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The use of Web 2.0—the so called "read/write" Web—has increasingly found a home in U.S. education as tools for both teachers and students. But in much of the developing world, Web 2.0 applications remain little known and are rarely used as formal educational tools. In Indonesia, Education Development Center's (EDC) use of Web 2.0 tools as part of an online course appears to be yielding initially positive, and unanticipated, results.
Indonesia, like many nations, is struggling to refashion its educational system from focusing on rote learning, lower-order thinking, and learning as a solo endeavor, to more "21st century" learning based on creativity, collaboration, higher-order thinking, and technology use that promotes these characteristics.
However, real impediments stand in the way of such ambitions. Traditional "stand and deliver" instruction is still the norm. Indonesia also has one of the lowest Internet penetration rates in Asia, with just 10 percent of the population online (Indonesia Internet Service Provider Association, 2007) and computers largely absent from schools. Since 2005, EDC's work has focused on how we can help teachers shift to innovative instructional practices that focus on higher-order thinking, collaboration, and creativity and use and integrate information and communications technologies to support these pedagogical shifts.
As with many bilaterally funded development projects, EDC employs a group of "master trainers" to help teachers learn new pedagogical and technology approaches. But the challenge with many of our master trainers is that they too struggle with higher-order thinking, collaboration, and creativity. Their technology use has often reinforced, rather than helped them transcend, "traditional" ways of thinking and working. Further, in a culture that places a premium on being polite and on accord, it's often difficult for teacher trainers to voice their own opinions.
To help teacher trainers shift their own practice, we have held several face-to-face sessions to model higher-order and more creative uses of technologies, such as spreadsheets, concept mapping software, etc. (By modeling we mean engaging learners in technology-based, exploratory, innovative activities as if they were students in a "learner-centered" classroom.)
This past year we launched a pilot program in which a group of master trainers work as school-based coaches. To support coaches in their work with teachers, we constructed a Moodle-based online course with coaching-related readings, videos, and a discussion forum. To facilitate communication and information sharing, we built in a number of Web 2.0 tools: Diigo, VoiceThread, Ning, Dimdim, Flickr, Word Press, TeacherTube, and Curriki. (The accompanying list at the end of the article provides a brief description of these tools.) Among other activities, participants use these tools to upload video examples of teachers' and coaches' own model teaching, and hold real-time discussions about video content; meet as a whole group and as small groups; collaborate and share lesson activities; identify good Web-based teaching resources; and develop and share a final electronic portfolio.
There's not a lot of research on the benefits of Web 2.0 technologies for teacher training, so we weren't able to predict whether and how those applications would impact coaches' learning. But initial observations (though they warrant further research) appear quite promising. Coaches' work and discussions reveal an increasing shift toward higher-order cognitive behaviors—a shift that will be discussed in the remainder of this article and one that we will continue to assess.
Most educators are familiar with Bloom's Taxonomy of Cognitive Domain, which as Table 1 outlines, categorizes knowledge along a continuum from knowledge (recitation of information) to evaluation of information. As any teacher or professional development provider knows, it's quite difficult to design higher-order activities and discussion questions that probe participants to analyze and evaluate information, particularly in educational systems that have not emphasized these ways of thinking.
|Higher-Order Thinking Skills||Synthesis||
Using Web 2.0 Tools
One of the arguments for introducing and using technology in education has been that technology, ipso facto, leads to development of higher-order thinking. This has proved not to be true. But it does appear that the intentional design of certain Web 2.0 technologies, nested within larger cognitive tasks that deliberately capitalize on these design strengths, does lend itself to the development of higher-order skills with greater ease than other types of technology.
Table 2 outlines some of the ways that EDC's teacher coaches are using Web 2.0 applications, the activities associated with each, and the specific "cognitive level" of Bloom's Taxonomy that each addresses.
|Teacher coaches are||Through these activities .||Using these Web 2.0 applications|
|evaluating information||social bookmarking of resources for teachers||Diigo|
|categorizing and classifying (analysis)||tagging Web-based resources||Diigo|
|soliciting and providing constructive feedback||real-time feedback sessions on a "problem" coaches are facing||Ning|
|summarizing and synthesizing||audio summaries of weekly readings and assignments||Wimba|
|communicating visually||image compilation and tagging (of learner-centered classroom activities)||Flickr|
|analyzing instructional practice||real-time conversations around artifacts (images and videos of teaching practices)||VoiceThread|
|creating local language content (application)||collaborative lesson design||Curriki|
|reflecting, self evaluating||writing (journals as part of an e-portfolio)||WordPress, Ning|
To better flesh out the information in Table 2, we summarize two examples of coaches' assignments and how Web 2.0 applications figure in each.
One of their assignments is to use the social bookmarking site Diigo to gather approximately 10 Web-based resources to share with teachers. Each resource must be tagged and vetted with online colleagues. Coaches must identify resources, evaluate the worth of the site based on their own criteria, synthesize for their colleagues the main attributes of each, and justify their choice.
A quick glance at Table 1 reveals that such a process scales Bloom's cognitive continuum—from identifying potential resources, comprehending that information, thinking of ways teachers can apply that information, analyzing content, summarizing the content of a particular site for colleagues, and evaluating its worth.
In another activity, one coach is asked to co-teach a computer-based lesson with a teacher (coaches provide the laptop), while the second coach records it. The video is placed in VoiceThread, and coaches hold a virtual discussion in which they assess and provide feedback on one another's co-teaching episodes. They must analyze their colleagues' practice, distill their reactions into a concise verbal message, mentally compose the verbal message they wish to share with colleagues, and provide verbal feedback in ways that are constructive yet sensitive. Another brief glance at Table 1 indicates that in so doing, they are touching on Bloom's cognitive domains of analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.
Why Web 2.0?
But can't all the above occur without Web 2.0 technologies? Can't the desired cognitive behaviors of analysis, synthesis, and evaluation occur via email, chat, and a traditional online course or through other uses of more robust software (spreadsheets, databases)?
Yes—but arguably with greater difficulty. Most Web 2.0 applications possess a number of inherent characteristics that make them more intuitive learning tools, more suited to the promotion of higher-order learning, and more appropriate to our particular audience of novice technology users, than stand-alone applications, such as word processing software, and older "1.0" uses of the Internet, such as Web sites and even email.
First, Web 2.0 tools are dynamic. Users can constantly update and refresh their own content as well as that of others. This "harnessing of individual and collective intelligence" (Cobo & Pardo, 2007) yields a variety of information in multiple formats with multiple inputs to create content that is iterative, relevant, and current. This is no small feat for countries like Indonesia, which lacks digital educational content in local languages.
Next—though this varies among particular applications—Web 2.0 tools possess some degree of interactivity. While "interactivity" is used so frequently vis-à-vis technology as to be almost meaningless, Richard Mayer's (2000) work on multimedia learning points out that interactivity is critical to long-term retention of information. Although the design and degree of interactivity may vary, Web 2.0 applications do allow users to interact (cognitively, manually, emotionally, and socially) with content, technology tools, experiences, and most importantly, with one another.
Third, Web 2.0 applications—unlike many traditional types of software that suffer from feature creep—are easy to use. (This isn't uniformly true. Arguably, a Web 2.0 application such as Google Earth is fairly complex.) For the most part, interfaces are simple so they're easy for technology novices to learn, thus obviating the need for a lot of skills training (we've been able to provide online training via the Web 2.0 application, Dimdim). This relative ease of use means that users are less daunted by an overabundance of menu choices. They don't get lost in a thicket of software features or excessive functionality. And the restrained design of many Web 2.0 applications means participants are able to focus on the core feature(s). For example, social bookmarking sites essentially allow for a few actions—annotating and sharing sites and communicating and collaborating around these sites. But the fundamental action of social bookmarking is tagging—developing metadata based on summations of the attributes of each site (keywords) so that information can be organized and retrieved by these keywords, a process that requires the cognitive skills of classification, categorization, and organization.
Fourth, we've seen some evidence that Web 2.0 tools can diversify and broaden traditional online structures of communication in ways that non-Web 2.0 applications may not. For example, the dominant pattern of communication in online learning discussion forums tends to be a hub-and-spoke structure of facilitator (hub) and participants (spokes), with much or most of the discussion emanating to and from the facilitator. The facilitator poses a question, participants respond, and the facilitator acknowledges responses.
An examination of the discourse of our online coaches reveals a less facilitator-centered and more networked structure. Participants communicate with one another more frequently. The facilitator is one of the voices in, but not the driver of, the discussion, as is the case in our learning management system (LMS) discussion forums. This shift may be in part due to the threaded, more hierarchical nature of an LMS such as Moodle and the "flatter" structure of Web 2.0 applications such as VoiceThread and Dimdim, which allow for simultaneous and multiple responses.
Finally, designed for purposes of communication and collaboration, Web 2.0 applications can connect individuals to and within a larger learning community. Utilization of applications such as Voice Thread, Dimdim, and Ning for sharing, dialogue, and discussion can facilitate the types of communities of learning and communities of practice that reduce isolation, make learning and experimentation less risky, and promote mutuality and reciprocity.
Interviews with teacher trainers suggest two distinct advantages of Web 2.0 versus 1.0 applications. The first is the duality of Web 2.0 tools—that they can serve as both authoring and communication tools—appears to help users feel more comfortable both creating information and communicating and collaborating around that information. Next, this duality erases what I call the "anonymity of the commons." The Web is a public space. Yet it is so vast and decentralized, and its audience so large and diffuse, that creative efforts, even when directed to publishing sites, may not be read, or even if read, may not be acknowledged.
At the very least, because our online participants are co-creating ideas, strategies—and insights with VoiceThread, Flickr, and Curriki, they have an immediate audience—one another. And the fact that the same Web 2.0 tools allow their larger community of peers to offer feedback affords participants a larger, secondary, targeted audience that acknowledges and honors the efforts of colleagues.
The observations presented here are not grounded in any formal evaluation or rigorous research methodology. (Indeed, there's little research on the effects of Web 2.0 tools on teacher learning.) Though evolving, these initial observations of coaches' learning via Web 2.0 tools suggest that the intentional design of many of these tools, combined with their use to carry out specific course-related objectives, can cultivate greater engagement, communication, creativity, and collegiality among users-all important ingredients in enhancing learning.
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