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E-learning 2.0

Options:     Print Version - E-learning 2.0, part 2 Print view

Article Sections

  1. Context
  2. The technologies and their applications
  3. The pedagogies
  4. References

The technologies and their applications

Below is a brief summary of some of the main technologies of Web 2.0, together with their affordances. What they all have in common is the ability to create not only shared content, but also social networks. For that reason they are often termed "social software".


A form of software that allows the user (or users) to display a number of articles, ordered by time, and called "posts", on which others can comment. It can often be used as a sort of online journal, and blogs have been the basis of several successful publishing ventures, notably Wife in the North. Syndication technologies can be used to advertise new posts.

The educational value of blogs is that they provide a vehicle for people to be reflective. Students can reflect on their own learning, and research groups can record notes on the research process.

O'Hear (2006a) describes how some English literature students used Manila software to create a reader's guide to the book, The Secret Life of Bees, inviting the author to comment. Many universities now provide blogging space for their students; the University of Warwick has done so since 2004.

Edublogs provides free software that hosts blogging for all those in education. Edublogs Campus helps universities, etc. to do this on an institution-wide basis.


The best-known wiki is Wikipedia, the multi-authored and edited encyclopedia. Wikis use special editing software to help a community or group build up a corpus of knowledge. Anyone can upload or edit a page.

They can be used for class or group projects, but Franklin and van Harmelen (2007) suggest that the teacher "scaffold" the process by suggesting a page structure.

Groups at the University of Edinburgh, which was the first UK-based university to develop its own Web 2.0 strategy, have used wikis for collaborative research. The latter's advantage was a shared, non-hierarchical working space, ability to edit and see the latest versions of documents, and the ability to separate different work packages into folders.

Wikispaces is used in educational establishments, and price varies from free to $800 per month depending on how much space you require, the level of service and whether the user is a group or an institution. The University of Edinburgh example quoted above used Confluence because it was easy to use and reliable.

Podcasts and vodcasts

Podcast is a portmanteau term from "broadcast" and iPod. It is a system whereby you subscribe to audio content, which is then automatically downloaded to your computer or mobile device. Vodcasts are based on the same principle, but contain video.

Franklin and van Harmelen (2007) suggest using podcasts to enable students to listen to lectures again, or for language work. Chinese Pod is a good example of the latter: learners can listen to the podcasts on their computers or on their iPods, print out PDFs with the dialogue and associated vocabulary, and test themselves with online tests and games. There is also an option to practise with a genuine Chinese speaker.

Stanford University also provides access to a considerable amount of its digital audio content (lectures, courses, etc.) via http://itunes.stanford.edu/

iTunes is a popular piece of software for podcasts; you can also find out more about podcasting software from: http://www.podcastingnews.com/.

There is a good general introduction on http://www.bbc.co.uk/webwise/askbruce/articles/video/podcast_1.shtml.

Other media sharing

There are a number of platforms for sharing media:

All these can be useful for uploading and critiquing student work. O'Hear (2006a) points to Flickr's annotation facility giving an example of how a history of art class was able to annotate paintings with comments.

Social bookmarking

Social bookmarking enables tagging and bookmarking of web pages, so that teachers and learners can build up a set of resources. The University of Edinburgh uses social bookmarking for managing reading lists, allowing students to post useful resources. The lists are then linked with the library and the VLE.

Del.icio.us is a popular site, as is BibSonomy which was developed at the computer science department at the University of Kassel, Germany, and is intended to support researchers in particular at sharing bibliographies and bookmarks. The student collaboration website, stu.dicio.us is currently being beta tested.

Social networking and presence systems

Probably the best known of these are Facebook and MySpace, but Elgg, despite advertising Rucku – a social networking site devoted to rugby – as one of its applications, is a piece of open source software specially developed for educational collaboration. We will discuss this further in section 4.

Second Life

Second Life is a social networking system, but in a virtual world. According to Martin Oliver of the Institute of Education, which uses Second Life on its master's degree courses, it can be of great value to distance students, the simulation of reality giving an increased sense of belonging, but is unnecessary if students can meet in real time. Other useful applications include teaching about computer programming, and how to teach – where the student can see the results of his or her pedagogical decisions.

Syndication and notification technologies

These help keep the user up to date with new or changed content. An "aggregator" or "feed reader" automatically adds feeds of new content which you have subscribed to. Examples of the former are My Yahoo and Google Reader.

Syndication technologies can be used in conjunction with blogs and wikis to send out e-mails when new posts are added.

Collaborative editing tools

These allow more than one person to edit a document at a time. There are obvious applications for students collaborating on an essay, report, work of art, etc.

See http://docs.google.com/ for documents and spreadsheets. There are numerous applications for other types of documents, listed on http://itredux.com/office-20/database/.

Mashups and bricolag

Mashups are about mixing and repurposing content from the Web, bricolage about configuring systems to suit your own use. For example, you can add Skype buttons, or del.icio.us bookmarks.

Yahoo Pipes allows users to mix content – http://pipes.yahoo.com/pipes/.