As a future school media specialist, I wanted to focus my research on Web 2.0 to target its use or purpose in our schools. How does it fit into our curriculum and what are students allowed to access on school computers? I have the privilege of working with high school students on a daily basis as a Language Arts teacher, but I was shocked to learn how little their generation knows about Web 2.0 tools and current research methods. According to Carolyn Foote, a librarian at Westlake High School in Texas, “only 14% write blogs, only 25 % have downloaded podcasts; about 25% have uploaded videos; and about 50% have tagged content.” (Foote, 2010). With the changing environment of the business world and the expectations facing students in college, it is imperative that they receive instruction on Web 2.0 tools.
How should these tools be used in the school setting? Our job as school media specialists should be to equip students with the skills to research in this new era of online catalogs and student collaborated wikis. First and foremost these tools are essential for the “communication and sharing of information.” (Mandal, 2011). More and more companies are using social networking tools to provide training or professional development opportunities. News information is not just being reported by professionals anymore, but by the civilians first on the scene. Students must be able to evaluate and interpret the most relevant information as well as the facts from fiction. We must help “students to ask authentic questions, find the best sources, [and] winnow out unnecessary information.” (Foote, 2010).
So what is standing in the way? Well in some cases, the school board policies are getting in the way of such progress. Schools across the country are “blocking access to collaborative tools, such as wikis, blogs, Flickr, Google Docs, and Del.icio.us.” (Rosenfeld, 2008). While it is understandable to block access to sites such as Facebook or Twitter, students are missing out on educational opportunities with certain YouTube access and blogs. The one drawback in opening access to these tools would be figuring out how to control access to inappropriate sites. There is sure to be a strong backlash by parents without a plan to block unsuitable pages. As I continue to discover new Web 2.0 tools and see the benefits they hold for students, I hope to be able to earn access to some of the tools for my future generations of students. Without teaching students the proper way to use these tools, we are doing them a disservice.
Foote, C. Empowering students for life; Research skills in the age of testing. Multimedia & Internet@Schools. 17(2), 28-31.
Rosenfeld, E. Blocking web 2.0 tools in schools: creating a new digital divide. Teacher Librarian. 35(3), 6.
Mandal, P. Blog and its role in library and information services. Journal of Library and Information Technology. 31(3), 155-158.