Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Web 2.0: Sharing, Teaching, and Learning in the 21st Century

By Ahmed Refai, Moataz Al-Qammari and Alia Sallam

The Center for Learning and Teaching (CLT) at The American University in Cairo (AUC) hosted a workshop titled “Web 2.0 as a Transformative Learning Tool” Sunday afternoon at the AUC library. The workshop was facilitated by Gihan Osman, assistant professor of instructional design and technology at the Graduate School of Education (GSE) and CLT, and Nadine Aboulmagd, online content developer at CLT.
The workshop included a detailed overview of how to use “Web 2.0” tools, a label that has been given to websites that emphasize sharing and user-generated interaction (such as blogs and wikis) by instructors to strengthen student-teacher relationships and encourage responsible, productive sharing of content between peers.

The workshop was attended exclusively by AUC professors, the majority of which were either interested in learning how to better implement advanced web tools in their course curricula, or were IT and instructional design enthusiasts.
“The use of Web 2.0 tools allows for the manifestation of a 21st century framework of learning,” said Osman. “The student of today is very different, the landscape of learning is very different and learner-centered, focusing on collaboration and information literacy. This is the world in which our students were created, and we can’t ignore that.”
“[Students] feel very comfortable in that [digital] world, and when they leave our school they need to be capable of interacting in it,” Osman remarked.
“The most important contribution of Web 2.0 [is] that our students could become creators of knowledge,” she expressed.

“I’m using blogs for the first time in my courses,” said Heba El-Deghaidy, associate professor at GSE. “It allows my students to share their thoughts and ideas, and I was lucky to have support from CLT members, who conducted hands-on training for my students.”

The emergence of user-friendly, content sharing websites which utilize Web 2.0 tools was a revolution in itself, giving birth to the digital age of social media and free, globalized sharing of information.
“People realizing that they, themselves, could be content creators helped in the developing of these online tools,” said Aboulmagd. “The need to learn computing languages such as HTML deterred most people from sharing online content, but the more user-friendly these platforms became, the more they gained in popularity; exploding from five million users before 2006, to nearly one billion in less than a decade.”
According to a study conducted by Forrester Research in 2008 titled “The Growth of Social Technology Adoption”, 75% of adult males in the United States reported using Web 2.0 tools in their personal and professional lives, a percentage which, in 2007, stood at 56%.
The growth does not seem to be stagnating, either; intrinsic characteristics of an even more advanced era of information, conveniently named “Web 3.0”, are starting to gain steam.
Cloud storage and tools for computer-generated content that emerged in the past four years are, at the core, identifiers of Web 3.0,” said Aboulmagd.
It is intriguing to note how some of these tools (such as cloud storage) are already being utilized in pedagogical contexts and enhancing intra-classroom sharing due to the ease with which students can upload content.

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