Monday, November 03, 2008

Web 2.0 = Learning 2.0?

Last week I was part of an expert workshop on Learning 2.0. It was organised by the Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS), one of the European Commission's research institutes. They currently run a year-long study on the Impact of Web 2.0 Innovations on Education and Training in Europe. The objective is to assess the impact of Web 2.0 trends on the field of learning and education in Europe, and to propose avenues for further research and policy-making in Europe.

It was very cool to be part of this group, we were about 30 people with various backgrounds and our main job was to looked at the preliminary results of two studies. We first discussed the intermediate results of an exploratory study that seeks to identify and analyse the existing practices related to the Web 2.0 initiatives in the field of learning in Europe. For this reason, a Learning 2.0 database had been set-up where practitioners were able to report their cases. A presentation of this study is available.

The second part of the validation workshop focused on the cases studies: Case study on 'Good Practices for Learning 2.0: Innovation' and Case study on 'Good Practices for Learning 2.0: Inclusion'.

A lot of the workshop time was spent on brainstorming mode, which is something that I truly enjoyed. The point was to try to identify what would be the NEW in what was called Learning 2.0. That's pretty tough, as we hardly know what is the new thing in Learning 1.0! Here is one image of our brainstorming chart, thanks to Graham!

The most skepticism, if I could even call it that as many of us were very enthusiastic about the potential of Web 2.0 for education, was that how can Web 2.0 technologies and tool help the learning, or can they help it at all?

Lots of things could and have been listed by the proponents of Web 2.0, like personalisation, participation, collaboration, motivation, social skills, reflection and meta-cognition. Those, however, are not inherit to Web 2.0, but to any good learning!

So is there anything that makes learning with Web 2.0 so special? In contrary to encouraging reflective learning, Web 2.0 seem to promote sporadic grasshopper minds, like some current studies on multitasking suggest.

What the workshop could say, though, was that more well coordinated research on Learning 2.0 is needed to better understand its potential. One such study in this direction is the new Becta study, which is very impressive.

Some links to other literature that folks in the workshop pointed out:

Also, check out the literature reviews and other studies that have already come out of Learning 2.0 or are about to come out. There are interesting things going on!

From the Learning 2.0. site:

The rapid growth of social computing or web 2.0 applications and supporting technologies (E.g. blogs, podcasts, wikis, social networking sites, sharing of bookmarks, VoIP and P2P services), both in terms of number of users/subscribers and in terms of usage patterns leads to the fact that the phenomena are also increasingly being used in the educational field and for learning purposes. As it enables different types of learning and teaching settings (formal, non-formal and informal), it is an important driver of innovation in learning.

Description: The Learning 2.0 study will

1. Identify and analyse the existing practices and related success factors of major web 2.0 initiatives in the field of learning in Europe;
2. Look at the innovative dimension of using web 2.0 for learning;
3. Analyse the position of Europe vs. the rest of the world in terms of quantitative and qualitative use of innovative Learning 2.0 approaches;
4. Discuss the potential of social computing applications to (re)-connect groups at risk-of-exclusion;
5. Propose avenues for further research and policy-making.

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