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Mini-Literature Review

How does Web 2.0 Tools Contribute to Middle School Student Success
By Jessica Tamburro

In a growing world surrounded by technology, education and technology are more
increasingly growing in collaboration together. It has not been long since technology has taken
over the classrooms. But, as we look back in time, pieces of technology have been spread across
the classrooms in bits and pieces. Older piece of technology that students would now consider
normal or even outdated would be VCRs, televisions, tape players and head phones, stop
watches and overhead projectors. As the 21
century has settled in, the increase of technology
has seemed to take over ten fold. Those who witnessed the evolution of showing VHS tapes in
collaboration with graphic organizers watched as it grasped the eyes of young students. In a
world that is driven by technology, teachers are trying to learn and understand the next best thing
that will capture their students interest. The intent of this paper is to understand how the
newest Web 2.0 tools are helping our most influential up-and-coming citizens, middle school
students. By searching the ERIC EBSCO Host for several peer reviewed journal articles, the
questions of how Web 2.0 tools are used as well as how teachers incorporate them into their
pedagogy are answered. Understanding how internet tools are used in Science, Social Studies,
Reading and Writing and well as Math will uncover the best ways that Americas teachers are
reaching their middle school students.
Grabbing the Attention of the 21
Web 2.0 refers to the current generation of Internet applications that allow users to
collaboratively generate their own content. Blogs and wikis are among the most frequently cited
Web 2.0 tools, but they are just the tip of an integration iceberg. Web 2.0 is rapidly changing the
face of the original Web where content was typically published by agencies and organizations
from the top-down (Oliver, Mar 2010). Teachers must stay current with the ever changing pace
of Web 2.0 tools and understand how to integrate them into their curriculum. Using these tools
are not just subject to a particular content area, rather, it can be a data base for learning amongst
any type of genre. Teachers new and old alike must learn and adapt to what can capture a
moment where otherwise would not occur without internet tools. When asked what they would
find most helpful to enable them to use technologies more in their teaching, most teachers say
give me examples, in my subject area and point me to relevant people I can discuss these
issues with. Web 2.0 technologies with their emphasis on sharing, networking and user
production seem to offer a potential solution (Conole, Jun 2010). Increasingly, the more
teachers are aware and understand how to use Web 2.0 tools, the more they can collaborate with
each other. Many Web 2.0 tools offer an effective means for teachers to collaborate, create,
publish, and interact in a web based environment. Some advocate that technologies such as web-
conferencing applications provide a venue for group discussions similar to traditional meetings
and physical classroom space (Charles & Dickens, Nov-Dec 2012). Teachers who also practice
what they preach can fully understand all that Web 2.0 tools have to offer.
Web 2.0 for Science
So how specifically are teachers meeting the needs of their 21
century students in
science? The question lies within understanding how teachers incorporate tools into their
everyday lessons. Tim Barlow, a science teacher, spent a year implementing Web 2.0 tools into
his classroom. He started with blogging, which isnt quite new but something that took a while
to catch on with the newer audiences. The great thing about blogging is that it is cheap and
easy to start. At least two companies offer free blogging services. For my web sites I have used
Wordpress ( although a similar service is run by Blogger (http:// All you need is an email address; an idea and you are ready to go
(Barlow, 2008). He knew students were into Myspace and Facebook, so he didnt want to
intrude on their social networking. Tim created a blog so that he could not only engage his
students at school but at home as well. So 'Mr. Barlow's Weblog: A Bunch of Interesting Stuff'
was born. I would regularly find new information about interesting things going on around the
world with a scientific focus that would also appeal to students. I sourced the information
through visiting science sites like Nature (http://www.nature. com/). National Geographic
( New Scientist (
Scientific American (http://www.sciam.ccjm/). The Age (http://www.lheage.comauZ) and
technology sites like 'Engadget' ( every day. I would then provide a
summary of any interesting information on my blog with hyperlinks to enable students to learn
more about the topic if they were interested (Barlow, 2008). While Barlow was very familiar
with how to use blogs for his students, some teachers may not be as aware of comfortable.
Teachers are encouraged to try blogging out before entering it into a lesson. Creating a shift
from traditional journals to blogs can facilitate interactivity that augments reflective practice
(Andersen & Matkins, Fall 2011) is a way to start practicing. Another way that Web 2.0 tools
can be used in the Science classroom is through podcasts. There are thousands of podcasts in
any given genre, so it is not hard to find. Incorporating them and making them meaningful into a
lesson is where it can become tricky. Again, Tim Barlow explains how he knew podcasts were a
success. Like blogging, I gathered a lot of anecdotal evidence from my students about the
effectiveness of podcasting as a learning tool. Like blogging the evidence was always positive.
Students would discuss things they had learned with me and on occasion I would overhear a
conversation between students about something interesting they had learned by listening to the
podcast. Once again, the strategy of giving students the opportunity to learn by using technology
that they were already comfortable with was successful (Barlow, 2008). A study was conducted
on the use of podcasts in science. Eight studies examined the use of podcast and discussed its
effects on students who were enrolled in various disciples such as sports science, aviation
science, health science, and psychology. The primary pedagogy used in all nine studies was
transmissive, with an emphasis on the instructional strategy of listening and reviewing content
(Hew & Cheung, Jun 2013). Students within the study were given a podcast to listen to against
students who were not given a podcast to listed in conjunction with their regular lesson. One
week later, students took an exam on the lecture content. Results revealed that students in the
podcast condition scored significantly higher than the lecture condition (Hew & Cheung, Jun
2013). Creating visual aspects to differentiate learning in science is a way to help those who
cannot function by just reading or listening. Graphic organizers have been used in science for
decades both as a process to help learners develop their understanding and as an assessment tool
to help instructors identify student misconceptions. Gliffy (http://www.gliffy. com) is a
diagramming tool with a robust symbol library supporting the creation of flowcharts, floor plans,
technical drawings, user interface wireframes and network diagrams (Oliver, Mar 2010). As
Science and Technology interact with each other, one cannot assume that it solves all of the
problems and alleviate the stress that the science curriculum in middle schools is one of the
lowest scoring content areas in several states, Georgia included. So, another type of Web 2.0
tool can help in remediation or as a function of co-teaching in collaboration with the teacher. A
[widget] can be used to individualized instruction on an individual basis or projected onto a
screen for group instruction (e.g., an LCD projector). [Widgets] are flexible,
nonlinear/asynchronous tools that can be paused during instruction to demonstrate, model, or add
further elaboration (Miller, Brown, & Robinson, Nov-Dec 2002). As Tim Barlow says about
his use of podcasts and blogging, My students are now learning about science, not because they
have to, but because they want to. Teaching in a Web 2.0 environment is a classroom without
walls that works! (Barlow, 2008).
Web 2.0 for Social Studies
Just as Science is a struggling curriculum for middle school students, so is Social Studies.
Getting swept under the rug under Math and Language Arts, the importance of the worlds
history, geography and governing aspects of how society works is sometimes overlooked. Does
that mean it isnt important? No. But, it can sometimes bore students because of the engrossed
amount of information. The best way to gain attention to curriculum is having the students
interact with Web 2.0 in the classroom. Every day, teachers struggle to find new, innovative,
and interesting methods to engage their social studies students in the objectives they wish them
to learn (Wilson, Wright, Inman, & Matherson, 2011). In social studies, Web 2.0 tools are
available to support student representations of history, student analysis and reflection on
historical information, digital storytelling, global activism and more (Oliver, Mar 2010). As
spoken about before, blogs are a great way to communicate and collaborate not only at school
but at home as well, given the student has access to the internet. A social studies teacher uses
blogs as a mean of students keeping current with world news. In my government classes, for
the weekly blog assignment, students may be reading an article, watching a vodcast, listening to
a podcast, or responding to a question or statement. I use a variety of these options to present the
student with current events and hot political topics. This helps ensure that the students remain
engrossed in local and national news. The options are designed to encourage the students to think
critically, think beyond the here and now, and discover what is occurring in the world and how
those events may impact their futures (Wilson, Wright, Inman, & Matherson, 2011). A Web
2.0 tool that has yet to be spoken about are Wikis. These are websites that can be altered and
shared amongst several people. The following is an example of how Wikis can be used in the
Social Studies classroom for middle school use. In this assignment, students became virtual
explorers. Each student group was given a particular explorer, and they were tasked with
researching their explorer and writing a biography. In their biography, they had to include a
background of the explorer they had researched, the results of their exploration, and the
explorations impact on the world (Wilson, Wright, Inman, & Matherson, 2011). Going even
deeper into interesting Web 2.0 tools, students learn how to use the internet appropriately and
accurately to gather information using Footnote. Footnote is a Web-based provider of original
source documents from the worlds archives. It is more than just an online repository of original
documents. It combines historical documents with social networking to provide unique learning
experiences. Users can share their content and insights, or personal accounts and family
histories. Footnote is structured to support searches focusing on broad topics, such as the Civil
War, as well as very narrowly defined topics, such as the name of a specific individual engaged
in that war (Holcomb & Beal, 2010). Last, but certainly not least, a very interesting way to tell
a story is through VoiceThread, a digital voice recorder that can generate a class together in one
specific area. Social Studies teachers can use VoiceThread to post historical documents and
lead-in questions that ask students to contribute a reflection. VoiceThread is also a good
platform for students to collect and share oral histories and images from family members or
persons in their communities (Oliver, Mar 2010). It seems as though a whole new world has
opened up by just giving a glimpse into how just a few Web 2.0 tools are used.
Web 2.0 for Reading and Language Arts
Teachers of English-Language Arts have one of the richest sets of Web 2.0 tools at their
disposal to support language and literacy development as well as writing (Oliver, Mar 2010).
As many teachers know, Reading and English/Language Arts is a very important part of making
or breaking a student. Standardized test scores in these subjects are heavily weighted in
collaboration with whether or not a student can move on to the next grade or not. In turn,
teachers must make these subjects meaningful and alive for the students. To support literacy
development, reading teachers might employ Shelfari (http://www. to get students
and book clubs excited about building personal reading lists. Students import titles to build their
own virtual bookshelf of books they have read, and then they can create or join book groups to
discuss titles or book genres. A threaded discussion board is built into the system to support
group activity (Oliver, Mar 2010). Another exciting way to create a discussion board about the
most talked about books is through Google Docs. When used with reading assignments in a
general education course, Google Docs can provide a shared place for a group of students to
discuss what they have read in a textbook. For example, a group of students may construct a
collaborative note about a chapter in the textbook on their shared Google Doc, which they can
then use as a resource for course exams (Park, Feb 2013). As talked about in other content
areas, blogging is also a very successful and easy way to get students involved. This is also a
way to bridge the gap between reading and writing. Over the summer, students usually have
summer reading lists and in turn, they complete some sort of project on the book. It usually
consists of something creative but less inclined to use technology. One teacher explains that she
administered a summer reading program where students read from a preselected list of titles,
and then wrote reports. I wanted to create a more flexible reading for- pleasure program that
incorporated blogging as a medium to support reading, writing, and sharing insights with peers
(Ercegovac, Jan-Feb 2012). With the simple use of a blog, this idea is possible! Writing is also
a crucial part of becoming a sound citizen, but making it fun for middle school students seems
like a task. Luckily, there are plenty of internet tools to help make it more fascinating and real.
For example, is where Teens are in control in this online writing community.
Teenink is a teen-driven web site where students can post their own short stories or books as well
as read their peers' work. The best part of this web site is that it includes nonfiction as well as
fiction writing. Teens can read and review music, movies, TV shows, and games. Teenink also
posts academic essays and publishes a hard-copy magazine. Various teen-created videos and art
are also posted on the web site (Olthouse & Miller, Nov-Dec 2012). Not all students are alike
and that means their writing isnt going to be either. That is the beauty of diversity. However,
some students may have more trouble understanding how to write. By [u]sing online tools,
teachers can more easily differentiate opportunities for their talented writers. For example,
general education classroom teachers can use a "pretest and substitute" method for using online
resources with students who are talented writers. First, the student demonstrates what he or she
already knows. Then, the teacher allows the student to skip over the homework and classroom
practice that covers those skills. Finally, the teacher substitutes a project is of interest to the
student (Olthouse & Miller, Nov-Dec 2012). Luckily for any teacher, there are tons of internet
resources available to put the spark back into reading and writing.
Web 2.0 for Math
Yet another content area that holds high regard when it comes to pass and fail rates.
Math isnt for everyone and everyone isnt for math, so it is important to know the ways to a
students heart through Web 2.0 tools in Math. Web 2.0 tools can help math teachers and
students represent mathematical concepts, participate in data-driven activities and solve
problems (Oliver, Mar 2010). Math can be one of those areas where a lot of student
collaboration and play the role of teacher. Students can work independently or in groups and a
variety of tools can be used. Sketchcast ( is a Web-based tool that allows
a user to record a virtual sketch with or without voice narration, then save or share their sketch
with others. This tool would allow a student or teacher to diagram a problem, much as they
would on a chalkboard. Students could turn in their worked-out solutions to problems for
analysis by the instructor, who could diagnose misconceptions by reviewing the step-by-step
production of the students solution (Oliver, Mar 2010). Many students dont feel that there are
enough interesting and meaningful lessons in math due to a strict guide teachers are under to
follow. None the less, lessons can be transformed when using even the most simple tool like a
calculator as an interesting piece of technology rather than history. To help students practice
problem solving, math teachers can use the InstaCalc tool ( to create shared
online calculators (see Figure 4). Each calculator can include figures, formulas and/or notes that
outline problems for students to solve. InstaCalc could be used to create homework problems, or
students could create problems to share with their peers (Oliver, Mar 2010). Math can also be
the most challenging subject for a student, and as briefly introduced earlier, a Widget can make
the world of difference. Widget is an effective tool to use when teaching either sequential or
random number recognition and counting corresponding objects. You can use the pause button
at any time to stop the group instruction. Within each Widget, you can target several concepts.
For example, using the Multiplication with Sets Widget, you could focus on a wide range of
concepts, such as the following: Recognizing and understanding sets, Recognizing and using
arrays as a model for multiplication (Miller, Brown, & Robinson, Nov-Dec 2002). Although
teaching math can be a daunting task, Web 2.0 tools can clearly help ease the mind and get
students excited.
Cross-Curricular Web 2.0
Although most of these tools that are mentioned above can be interchangeable amongst
the content areas, some tools are meant for all areas to contribute to. MyPortfolio provides a
student centered and personalized space to bring together formal school learning activity and
informal learning experiences. The key benefit of MyPortfolio is that a learner will develop his
or her driven environment being on a shared service environment in a way a pan sector learner
community may flourish. MyPortfolio also brings together the benefits of the social software and
leading education technology in a safe education focused environment. MyPortfolio is also a
medium of interaction between teacher and students and also students and students which
resulted in the establishment of a learning community where the members of a group cooperated
towards a common goal with help of an instructor (Or Kan, Jul 2011). Another tool that can be
used in a similar way is Edmodo, which is free. This is an interface where a student can login to
see many classes which are all separate from each other. It is like an educational Facebook. It
offers a unique social networking experience that is safe and secure. It captures the things they
do outside school communicating with each other, yet cordoned off in a monitored environment
(Raths, Jan 2013).
Sharing is Caring
It is a teachers job not only to collaborate with her students, but also to collaborate with
her fellow teachers. It wouldnt be possible for teachers to have such creative minds if their
ideas werent shared and then taken by someone who thought their idea was fabulous. Not only
can teachers help in the creativity realm, but they can be a sounding board for those who are less
motivated and knowing when it comes to technology. While meetings are always taking place
and taking up more time, teachers should also use Web 2.0 tools to share their fabulous ideas.
Each staff member should play a part in understanding how to use Web 2.0 tools. For example,
a poll was given and only 70 percent or more [of library media specialists] had never taught
anyone how to create a blog, a wiki, or a podcast, or how to remix materials (Baumbach, Mar-
Apr 2009). It is important that teachers of all kinds take part in getting to know the newest
technology so that we are doing our students a favor. There are many reasons why most faculty
members dont know much about the tools of the internet. For example, lack of funding or
professional development. As long as there is desktop computer and internet access, there is
always something to learn about Web 2.0 tools. To help uneducated teachers of this realm, some
schools may have a database where information is shared amongst teachers. A type of internet
resource of this kind is called Cloudworks. Cloudworks is a social networking site for sharing
and discussing learning and teaching ideas and designs (Conole, Jun 2010). Teachers can use
this to create how-to blogs or links to videos to show how a particular website works. The most
simplest form is of course talking one-on-one with a colleague and taking the time to sit down
and share you expertise.
There are numerous tools out on the web waiting for teachers approvals. Some are
easier to understand than others, but surely any one of them can make an impact on a students
academic career. What is true is that Web 2.0 technologies with their emphasis on sharing,
networking and user production seem to offer a potential solution. However uptake and use of
Web 2.0 sites such as blogs, social networking and wikis by teachers for sharing and discussing
practice has being marginal so far (Conole, Jun 2010). It is important for something to take
place where more teachers are aware of what is out there that will transform their teaching.
Blogs, wikis, and podcasts are the heart of all Web 2.0 tools. There are multitudes of ways to
use just the three tools mentioned as covered earlier. Technology is not going away so teachers
must learn to embrace it as the students have. Web 2.0 tools can be used in any content area for
almost any lesson whether large or small. They can help connect standards and relate content
from different classes. These tools can help differentiate and remediate for each individual
student if needed. Web 2.0 tools can give a voice to those who might have been scared
otherwise to do so. The internet can also take students to many faraway places in which they
may never get to see in real life. It is exciting just thinking about the ways that the internet has
changed the face of education. Teachers must accept it and make understanding it and utilizing
it a priority.
Implications for Practice
As a younger teacher, I feel that I have a good understanding of how important
technology is to students. I watch them closely and interact with them to know that technology
is a part of their everyday lives. As I create lessons involving technology, I see that it brings a
spark to their eyes and a fire that ignites the lesson much more than paper and pencil do.
Students are eager to learn new ways that technology can be used and want to become more
fluent in technology. This literature review really put a backbone to my pedagogical thinking
about technology. There really couldnt be enough of it. More teachers need to have the time to
understand how they can use Web 2.0 tools especially when their district or school is very
limited in technology resources. It is an easy save for places that may not have the newest tools
in technology. I am happy to have written this review in hopes that I can refresh teachers young
and old at my school to show them the ways that Web 2.0 tools can be used in their classrooms.

Works Cited
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