Web 2.0 Writing and Education

This post comes courtesy of Lindsey Wright, a guest blogger to Living Life Twice. Welcome Lindsey!

Lindsey is fascinated with the potential of emerging educational technologies, particularly the online school, to transform the landscape of learning. She writes about web-based learning, electronic and mobile learning, and the possible future of education and its potential for writing.

'From hieroglyphics to blogs, humans have always had a need for written communication. Evolution and technology have made use of the written word increasingly complex. The rise of Web 2.0 has brought about a major shift in the media through which people communicate. Consumers of media are now increasingly the producers of media. Writing has become the fundamental skill essential to surviving in a globalized, Internet-based society. Writing is the basis for Web 2.0 participation and contribution and has become one of the most important skills learned in school.

Scholars Sean Wiebe and Sandy McAuley say "the push-pull relationship of academic writing with emerging forms of writing in social media has been a significant area of tension for writing teachers." Blogs, social media, and even e-mails require that traditional composition and writing classes alter their approaches to teaching writing skills. Especially in online college classes students must now be able to communicate with clear, concise, intelligent writing on various Web 2.0 platforms and in multiple media in addition to being capable of conventional forms of writing, such as essays and reports. Jason Ohler goes to far as to contend the notion of literacy has changed in the 21st century. He suggests "valuing writing, integrating the arts, blending traditional and emerging literacies, harnessing both report and story, practicing private and participatory social literacy, developing literacy about digital tools, and pursuing fluency" are the new main objectives of education.

A study in the Australian Journal of Education confirms that writing skills are crucially important due to globalization and the increase in computer-mediated communication. Now students and writers are writing for a worldwide, mostly unknown audience, and must develop their writing skills accordingly. The study argues that even ESL students must be taught effective writing, as opposed to predominately oral communication. The traditional grammar exercises on paper won't cut it when trying to develop writing skills. Authors Ben Dan-Canaan and Wu Li state "the rise of informationalism, and the widespread use of computers and the Internet, dramatically raised the profile of writing and the need for effective written communication." With the increasing use of participatory social media, the pressure to create high-quality work has increased. Students can no longer get by with mediocre writing abilities.
In order for students to develop advanced writing skills, teaching strategies must be altered. The International Society for Technology in Education suggests that Web 2.0 tools should be used in the classroom because in addition to increasing digital literacy they engage and motivate students to practice their writing skills. The organization's research found that teachers who instituted daily writing practice with blogs or wikis, created so-called 'always on' classrooms for their students, and encouraged ongoing conversation among students were most successful.

When teachers had students blog each day, it proved an effective way for students to develop their own literary voices and learn to express and develop ideas in writing. Individual blogs were usually used as a means of communication between teacher and student. In some cases students were asked to reflect on their daily experiences in the classroom. Shared class blogs often centered around student responses to a prompt from the teacher. Students could see the responses of classmates and leave comments or provide feedback. The research found that class blogs not only motivated students to write but also allowed students to engage in healthy debate and provide thoughtful feedback to one another. The 'always on' aspect of the classroom kept students engaged in learning and writing throughout the day.
The use of Wikis often takes the learning process further. In a Lourdes College research paper, David Harms suggests that by using wikis in the classroom students improved their writing skills and gained strong editing and publishing knowledge. Since each individual has to collaborate with others on creating a written product, wiki writing motivates students to write with more enthusiasm, while also allowing them to learn improved writing and grammar skills from their classmates.

The advent of Web 2.0 has made strong writing skills even more essential than ever before. To allow students to communicate in a digital world, it is crucial that schools make writing a top priority. However, simple book reports and research papers can no longer be the main avenue of cultivating writing skills. To prepare them for a future in the professional world that actually awaits students, teachers must educate them on writing in different contexts for the various platforms of Web 2.0 media. By integrating Web 2.0 technology into classrooms and acknowledging that writing is the fundamental skill involved in Web 2.0 participation, educators can arm students with the necessary expertise to meet the real demands of the increasingly globalized, technology-driven world.'


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