I use Web 2.0 tools to connect with my students, to connect my students to one another, to inter-connect my separate courses, and to encourage all my students to be active participants in online communities of teachers and learners.
When I was learning how to conduct research, my sources were limited by what the campus library had available or could order in a restricted amount of time. Students today, however, are faced with a seemingly endless amount of information and they need to learn not just how to find and how to collect information, but also how to rapidly critique the value of what they find (to sort the wheat from the chaff) and then organize what they find into useable and accessible structures. Just as the traditional note cards ceased to be as efficient after the proliferation of photocopiers, so the research folder is now being replaced with the research blog, the wiki, and research based start-pages.
What the Web 2.0 instructor needs is a willingness to truly become a public intellectual and, more practically, an understanding of which tools are more appropriate for which tasks. Blogs, for example, by their very design, highlight progress over time, so I find them perfect for a longer research process with reflection. All of my students have blogs that interconnect with my professional blog (www.cunygames.blogspt.com), my individual class bogs, and with one another. In fact, I use my home blog to discuss my courses in progress-what worked well, what could use tweaking-and upcoming course preparations. I also plan out my own research and writing research projects on my blog. My comments and thoughts are public. Anyone on the web can see them including my students, so they are able to see my own process writing over time and I am able to model for them in real time, with real work, how working writers write and how working teachers teach. The “mystery” that we often work so hard to reveal, is all but gone.
Now that I am taking Designed for Learning 2.0, I am adding more functionality to my classes-but slowly and with careful planning. I don’t want to overburden my students or myself while, at the same time, I do want for my community of learners to have the space and time to explore, experiment, and play with the possibilities that Web 2.0 tools allow; but with their help-for many of our students are truly what Marc Prensky terms “digital natives” (Don't Bother me Mom, I'm Learning!)-and I am the digital immigrant. (IMAGE: "Tag Cloud" Image courtesy of wikipedia.org, ref. "Web 2.0")