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WEB 2.

0 IN HIGHER EDUCATION: OPPORTUNITIES AND
CHALLENGES
Senior lecturer Ph.D. Gabriela GROSSECK
University of the West Timisoara, Romania
ggrosseck@socio.uvt.ro

Abstract. Web 2.0 has been, during the last years, one of the most fashionable
words for a whole range of evolutions regarding the Internet. Although it was identified
by the current analysts as the key technology for the next decade, the actors from the
educational field do not really know what Web 2.0 means. They have different
descriptions/definitions for blog, wiki, podcast, RSS, etc. This paper explores some of
the current uses of Web 2.0 tools in education and discusses some of their advantages
and disadvantages. The paper concludes with an invitation addressed to the educational
actors to use these tools in teaching and learning.
Key words: Web 2.0, education, technologies, blog, wiki, podcast, RSS

WHAT IS WEB 2.0? MAIN FEATURES
The new technologies and services offered by the Internet, generically
called Web 2.0, refer to the social use of the Web, and allow people to collaborate,
to get actively involved in creating content, to generate knowledge and to share
(exchange) information online. Less than three years away from the moment in
which Tim O’Reilly1 launched the concept, it is generally acknowledged that Web
2.0 is an umbrella term, which includes a very large range of applications and
services which use the Web as a unitary platform, organized on communication. On
this platform, the user controls/creates his/her personal data and information, usually
by making them available to others by means of some collaborative tools.
Specific technologies contributing to Web 2.0 include weblogs (blogs),
wikis, syndication of content through RSS, podcasting and videocasting for audio
and video content, screencasting, social bookmarking, the sharing of photos and
videos, social software, Web APIs, Web standards, Ajax and others artifacts.
Web 2.0 can be described by its main features, but it is not limited to these:

1 Tim O’Reilly’s article What Is Web 2.0 - Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation
of Software, published in September 2005, is one of the papers which lays the fundaments of the Web 2.0
concepts. O’Reilly explains the fact that the term Web 2.0 surfaced in 2004, during a brainstorming
between O’Reilly Media and MediaLive International, while organizing a conference about the Web.
Whilst trying to find a name, the organizers noticed that, despite the collapse of dotcom, a series of new
and valuable Web applications appeared regularly, and they were characterized by users’ collaboration in
generating content. On the Web2.0 Conference site, the main themes of the presentations can be found.
This autumn is dedicated to the fourth edition: Web2.0 Summit.
It is built on an open-source architecture, which encourages active participation on
behalf of the users;
It allows easy interaction between users with similar interests;
It offers users the possibility to generate content (thus becoming ProdUsers2), to
share it with others (democratization and distribution of content). Therefore it
offers a closer interactivity and an experience which is similar to desktop
applications, with intuitive graphical interfaces. These can be programmed, are
pleasant and, most of all, are transparent.
It facilitates public access to data bases, by means of APIs;
It refers to socialization and syndication of information;
It uses the power of Internet-users communities;
It shows a change in paradigm, as far as the Web is concerned.
Among the big players who implemented this technology we mention:
Microsoft, Amazon, Yahoo and, of course, Google. At the beginning of 2005, the
later introduced on large scale, by using Ajax, the Web 2.0 version in its applications
(GMail, Google Calendar, Google Reader, Google Scholar, Google Suggest, Google
Book Search, Google Maps, Blogger, YouTube etc.).

WEB 2.0 – OPPORTUNITIES AND LIMITATIONS
Obviously, there are both pros and cons to using Web 2.0. We shall mention
them briefly below:
Advantages Disadvantages
reduction of costs; an Internet connection is required
flexibility, as far as the possibility of (especially a broadband connection);
choosing technologies is concerned; it hides behind it a sum of technologies
easier and faster access to information, and concepts which are still
when and where it is needed; insufficiently defined;
the integration of a variety of Web 2.0 it is based on Ajax, which depends on
technologies in the teaching-learning javascript and, therefore, a user
activities; without activated javascript, won’t
extensive opportunities of information and be able to use the respective page;
collaboration by the agency of social it determines variations of
bookmarking services; interpretation between types of
possibility to control access to resources browsers;
by authenticating users; it offers free things, in open-source
sharing accumulated experiences (blogs, structures, with a rather vague
wikis, flickr, youtube) and resources; significance;

2 A.D.Little, Web-Reloaded. Driving convergence in the real world, http://www.adlittle.com/, 2006, p.
10.
independence from the platform (a it leads to a low quality of the actual
computer, with browser and Internet content, with sites which struggle in
connection is enough); deep informational mediocrity;
compatibility with the elements of the it promotes amateurishness by
educational field and the existing invaluable contents generated by
contextual dynamics; users;
the low level of complexity needed for use it gives everyone the opportunity to
(minimum skills in using the Internet); complain, thus creating a community
reliability in continuous usage, over an without rules;
extended period of time; it has monetary quantification (the
redistribution of effort, so that less and Internet as a business- Google);
less time and energy are spent during it is a kind of second-hand Web, a
search and information management medium for persons with low digital
(del.icio.us, RSS); abilities;
the increase in number of modalities of it has limited security;
use and the heterogeneity of didactic the speed of programs is incomparably
practices and of types of formation, due lower than the one of desktop
to the diversity of the new technologies; programs;
the possibility to test the existing didactic it doesn’t mean anything per se, it is
practices, without great changes in the just electronic junk;
current modus operandi; the extremely diversified offer of
the major focus on didactic innovation, technologies which can be used and
and not on the technology per se; which exist on the market at the
creating digital content (especially media, moment, make the actual selection
podcasting, videocasting). process difficult;
time and knowledge invested in the
Web 2.0 technologies.

BUT HOW DOES WEB 2.0 APPLY TO EDUCATION?
There are already a growing number of educators who are exploring the
emerging role of Web 2.0 technologies to transform teaching and learning. It is
important to realize that students are coming to University already owning
significant digital competencies and technology, and we need to leverage these
rather than constrain them. They often have their own email and instant messaging
accounts, MP3 player, laptop, camera/phone, online identity and perhaps blog.
Table 1 renders some of the Web 2.0 technologies which the author of this
article often uses as a support tool for preparing and collecting didactic materials,
evaluating and analyzing the progress made by students, putting together
informative and formative presentations, time management, planning the timetable
and the calendar of activities, developing projects in collaboration, etc.
Table 1 Educational applications of Web 2.0 tools
Web 2.0 tools USES IN 2005-2006 AND 2006-2007
Blogs use blogs for real-world writing experiences
pull class blogs together into one area for easy tracking
Blogger quickly give feedback to students, and students to each
other
mru-info.blogspot.com students use peer networks to develop their own
knowledge
and update new information such as homework and
ggrosseck.blogspot.com
assignments
using comments in blogs can encourage students to help
(M.A. students) each other with their writing, and get responses to a
question without getting the same answer twenty
times etc.
Wikis use for student projects
use for collaborating on ideas and organizing documents
Wikispaces and resources from individuals and groups of students
use as a presentation tool (as e-portfolios)
OraDeInfo.wikispaces.com as a group research project for a specific idea
manage school and classroom documents
(B.A. students) use as a collaborative handout for students
writing: student created books and journaling (i.e.
Wikibooks http://en.wikibooks.org/)
create and maintain a classroom FAQ
as a classroom discussion and debate area
a place to aggregate web resources
supporting committees, working parties and university
projects etc.
Photo Sharing share, comment, and add notes to photos or images to be
used in the classroom
Flickr inspire writing and creativity
create a presentation using the photos
Slide use tools in Flickr Toys (http://bighugelabs.com/flickr/)
use tags to find photos of areas and events around the
world for use in the classroom.
OnLine Presentations post student presentations to an authentic audience and get
feedback from around the world
SlideShare share professional development materials and have it
available anywhere, anytime, to anyone
Web 2.0 tools USES IN 2005-2006 AND 2006-2007
post presentations of special events
Video Sharing video professional development on my own terms
create my own subject specific videos with my students
YouTube use video sharing sites to find videos on current issues
Google Video
RSS professional development
time saving
Bloglines updated information in my teaching area
information coming from constraining sources
Google Reader sharing my work with other educators
RSS feeds can potentially replace traditional email
mailing lists, reducing email overload
RSS feeds can be used to keep course specific webpages
current and relevant – e.g. by providing the latest
information from external sources.
Social Bookmarking create a set of resources that can be accessed on any
computer connected to the internet
conduct research and share that research with my peers
Del.icio.us track author and book updates
groups of students doing a classroom project sharing their
Diigo bookmarks, I subscribed to their RSS feed to see the
direction of their research
rate and review bookmarks to help with students decide
on usefulness of resources
setup a group tag in order to share educational resources
share one del.icio.us account between a number of
different subject specific educators in order to share
resources with each other etc.
Other tools Instant Messaging (YM, Meebo, Gabbly) increase the
sense of community and accessibility which is
required for collaborative learning
VoIP (Skype) can promote international collaborations
and understanding
Calendars (Google Calendar, Meet-o-Matic) make
calendar events, homework, anything you want
available on mobile devices connected to the Internet
Survey and polls: Wufoo, PollCode
Online diagrams and web-based word processor
(writely, writeboard), on-line spreahsheet (Google
Web 2.0 tools USES IN 2005-2006 AND 2006-2007
Spreadsheet), social search (Flock, Technorati) etc.

CONCLUSIONS
The latest generation of Web 2.0 technologies (blogs, wikis, RSS etc.) are
quickly becoming ubiquitous, offering many unique and powerful information
sharing and collaboration features. In most cases, the innovations are led by
enthusiasts – whether in administration, IT, e-learning or libraries, or in academic
departments. So why should teachers look up from their textbooks and take note of
Web 2.0 tools? The reason these social technologies work is because teachers can
foster collaborative work not only among their own students, but with colleagues,
students, and community members from around the world. It is quite clear that the
Universities need to act to ensure that it makes best use of such tools. Still, careful
thinking and research are needed in order to find the best way to leverage these
emerging tools to boost our teaching and learning activity.
The author of this article hopes, however, that all the actors from the
educational field (teachers, tutors, trainers, administrators, or those responsible for
policies) will find the Web 2.0 technologies efficient and promising both for the
educational process and for self development. We are certain that, once engaged in
using the Web 2.0 technologies they will discover it is worth the effort and they will
enjoy its benefits.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Report of the Information Services Working Group on Collaborative Tools,
Collaborative Software Tools and Web 2.0, v6, august 2006,
http://www.is.ed.ac.uk/content/1/c4/10/46/CollaborativeToolsAndWeb2%200.pdf.
Queint D’Souza, Web 2.0 Ideas for Educators, A Guide to RSS and More, v2.0,
http://www.teachinghacks.com/, 27 oct. 2006.
Terry Friedman (ed.), Coming of Age, An introduction to the new World Wide Web, 2006,
http://fullmeasure.co.uk/Coming_of_age_v1-2.pdf
Bryan Alexander, Web 2.0. A New Wave of Innovation for Teaching and learning,
EDUCAUSE Review, March/April 2006, 33-44,
http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/erm0621.pdf.