Having considered the impact of Computer Assisted Language Learning and Computer Mediated Communication on the EFL classroom, Zöe Handley now examines how Web 2.0 technologies are changing the way students learn.
To begin, let’s look at the two main features which distinguish Web 2.0 from Web 1.0:
The first is the possibility for any web-user to create web pages for themselves without needing access to dedicated software and without learning to code in HTML. Wikipedia is probably the best known product of the ‘user-generated content’ revolution.
The second defining feature of Web 2.0 is its ‘social dimension’ – its ability to link together networks of users with common interests. Facebook is perhaps the most popular application of this type.
But what does it mean for teachers of English as a Foreign Language?
The ‘writable web’ (Kárpáti, 2009) has drawn attention from EFL researchers for a number of reasons. Firstly, it makes it easier for teachers and students to publish their writing, which means it is easier for teachers to set up authentic writing activities with “a real purpose and real audience” (Mak and Coniam, 2008: 438). Secondly, outside education, the ease of publication and the social dimension of Web 2.0 have encouraged users to communicate through writing; and in large quantities, too (Kárpáti, 2009). If this can be harnessed in EFL teaching, Web 2.0 technologies such as wikis, blogs, and fan fiction sites (e.g. Live Journal) have the potential to overcome one of the greatest challenges teachers face – getting students to write! Finally, technologies such as wikis, which keep a log of edits to an article, provide students with a ‘window on the writing process’ (Karpati, 2009).