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How Web 2.0 Tools Have Changed Online Education

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One of the primary focuses of education today is to make sure that the needs of every individual learning style is recognized and applied. In short, the main objective is to grant every student the necessary resources and knowledge needed to fuel his or her learning. With our constant advancement in technology, we are accessing and absorbing a wealth of knowledge at the touch of our fingertips.

With many districts converting to interactive whiteboards and devices, and the increasing convenience and advantages of online education, it’s no wonder what the hype is all about for incorporating Web 2.0 tools into our learning process. This is helping to shape online education to support all different types of learning.

A New Generation of Learners

When asked the question, “Where did you go to school or where are you attending college?” more often than not you’ll hear a response involving buzz words like cyber-school, online college, digital school or taking online courses and online classes. As these responses become more frequent, it gives us a chance to stop and think how much our approach to education has changed drastically over the past few years.

Our new generations of learners, also known as “Millennials” or “Generation Y,” have a wealth of technological knowledge, as they were reaching adulthood when some of the most innovative devices were evolving. To this mix add Generation Z, who were completely immersed in technology since birth. This combination of groups have really demonstrated how much technology has an impact on the way we learn in today’s society.

Two factors come to mind when discussing this new breed of learners. First, not only are those attending school or pursuing online education tech-savvy, but they also have the ability to perform multiple tasks at the same time without too much stress or overload. Think about it; if you see someone with their smartphone, they probably are listening to music while sending texts to multiple parties, updating their Facebook status and checking their email at the same time without even batting an eye.

Along with their impressive talent for smart technologies, these learners have adapted different ways in which they receive information. This study by Glyn Mottershead claims that “present day students are not pressing for change in traditional approaches.” With technology, another factor that makes our new generation of learners unique is that they respond to most audio, visual and kinesthetic cues and information. The reason behind this is that in basic terms, they are media junkies. It’s what they’ve been exposed to and have trained their brains to process information in this fashion.

So, what does this all mean for education? The key word is application. One of the best ways that students succeed in education today is the ability to apply their knowledge and practice what they know in order to retain information. With our increasing access to online education and educational platforms, these tools give students exposure to the best resources available, completely shaping the face of education.

The Benefits of Online Education

In previous years, when the hype of online college and online courses first started to take form, many people were wary of pursuing this new avenue of learning. A lot of the concerns focused around the lack of individualized, face-to-face interaction, authentic discussions and the development of social skills and reliability of sources. Some even believed that these online classes were just a hoax or a scam in order for a company to make money. Now, that view has changed drastically.

Ultimately, online education provides access to countless reliable resources, experts and interactive methods of teaching a concept. Not only can this benefit all learning styles, but it’s also accessible to those that may not otherwise have access to these sources or materials. For example, if a student is on homebound medical care and cannot attend physical classes, he can partake in online courses so his education isn’t stunted by an unforeseen illness or injury. Or, if someone cannot leave the house due to children or without a mode of transportation, she can still take online classes. While these are a few examples, there are numerous scenarios that show how having an Internet connection can open up a window of opportunity in the world of education.

Considering any given situation above, online education provides a plethora of support and experts to answer questions or guide students to the right resources and applications. Plus, many districts and online colleges help support students financially to afford the technology if they are underprivileged. Even major companies such as Apple and Google provide free services, while most Web 2.0 tools are free platforms for student use. The possibilities are endless.

Naturally, one of the greatest appeals of online education is the obvious fact that it’s convenient. You can study and learn almost anywhere around the world at any time. For those working a couple of jobs, having to take care of kids, with a busy extracurricular lifestyle or whatever the reason, it’s on the students’ time to fuel their learning. Additionally, Web 2.0 tools and other platforms have online storage available so work can be accessed anywhere as well, without the need of an external hard-drive or system memory. As an added bonus, it doesn’t matter what computer you access for this information, it’s all stored in the Internet. How’s that for convenient?

While there are many reasons to pursue online education, whether saving the environment by going paperless or adhering to a learning need, it’s important to learn what’s out there to explore. Below are seven of the most popular Web 2.0 tools for education available for student use online.

Web 2.0 Tools for Education

Without a doubt, these are seven of the most talked about Web 2.0 tools available on the Internet today. What’s even better? Most of them are free. So, we aren’t just saving trees by avoiding composition paper and going digital, but we are also saving some green. Check out these great sites and see all of the benefits of online education.

1. Dropbox

Known as an excellent and safe online place to sync and store documents, Dropbox offers the ability to access saved information on all different types of mobile devices such as tablets, smartphones and laptops. Having this type of convenience allows those participating in online courses to use this Web 2.0 tool for their educational use anywhere.

Dropbox is an excellent and safe online place to sync and store documents.

If a student is stuck at work and not able to submit an assignment from her home computer and the due date is quickly approaching, she can access an already started file, work on it and submit it. Then, the same file is synced with her computer at home in case she needs to make any edits in the future.

The best feature of Dropbox is that it’s free and easy to use. Plus, if you’re working on multimedia files that take up a lot of memory and computer space, you can store it online instead of fighting with exceeding file sizes and external hard-drive space. Also, many other apps comply with Dropbox so there are not a lot of formatting issues when you want to transfer information. Having Dropbox is one of the major benefits of online education; information can be accessed from anywhere at any time.

2. Google Drive

As a strong resource for education, Google has developed many programs and Web 2.0 tools for education due to its versatility. For instance, Google Drive can be used by any person wanting to share files, pictures and information. Therefore, those involved in online courses can network and connect with their teachers and their peers at their convenience.

Having a primary focus in the writing process, Google Drive allows users to provide feedback and make edits during any part of composing a document or file. This is a great advantage to online education, because it gives students the opportunity to reflect on their writing and help them become more aware of their writing style and content knowledge.

Additionally, since some of the benefits of online education includes student-driven learning, Google Drive not only demonstrates excellent organizational skills, but also helps students learn how to take digital notes and view their learning through different visual and active engagement tasks.

3. Skype

Of course, the word “free” sparks the interest of any online learner; it saves money, especially when education often seems pricey. However, Skype’s features make it hard to believe that it is a free resource to help expand your mind, connect with others and drive your own learning. All you need is a computer, tablet or device that has a webcam installed.

Skype is a great way to bring students together and share common ideas without distance getting in the way.

Finally, Skype gives students the ability to put a face to a name. When students are holding online discussion threads, it’s not always easy to understand the context in which a student responds. There is no emotion involved. With Skype, students and educators have the ability to set up conference calls and hold discussions as if they were in the same room together. There might be students from Tokyo, Oklahoma, Florida and the Netherlands. It’s a great way to bring students together and share common ideas without distance getting in the way.

For special projects, educators and students can connect with authors and events happening around the world. They are able to view places in real time that they may never get the chance to see. This makes learning real and applicable. It’s a way of stepping outside of the classroom or online forum and experiencing learning firsthand.

4. Prezi

Beginning as a presentation tool for businesses, Prezi has expanded its “zooming” appeal to schools to display information and teach in a unique and engaging way, making this Web 2.0 tool for education a hit.

Making the shift from traditional PowerPoint projects and lecture-style presentations, Prezi launches an aesthetically pleasing way to display pertinent information with flare and poignancy. With its flash-based presentation style, both educators and students play a role in the creative process, inventing easy-to-navigate projects that convey a streamlined, professional final product.

Prezi uses presentations to display information and teach in a unique and engaging way.

Since our 21st-century learners retain the most key information from multimodal displays of information, Prezi encompasses audio, visual and kinesthetic learning. From importing photos and videos to music and text files, Prezi allows students to engross themselves in knowledge at each zoom. Many schools can apply to participate in the Prezi for Education program each year. This grants schools the ability to be a personal part of the Prezi community.

Another perk that Prezi has is the ability to store Prezi presentations online or download them to present offline. Also, its social search database allows users to look for other Prezi users, thus giving students even more advantages in online education. They can fuel their own learning and be responsible for discovering information on their own.

5. SkyDrive

For another free and easy-to-use Web 2.0 tool for education, SkyDrive is a popular resource for sharing files with teachers and peers. Organized well and accessible from anywhere, this platform only requires a few clicks of the mouse to share a wealth of information.

If you are working towards a degree through online classes, most of the work requires the use of Microsoft Office Suite to complete assignments and submit files online. SkyDrive is completely compatible with these files and makes it easy to share information almost instantly. However, every user must have a Microsoft account in order to use this Web 2.0 tool.

Perfect for any student participating in online education, SkyDrive provides 7GB of free storage space online. Most document files are small and that can hold a lot of information, which is great for a semester or even a year of files for online classes. Plus, you don’t have to worry about anyone stealing your files or sharing without your permission as your account is secure. It’s such a great tool, especially when it comes to those who want to educate online.

6. Edmodo

Ultimately, Edmodo is a well-structured platform for students to get involved in blogging, viewing links and having access to all different types of files. It’s one of the best teacher-friendly sites that allows the educator to directly connect to students and provide resources to foster their own learning outside of the formal classroom.

Edmodo is one of the best teacher-friendly sites that allows the educator to directly connect to students.

One of the benefits of online education is that information is in the palm of every students’ hand. Provided by the teacher, students can become actively involved in their learning and seek out resources for what engages them and what they may be struggling within a subject.

Protected in a safe, nurturing environment, teachers can reach out to students personally to provide feedback and guidance along the way. Also, parents or guardians can be contacted to discuss a students’ progress of learning online and any suggestions or interventions they can make along the way. In addition, students can seek help or advice from their peers and create a social network of their own to discuss information and subject-focused topics. What’s better? It’s free!

7. Remind 101

Our learners today are all in tuned to their smartphones; surfing the Internet, connecting with friends, and yes, texting. Taking this into consideration, Remind 101 was developed for teachers to safely and privately text their students on upcoming homework assignments, due dates and event/planning reminders.

The process is easy. Teachers create a group and print or share an access code for students to text in and join the group. Teachers never have to give their personal phone numbers and the students do not have to share their number with teachers. Like a standard text message (same rates apply), teachers get limited characters to post information they want to share with their students. If students don’t have a phone, they can receive email notifications.

With online education today, many students and educators are constantly on the go. This Web 2.0 tool is also an app that can be accessed anywhere at any time to send notifications and information in a timely fashion. That way, if a class is canceled or something comes up, the student will know immediately and receive an alert. Talk about instant access and gratification.

The Advantages of Online Education

There is no doubt that education is constantly evolving and changing. Web 2.0 tools strive to keep up with the different learning styles and lifestyles that all students must endure. As online education becomes an increasingly popular method of schooling, these tools give the affordable, instant access and plethora of knowledge needed to create an encompassing, student-driven environment. Above are only seven of the greatest Web 2.0 tools out there. There are countless apps and content-specific tools to find and they are being developed daily, changing the face of online education and making it accessible to any type of learner.

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