I find that I am being asked this question more and more these days, especially as my workplace begins to explore the use of Web 2.0 techonology. Its cool, but why should we use it?
As some of you know I am a big fan of web 2.0, so I have to agree this is cool, we should be doing it. But why is also a great question.
I came across a great line today in a blog post and when I saw it, I immediately thought, that answers that question...
"... that’s where we should all start when thinking about new technologies: with the need they can help up fulfill." (from: http://ialja.blogspot.com/2009/02/my-grandpa-is-blogger-and-doesnt-even.html)
I use a lot of these new technologies, because they fulfill my needs. I have personally have two blogs (includes this one), a Flickr account, a RSS reader, listen to at least 10 podcasts and 1 vodcast on a regular basis, have a social book marking account and am on two social networking sites. I also have a personal wiki, but rarely use it anymore because it no longer fulfills a need for me. Do I need all these to survive? No. Do they make my life and my learning easier? Better? Yes.
We should not be creating blogs, wikis, podcasts, etc for the sake of using these cool new technologies. We should be using them to answer a need or solve a problem.
For example, in the recent redesign of the Preparing for Performance Service Excellence course, we identified a need that our graduates have. They wanted access to course documents/handouts after they had graduated. Sure, someone could have emailed them out every time we got a request, but what a waste of time. So, instead we created a couple of pages on our Wiki where we have placed the documents found in the course. Took about 20 minutes to do that. We also expanded the wiki pages associated with the course to include some other material that will benefit our learners. Even better, because of the nature of a wiki, if our learners find a great article that speaks to the course, they can upload it themselves. Thus, taking a more active role in their own learning. Our learners are told to bookmark the wiki and use it through out the course.
I also recently had a conversation here at the college about using a blog to assist in the roll out of a new program. The blog could be used to announce updates, clarifications, presentation materials etc. Also the readers of the blog could pose questions if they were unsure of some aspect. The blog would allow the information to be published in one place (and could be published quickly with little technical knowledge) and provide one spot for all news and answers. No more searching for emails that may or may not have already been deleted or forgetting to forward the emails on to all users. In addition, with the upcoming launch of IE 7 at work, we will be able to receive updates from these sites using RSS feeds. That way we do not have to continuously visit the site to see if there is something new, the RSS reader built into IE 7 will do that for us.
A few other quick notes… often, these new technologies offer the means for a conversation / discussion to start outside of the classroom, a kind of virtual water cooler if you will. They are also useful for working in a collaborative virtual team environment (wiki's for collaborative documents, instant messaging for quick questions or advice to colleagues in different buildings or provinces, networking across the country with colleagues in other departments, social book marking for sharing online resources).
I could go on further, but I think you get the idea. Why? Not because its cool and new. But because it fulfills a need or solves a problem.