Monday, April 16, 2007

Building cognitive maps for the read/write web

The volume, diversity, and power of new read/write web or web 2.0 tools which continue to emerge almost every day is amazing. While these tools can be awe-inspiring, the fact that many classroom teachers remain unfamiliar with more "mature" read/write web tools as well as newer ones represents a "digital knowledge divide" that is widening fast. When I share collaborative research, learning and digital storytelling tools like Flickr,, Google Notebook, Google Reader and Ning with many classroom teachers, I sense I'm unintentionally inviting a "shock and awe" experience instead of one where teachers walk away empowered and confident in their ability to use new tools effectively with students. Such an outcome is counterproductive to the goal of helping teachers use digital technologies effectively for learning. I'm finding the video "Introducing the Book" to be better and less threatening to use in starting educational technology workshops with classroom teachers, rather than movies like "Did You Know" or "The Machine is Us/ing Us."

I don't see any signs the proliferation of read/write web tools is going to slow down soon. There are many places to go to learn about new (and "older" / more mature) web 2.0 technologies. Karen Montgomery has a good list of sources, including S. Summerford's Filamentality hotlist "Web 2.0 for the Classroom Teacher" and "Go2Web2.0."

More than a comprehensive hotlist, however, I'm seeking frameworks for "cognitive maps" that can help me as well as other teachers better understand the FUNCTIONS, respective PURPOSES, and appropriate CONTEXTS for using read/write technologies for learning. Although there is obviously overlap, I'm wondering if most tools can be categorized into the following groups:
- Collaborative tools
- Research tools
- Digital storytelling tools

I've been reflecting even more generally, beyond just web 2.0 applications, on the ways we should be thinking about using educational technologies in the classroom. In striving to make more read/write learning opportunities available for students, I'm wondering if more school leaders should be asking how digital technologies can be used as AMPLIFIERS for learning, rather than as strictly FUNNELS or RULERS:

Which Educational Technology Purpose(s) are served?

Andrew Churches has done some great work along these lines as well, tying in Bloom's taxonomy, and created the wiki "Educational Origami" in response to the post "Read/Write Tools Chart" by Miguel Guhlin. Andrew's framework and lists include desktop applications (mainly for Windows-based computers) as well as web-based tools, contrasting traditional versus digital approaches to teaching as well as how the 2001 revision to Bloom's taxonomy by Anderson and Krathwohl relates to digital teaching alternatives.

Which framework is best or will prevail? I won't claim to know, but I think each of these reflections can add to our own cognative map building of web 2.0 tools and appropriate uses. Our digital toolset will continue to morph and grow in the years ahead, while our need to understand appropriate uses for these protean tools will undoubtedly persist.