Last week, my methods class sat down together to create a lesson plan incorporating a cultural topic. The four of us, along with one of our methods instructors, started our planning by watching a video about a Bolivian wedding ceremony. When I say watch a video, I do not mean that we watched a short five-minute clip from YouTube or another website: we watched an actual VHS tape recording. As soon as the instructor started playing the video, I had to stop myself from laughing out-loud as I saw how terrible the video quality was along with those famous blurry lines of a off-track VHS tape. In 2015, five highly educated individuals with access to a plethora of digital tools such as YouTube, Vimeo, and exceptionally designed websites were watching a VHS tape that could not be shared with others nor accessed by any other means other than the VHS tape.
The experience described above is almost unheard of in todays K-12 classrooms due to the almost exclusive use of digital resources. Materials that were once confined to a physical disc or tape have made the transition to digital formats accessible by almost any device that can connect to the internet. The same transition has happened to projects and other student work; the dominance of tri-folds and bulky poster-boards has given way to Glogsters and Piktocharts. This change in how teachers introduce content to students and in how students demonstrate their knowledge is the result of Web 2.0 tools. According to a CBS News article, Web 2.0 tools are the follow-up technologies to the internet that function similarly to PC based programs, but are hosted on the internet. These tools are interactive, allow the user flexibility and creative freedom in use of the tool, and provide ways for individuals to share and collaborate while information is constantly updated. The power in Web 2.0 tools is that they are accessible anywhere with an internet connection and available to almost anyone free of charge (for many tools).
Web 2.0 tools have become popular with teachers because of their transformative power in instructional practices and in the performance of students. With tools such as YouTube and Vimeo, teachers have access to digital media content from around the world on almost subject. In addition to accessing digital media content, Web 2.0 tools allow students to create their own video content with tools such as iMovie and then share those creations with tools like YouTube. Social Media tools allow students to connect with learners all over the world outside of the four walls of the classroom. Google tools allow the creation of documents and presentations that anyone can create and edit together with people in different parts of the world at the same time. This ability to move learning from outside of the four walls of a classroom and the confines of a school is one of the powers behind Web 2.0 tools according to Andrew Marcinek in a post for Edutopia. In an educational culture where best practices for instruction include promoting digital literacy, increasing cross-curricular instruction, and creating student-centered learning environments, Web 2.0 tools allow students and teachers to work towards achieving these goals. The limitations that once restricted what students and teachers could do in the classroom due to limit resources is gone; if there is a Web 2.0 tool, there is now a way.
Web 2.0 tools are not only changing how students learn, they are also changing how teachers prepare for instruction. It is already known that social media tools such as Twitter are connecting teachers with fellow educators around the world, but other Web 2.0 tools are allowing for collaboration in developing engaging lessons. Lisa Dabbs, in an article for Edutopia, examines the use of Web 2.0 tools by teachers to identify how different tools can lead to increases in student learning and add to the knowledge that teachers have from their specialized training. Dabbs identifies tools such as Pinterest, which is used to visually organize information for lesson planning and live binders, a tool which allows users to upload information and documents to create a virtual binder. As with other uses of technology, the key to using these Web 2.0 tools is that teachers receive professional development in how they can be utilized and that their school culture supports the use of such tools.
Of the many Web 2.0 tools available to teachers, one of my favorites is Plickers. Plickers is a free formative assessment tool that is both engaging for students and easy for teachers to use. With Plickers, teachers create an account and download an app to their smart phone or tablet device and print a set of cards (one for each student). Each card has a unique shape on it and has answer choice options A-D printed at various points on the shape. Teachers upload questions for their students to answer to the Plickers site (or use pre-made questions made by other teachers) and present them to students one at a time. As teachers present the questions to students, students hold up their card with their answer choice facing upward and the teacher, using a tablet or smart phone, scans the room capturing each students card. What makes this tool ideal for formative assessment is that as the teacher scans the cards, he/she can see if the student answered correctly or incorrectly and at the end of each question, the teacher can see the overall performance of the class. This tool gives teachers instant results and since it only requires one personal device to be used by the teacher, it is easily implemented in the classroom. The video below shows a teacher using Plickers for formative assessment:
Works Cited: YouTube Video- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-uxhlEkQpwY