Web 2.0 tools can be fun, effective and a waste of time. Basically, as with any other product, there can be a wide range of effectiveness with each tool. Upon starting this investigation of different web 2.0 tools, I can remember getting excited about the possibilities of each tool and with some of them; the results were disappointing and a waste of time. Also consistent with other products the positive results often outweigh the negative. I found it critical to remain focused on several aspects of the inquiry in order to effectively evaluate each tool. The sub paragraphs below describe what I believe to be essential elements in evaluating the ability of each Web 2.0 tool to meet your particular needs.
STAY FOCUSED ON THE PURPOSE OF YOUR EFFORTS, NOT THE TOOL
Bells and whistles, a.k.a. special effects, are generally common with Web 2.0 tools. They capture the imagination and create interest from the users. In order to be objective and effective in your evaluation, it is critical to stay focused on what you want the software to perform and not be distracted by the special effects. The first example that comes to mind is ResearchGate. This program has a special effects feature where it will create an index rating of each person using the program. This rating index is based upon articles written, reviewed and a few other factors however what they don’t state is the sources are all contained within the software. The number of research articles within the program is minimal; hence the special effect has less effect if you know the basis for the calculation. Another research program utilizes other known databases so the effectiveness of the program to enable efficient research is far greater, yet there is no special effect. The lesson? You guessed it, stay focused on what you want to get from using the tool and minimize approval based upon the WOW factor of the special effects.
WILL THIS TOOL CREATE EFFICIENCY FOR ALL INVOLVED?
The means of processing information within a program is critical to creating efficiency. If a process takes several clicks to create information in lieu of just one click then the program will not have a long shelf life. In this modern era, where convenience and instant access are the norm, it is essential to simplify these functions. The example which comes to mind is the program bit.ly. While this program will shorten a url, it takes 3 clicks to perform the function. Where by simply cutting and pasting a long url address, it only takes a single click to go to the site. People today are easily distracted and overloaded with their schedules so taking these additional steps doesn’t make much sense, efficiency matters!
LESS IS MORE
The key for repeated use is to find a program that will do more of what you need so that you don’t have to go from tool to tool. This may be a high expectation but ease of use is increased when we can find one tool that serves multiple functions. Wiggio is the one tool that comes closes to fulfilling this mantra. For example, this collaboration tool includes conference calling, virtual meetings, voice notes, video notes, discussion board, document management, emails and text messages. It also has mobile platforms on iPhone and iPad. Now that is functionality in one tool!
IS COMMUNICATION ENHANCED?
One of the repetitive elements from every Web 2.0 tool is communication; therefore it is critical to evaluate its effectiveness. Evaluation points include mobility platforms and the modes of communication; i.e. email text messaging, video, etc. With the popularity of smartphones mobility is very important in reaching the greatest number of users. Quizlet is a program that has tremendous potential as a learning aid. Its functionality is enhanced in that it draws upon a pre-existing database and allows individual knowledge to be added to the system. Upon my initial review of the program, there didn’t appear to be a mobile application which lessened the prospect that it would be utilized by my students. Closer review indicated that there were several third party programs which enabled smartphone access in both apple and android platforms. This element made this program viable for use by the greatest number of users.
DOES THE TOOL SPARK OR INHIBIT CREATIVITY?
Fun and creativity are essential in keeping the users attention while utilizing the tool. And if you don’t believe this concept then ask yourself, “Why are video games so popular in the learning environment?” One particular tool that is intuitive and fun to use is Mindmeister. The ease of use and the fun of linking ideas together in a mind map keep the user engaged while creating a useful product for conceptual planning.
Based upon my review of Web 2.0 tools, I found the platforms below to be less than expected. The basis for my evaluation of each tool ranges from complexity, lack of depth or poor final product.
7. Slide Rocket
The tools below are either robust in their capabilities, highly intuitive or perform their singular functionality extremely well. I invite you to check them out for your own use.
RECOMMENDATION FOR CONSTRUCTION MGMT. PROGRAM:
Finally, my last recommendation is made specifically for the Construction Management Program at the University of Houston. The selection of the programs was based upon their ability to assist with group collaboration as this is a focal point in our program. All three recommended programs are very capable of group collaboration and each deal with specific phases in the preparation of group projects; brainstorming, project development and final presentation. If you are interested in viewing this recommendation, please click on the link below.
NOTE OF THANKS:
My pursuit of knowledge would not have been as comprehensive without the sharing by my fellow student’s on Web 2.0 tools and the guidance provided by Dr. Sara McNeil and Dr. Bernard Robin at the University of Houston. Thanks to all for their efforts and belief in collaborative learning.