Is there evidence of the use of Web2.0 to do deep learning?

It is sometimes asserted that while students are using web 2 tools extensively there is no evidence that they are using them to do deep learning. I believe this assertion should be questioned.

There is some evidence to suggest that contemporary undergraduates in the normal age cohort (not mature learners) are not particularly critical or reflective and are highly strategic in their approach to learning. This is argued in the JISC’s Google generation report:

“… although young people demonstrate an ease and familiarity with computers, they rely on the most basic search tools and do not possess the critical and analytical skills to asses the information that they find on the web”.

For another example, see Pascarella (2008, 251):

“As new literacies flourish, teachers face a group of learners who have already engaged in the remaking, remixing, and renaming of their world in virtual reality and in their everyday one. However, although students may enjoy partial or full membership in a participatory culture facilitated by new media environments (i.e. YouTube, MySpace, Friendster, Facebook, ad infinitum) and digital media devices (cell phones that capture still and video images, play MP3s, read and send e-mails, make online purchases, etc.), many learners lack the abilities of critical analyses and evaluation of the social and institutional rules, regulations, and norms embedded in those environments and cultural practices”.

But, on the other hand there is not no evidence on the other side.

There is evidence in two directions:

  1. that the question of whether learning and learners have changed as a consequence of ICTs may be improperly conceived.
  2. that there is, at least in some places, evidence that new ICTs (Web2.0) are being used to effect deep learning; and, the evidence body is growing.

In respect of the first, e.g. Bawden and Robinson (2009) argue, I think quite wisely, that:

“… new ‘pathologies of information’ will emerge as the information environment changes, primarily under the influence of new technologies: New solutions will always be needed, although it will be vital to be selective in determining which new patterns and modes of information communication and use are truly problems in need of solutions.”

A long way of saying plus ca change…

Also very useful in setting out a definition of critical digital literacy without the anxiety about whether or not young people today are any more or less critical than they ever were is Merchant (2007). Even Prensky seems to be recanting from the Digital Native v Immigrant position.

And, there is some good evidence that learners do use Web2.0 technologies to do deep learning. An example from the undergraduate physics curriculum comes from Higdon and Topaz (2009). Perhaps less weighty, giving they were doing an MA in Information Technology in Education, is Churchill (2009). Less peer reviewed, but I believe credible is the work Alan Cann is doing in biology at Leicester, e.g “Web 2.0 and Information literacy“. There are many good examples from champions that shouldn’t be dismissed just because they are from champions. There does need to be validation of a both the assertions and counter assertions.

Web2.0 in education is a relatively novel phenomenon and only now are research results beginning to appear. There is not much evidence either way regarding participatory media use in education, but some of it is encouraging regarding deep learning.


  • David Bawden and Lyn Robinson (2009) “The dark side of information: overload, anxiety and other paradoxes and pathologies”. Journal of Information Science, 35 (2): 180-191
  • A J Cann Using Web 2.0 to Cultivate Information Literacy via Construction of Personal Learning Environments: Final Project Report
  • Daniel Churchill (2009)”Educational applications of Web 2.0: Using blogs to support teaching and learning”. British Journal of Educational Technology, 40 (1): 179–183
  • Jude Higdon and Guy Topaz (2009), “Blogs and Wikis as Instructional Tools: A Social Software Adaptation of Just-in-Time Teaching”. College Teaching; 57 (2): 105-110
  • Guy Merchant (2007), “Writing the future in the digital age”. Literacy 41 (3): 118-128
  • John Pascarella (2008) “Confronting the Challenges of Critical Digital Literacy: An Essay Review”. Educational Studies, 43: 246–255

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.