Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Reflection on Web 2.0 Tools Used

This is the last week of our assignments for EDT 5410, Introduction to Educational Technology. Next week our final project is due, but this week, we are to reflect upon the Web 2.0 tools we've used over the semester, discuss two of our favorite ones, why they are our favorites and note how they "exemplify some of the concepts or characteristics detailed in this weeks reading, Chapter 31, Networks, Web 2.0, and the Connected Learner (Reiser and Dempsey, 2007).

Since we used quite a few Google products, there were more than two that I really enjoyed. Additionally, I'm a great fan of TechSmith's Jing and I liked figuring out how to record, convert, and upload a podcast for publishing, so it's a little difficult to only choose two products. But, since I don't have unlimited time, I will stick with discussing two of them in today's post.

I think two of my favorite products would have to be Google Docs/Forms and Google Blogger. I don't really remember when I started to use Google Docs, but it was most likely Fall 2008, when I participated in a group online project and someone within the group suggested we use Google Docs so that we could collaborate and work on the same document at the same time. I already had a Google account, but hadn't really used Google Docs much. There were a few problems as we began collaborating; one time when one of the group members and myself were on at the same time, it bumped me out and wouldn't let me back in until I restarted my computer, but I don't think that is an issue anymore. The other issue we experienced is that the formatting ended up being pretty rough and hard to make consistent. We ended up having to adjust the formatting in Microsoft Word prior to submitting the assignment. Although Google Docs still has it's own "formatting" and it doesn't always work perfectly for me, it's better than it was at that time and being able to work on it together made the project easier for all of us within the group.

Since that first time I used it for a collaborative group project, Google has continued to improve Google Docs and continue to make it easier to use. A year ago or so, I read about the Microsoft Google Cloud connect plug-in, available at: http://googledocs.blogspot.com/2011/02/google-cloud-connect-for-microsoft.html, which allows me to either automatically sync all my Microsoft Office files with Google Docs or manually sync the ones I want to sync, and then tonight I came across the Google Docs Offline plugin, which allows you to use Google Docs off-line. I haven't even had time to explore this one yet, but I installed it and will be testing it out in the upcoming days. I did see where someone was experiencing problems in the forums, but it appears that there have been some updates which may have taken care of their problem. Anyways, I love exploring new software or new ways of using tools I already use, so I'm looking forward to trying it out.

I've been a Google Blogger since April 2007. I currently have seven blogs on Blogger, but I only update two of them at this time, Precious and Honored, my personal spiritual journal, and this blog, Online Technology & Learning. When I first heard of blogs and began reading some, I had an immediate attraction to them. I've been writing a journal/diary since my late teens, early twenties and being able to write a journal online, sharing my thoughts and feelings with others, even people I don't know seemed like an outlet I would enjoy and I have enjoyed it. Blogs can be used as a project or classroom site, but oftentimes they are used for reflective writing, along with being a platform for sharing ideas and thoughts with your personal learning network (PLN). There are blogs for everything now days and pretty much on every subject. Blogging, for me, is a way of life; a way to share, to reflect, and to publish, something I always wanted to do, but probably never would have if it wasn't for blogging.

So, how do these two tools exemplify Web 2.0, as defined by the reading this week? One of the affordances described within the chapter by Reiser and Dempsey (2007), is the networking, collaborative, connectivity provided through Web 2.0 tools. Google Docs exemplifies this collaborative, networked, connected environment. This CommonCraft Video on YouTube does a great job of explaining the collaborative advantages of using Google Docs: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eRqUE6IHTEA over previous, older methods.

Blogger also exemplifies Web 2.0, in that it allows users to collaborate on writing posts or updates, adding comments and sharing with each other through postings and comments. Blogging, used as a collaborative tool or as a means to sharing intellectual property, "potentially opens learning beyond the closed doors of the classroom or walled gardens of registered student, login-only, course sites." (Reiser and Dempsey, 2007). Blogging publicly and commenting on other blogs, provides students with an opportunity to learn from professionals and experienced faculty members on various subjects and become part of the conversation, which is something that wouldn't have been achieved nearly as easy as it is now. I know that I posted this YouTube video before about the Networked Student, but that's exactly the difference Web 2.0 tools affords us as instructors, teachers, instructional designers, and students.


References
Reiser, R. A. and Dempsey, J. V. (2002, 2007, 2012). Trends and issues in instructional design and technology. (3rd ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

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