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Web 2.0 and the Net Generation - A Critical Perspective

Symposium Organiser: Thomas Ryberg, Department of Communication and Psychology, Aalborg University


In the recent years, social media and web 2.0 have been hot topics within educational debates and within the research area of networked learning. The latter is evident from symposia and papers from the last years' networked learning conferences, but also European research projects, special issues, and books have revolved around social media, web 2.0, personal learning environments, student-centred learning, and student-generated content. Alongside these internet developments we have witnessed debates on what schools and universities can do to cater to the 'net-generation' or the 'digital natives' in, or coming to, our educational institutions.

Bennett et al. (2008) have likened some of the vocal calls for immediate educational change as 'academic moral panics' based on unsubstantiated speculations about a coming generation of digital natives with unprecedented high digital literacy. More and more evidence seems to suggest that the young people, who actually seem to fit the category of digital natives are a minority or elite, rather than a widespread phenomenon within an entire generation (Brown & Czerniewicz, 2010; Kennedy, Judd, Dalgarno, & Waycott, 2010). At the same time it is becoming increasingly clear that the use of web 2.0 technologies among young people is not as widespread or advanced as assumed. The use is more often for mundane purposes and entertainment, which runs counter to the envisioned or imagined educational ideals of using web 2.0 technologies for scholarly knowledge creation and sharing (Clark, Logan, Luckin, Mee, & Oliver, 2009; Selwyn, 2009)

These are also issues we wish to address and contribute to in this symposium. The symposium consists of three papers, which all draw on data collected among students in Aalborg University (AAU), Denmark. AAU is characterised by its problem and project based pedagogy (called the Aalborg PBL model). The main pedagogical principles within the PBL model of AAU is organised around problem-orientation, project work, inter-disciplinarily, and participant controlled learning. The pedagogy is based on students’ enquiry into scientific and social problems as part of their learning process. In AAU, each semester is therefore organized around approximately 50% course work and 50% project work in groups, where students collaborate on writing their semester project. The students work closely together for an extended period of time (app. 4 months) on producing a project report reflecting the work with their self-chosen problem.

Introduction - .pdf


Tales from the Lands of Digital Natives - A Journey to Neverland

Thomas Ryberg, Malene Charlotte Ryberg Larsen
Department of Communication and Psychology, Aalborg University

Within educational research it is becoming relatively well-established that the notions of digital natives or the net generation are problematic. We need to move beyond these broad generational terms to gain a deeper understanding of the students coming to Higher Education. This is important if we want to make considered and grounded choices in relation to developing networked learning. Rather than basing our expectations and designs in flawed assumptions about students' digital readiness or broad concepts about generational traits, we need to develop a more nuanced understanding of students' attitudes and ideas about technology. In this paper we provide a first reading and analysis of 130 blog posts produced by first semester students. We discuss central themes emerging from our reading, such as ambivalence and diversity in the students' feelings and attitudes towards networked technologies. We ask what characterises these young university students, and conclude by discussing the wider implications for networked learning.

Digital Natives Debate, Ambivalence, Attitudes and ideas of technology, Diversity

Full Paper - .pdf


Changing the rules of the game - experiences with Web 2.0 learning in higher education

Hanne Westh Nicolajsen, Department of Communication and Psychology, e-Learning Lab, Aalborg University Copenhagen

The use of Web 2.0 as tools for social learning within higher education is not as widespread as expected, nor with the expected results within non-distance teaching programmes. The question is why? Many have argued that Web 2.0 tools have potentials to support learning in various ways. It has been argued, but also questioned, that the current generation of students are digital natives prepared to use new media for learning. At the same time critical voices argue that learning designs with high degrees of Web2.0 characteristics challenge the prevailing norms for learning within most teaching systems.

This study investigates reasons why Web 2.0 is difficult to adopt in teaching by looking at reflected feedback from students participating in an experiment using Web 2.0 for social learning. The challenges investigated are derived by looking into 37 undergraduate students’ reflections on their experiences and engagement using Web 2.0 technologies for collaborative discussions. The Web 2.0 discussions were part of an elective course in E-learning at the fourth semester at humanistic informatics at Aalborg University Copenhagen. Aalborg University is a PBL (problem based learning) university. Despite the contextual implications on the actual learning design investigated, the conclusions drawn are of general interest to the networked learning community.  

The conclusions drawn are that Web 2.0 learning challenges current norms with regard to distribution of control and responsibilities impacting the communication genre, the authenticity, quality assurance and blurring of the existing border between university and private life. Social status is found to influence the interaction to a worrying degree. However, at the same time the interaction holds the potential to challenge student images if students demonstrate unknown resources. Building more rigid learning designs may reduce some of these challenges, but such design will reduce the Web 2.0 characteristics - lowering the student control, the demand to be critical, the authenticity, and motivational issues related to the social interaction.

Web 2.0 learning, blogs, social learning, PBL, experiment

Full Paper - .pdf


Facilitating Adoption of Web Tools for Problem and Project Based Learning Activities

Md. Saifuddin Khalid, Nikorn Rongbutsri, Lillian Buus
Department of Communication and Psychology, Aalborg University (AAU), Denmark

This paper builds on research directions from ‘activity theory’ and ‘learning design’ to provide ‘facilitation’ for students standing within decision making related to selection of web 2.0 tools and university provided web-based applications for supporting students activities within problem and project based learning. In the area of problem and project based learning, facilitation is the core term and the teacher often has the role as facilitator or moderator instead of a teacher teaching. Technology adoption for learning activities needs facilitation, which is mostly absent. Sustainable adoption might be facilitated based on tool appropriation with activities associated with courses and projects. Our mapping of different tools in a framework is reported based on interviews, observations, narratives and survey. A direction towards facilitation process for adoption is discussed as part of future scope of work.

POPBL, PBL, Web 2.0, Task taxonomy, Facilitation, Learning Activities

Full Paper - .pdf



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