The “2.0” buzzword has gotten a lot of hype in recent years, and deservedly so. Whatever word we could have used to describe these new tools, the emergence of the term indicated a social, even anthropological, shift in how we use the web.
Defining what qualifies as “web 2.0” or “literacy 2.0,” has become more difficult as the term has become more ubiquitous and trendy. According to Knobel & Wilber (2009), “a Web 2.0 ethos values and promotes three interlocking functions or practices: participation, collaboration, and distribution.” In other words, you know a web 2.0 resource if it helps you collaborate with others and share what you have gathered, learned, or created. Examples are wikis (i.e. PBWorks), social bookmarking tools (i.e. Diigo), and sites for users to share pictures and video (such as Flickr and YouTube).
For educators, the emergence of these tools has led directly to discussions about what skills students need in order to manage and utilize such tools. Termed “Literacy 2.0,” many teachers have come to the understanding that past protocols for researching, reading, and writing are woefully outdated in a world where students and adults are not only encouraged, but expected to collaborate and contribute to group projects and where learners must efficiently and effectively sift through vast amounts of information.
Perhaps this latter point presents the biggest challenge of the shift that has happened in education. When schools as we know them were conceptualized, information was relatively scarce. We went to school because that was where the resources were that had information. School was staffed by someone (or multiple people) who could help us use those resources and learn (memorize) that information for later access.
Information, however, is no longer a scarcity. If anything, there is an overabundance of information that our students must learn to vet. They must learn to recognize bias, understand an author’s motivation and background, and add this to his/her ever-changing understanding of a concept (Richardson, 2009). As Knobel & Wilber (2009) affirmed in their article, “Let’s Talk 2.0,” this new literacy “doesn’t mesh well with such practices as book reports, comprehension questions, leveled reading tasks, and weekly spelling tests that students are asked to do in school.”
I vividly recall my own fledgling attempts to help students learn these new skills. I was working with sixth graders on a primary sources history project, when I realized one day that they had not yet been taught how to vet and scrutinize information they found on the web. The next week, I started their class by launching into a short lecture about the dire state of California’s velcro crop and how this plight of velcro shortage may affect us all. I showed a web site with information and data to illustrate my concern. I recall finishing my lesson, then a long silence following. I asked for reactions or questions about what they’d just learned. Finally, one student raised her hand with great uncertainty and asked, “Are we talking about velcro? Like… (pointing to someone’s velcro on their jacket sleeve) ….velcro?” When I affirmed, there was more silence before another student voiced, “I guess I didn’t know that velcro grew.” Laughter. Then realization.
This conversation led to an entire unit where students learned to compare many different sources, both online and off, to see if they agree or conflict, to look at who owns the site using a source such as http://whois.com, to consider the suffix of a web site (i.e. .k12, .gov, .com, .org) and what that might indicate, and finally (perhaps most importantly) to compare what you are reading with what you already knew or thought you knew. (Note: if I were to do this same activity today, I would consider using the Tree Octopus site as my teaching tool.)
Perhaps Will Richardson best captures the concept of Literacy 2.0 in the March 2009 issue of Educational Leadership, which focused entirely on this subject: “Students will need to build their own curriculums, create their own projects, and assess their own products and their contribution in creating them. In short, they must be self-directed, self-motivated, lifelong learners who are network-literate in their creation and participation in these spaces.”
Later, he states, “If we continue to simply pass paper back and forth in our classrooms, we are not preparing students for the world they are entering.”