New Study From CoSN Reveals Positive Impact of Web 2.0 Tools in K-12 Classrooms, Slow Adoption of Technology

According to a 2003 survey released in September 2006 by the U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences, 91 percent of students in kindergarten through high school use computers, and 59 percent use the Internet. Another U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics survey from 2006 shows that in public schools, 94 percent of instructional rooms had Internet access in 2005, up from three percent more than a decade ago in 1994. Internet access with broadband connections has significantly increased, as well as the number of computers per student.

As Web 2.0 tools grow in popularity among school-age children, the inevitable step for schools is to incorporate the collaborative technology into the learning environment. A study conducted by the Consortium for School School Networking (CoSN), released in this month, explored the use of Web 2.0 tools in schools and the attitudes of district administrators toward the technology. CoSN hopes to develop a plan of action relating to establishing 21st Century schools, in conjunction with other educational organizations and agencies, based on the results of the study.

Web 2.0 tools are Internet applications that allow users to share intellectual and social resources. Some common Web 2.0 tools include wikis (the most popular, Wikipedia.org), social networking sites (such as Facebook and MySpace), and blogs (including personal blogs and larger news-related or gossip-related blogs). Students often use these sites to keep in touch with friends and with what goes on in the world. A news feed on a site like Facebook may not only contain updates about a student’s friends’ personal lives but also contain links to popular news stories and the latest viral videos.

CoSN’s study, “Leadership for Web 2.0 in Education: Promise and Reality,” uncovered some interesting data related to districts’ use of these participatory applications. CoSN surveyed close to 1200 district administrators, which included 389 superintendents, 441 technology directors, and 359 curriculum directors. Overall, a majority of the administrators surveyed stated that Web 2.0 tools had a positive impact in their students’ lives. Unfortunately, there is a lower level of use of Web 2.0 technology even though curriculum directors do find significant opportunities for the tools in curricula and teaching materials.

More than 77 percent of district administrators agreed or strongly agreed when presented with the statement, “Web 2.0 has value for teaching and learning.” The top-ranked priority for use of Web 2.0 tools was to keep students interested and engaged in school.

Students should use only approved sites according the respondents in the survey. Sixty-one percent of district administrators believe Web 2.0 use should be on approved educational sites only. Twenty-four percent of respondents suggested use should only be supervised, rather than restricted to only certain sites.  Districts will have to develop policies regarding their views on what Web 2.0 sites and tools are allowable to students.

Misuse of Web 2.0 technology has also become a concern. According to the data, districts are implementing policies in areas that surface as problems. Most of the districts surveyed prohibit use of chat rooms and social networking sites. Other banned activities include sharing media files (music and visual), using message boards, and playing interactive games.

Curriculum directors surveyed did feel that Web 2.0 would have a positive impact at all grade levels with social studies, writing, science, and reading. Web 2.0 tools suggested for these content areas include “sharing visual media, online collaborative projects, and creating polls and surveys.” Web 2.0 technology is also thought to have a positive impact on math, visual and performing arts, and foreign language learning at the middle and high school level, but not for elementary students.

While administrators do see Web 2.0 as having a positive impact on learning, a majority (56 percent) reported that these tools were not integrated into district curricula. CoSN suggests that “individual pioneering classrooms” are often the only places where Web 2.0 applications will be found.

The use of Web 2.0 technology as part of a district’s curricula will call for change in teaching and learning, and most like a restructuring of schools. But, adapting to new technology will help districts usher in a 21st-Century school environment, paving the way for students who are globally aware, collaborative, and competitive.

For CoSN’s full report and executive summary, visit their Website, www.cosn.org.

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