Social Issues and Web 2.0: A Closer Look at Culture in E-Learning

Social Issues and Web 2.0: A Closer Look at Culture in E-Learning

Bolanle A. Olaniran (Texas Tech University, USA), Hansel Burley (Texas Tech University, USA) and Maiga Chang (Athabasca University, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-384-5.ch034
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Developing the foundations for intelligent applications that efficiently manage information is one goal of Web 2.0 technologies and the Semantic Web. As a result, the organization of Web 2.0 and other Semantic Web approaches to learning hold significant implications for learning, especially when one considers the role of cultures in learning and e-learning. Exploring how these technologies impact learning, this chapter focuses on social and cultural issues from potential users’ and learners’ standpoints. Furthermore, the chapter offers dimensions of cultural variability as a framework for its arguments. The chapter draws from existing literature and research to present implications of Semantic Web and Web 2.0, along with the issue of digital divide which is critical when exploring access to Web 2.0 technology platforms. The chapter ends by addressing key implications for Web 2.0 and the Semantic Web regarding usage and general effectiveness in the learning context.
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Social Issues And Culture

This chapter discusses learning in the context of social interaction. Learning and knowledge management is increasingly being conceived as a social activity, where communication technologies are used as tools to help learners and individuals become increasingly aware of their social environment in the learning process. To this end, e-Learning is undergoing paradigmatic shift from an organized and formal network context to an informal and spontaneous network context, otherwise referred to as Web 2.0 or semantic web environment. Learning technologies, courses, and learning objects--anything that is pedagogically formal, closed, and developer/teacher-driven is considered passé because the current emphasis on constructivist ideologies of making learning fun, user-driven, and informal are now paramount. This approach, however, is currently under scrutiny because not everyone subscribes to this method of learning. Therefore, information technology (IT) designers are trending toward a new zeitgeist where they replace standardized courses with in-context learning or learning on demand (Braun & Schmidt, 2006a), a trend of great import when the context is heavily influenced by culture.

The Web 2.0 is a new generation of web applications developed to harness the power of the web to create a new standard in human computer interaction (HCI). The majority of the technologies classified under Web 2.0 are prevalent in social networking communities, eLearning, professional business and organizational environments. Given that Web 2.0 is not a term that refers to any specific or new form of World Wide Web (W3), instead, it refers to the aggregate of social software that uses the Internet as a platform for which such devices can be connected (Kenney, 2007; O’Reilly, 2005). Web 2.0 is used largely as a metaphor to suggest a major software upgrade to the W3 (Tredinnick, 2006). A key goal of these technologies is to bring about network effects for users to participate. Examples of social software that enable Web 2.0 for collaboration include blogs and its multimedia companion such as pods and videocasts (Cameron & Anderson, 2006; Kenney, 2007), wikis, distributed classification systems, flickr, and RSS feeds (Dron, 2007; Mejias, 2005). Essentially, Web 2.0 is an idea that includes enabling technologies that facilitate read, write, and edit features that reflect semantic web. IT designers and platform theorists are giving Web 2.0 and its possibilities considerable attention. While the technology has much to offer individuals and users, the technologies face significant social and cultural challenges and especially as they relate to knowledge and platform of choice in global organizations, education, and eLearning.

The goal of the semantic web is to develop a basis for intelligent applications enabling more efficient information use through collections of repository knowledge (Schoop, Moor, & Dietz, 2006). As such, IT designers have offered the semantic web as a valuable resource in achieving the goals of eLearning or distance education and training often embraced in global organizations and their respective workers. For example, knowledge gap analysis can be automated by competencies and learning objects that are connected through ontologies (Sicilia, 2005). It follows that the organization of Web 2.0 and other semantic web approaches to learning holds significant implications for learning and cultures that the literature rarely addresses. With this in mind, the proposed chapter explores, in general, how these technologies impact learning by focusing on social and cultural issues from potential users’ and learners’ standpoints.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Culture: Consists of different value preferences that influence communication interaction and how people create meaning.

eLearning: Involves the process of knowledge dissemination and acquisition taken place over electronic networks.

Web 2.0: Technology platforms that support or facilitate social interactions by allowing users to decide how they access, contribute, and manage information with and from other users via the web. The technologies are often referred to as social software

Globalization: Involves economic and socio-cultural ideas where organizations are able transcend national geographic and cultural boundaries through convergence of space and time in attempt to accomplish goals.

Wiki: Collaborative tool or technology offering a way for contribution and editing

Folksonomy: Addresses learners or users’ willingness to rely on expert opinions of other users due to the belief that such opinions offer guidance.

Information Management: Focuses on information resource uses,

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