Web 2.What?

I’m preparing a presentation for a staff development day coming up in March. One of the things the presentation includes is a series of slides with short definitions of buzzwords. Blog. Wiki. Podcast. Phishing. Terabyte. No problems.

Web 2.0? That’s a little tougher. I quickly found that I needed two slides. Then, maybe, half a dozen. Then, perhaps, an entire presentation. The word gets thrown around a lot, and it’s even starting to creep into more mainstream media now. But what is Web 2.0?

Well, if you start at reference.com (which, I think, is connected with dictionary.com and thesaurus.com), you see Web 2.0 as a computing platform. More accurately, it’s the transition of the web from the traditional static broadcast medium, where there are few authors and lots of information consumers, to a system where people can create, modify, and interact with the content. The next two pages of text go into social networking and the technologies involved to implement this transition.

Over at Wikipedia, the explanation is a  little more detailed. They offer four different definitions, including a decentralized, collaborative approach to distributing web content, more organized and categorized content, and a shift in the economic value of the web.

Interestingly, it appears that one site is plagiarizing the other. Consider these two excerpts:

From reference.com:
" An earlier usage of the phrase Web 2.0 systems such as was a synonym for Semantic Web. The two concepts are similar and complementary. The combination of social networkingFOAF and XFN with the development of tag-based folksonomies and delivered through blogs and wikis creates a natural basis for a semantic environment."

From wikipedia:
"An earlier usage of the phrase Web 2.0 was as a synonym for "Semantic Web", and indeed, the two concepts complement each other. The combination of social networking systems such as FOAF and XFN with the development of tag-based folksonomies and delivered through blogs and wikis creates a natural basis for a semantic environment."

Tim O’Reilly proposed a more compact definition last fall:

"Web 2.0 is the network as platform, spanning all connected devices; Web 2.0 applications are those that make the most of the intrinsic advantages of that platform: delivering software as a continually-updated service that gets better the more people use it, consuming and remixing data from multiple sources, including individual users, while providing their own data and services in a form that allows remixing by others, creating network effects through an "architecture of participation," and going beyond the page metaphor of Web 1.0 to deliver rich user experiences."

He’s focusing on the web-as-platform aspect more than the social networking/collaborative workspace idea.

Last winter, Richard MacManus took a more scientific approach to determining a definition for Web 2.0. In the end, he also sums it up by using the "web as platform" definition, though he leaves a lot of room for interpretation.

Utimately, I think it’s more along the lines of what Tim Berners-Lee had in mind for the web. It’s a place where people can create their own organization systems, draw their own connections between ideas. Everyone is a both a publisher and a reader. It’s all about organizing, classifying, and sharing ideas.

Now, how do I fit that on a slide?

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Music Stores Are Dead

My wife wanted a CD for Christmas, and I waited too long to purchase it online. I couple days before Christmas, I walked into my local Coconuts music store. Apparently, I hadn’t been in a music store in a while.

The rows and rows of CDs and DVDs were still there. They were rediculously overpriced, just as I’d remembered. The discount bin was still there, with all of the CDs nobody wanted to buy. But the people were different. And the music wasn’t.

There wasn’t anyone in the store under the age of 30, except maybe for the sales clerk behind the counter. What were the featured items, on the first rack as you walk in the store? Old Seinfeld episodes on DVD. What was the featured music? Clapton. Springsteen. The Beatles.

Now back when I was tying onions to my belt (it was the style at the time), I used to spend a lot of time in music stores. Strangely enough, they were the place to go if you wanted to buy music. Without exception, the under-21 crowd outnumbered every other age group by at least a factor of 3-1. All of the marketing was targetted to the teens. If you could find thirty-year-old music at all, it was buried in the back somewhere, alphabetized by artist in REALLY BIG LETTERS so the old people could read them.

Today’s teens don’t go to the record stores to buy music. Why should they? They can buy the music online for less than $1 a song (compared to $18 at the mall for a collection of 12 songs). Online music sales, from such sources as iTunes and Napster increased by 150% in 2005, and that’s not counting the people who are purchasing old-fashioned CDs online. You can go to Amazon.com and find any CD in print. You can listen to samples, read reviews, and compare it to other collections. When you’re ready to buy, checkout with a credit card, and the CD will arrive in your mailbox. There’s no reason to go to the mall.

What does this mean for the record stores? They’re dead. Or they will be. The boomers are still — apparently — going to the music stores. From what I could see, most of them were there buying gifts for others. But old people don’t buy much music, and there are only so many seasons of Seinfeld.

Moodle-ing Around

It’s time to start teaching online. The universities have been using online learning tools for quite a while now. Community schools are using online tools to provide an alternative to public education. Students are using online communication tools to keep in touch with their friends. The time has come to take advantage of these tools.

Moodle is an open source course management system for online learning. It’s very similar to programs like WebCT and Blackboard, except it’s free. It provides the ability to set up online classes, create assignments, facilitate online discussions, and even do online assessments. In our district, we have it installed and configured (at www.bbhcsd.org/moodle) so students and teachers can use their existing network accounts to get in. Once in, they can get select their courses and participate online from any Internet-connected computer.

English teachers Mark Fields and Ben Lesh have been using this with their American Literature classes. Using the discussions, they can have an ongoing topic each week that all of the students can weigh in on. They even combined their classes for one unit, so both groups could work together. Mark and Ben will be presenting a session on their experience with Moodle at the March 24 inservice.

Another teacher, Dianne Kruszynski, started an online discussion between her students and a group of students in England. The two groups were able to post messages online, and discuss the books they’re reading.

Other teachers are experimenting with the various tools. One is planning to use it to allow students to take tests online. Another is trying it out with middle school students.

If you’d like to play with Moodle, too, let me know and I’ll get you started.