It is very clear that Web 2.0 is not only the future but is the “now” in all aspects of society. The tools and resources that have been created by Web 2.0 are so numerous with seemingly limitless possibilities and are very inspiring, especially on the education front. However, I can’t help but still feel a bit overwhelmed by a spoken/unspoken expectation for a complete overhaul of teaching and the way students learn in the classroom. I guess this fear is rooted in my life outside of education. Although I am only 28 years old and was in college as Facebook was becoming mainstream, I do not take part in social networking. I have never owned a Facebook account, I am not a tweeter, I have never even left a comment on a website/blog/post (although I’m about to as part of this course!). It is not that I see no value in these mediums and outlets; it is just that I choose to spend my time, get my news, learn, keep in touch, etc. in other ways. And I can’t deny that I have a tendency to let the negative aspects of social networking (I do teach juniors and seniors after all) overshadow its positive impact. So for me, since I do not partake in social networking in my personal life, I think it makes it that much more difficult to break into the arena in my professional life.
Regardless of my own personal issues, I understand that I need to/must embrace these opportunities available through Web 2.0. In just six years, I have seen a gradual change in my students as technology has become more widespread. Today’s students are constantly stimulated with all the information and entertainment they could ever want right at their finger tips. It’s no wonder most of them don’t want to sit still, in a quiet place, reading a book, alone. Can we blame them when their entire lives have been supplemented with electronic stimulation? We can’t, but this doesn’t make understanding and analyzing text any less important. It doesn’t make having the ability to craft a convincing argument or a captivating story in writing any less important. So, it is for those reasons that I need/want to dive into the 21st century. How can my students understand me if I’m not speaking their language?
As for my classroom, I currently “use” technology, and by this I mean I use supplementary videos every now and then, I require the use of databases and the Internet for research, I require projects that can be completed through technological mediums if students so choose, and a class webpage “exists.” Unfortunately, that is the extent, as appalling as it may sound ;-). However, if I think about my educational philosophy and my ideal vision of an English classroom, I could/should be using Web 2.0 tools and resources to make my vision a reality, while making my students active and invested in their own education. I truly want my students to lead the discussion and to choose the direction. Blogging, portfolios, social bookmarking, podcasts, skyping, etc. are all ways that I can make students collaborative and life-long learners and also arm them with skills needed in the 21st century.
It seems so simple. Web 2.0 is clearly valuable and should no longer be avoided. It can transform my classroom and my students’ learning. So what am I waiting for??