Home' Teacher : March 2010 Contents 10 TEACHER MARCH 2010
Online media site Crikey called 2009 a
'watershed year' for the internet in Aus-
tralia. One of the key 'phase shifts' that
occu rred last year was the drift away from
email to social networking -- Facebook,
Twitter, messaging and the like.
According to blogger Nick Burcher, in July
2009 Australiahadthefourthlargest number
of Facebook user accounts -- 3,217,380 -- of
any country. Twitter, a microblogging site
largely unknown to anyone but a handful of
users in 2008, took off in 2009 with an esti-
mate of 800,000 unique Australian visitors
in 2008-09, up 6,122 per cent from 2007-08,
according to Sarah Radwanick, an analyst
with United States-based digital marketing
and analysis company, comScore.
No one seems to have made a good esti-
mate of just how many regular users there
are of instant messaging ser vices like AIM
and MSN Messenger in Australia, but
according to research conducted in June
2008 for the Australian Com munications
and Media Authority, more than half of
14- to 17-year-old Australians used instant
messaging and used it more than anything
else on the internet except email -- including
While young and not so young people
around the world embrace the Web 2.0
world with gusto, in the education sector
Web 2.0, social networking and media are
still discussed largely in terms of site block-
ing, cyberbullying and school policy.
In his foreword to Mal Lee and Glenn
Fi nge r 's Developing the Networked School
Community, published next month, Pro-
fessor Mike Gaffney puts this in historical
'In the industrial age, students went to
school to learn things they could not learn at
home. That was the whole point: to prepare
children to work and live in industrial soci-
ety. . , (but) things are different now. Post-
industrial society with its increasing use of
and reliance on digital technologies is hav-
ing profound effects on the ways people, and
especially young people, access knowledge
and learn. The tables have turned! Through
their access to and use of digital technolo -
gies, students are now able "to learn things"
at home, out of school, which they cannot
learn(or are not allowedtolearn)at school'
Gaffney goes on to issue this challenge:
'Schools, educational leaders and bureaucrats
need to overcome their fear of digital tech-
nologies -- and the potential pitfalls and sen-
sationalist dangers to privacy and well being
-- and wisely embrace the concept of digital
citizenship as an outcome for all students.'
There's a key dilemma for educators,
made clear in a 2009 report produced by
education.au with funding from the Com-
monwealth Department of Education,
Employment and Workplace Relations.
According to the report, called 'Web 2.0 site
blocking in schools,' on the one hand, 'Web
2.0 provides rich opportunities to improve
student learning. Web 2.0 technologies sig-
nificantly contribute to furthering personal-
ised, collaborative learning and support the
development of internet literacy.'
On the other hand, 'Schools have a fun-
damental duty of care to students and site
blocking is a necessary and key component
of every school's overall cybersafety strategy.'
As well as the issues at the school policy
level, there are also issues related to indi-
vidual teacher uptake.
'We know that the barriers to adoption
by teachers are confidence, access and tech-
nological issues, and relevance to curricu-
lum,' explains Gerry White, inaugural chief
executive of education.au and currently
Principal Research Fellow at the Australian
Council for Educational Research. 'That
said, teachers do use the internet for their
own research, professional learning and for
searching for information.'
While many teachers, schools and sys-
tems struggle with the issues, there are edu-
cators taking up the opportunities that the
technologies provide to extend practices and
connect with students and the community,
with some very interesting results.
Key to many of these opportunities is the
interactivity of new Web 2.0 technologies
like blogs, wikis, social networking tools and
various online, collaborative working spaces.
Why Web 2.0?
Some argue that Web 2.0 is nothing new,
beyond changing the way users interact, but
that's no small change. If Web 1.0 was all
about getting information out far and wide
to an audience, Web 2.0 is all about a com-
munity of users. Website content is the sum
of their collaborative interaction.
It's this collaborative, creative, inter-
active aspect of Web 2.0 that excites educa-
tors who are looking for ways to encou rage
active authorship and participation from
students. For many, it's a game changer -- a
good enough reason to find a way past the
policy and professional barriers to using
technology in their teaching and learning.
As Jennifer Nelson, Angela Christopher
and Clif Mims put it in a recent article in
TechTrends, 'Expert teachers have long
understood that engaged learners develop
a deeper understanding and relationship
with content. Learning is meaningful when
students co-create and develop their ow n
knowledge. (Barbara McCombs and Jo Sue
Whisler in 1997 suggested) students take
ownership of their learning when they are
provided with opportunities to interact with
content, make connections and form new
meanings . . . . Internet and Web 2.0 technol-
ogies afford students opportunities to seek
information, collect their own material,
communicate, make meaning and evaluate
This 'comment culture' is at the core ofthe
Web 2.0 suite of technologies, including blogs,
microblogs like Twitter, and wikis. Projects
which harness the educational power of what
WANT TO SEE THE WEB 2.0 FUTURE OF EDUCATION? RALPH SAUBERN'S CASE STUDY OF AN
INNOVATIVE REMOTE MUSIC EDUCATION PROJECT GIVES US A GLIMPSE.
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