Saturday, June 07, 2008

Web 2.0 Tools for Educators

In the fall I will be teaching a course to graduate students on developing programs for children, youth and families. I first taught this course 10 years ago and the emphasis was on designing effective workshops, newsletters and factsheets. It was dominated by print and face-to-face teaching activities. In more recent years it has included more ideas about using information technology, but this has always been treated as "one more delivery" option.

This fall I have decided to make make the whole course focused on Web 2.o tools as the basis for delivery and not emphasize any of the face-to-face or print types of tools. So I have been trying to figure out what Web 2.0 tools to include. This course is for graduate students who are mostly in the behavioral sciences-- family studies, human development, psychology, social work, educational psychology, and so forth. I realize that I have no idea if they use Web 2.0 tools so the first day of the course I will do a short needs assessment to see if they are familiar with these tools. I also plan to devote two class sessions to making sure that they can do basic activities. So here is the basic list:

Tools for Finding, Storing and Organizing Scientific Research
  • Research abstract databases, e.g., PsychInfo, ERIC. --- this is a basic tool for finding the published scientific literature on topics that would be relevant to the content of programs. Students will not only learn to effectively search these databases, but to set up notifications on keywords, find electronic copies of the articles in journals and download the references into bibliographic tools such as RefWorks and Endnotes.
  • Bibliographic tools, e.g., Endnotes, RefWorks.-- Gone are the days of notecards to keeping track of references. These tools provide an easy way for scholars to keep track of key references and build a knowledge base of the current scientific literature. Students will learn how to share references so that work teams can share information and resources.
Tools for Finding, Storing and Organizing Web-based Material
  • Aggregators of Information on the Web, e.g., Google Reader, etc.--- This is a basic tool for assembling information from a variety of blogs, wiki, websites, news, etc. These tools are designed so that the student can subscribe to various information feeds, tag material, organize it in folders, etc. I think it is particularly important to learn how to create standing web search strategies that allow a person to continually track information published on the Web.
  • Tagging tools, e.g., Strategies for organizing information is essential to keeping track of ALL the information that is available. There are particular tools to create tags, comments, etc., but it is also essential to be able to work collaboratively with others to share information through tagging.
Tools for Creating Web-based Content
  • Content-creations tools, e.g., blogs, websites, wikis, etc.-- There are lots of tools for creating content. My focus will be primarily on the use of blogs and wikis since these are among the simplest tools. My emphasis will be on developing new blogs and wikis, commenting on other's, creating links, and so forth. Website development tools such Frontpage and Dreamweaver are two complicated to include in this course, but students will understand the basics of these tools as well.
Tools for Teaching
  • Learning Management Systems, e.g., Moodle, WebCT, Blackboard, Sakai, etc.-- These learning management systems (LMS) are a current necessary evil even though they are very limited and are generally awkward systems that model the "lecture-multiple choice test" instructional design. Lots of good teachers have learned how to use these tools to foster student engagement, discussion and collaboration, but there are still some big limits with some of these tools.
Tools I have left off the list

There are many tools I have not included on the list that I will save for the last class in which I will talk about "future" tools. This is clearly a misnomer because these are today's tools, but there is too much to cover in one course. Here is my working list of future tools--


Marissa.stone said...

One of the things you may want to add to your future tools is the Wimba Live Classroom, a virtual classroom and collaboration tool in WebCT. With Wimba you can add and configure different rooms in your WebCT course, load content to your rooms, and conduct live presentations. The downside is all participants/students must have a webct account, a computer connected to the internet and a computer headset with microphone. Still, I believe this is where the future of education is taking us.

Robert Hughes Jr, PhD said...

Yes, there are a whole group of tools for the category of "presentations." I am going to think some more about this.