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Individuals now have the autonomy to make their own learning choices and in recent years there has been an emphasis on the “self made learner”, especially in adult education and ongoing professional development. As such, online communities and other so-called web 2.0 tools have come to the fore as potentially useful for educators and students alike to become connected more effectively, without time pressures or location mattering as much as it once did.
However, there is also a trendy notion that any web space becomes inherently a “learning environment” simply by virtue of it being labelled as such. This is certainly not the case. Web 2.0 tools, are just that, tools. They can only craft something useful if passionate people work with them and are committed to sharing personal narratives that encourage others, this is applicable whichever educational camp one is in, educator or educated.
Nevertheless, the web is helping bring about a conversational and practical tone as described in the ‘original communities of practice’ concept outlined in the 1990s by educational researchers. For example, http://webheadsinaction.org/ is a case in point.
“Learning within a wider community is now a possibility for those interested in pursuing their learning path in a personalised and networked way,” explains teacher trainer Cristina Costa of the University of Salford, UK. “ The web provides a platform for learning, but the learning environment is decidedly dependent on the interrelationships established amongst individuals.”
Lifelong learning can gain from the humanised approach it brings, something that is often lost in traditional teaching environments where a lecture regurgitates course material on to a chalk board and students “download” it with a pen into a paper notebook. Now, the technology is becoming invisible as more and more people become familiar and comfortable with using the tools, whether forum, micro-blog or social media hub. Moreover, to reiterate, web 2.0 is about providing tools that essentially do just one thing: make connections between people. “The effectiveness of the web lies on the opportunities it offers people to emerge as knowledge producers rather than information collectors,” says Costa.
Cristina Costa (2010). Lifelong learning in Web 2.0 environments Int. J. Technology Enhanced Learning, 2 (3), 275-284; DOI:10.1504/IJTEL.2010.033582
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About the Author: David Bradley has worked in science communication for more than twenty years. After reading chemistry at university, he worked and travelled in the USA, did a stint in a QA/QC lab and then took on a role as a technical editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry. Then, following an extended trip to Australia, he returned and began contributing as a freelance to the likes of New Scientist and various trade magazines. He has been growing his portfolio and and has constructed the Sciencebase Science News and the Sciencetext technology website. He also runs the SciScoop Science Forum which is open to guest contributors on scientific topics.