Eliciting Answers using web 2.0 tools.

Linked-In is a tool for maintaining and developing contacts – one of the features is the ability to ask questions of your network of contacts and the ‘public visibility’ of these questions.

I thought it might be interesting to pose a question around web 2.0 and then see what sort of answers we got back.

The Question: Does Web 2.0 facilitate connectivism, circumvent constructivism, or just pollute the knowledge stream with contradictory chatter?

In one week I received 8 ‘public’ responses and 2 private responses. The private ones were from contacts that aren’t involved in this sector, and know me from separate routes – both of them questioned my sobriety at the time of posting the question!

The answers to the question are all below, so now it’s over to you, do they answer usefully? Is it a tool, when used with trusted colleagues, that could help us in our practice?

Jose Roig

Web 2.0 does all of the above… which is kind of a cop-out for an answer. I blogged last week (http://tech-consulting.blogspot.com/) about how some of its functionality has great potential for corporate use. Wiki’s and Blogs are great tools for collaboration and for the publishing/sharing of documentation. Coupled with instant messaging, such tools are transforming the way that geographically dispersed teams work together.

In the public arena, Blogs give everyone a forum for free expression, which carries with it the risk that only the most shocking and confrontational viewpoints get noticed. It also carries the risk of doing nothing but turning up the volume on the noise and clutter. But I believe the potential reward of knowledge sharing is worth the risk.

Marc Aniballi

Web 2.0 connects databases to web interfaces so that you can do custom content generation and personalisation. This includes (obviously) user generated content.

Put any group of 10 people in a room and you’ll get all of your situations above. Online just happens bigger and faster.

David Kernohan

Web 2.0 is a resource like any other, and can be used to facilitate learning based on any theory of pedagogy you fancy. It’s like asking whether a textbook facilitates connectivism, circumvents constructivism…

Just because it is interactive doesn’t mean it is not a learning resource. It’s what you do with it that counts…

Malcolm Murray

I agree with the concept that there isn’t a one to one mapping between any technology and pedagogy – i.e. using Web 2.0 doesn’t make, nor require you to be connectivist.

That said, I think some of the tools really help, if we take connectivism to mean the ability to stay in touch with and lever the collective intelligence of a network of contacts and indeed their network of contacts.

The key issue for me is one of credibility/quality. How does a user know that the information they find is any good. Some of the newer web 2.0 tools (such as this discussion) help by providing information and context about the posters. For other older tools (e.g. wikipedia) although content may be subject to peer review, much of it is not directly (read easily) attributable.

Does this matter? Yes I think it does! Whilst “pollution” may be too strong a term – and I can see the massed ranks of social scientists just waiting to analyse the cultural loading this term implies) the problem for many today can be summed up as “there a shit load of material out there, but loads of it is shit”. To succeed we still need to be selective. That’s where the networking aspect comes in – it gives us help filtering out the dross.

Bruce Mason

I would say that this question veers towards technological determinism. I suspect that a couple of thousand years ago there may have been similar questions about this new-fangled writing business. That’s a somewhat flip response but it gets at the point that these new resources are useful in as much as we make use of them.

I do think that we’re having to acquire competence in web2.0 usage and that also includes those who design SNS sites. For example, I was on the verge of quitting Facebook until, one day, I noticed a little “block this application” link beneath all my notifcations. Now Facebook is positive for me again. Those who run Facebook responded to an emergent phenomenon and the site has been improved.

So, I think what is happening is that we’re acquiring competence in the emergent, communicational affordances of web2.0. Give it a few years and we’ll wonder what all the fuss was about…

James Farnhill

I think my natural first response was that you’ve got to understand the terms before you can couch an answer to this at all. Web 2.0 means very different things to very different people and can be more confusing than it is helpful. Having said that, I’d agree with the other posters that if you’re using social networking tools like Facebook and LinkedIn (and even stuff like Flickr, that might not seem like an obvious choice) and other Web 2.0 ‘most wanted’ apps such as blogs and wikis sensibly then there is a considerable amount of benefit from them. It’s just that some people are using Web 2.0 because it’s there and because it’s a bandwagon, meaning a large volume of rubbish gets generated that doesn’t help connect people or do anything else; for example, I’m getting to the stage where Twitter and tweets are really annoying me as they’re used as buzz words by Nathan Barley noo media types who only use it because it’s ‘cool’! So, I think for the future we need to have Web 2.0 to generate content but we also need Web 2.0 tools and technologies such as some of the stuff being done with Google maps and AJAX to bring the content together in a meaningful way. We can also use text mining tools and some of the more sophisticated tagging to start getting data about data and get some provenance in there. All that’s doing is what any arts and social sciences student could tell you they’ve been doing for ages, which is quality assuring the data they trust by review, meaning large amounts of seemingly contradictory opinions can be distilled into material that makes sense for you. Hope that hasn’t turned into too much of a ramble…

Tony Linde

To me (and I agree that it means different things to different people) Web 2.0 means three things: 1) the ability for users to add content to a website; 2) the use of AJAX to make pages more dynamic; and 3) the exposure of a site’s content via one or more APIs. All of these things existed before the Web 2.0 term but the explosion of websites with all three features did mark a significant shift in the web experience.

It is primarily #3 above which helps ‘facilitate connectivism’: our own experiences, exposed via #1 above are connected by #3 and by the internal workings of the website. Seeing these connections would, I would have thought, aid constructivism rather than circumvent it, in that only simple connections will be forged by data and software: the user of the sites ought to be able to construct knowledge upon a wider base using the connections supplied (needs research though).

The knowledge stream will only ‘seem’ polluted by those students who are not able to critically assess what they see. Critical reasoning ought to be the first skill any student is imbued with, from primary school onwards.

Mark Childs

I’m currently conducting a research project (funded by the wonderful people at JISC actually – http://www.jisc.ac.uk/whatwedo/programmes/elearning_pedagogy/elp_blups.aspx) looking at how students use web 2 technologies and whether this has any effect on their learning. The answer is that, yes it does. Because students are more connected now, this gives them more opportunities to share ideas, help each other with their learning and (often underestimated in its importance) exchange information about the course and university procedures. This is sometimes due to them setting up specific groups within Facebook, for example, but it’s mainly because they are communicating so much using web 2.0 tools for social reasons, and it’s natural for them to segue from talking about meeting up to go down the pub to talking about the latest assignment.

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