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Q4: why has general web 2.0 practice not translated well/extensively into an HE context?

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Giota Alevizou
1 October 2009

This is mainly to inivite contribution of personal experiences. Ideas about the blurring of boundaries between formal and informal learning environments may come to mind...

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Emma Duke-Williams
7:26pm 6 October 2009

I think that one of the critical factors is how comfortable staff feel using Web2.0 type tools for their own research/ personal interests.

For generations, those with a teaching role have encouraged students to read - and have themselves read for pleasure as well as for work. Most will have also written - both for work and socially.

However, it's much harder to get the enthusiasm & ability to add inside knowledge (e.g. when we're discussing reading text books - we often compare the different ways you tackle a text book - and a murder novel)

If we, as staff, don't have that ease with WEb2.0 tools, then it's going to be really hard to get students enthusiastic.

We've recently done a survey of all (teaching) staff - just a simple one to see who's actually using web2.0 tools socially & who's using them with students. From memory, without exception, those staff who were using them actively with students were also actively using them personally.

It's something we need to look at more - and probably move staff training away from "How to use .... with your students" to "How to use ... for your personal learning/ local sailing club / etc"

Giota Alevizou
10:01am 8 October 2009 (Edited 10:13am 8 October 2009)

Hi Emma,

Thanks for your insight. And yes I totally agree. It seems that if a technology is used by staff in a creative/personal way, the staff are familiar with the particular and they are then able to experiment and 'translate' other, associated uses to engage with students/teaching. I wonder then if staff that are not using such technologies for their own personal purposes, are reluctant to experiment and innovate in their teaching, because:

a) they see them as a 'burden';

b) they are lacking of confidence (in the technical sense);

c) they not part of an instutionally accepted teaching practice?

Then you get others that though they use web 2.0 technologies for personal/research purposes, they don't want to mix them with teaching...Privacy/surveilance concerns come to mind alongside reluctance to blurr informal / formal learning? 

Gráinne Conole
10:05am 8 October 2009

I agree I think these are both crucial issues - and of course you dont get web 2.0 stuff until you do it. I think there are real issues as well that for some people the whole "openness" of web 2.0 is scary, indeed some I think actively disapprove of such approaches.

Gráinne Conole
3:20pm 13 October 2009

I'm currently at the JISC Curriculum Design and Delivery Meeting in Manchester. The new JISC Design Studio has been launched which aims to act as a showcase of outputs from the programme. The programme also has a social networking space Circle for the programme to share and debate. The issues both the Design Studio and Circle face as similar to those we face:

  • Why would people contribute?
  • What is the benefit to indivduals?
  • How can such tools be self-sustaining?
  • How can these interoperate with other systems and tools?

Will Pollard
4:04pm 13 October 2009

This may sound a bit rude but the question turned up on Twitter so here is my answer.

Many UK academics still value theory rather than practice. Writing a long paper about Web 2 is more likely than trying to work out how to link to a video.

Papers and conferences are still seen as central.

Critique mode is very well supported. e-learning is still something to consider rather than accept as normal.

I think i will stop there and see what the response is.


Juliette Culver
4:21pm 13 October 2009

I think there are two separate angles - the extent to which Web 2.0 has translated into teaching and the extent to which it has translated in to the practice of educators in HE. As Emma says, the former depends on the latter.

I'm not convinced that folk in HE used Web 2.0 sites any less than in most other professions though. You need a critical mass of people you know professionally to also be using them for them to be useful and you need to spend a reasonable amount of time in front of a computer or smartphone which will rule out a certain proportion of academics. 


Gráinne Conole
4:30pm 13 October 2009

Yep agree with you Will to an extent! The medium fosters particularly type of dialogue and engagement. To me its not so much about trying to write acadmic style papers in web 2.0 environments but harnessing what web 2.0 affordances can offer in terms fo broadening/enriching the engagement.

I also agree with you Juliette critical mass is key, as is seeing the value and relevance to owns own practice - the whats in it for me thing, and also that it takes time for people to engage in and understand the value of some of these web 2.0 spaces. Think how mnay people you know who struggled at first to see the value of Twitter for example...

Juliette Culver
4:43pm 13 October 2009

Is there also another issue in that to be a successful academic in most disciplines you need to be really highly focused? Sites such as twitter are less likely to appeal to (or distract!) such people. It's also not totally clear to me that e.g. using twitter would help somebody become a better mathematics researcher for example.

Gráinne Conole
8:48am 14 October 2009

But interestingly Juliette aspects of web 2.0 practice are taking off in some scientific disciplines such as Physics and Chemistry. The Ebank project for example was concerned with opening up the raw research data and data lifecycle. CAn't quite remember the links for the Physics stuff but think this is an example NERC Open Research Archive. Also people like Peter Murray-Rust were very early pioneers in harnessing the power of the internet for chemistry. I remember been totally amazed by the interactive chemistry molecules produced using Rasmol in the early days of the Internet. Indeed it was one of the things that got me hooked on the internet and its potential for learning!

Juliette Culver
9:06am 14 October 2009

Difficult to decide where the dividing line is between 'use of the internet' and 'use of Web 2.0'! I do agree that the open access movement for research is certainly related to Web 2.0 - I hadn't thought about that. . 

Gráinne Conole
9:08am 14 October 2009

I think there are alot of synergies and alot to learn from a learning perspective from what is happening in the Open Research Movement...

Juliette Culver
9:13am 14 October 2009

I had also forgotten about the Polymath projects which could definitely be described as Web 2.0.

Will Pollard
10:19am 14 October 2009

Victor Keegan in the Guardian wrote a couple of weeks ago about Mendeley, a social networking site for academic references. Mostly science but some humanities and social science. The claim is to report on citations in real time, not a couple of years after people are interested as might happen with journals.

I have started a public collection about learning with ISO9000 - learn9 . Also there is a more limited group with the same scope and links to PDF files. So far just my own, it starts with a search of your own desktop. Not quite like music sharing , there is a limit of ten on such a group. Eight  places left if you would like an invite.

Juliette Culver
1:22pm 14 October 2009

Must take more of a look at Mendeley. I guess there's also Zotero which is trying to do similiar types of things.

I guess it's not surprising that the interest in HE is centred in sharing directly related to research and papers!

Giota Alevizou
6:57pm 14 October 2009

I aggree Juliette, maybe it is a case of higher interest relating to research and peer review (in the form of publications or otherwise). Likewise, I agree that enthousiasm in some academic professionals who are invovled in open research/access/data is much higher. It would be interesting to see how such enthousiasts deploy such practices in their teaching and learning, or whether indeed they are more invovled in OER initiatives. I wonder if motivations are driven from cultural citizenship or a self-reflexive desire for experimentation or pedagogical innovation. A key finding in the recent JISC HE in a Web 2.0 report reveals that use of Web 2.0 in UK HE instituions for the purposes of teaching and learning is still 'patchy' (executive summary, p. 2).

More importantly, the same report revealed that information literacies represent a growing deficit area among HE learners! Would it be a solution, if Info literacy in a Web 2.0 world is more of HE curriculum design, rather than the test bed of more involved or engaged academic teachers?

bruce nightingale
12:07pm 15 October 2009 (Edited 2:42pm 15 October 2009)

I wonder how many HE institutes actively promote and support  the experimental use of web 2.0 and other technologies by academics? The leviathan that is promoted tends to be the institutional VLE - far to frequently used as a repository for files in my experience. Many students starting HE courses are relatively sophisticated users of a variety of technologies such as Facebook, iTunes etc. (statement based on a survey of 450 Midlands students). Technologies like ning can help facilitate inquiry based learning and discussion, they are easily adopted by people familiar with Facebook, Bebo et al. Accessing lecturer's podcasts (sound/video) via iTunes is easy - no technical skills needed if you use podbean. Many people are exploring the pedagogical benefits of these technologies [removed][removed] alongside the students - I am one! Perhaps JISC could make some grant money available so we may write up our changing teaching experiences.

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