Forum: Web 2.0

This interactive Discussion Forum will take place at 12.30 on Day 1 and will be chaired by Lawrie Phipps.

This debate will focus on two polarised viewpoints.

In Favour

The technologies are providing new ways of engaging in discourse between peers, offering new opportunities to find knowledge and exercise creativity and the sheer breadth of the technology creates something that most people can engage with at some level.

And Against

The technologies are disruptive to the students’ learning and staff time, they pick up information that we haven’t given them, off the internet, and the technology is everywhere like an omnipresent technodeity.

The purpose of the debate is unpack the wider issues around web2.0 and understand why these two positions may represent views of individuals in institutions. So even if you are a web 2.0 evangelist, try and put on the opposition hat and discuss it from a different perspective. The greater the debate the more rigorous the outcomes.

Get the debate started below by using the comment field.

13 thoughts on “Forum: Web 2.0

  1. Owen Stephens

    Well, to nail my colours to the mast, I’m In Favour. However, I suspect the discussion will quickly move on from the technology – at heart these issues are usually not about the technology, but how you use and relate to it.

    Both arguments look like they would be as relevant to the introduction of (for example) a readily accessible library, as they are to ‘web 2.0’ technologies.

  2. Paul Mayes

    In the communities I’m involved these aren’t really two polarised views but opposite ends of a menu of possibilities. Thus Skype can useful in certain learning & teaching circumstances but not in others.

  3. Richard Hall

    There are loads of things that are disruptive to learning – 19th century assessments, didactic teaching, over-assessment, social anxiety, lack of agency, limited critical literacy – ooh and technologies don’t figure. Picking up info that we haven’t given them is only a threat if we like closed systems, which is no way to behave in 2008.

  4. Mark Childs

    Well I’ve tried putting on the opposition hat, but it’s a bit tight and it’s hurting my head. I think the opportunities represented by web 2.0 technologies have to far outweigh the negative ones. Even the idea of them being disruptive and providing information not given by the lecturer are things I’d use as an argument for, not against.

    That said, I’m looking forward to the debate, and am very interested in the opposition argument, mainly because I can’t imagine what it would be.

  5. Julian Beckton

    Is the debate about boundaries and control here? The phrase “Information we haven’t given them” is a telling one isn’t it? I think we have to realise that the technology is here, whether we like it or not, and that students will increasingly come with their expectations defined by their use of it, and will use it in ways we don’t expect. An interesting example is that in the US students at Brown University have set up a wiki to comment on lecturers teaching styles. ( It’s not officially sanctioned by the University and I suspect the comments would have been rather less free if it had been. So should we abandon control in that way? Many colleagues would find that very scary! But I don’t see how it can be stopped. Which only leaves the option of engaging with it.

  6. Pat Parslow

    (I agree with Julian, above, whole heartedly)

    “The technologies are providing new ways of engaging in discourse between peers”
    – not really – just different enabling the discourse across different media, and hence different time frames.

    “offering new opportunities to find knowledge and exercise creativity and the sheer breadth of the technology creates something that most people can engage with at some level”
    – I don’t think I can argue with that

    “The technologies are disruptive to the students’ learning”
    – frankly, it is about time something was…

    “and staff time”
    – staff can’t stay off Facebook?

    “they pick up information that we haven’t given them, off the internet”
    – qu’el horreur! Students finding information themselves? Might have to teach them how to evaluate it or something…

    “and the technology is everywhere like an omnipresent technodeity”
    – yes, isn’t it absolutely awesome! Technodeities for the win.

    Yes, it throws the balance of power out of kilter. No, that is not a bad thing.
    Yes, it means we have to redefine how we deliver education. No, no, no, that is definately not a bad thing.

    We educate to enable people to deal with change. That is what it is about. Enabling problem solvers to solve problems.

    If we can’t rise to the challenges provided by new technologies and embrace them, I think we can infer that we did not recieve adequate education ourselves.

  7. Pat Parslow

    And… from another perspective…

    Staff time is limited, and with increasing numbers of students in HE we have to be very careful about maintaining the quality of information our students acquire. Whilst Web2.0 can help students build knowledge in a constructivist way, it also offers many ways for both them, and lecturers, to be distracted.
    Not only are there services which can be far more appealing than the ‘slog’ of acquiring education, there is also the issue of having to learn how to use different systems, and of finding out what netiquette applies in different places.
    This is not too much of an issue for the individual learner, who will tend, in most cases, to find a toolset which is ‘good enough’ for their purposes (often good enough because it is what their peers are using, and thus benefits from the connectivism effect) but for the educator who wishes to be able to use and promote good practice, it can mean a significant overhead.

    Whilst institutions could regain some degree of control by filtering access to services so that only some can be used from their networks, it is apparent that this produces a feeling of resentment on the part of the learners (who are, now, customers) and thus produces a decreased level of satisfaction.
    So do institutions need to employ staff to keep on top of technological developments and the potential for changes in pedagogy? If so, can they cascade sufficient information to the front line to enable them to make best use of the Web2.0 affordances without a serious knock on in terms of the time they spend?

    There is opportunity here, but in an environment where costs have to be kept down, there is a hurdle to overcome; can institutions minimise the cost of adopting these (on the face of it) free services in order to reduce costs further down the line?

    And what about privacy and IPR? Can we afford to be publishing content which may have taken fairly heavy investment as Creative Commons or other similar share-alike copyright agreements? If we develop a module which is new, should we be just giving it away, or finding some revenue model to recoup some of the costs?

  8. Cristina Costa

    There are always the two sides of the story. I think the important is not to generalize and make it all good or all bad. There are advantages and there are also disadvantages.
    How we apply technology in favour of learning – that’s the challenge. Kids are indeed using technology independently of their school activity, and one can argue it is not always to their best interest. It can distract them from their homework, it can lead them to sites that are not appropriate to them, etc. It is all true. The fact however, is that this is happening independently of technology being accepted and used in education. So why not give them the other side of the story, and why not make teaching and learning closer to their reality. It is high time we started thinking of new ways in which we can make schooling more appealing to learners. It is high time we started reaching out to learners in a different way. It is high time we stopped banning things from school because we think they are bad/disruptive. It is high time we started addressing both sides of the story and help learners decide which side they want to take….how they can turn the bad things into good things. Just like everything in life, technology can be good as it can also be harmful. It all depends in the way we use it and help others using it. And that is the role of education: guidance to better choices!

  9. Bob Rotheram

    I don’t mind what technologies students use outside the classroom, but when I’m leading a face-to-face session I usually try to exert plenty of control over what learners do. The classroom is *my* space and I’m paid to guide the proceedings. I don’t behave like a stereotypical sergeant-major, but it’s definitely not ‘anything goes’. How to influence activities? Bans tend to be counter-productive; strong encouragement and other positive behaviours are more likely to lead to a good climate for learning.

    My concern with students using some technologies in the classroom is that it will take them off-task, i.e. the task I have constructed. I know it’s often claimed that today’s students can multi-task successfully but – and maybe this is a generational thing – my experience is that people tend to perform more successfully with tasks when they focus fully on them. In my view, multi-tasking often produces inferior outcomes; don’t settle for it unless you must. I just cannot believe that students will do better, course-wise, if they are also engaged in non-educational instant messaging or socialising on Facebook whilst in the classroom.

    I’m happy for students to use almost the whole gamut of technology in a class, but only where I think it reasonable to do so on the educational tasks which I have designed or agreed. What’s reasonable? I’m open to persuasion. If a student can make even a vaguely plausible argument for trying something radically different towards a relevant end, I’ll probably back them. But learners don’t have a completely free hand while they are with me.

  10. Cristina Costa

    hmmm…see that’s why I think we need to re-consider the entire education system and the roles of its “actors (teachers, police makers, learners, parents, etc). A classroom that is “my teacher’s space” is not my space, therefore I don’t feel totally comfortable it it… consequently I don’t put my heart in it or engage in full.
    That can be quite unsettling too.

  11. David Kernohan

    A classroom that is “my teacher’s space” is not my space, therefore I don’t feel totally comfortable it it…

    I’m not sure that learning, especially higher learning, is an entirely “comfortable” experience for students. Or indeed for teaching staff. Nor should it be.

    Learning is a personally transformative experience, and those are the ones that tend to be rather uncomfortable in the short term.

  12. Janet Finlay

    I am definitely in favour…. noting that its emphasis is on opportunities offered rather than any sense that technology in and of itself is any kind of panacea.

    I do feel that control is a huge issue in all of this. Traditionally we have as educators had control of the learning space and of the way we expect learning to progress. Relinquishing control is hard – where does it leave us? At Leeds Met we are talking about the role of academics in terms of coaching – a supportive role which enables individuals to sort out for themselves what and how they need to learn. I like this perspective – it certainly works for me when I am learning something – and technology makes it feasible to do. But it requires us to rethink our relationship with students and with our curriculum and activities.

  13. Shirley Williams

    I enjoyed today’s session, here is another example of using Web 2.0 to help learning: A couple of months ago I took part in an exercise with a friend in the US.
    We wanted to explore our use of Web 2.0 technologies and we agreed to look at the use of for social bookmarking.
    For a whole week we kept a Skype chat open, and each time we book marked something in we chatted about why we had.
    I blogged about the experience at

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