Education Leadership Conference

The interactive nature of Web 2.0 can revolutionize lifelong learning, said Joan M. Falkenberg Getman, senior strategist for learning technologies at Cornell University.

“Web 2.0 is about being not passive but actively engaged with services, resources and each other,” Getman told participants at APA’s 2010 Education Leadership Conference. Those qualities, she said, can be leveraged to support lifelong learning that goes far beyond formal online courses. Now, thanks to such sites as YouTube and Flickr, “anyone can teach anyone anything” in a way that enhances learning much more than passively sitting in a classroom, she said.

Web 2.0 services can also help educators and learners achieve specific goals. Delicious.com and other social bookmarking sites, for example, can help learners organize information. Users can bookmark sites, organize them into collections and share them with others if desired.

To facilitate collaboration, students, teachers or groups of researchers or practitioners can create “wikis” — easy-to-create websites that allow multiple users to upload resources, e-mails and anything else having to do with their projects and make them public or accessible only to a select group. (For example, check out PsycLink, APA’s new practice wiki.) For simple communication between students and instructors, videoconferencing and Skype can help.

Web 2.0 can also enable the creation of communities that come together for collective learning, said Getman. LinkedIn, Facebook and Ning, for example, allow users to build their own social networks.

Fast feedback is another strength of Web 2.0 tools, said Getman, citing blogs as an example. “Blogs are increasingly being used to give students experience with public opinion,” she said, explaining that students learn how to engage in debate and handle all sorts of comments. Another tool for instant feedback is VoiceThread, a site that allows users to post materials and invite others to add text, audio or video comments. Such tools broaden feedback beyond the instructor, said Getman. “It’s group learning,” she said, “and there’s a record of it.”

Other tools help instructors make concepts real for students. If students need to practice particular skills, for instance, services such as the MERLOT Information Technology Portal are repositories of tutorials and other resources.

Creating virtual worlds is another option. At Loyola Marymount University, for example, a schizophrenia simulation lets students experience what schizophrenia is like. Getman herself helped create a virtual world that brought together engineers and law students to discuss a real-world class action suit.

“Cloud computing” provides Internet-based alternatives to familiar resources. Instead of Photoshop, for example, users can take advantage of a service called JayCut. Instead of PowerPoint, they can use SlideRocket.

Educators shouldn’t use these new technologies just for their glitzy appeal, Getman warned. “Pedagogy comes first, then technology,” she said.


Rebecca A. Clay is a writer in Washington, D.C.