MET:Web 2.0

From UBC Wiki

This page was originally authored by Iris Chan and Wanda Dechant (2007).
This page has been revised by Cari Wilson (2008).This page has been revised by Drew Murphy (2009).

What is Web 2.0

Web 2.0 is a phrase referring to a “second generation” of Internet-based services that let people create, collaborate and share content online using such online tools as blogs, wikis, social networking sites, media tools and productivity tools. The term "Web 2.0" was first coined by Tim O'Reilly in his article, What is Web 2.0:Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software. In his article, O'Reilly outlines the foundational features of this new generation of online tools that promote an ethos of participation and collaboration.

General Characteristics of Web 2.0 Tools

According to O'Reilly, Web 2.0 applications typically possess a general set of characteristics. Many of these

Tag cloud of relevant Web 2.0 topics

core characteristics are listed below (O'Reilly 2005). Web 2.0 tools may not possess all of these features and some may specialize in one or two.

  1. Web 2.0 is about web services, not packaged software, with cost-effective scalability
    • Web 2.0 tools are serviced based applications where users come online to engage with the software and don't "own" the software.
  2. Web 2.0 gives users control over unique, hard-to-recreate data sources that get richer as more people use them
    • Web 2.0 tools offer high levels of functionality with easy to use, intuitive interfaces. These tools offer rich functionality including storage and searchablility and take on community characteristics as more people use the tool that
  3. Web 2.0 is about trusting users as co-developers
    • Web 2.0 tools invite users to make suggestions for improvement and seek to include users in the process of ongoing service development.
  4. Web 2.0 is about harnessing collective intelligence
    • Web 2.0 tools see the value of user intelligence as a group and in allowing the multitude of talents and knowledge possessed by the group to contribute to the development of the service.
  5. Web 2.0 is about leveraging the long tailthrough customer self-service
    • Web 2.0 tools encourage the creation of and facilitates the searching of esoteric, special interest content. Web 2.0 tools encourage the grouping of special interests around specialized content.
  6. Web 2.0 is about offering software above the level of a single device
    • Web 2.0 tools tend to operate on a broad platform that do not require the downloading of special software. A user only needs access to the internet and a web browser to access all of a Web 2.0 tools functionality.

General Implications of Web 2.0 Tools for Education

Web 2.0 tools are allowing people, and in particular young people, opportunities to publish, participate and collaborate in ways that traditional schools cannot. The explosive growth in blogs, social networking and media sites attest to this significant, cultural phenomenon of online content creation and engagement. As youth engage with these multiple online social worlds, there is an increasing gap between the modes of learning, socialization and communication taking place online and the kinds of traditional modes of learning happening in schools (McLoughlin and Lee, 2008). Web 2.0's architecture of participation, some argue, is actually more conducive to learning and to the ways students normally interact and exchange ideas. (Sendall, Ceccucci, and Peslak, 2008). The web based social software tools young people are using are seen by many educators as profound pedagogical tools that provide affordances of sharing, communcation and information discovery(McLoughlin and Lee, 2008).

These natural educational affordances offered by Web 2.0 tools are being integrated into existing and credible learning theories. Connectivism, where diversity of opinions is coveted and the ability to create personal learning networks is a key educational goal, embraces the affordances offered by Web 2.0 tools. Constructivist theorists are also embracing Web 2.0 ideas in efforts to achieve constructivist goals such as enhancing scaffolding processes, creating communities of practice and constructing situated learning scenarios. The impact of Web 2.0 is also causing a questioning of cognitivist theories of learning which are typically promoted within current schools settings where teachers play their traditional role as conveyors of knowledge and curriculum(Downes 2006). The participatory functionality of Web 2.0 tools, challenges the cognitivist role of the teacher as "sage on the stage" and places the teacher in a more collaborative role as "guide on the side" working together with students in the process of connecting and constructing personal learning experiences. As a foil to existing teaching models, Web 2.0 functionality is a somewhat disruptive technology that challenges schools to be relevant and meaningful in a world immersed in technology.

Core Web 2.0 Content Creation Features and Implications for Educators

Web 2.0 - Core Content Creation Features Analysis and Implications for Educators
  • WYSIWYG Editors
File:Zoho wysiwyg .png
Sample wysiwyg editor in Zoho Writer

The acronym "wysiwyg" stands for "what you see is what you get." This term refers to the new generation of online text and media editors that allow regular users (non-programmers) to easily add text and media content to web pages. The intent is provide users with intuitive, easy to use editors that require little or no programming knowledge. These editing tools take many forms and are employed for a variety of content creation tasks including text formatting, image manipulation and video creation. The development of wysiwig editors represented an important design progression for web 2.0 tools as these editors have given millions of online users the opportunity to create user generated content.

  • Media Integration
File:Googledocs upload.png
Sample of image uploader in Google Docs

Media integration is a web 2.0 feature that allows for the simple integration of images, video, sound and other content types into the online content creation process. Through linking and uploading tools users can integrate media types into web page content. The integration process often gives users the ability integrate media into specific locations on a web page and thus employ important design and information organization strategies to heighten the value of their content.

  • Embed Code Functionality
File:Embed sample.png
Sample of Youtube embed code snipet

Embed code functionality allows users to incorporate the functionality of other media and tool types within a given web page. Many web 2.0 tools such as video, image, and slideshow tools offer embed code snipets which users can copy and past into their webpage and thus display content from these external web 2.0 tools directly within their own web pages. The development of embed code is one of the key innovations in the Web 2.0 phenomenon.

  • Collaboration Rights
File:WikispacesPermissions .png
Sample of collaboration permissions in Wikispaces

Collaboration rights involve the ability to assign multiple authors the permission to create web content in a web page. More commonly seen in Wiki's, collaboration functionality has allowed web 2.0 tools to distribute the burden of creating web content to many people and allow for new forms of online interactions and ideas connecting.

The content making features listed here reveal some of the key affordances offered in many Web 2.0 tools. Understanding the significance of these features will provide one with an essential grounding in the reasons why and how Web 2.0 tools can impact teaching and learning.

Accessing Our Imaginations Through Editors
The act of making online content is not new. In the mid 90’s users had access to web page editoring tools that needed to be installed on their computers and required a rudimentary understanding of html coding. However, as the demand for content making services grew, editors were designed with more intuitive interfaces that negated the need to be html savy and resided online in direct proximity to web content being created. These “What you see is what you get” editors transformed the act of web publishing. Users could essentially type and post directly to the web. This altered the relationship between the user and the web from a population of readers to a population of reader-creators. For students and teachers this means the identify of the user shifts from being a receiver only to being a learner/teacher and tapping into the collective inteligence of the group. (Rogers, et al., 2007). WYSIWYG editors act as a direct line between our imaginations and expression of ideas on the web.

Enriching the Experience With Images
Coupled with this intuitive editing functionality, Web 2.0 tools typically allow for the easy integration of image media This integration functionality gives users the ability to express ideas in coordination with text to create rich content possibilities. For educators, this opens the door to explore relevant teaching practices around new literacy issues and the need to understand the power of images and media (McLoughlin and Lee, 2008). As well, this easy image integration improves the effectiveness of the net in general by allowing users to access content from a variety of sources thus decentralizing and disaggregating web content sources and opening up the web to further sharing and collaboration (Downes, 2006).

Collecting Innovation and Ideas Through Embedding
Closely tied to image media integration is the embed code functionality. Embed code allows for the “Mashing up” of content objects using videos, audio and slideshows and represents a significant affordance for learners and educators to create hybrid personal learning objects and establishes a learning environment of collectible and interchangeable ideas. (Rollett, 2007). Embed code functionality represents a truly disruptive innovation to traditional knowledge systems (textbooks) where personal collections of media become personal knowledge systems.(McLoughlin and Lee, 2008)

Adding Value Through Collaboration
Finally, the functionality of collaboration rights completes the loop of essential content making innovations in the Web 2.0 phenomenon. Collaboration rights speak to co-creation as a key value added process that underlies the philosophy and ethos of the web ((McLoughlin and Lee, 2008). The more we can create opportunities for participation the greater the potential to create compelling and unique content. For educators this opens up new possibilities for participation and idea sharing.

Taken together, these content making functions capture the essential utility and innovation of the Web 2.0 phenomenon. For those educators new to Web 2.0 these functionalities represent the starting points from which to further investigate the implictions for teaching and learning.

Core Web 2.0 Community Creation Features and Implications for Educators

Web 2.0 - Core Community Creation Features Analysis and Implications for Educators
  • User Commenting
File:Edublogs comment.png
Sample of a comment screen in Edublogs

A key community feature of many Web 2.0 tools is the ability for users to leave comments at the site. This feature is a driving force, for example, behind the blog phenomenon where bloggers can engage in exchanges with their readers and create a cycle of dialogue around their content. Commenting also allows readers to "converse" with each other and create another layer of dialogue. Commenting can also take on other forms such as rating and reviewing. Commenting can also be tied to notification systems where users are automatically emailed if someone replies to their comment.

  • Sharing
File:Youtube share.png
Sample sharing tool in Youtube

Sharing is the process of notifying others about content or comments. For example, when users upload images to the image uploading site, Flckr, they can share their album with friends through automatic email notifications. Users can create persistent groups where these groups are automatically notified when new content is posted. This is one of the driving forces behind the social networking site, Facebook.

  • Tagging and Searchability
File:Flickr tags.png
Sample tag cloud in Flickr

Tagging is the process of identifying a piece of content with different labels that relate to the themes of the content. The creator of a Youtube video might "tag" it with several key words that users can use to search for this content. In this way, the vast community of content in, for example a blog or wiki system, is more searchable and tags serve as evolving systems of organization within the system.

  • Aggregation and RSS Functionaltiy
RSS symbol, indicating that users can collect a feed from this site to their news reader

Aggregation of content refers to the process of receiving automatic updates when new content is posted on a website. This notification functionality is achieved through an application known as RSS (Really Simple Syndication). RSS is one of the key innovations in the Web 2.0 phenomenon. In order to use RSS functionality, a user creates an account with a news reader such as Bloglines. Most Web 2.0 applications have an RSS link that you can then cut and paste back in your news reader. So when ever new content is posted on that website, it will display as a headline in the users news reader. In this way a user can set up multiple RSS feeds in their news reader and keep track of vast amounts of new content by browsing the headlines as they appear in the news reader application.

The community facilitation features listed here reveal some of the essential innovations of Web 2.0 as a social communication phenomenon . Understanding the significance of these features will provide one with an essential grounding in the reasons why and how Web 2.0 tools can impact teaching and learning.

User Commenting Changes Everything
At the heart of almost all web 2.0 services is the belief in social connection through user commenting. This “conversational” aspect of web 2.0 is a literal expression of community interaction and reveals the inherent tendency for Web 2.0 to increase knowledge sharing and the exchange of ideas. User commenting fundamentally altered the web experience from a one way transmission system to a two way interchange of ideas, opinions, thoughts, etc....(Rollett, et al, p.98). User commenting is a fundamental participation process that bridges the gap between author and audience and allows for constructivist forms of participaton leading to communities of practice and situated learning through the potential involvement of experts and simulated dialogues (McLoughlin and Lee, 2008). Finally, user commenting takes the teacher out of the central role as conveyor of knowledge and improves the overall network by reducing intermediation (Downes, 2006).

Sharing is the Ethos of Web 2.0 Community
Tied to the facilitation of two way dialgue, Web 2.0 tools typically promote the act of sharing. The ability for users to easily reach out to friends and colleagues and call them back to the conversation represents a core interactive philosophy with Web 2.0 applications and plays into the foundations of connectivist and constructivist ideals (Rollett, et al., 2007). Sharing functionality reverses the competitive nature of typical classroom settings and places the act of learning in the realm of social engagement, and open, ongoing dialogue. Sharing functionality seeks to extend the online experience and infuses the process with a human touch of positive outreach.

Imposing Group Wisdom Through Tagging
In terms of community organization, tagging and search are key functionalities of many Web 2.0 tools. In a community setting tagging takes on a life of its own. Tagging creates community generated superimposed structures that harness collective intelligence. The tag structure itself becomes metadata worth analyzing and interpreting. (Rollet, et al., 2007). Known as folksonomies, tag systems represent valuable profiles of group wisdom and allow users to explore and locate deep inside a content system. Tagging allows the “long tail” nature of Web 2.0 to function, where esoteric content has value through the detailed searchable functionality of the tagging model. For educators and learners this creates enormous possibilities for locating specific and detailed sources of information.

Taming the Tsunami with RSS
Finally, one of the breakthroughs in community management and organization involves the use of RSS feeds to keep track of the massive and dynamic Web 2.0 content wave. Without RSS functionality, the web experience would collapse under its own volume of content. RSS gives learners the capacity to manage community content and see underlying connections. RSS facilitates a connectivist view that the brain works like a computer network to support diversity and capacity to see connections (Rogers, 2007). RSS feeds give learners the ability to nurture and maintain connections and see connections more easily through the massive congestion of online content. For educators, RSS represents a breakthrough in not only the management of information but as a tool for managing the creation of student content.

As a set of functionalities, these community facilitation features comprise an essential understanding of the community ethos of Web 2.0 phenomenon. For educators new to the Web 2.0 experience, these functionalities are the starting points for further investigation of the dynamic community potential of Web 2.0 tools.

Examples of Web 2.0 Tools

Blogs and Wikis Social Networking Tools Media Tools Productivity Tools



Classroom 2.0
Other sites to explore...

Youtube - Video
Flckr- Image
Slideshare - Slideshow
Education Podcasts - Podcasting
Zentation - Powerpoint/Video
More tools to explore...

Google Docs - document creation
Zoho - productivity suite - bookmarking
netvibes - startpage
Bloglines - feed reader
More tools to explore...


Anderson, Paul (2007). What is Web 2.0? Ideas, technologies and implications for education. JISC Technology & Standards Watch. February 2007

Atwell, Graham (2007). Web 2.0 and th Changing Way Ways We are Using Computers for Learning: What are the Implications for Pedagogy and Curriculum?. Retrieved from

Downes, Stephen, (2006). Learning Networks and Connective Knowledge. Retrieved from

McLoughlin, Catherine and Lee, Mark (2008). The Three P’s of Pedagogy for the Networked Society: Personalizaiton, Participation, and Productivity. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, Vol. 20, Number 1, October, 2008.

O’Reilly, Tim (2005). What is Web 2.0: Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software. Retrieved from, September, 2005.

Rogers, Clint, et al (2007). Web 2.0 Learning Platform: Harnessing Collective Intelligence. Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education, Vol. 8, July 2007

Rollett, Herwig, et al (2007). Web 2.0 Way of Learning with Technologies. Int. J. Learning Technology, Vol. 3, No. 1, 2007

Sendall, Patricia, Ceccucci, Wendy, Peslak, Alan R (2008). Web 2.0 Matters: An Analysis of Implementing Web 2.0 in the Classroom. Information Systems Education Journal. Vol. 6, Number 64, December, 2008.

See Also

Step by Step: Building a Web 2.0 Classroom

External Links

Links to Comprehensive Lists of Web 2.0 Applications
The Complete Web 2.0 Directory
Cool Tools for Schools
Teachers First

Links to Other Web 2.0 Articles
What Is Web 2.0 Anyway?
Web 2.0:What does it constitute?
Web 2.0:A New Wave of Innovation for Teaching and Learning

Links to videos on Web 2.0
Web 2.0 ... The Machine is Us/ing Us
What is Web 2.0?
What Is Web 2.0? Short Version documentary