This chapter discusses the application of a range of Web 2.0 technologies to language education. It argues that Web 2.0 is fundamentally about networking, community building, and identity negotiation. Given the textual nature of the Web, all of this is made possible primarily through the medium of language. Consequently, Web 2.0 is ideally suited to the teaching of language and literacy. To be most effective, this requires a broadly social constructivist pedagogical approach as well as a willingness to work with the messy reality of linguistic “mashups,” the hybrid uses of languages, codes, and media which inform Web 2.0.
There continues to be widespread confusion and apprehension about the effects of the Internet and new technologies on education. Recent discussions of the web in versions ranging from 1.0 to 3.0 have done little to alleviate this situation, with at least one spurious reference to Web 6.0 (Motteram & Ioannou-Georgiou, 2007) making the point that labels and numbers are not the important thing. However, a glance at Web 1.0 and Web 3.0 can be helpful in an understanding of Web 2.0, the term popularized by Tim O’Reilly through the first Web 2.0 Conference in 2004 (O’Reilly, 2005) and now commonly used to describe the current state of the web.
The retrospective term Web 1.0 refers to the initial information-oriented web, authored by a small number of people for a very large number of users. Consisting mainly of static webpages, it offered little room for interactivity. Educational uses largely fell into two categories: information retrieval (as in webquests) or rote training (drill exercises). While there were some clear benefits in terms of student autonomy, use of authentic materials and exposure to multiliteracies, and while problem-based learning and guided discovery approaches to Web 1.0 were not unknown, it was most often used in ways corresponding to traditional transmission or behaviourist models of pedagogy.
Web 3.0, a speculative term describing a possible future version of the web, refers most commonly to the semantic web, where software agents will collate and integrate information to give intelligent responses to human operators, and/or the geospatial web, where location will be used to index information. These are, however, long-term projections, whose educational implications are impossible to assess at present.
In between is the presently dominant Web 2.0, also known as the social web, which comprises a loose grouping of newer generation social technologies whose users are actively involved in communicating and collaborating with each other as they build connections and communities across the world, negotiating their online identities in the process. What happened, as Davies puts it, was that “society got more technical while software got more social” (2003, p. 5). The 2007 Horizon Report describes Web 2.0’s social networking sites as being “fundamentally about community” (New Media Consortium, 2007, p. 12), while Jimmy Wales (2007), founder of Wikipedia, has linked Web 2.0 to the new digital literacies concerned with “inclusion, collaboration and participation”. In brief, Web 2.0 technologies, from blogs and wikis through social networking sites and folksonomies to podcasting and virtual worlds, are all about communicative networking. Such networking is likely to become increasingly important as a digital native ethos takes over from a digital immigrant one (Prensky, 2001), as more technologies become available to those with little specialist expertise in IT, and as today’s technologies converge to form ever more versatile hybrids.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Codeswitching: This term refers to the use of more than one language or language variety in a given context, for example to aid communication or to signal aspects of identity.
Third Place: This term is used by Claire Kramsch to refer to the space between cultures which language learners may reach as they develop intercultural (communicative) competence.
Social Constructivism: Social constructivism is a theory of learning which draws heavily on the work of the Soviet psychologist Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934 AU29: The in-text citation "Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ). It suggests that learners add to and reshape their mental models of reality through social collaboration, building new understandings as they actively engage in learning experiences. Scaffolding, or guidance, is provided by teachers or more experienced peers in the learner’s zone of proximal development, that is, the zone between what a learner can achieve independently and what s/he may achieve with support.
Mashup: This term, which stems from the hip hop practice of mixing music and/or lyrics from different songs to create new hybrids, can refer to web applications which combine data from different sources or, more commonly, to digital files which mix together pre-existing video, graphics, music, text, etc, in new combinations.
Folksonomy: An index produced in a bottom-up manner by adding user-generated tags to webpages of interest through a service such as del.icio.us. The resulting list of tags is known as a folksonomy and may be displayed in the form of a tag cloud , in which more prominent tags are shown in larger and darker type.
Web 1.0: A retrospective term which emerged after the advent of Web 2.0, Web 1.0 refers to the original, information-oriented version of the World Wide Web. Created by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989/1990, it consisted of largely static webpages developed by a small number of authors for consumption by a large audience.