A Web environment is a conceptual space that allows a group of people to interact about common interests, tasks and ideas. Web environments take different forms depending on the tools being used, such as web logs (blogs) or e-mail lists. They are designed to support communication and collaboration for a community of non-technical users with software for sharing text, graphics, and photos. Some software is designed specifically to facilitate meetings, including the possibility of voice conversations coordinated with Web displays and live video.
Software for creating an environment usually includes a web site development function. The software allows the originator of the environment and participants to easily contribute new material or comments on existing material, including from a cell phone. The originator can set boundaries including controlled entry for a group, such as students in a class, or establish a space open to anyone and defined only by the topic. There are no geographical or time boundaries for participants in a web environment.
Key research Findings
- Students today are accustomed to working within networked environments. To a student in the 21st century a networked environment may include their home computer, cell phone, handheld, and personally designed Web sites (Tapscott, 1998).
- Networked technology can enable teachers and students to build local and global communities that connect them with interested people and expand opportunities for teacher learning (Kozma, 2003).
- The Web can be a key tool to fostering schoolwide change using technology (Sandholtz, Ringstaff, & Dwyer, 2000).
The following strategies can help you begin the use of Web environments for teaching and learning.
- Experiment with networked technologies. Use search engines to find and explore new Web services, social networking tools, and ideas for classroom use.
- Extend your professional reach. Use the Web to connect with other teachers and other classrooms around the world via weblogs and forums. Consider engaging with or setting up a weblog to create a private threaded discussion.
- Explore existing online systems. Free course management services allow you to set up discussion boards, create secure online assessment for students, and provide focused resources for your students.
- Build your own environment for parents and community members. New technologies can automatically send emails to notify parents of changes to schedules or provide easy access to your instructional expectations. Publish an online newsletter that enables feedback, inviting parents and the community to engage with your classroom activities.
- Allow students to lead. Students are often the earliest adopters of new technologies. Allow students to use and create Web-based environments in learning activities.
Weblogs are an easy tool to use to communicate and collaborate over the Web. There are a variety of free and low cost options which can be used from home or school.
Moodle is a free, open source online course management system. Once installed on a server, Moodle can be used to set up a virtual classroom with discussions, grade books, assignments, readings and more.
Online bookmarking tools allow you to easily store and share favorite Web sites with colleagues and students.
Web services provide free or low-cost online photosharing. Set them up as restricted or private accounts.