Help Students Develop Lifelong Learning Skills with Web 2.0 Tools

A University of Colorado at Denver student in Joni Dunlap’s learning design course has a question about embedding music into a slideshow presentation for an assignment he was working on. He tweets about it and immediately hears back from people in the community of practice who offer resources that help him quickly complete the task.

The example is powerful because not only did the student learn what he needed to know – in this case how to embed music – but he learned something else as well. He learned the value of engaging and collaborating with professionals who work in the field or who share similar interests.

During the recent online seminar Web 2.0 Tools for Lifelong Learning in Online Courses, Dunlap, who serves as both an associate professor of instructional design and technology and the assistant director for teaching effectiveness at CU-Denver, explained how she uses a variety of Web 2.0 tools to help students develop lifelong learning skills.

“Given ever-changing societal and professional demands, lifelong learning is recognized as a critical educational goal,” said Dunlap. “I know we all hear it from employers begging for institutions of higher education to produce graduates with this skill set. But I see it as sort of great timing for us to be thinking about lifelong learning because of the emergence of really powerful Web 2.0 technologies and tools that have potential to support this particular instructional goal.”

Here are some of the strategies Dunlap recommends for developing lifelong learning skills in students, and the Web 2.0 tools that can be used to support that learning:

  • Encourage student intentionality and reflection – Here’s where blogs can be helpful, and there are numerous free blogging platforms available, including Blogger, WordPress and even Google sites.
  • Enculturate students using microsharing and social networking – Increasingly companies, organizations and groups are using social media to build highly engaged online communities. Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn can help students connect with professionals in the field and see lifelong learning in practice.
  • Support dialogue and communication with document co-creation and resource sharing – “Dialogue and collaboration elevate thinking and learning to an observable status,” said Dunlap. “And this is important because that really helps students receive and reflect on their learning which then helps develop their meta-cognitive awareness in a way that really furthers their ability to be self-directed and a really solid lifelong learner.” Diigo, Slideshare, and Google Docs are just some of the Web 2.0 tools available.

While it’s easy to get swept up in the hype around new technologies, Dunlap offered these five recommendations for using Web 2.0 tools effectively.

  1. Select Web 2.0 tools based on learning objectives, not because they are cool.
  2. Establish relevance for students.
  3. Define clear expectations for participation.
  4. Model effective Web 2.0 tool use.
  5. Recognize the limitations and possible drawbacks of using Web 2.0 tools.