students’ blogging three times a week in hopes it will encourage them to write and make some improvements as well. One pitfall to this is I have three computers in my classroom and limited access to the computer labs. Although I haven’t used wikis with my students our school district is using Moodle as a resource for teachers and administrators. Teachers use Moodle as a blended learning tool for their students. Teachers share resources with other educators, deliver content to their students, and use the wiki forum to build collaborative learning experiences. Sounds great, but a lot of time and effort is need to ensure it is successful as a classroom tool.

RSS Feeds, Delicious, and Diigo are also wonderful resources you can use to enhance your classroom learning environment. The use of web feeds can be used to stimulate interest in a topic or subject. Students can travel back and forth from website to website with ease. They can also be used to compare articles on the same content. Or you can use this to help differentiate fact from opinion, understanding unique perspectives, or developing a viewpoint. Social Bookmarking is used with students when sharing resources and can research topics without using a major search engine. “Not only can they save and archive their sources, they can pull out relevant quotes right into the form, and they can organize the information by topic or subtopics using tags” (Richardson, 96).

Project-based learning is an approach educators are striving to implement. Flickr, Digital Story Telling, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Podcasting can help incorporate project-based learning within the classroom. Flicker is a fantastic tool that student can use to find images to use for their projects. Unfortunately, we are blocked from this great resource within our district. Using tools like podcasting, students can create their projects and present them to various audience members. Richardson suggests visiting the Education Podcast Network to view links for instructional purposes that are organized by subject and grade level. Educators can create their own personal podcast to introduce a new topic or students can design a podcast to demonstrate what they have learned over a specific topic. Other helpful tools for the classroom include implementing videos. and allows teachers to upload and share educational videos to assist in their educational instruction. YouTube tends to have a larger variety of videos, however, may be blocked within the school.

Although there are rewards and challenges to integrating technology tools in the classroom, the rewards outnumber the challenges. Educators may be limited in which tools they can access, but continue to embrace these methods for your students. As an educator, take the time to use and practice with your resource before introducing it to your students. Also give them the time to practice the tool before you have them develop something using it. As new tools unfold, tackle them one step at a time. Keep in mind that some students may not have access to a computer in their homes, so make sure you provide students with the tools and supports they need.

Richardson, Will. Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin A Sage Company, 2010.