Use of Web 2.0 technologies in K-12 and higher education: The search for evidence-based practice

Khe Foon Hew, Wing Sum Cheung, Use of Web 2.0 technologies in K-12 and higher education: The search for evidence-based practice, Educational Research Review, Volume 9, June 2013, Pages 47-64, ISSN 1747-938X, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.edurev.2012.08.001.

The paper is a metastudy on the effects of Web 2.0 (also termed the read/write web) usage in learning. The authors surveyed several databases, selecting and deselecting articles on an empirical/quantitative basis. Papers had to have an experiment and control group (random or otherwise), assess student learning ( not spatial slkills, self reports of learning, or preferences) and the participants needed to be students. 27 artciles were eligible. No claims that the list is exhaustive are made. Only one study dealt with Twitter. Six studies dealt with Blogs.

They categorise technologies by whether they are synchronous, or asynchromnous, and by functionality (Online reflection, Online collaboration, Social Space, Repository, Social Bookmarking, 3d Immersive World). Twitter is located as a Social Space, and Blogging is located as Online reflections. A small quibble here would be to argue that blogging (as wikis are categorised) could also be online collaboration, and respository. Ditto with regard to wikis.

My interest at present in this paper is in Twitter and blog usage, so my focus and annotation rests on them. However, there is much besides in the paper of interest t he sections on podcasting and wikis are instructive, and useful reading for anyone wanting to use them in teaching.

“Blogs typically share the following features: individual ownership, hyperlinked post structure, post updates displayed in reverse chronological order, and archival of posts (Sim & Hew, 2010). Since blog posts are sequenced chronologically in much the same way as a diary, a blog is often used for reflective thinking (Bower et al., 2010). Blogs can also allow students to view the progress of their thinking (e.g., how their thinking has changed over time) (Ellison & Wu, 2008).”

In the 27, five technologies were studied. No longitudinal studies were found (consequently the criticism is possible that positive effects may have been due to novelty). Many studies reported no effect size.

Impact of using blogs.

“The primary pedagogy used in blog

studies was dialogic and construction, with an emphasis on the instructional strategy of peer critique and self-reflection.” Construction here is individual construction (project work), and dialogic discourse between participants, often structured as example, activity and feedback structure.

The blog papers are not perfect. The basketball study used blogging novices, and the lack of positive impact may have been due to novice issues. Hsu and Wang’s study, which found no effect, had a teacher change during the stiudy course, which may have effected the outcomes. The Arslan repoirt, which found a positive effect, also gave student’s access to additional material via blogging, which may have caused, or contributed to the positive effect.

The students in the blog studies tended to work individually, feedback came from peers or instructors, and there then tended to be a reflection by the student before the finished artefact was produced. A very tentative conclusion might be that  “– the use of blog appears to have a positive

impact on student writing and critical thinking ability (e.g., Arslan & Sahin-Kizil, 2010; Salam & Hew, 2010; Wong & Hew, 2010) rather than reading, or learning a physical skill such as the techniques of shooting a basketball.”

However this is very tentative. In the positive study, it’s not clear if both groups had equal prior ability. In short, the metastudy evidence gives no indication of a negative effect in any of the studies, and one flawed study gives a positive effect. More work needs to be done before a conclusion can reasonably be drawn.

It’s also the case that in other studies that show benefit, it’s not clear if the benefit comes from blogging, or other materials (eg podcasts, scaffolding gyides and materials).

Impact of using twitter

This is based on just one study. A two group non random selection, out of 108 students, 65 twitter students, 53 in the control, over 14 weeks. No effect size was reported.

The students GPA was assessed, and no difference between the groups was found.

“specifically, twitter was used for certain activities, including: (a) to continue class discussions after regular class meeting, (b) to enable shy students to ask questions, (c) to discuss materials pertaining to a book read, (d) to provide academic support (e.g., posting information about the location and hours of the tutoring center), (e) to organize study groups, and (f) to complete two optional and four required assignments.”

Control group students used Ning. The only other difference was that the experimental group formed study groups.

Students on twitter asked more questions, faculty had to monitor and be involved with the twitter feed regularly, and students interacted with each other greatly round academic matters. Ning students asked fewer q’s and interacted with staff less. The experimental group had a larger GPA.  It is not possible in the study to attribute how much varianve was due to twitter usage, and how much from a staff desire to be more engaged. The positive effect seems reasonably robust 9though I need to know more about the studt group formation…)

Additionally, how the technologies are used, re blogs, may have a considerable effect, and be something of keen importance in useful pedagogical deployment. Scaffolding, and guidance and structures that support reflection, and peer review appear to have helped achieve positive effects with blogging.

Overall, study evidence is fairly weak, and we are unable to assess causal relationships. No negative effects have been found, and some positive.

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