Imagine this scenario:
You put a blank piece of a paper in front of a 12 or 13 year old child and ask her/him to create an illustration that represents her/him. A collage, a diagram, maybe a map? Surely they’ll include a person or two (your more advanced drawers may even go beyond The Stick Man). They may even add a little shadow or dimension. Nevertheless, unless, by chance, you happen to be working with a future Van Gogh, the resulting illustration may be refrigerator-worthy at best.
And that’s where Web 2.0 come into play. I contend the following: Students (and adults for that matter) enjoy profile, document, and media creation using Web 2.0 apps because it just looks good.
Students are able to create content that is neat, organized, and makes the creator appear as an artist! Take, for example, a recent project my students worked on. They used an internal, open source social network called elgg to create “fake”profiles of historic Greek figures or Greek mythology characters. The students entered “about me” info, made up contact details, explained their location, predicted “interests,” etc. When they were finished, they “friended” me so that I can see their profiles. The old-school alternative? “Make a poster about your Greek character.” I’m going to predict the latter assignment’s product to be sloppier, harder to share, and I’ll go as far as predicting: boring.
When we studied Buddhism and Hinduism and I gave the students lots of options for presenting their group’s topic, an overwhelming majority chose some sort of Web 2.0 app. One of my Buddhism groups chose Glogster to make what I call, “virtual posters.” Just as if I placed construction paper and a tub of markers in front of the group, they planned, designed, and created a canvas of content to share with others. Their canvas, however, had animations, cheesy graphics, roll-over sounds effects, embedded videos, etc. They took their traditional (and by ‘traditional,’ I of course mean, ‘boring’) methods of conveying information to the next level. It didn’t matter who had better handwriting or if they ruler lines were straight or even if the marker they’re using started to run out of ink halfway through the third bubble letter! Taking their content to the web provided a cleaner, more manageable and collaboration-friendly working environment.
My seventh graders are early in this process. Unfortunately, they’re not used to expressing themselves academically with digital media. I’ll admit it: they get caught up in the process and the content suffers. For now, I’ll let that go from time to time.
Next year it looks like my building will have some “guided study halls.” Maybe I can teach a Web 2.0 class?