There was a time when the internet was static and dull. There were a few interesting websites with good content and nice shockwave animations and pictures. Most, however, were full of heavy animated gif images that were not even closely related to the content that was being presented. Going on the internet was basically the same as reading a book, almost no images, no movement and almost no interaction.
If you wanted to talk to someone you logged on a chat room, where everyone said whatever they pleased and still, too much text. If you wanted someone to read the things you wrote, you had to send an e-mail to all your contacts (those were the days of mailing lists). If you wanted to watch a video, you had to wait a couple of hours (or days) until downloading was completed. If you wanted to use a webcam, you needed special software like ICQ or MS NetMeeting. Connections were slow and so was everything else. This was Web 1.0.
And then, one day we saw the first video directly loaded from the server to the website, not to your computer. The waiting days were almost over. These where the years of the RealPlayer streaming video. Things were a bit more interesting, but still it felt a lot like watching low-res TV. You could scream all you want at the TV, it wouldn’t answer back.
Along came dsl and faster Internet connections. We started using social networks like MySpace and Hi5 and the privacy days were over. If you wanted to say something to the world, you just did, and the world answered back. Then, we started using platforms that supported video, images, text and live interaction and we named it Web 2.0.
From here on, everything changed. Interactive, dynamic and live became keywords of the digital revolution. It was the Facebook, Twitter and YouTube era. Information came from anywhere, anytime. It could be true or not, but it would go around the world in seconds if posted in one of these three platforms. There was no need for a TV set or TV networks. If there was a cellphone or a camera around, you could see it happen, give your opinion and the whole world would answer back.
The future is now and it can be in the palm of your hand anywhere, anytime.
By the end of the 21st century’s first decade, we no longer ask someone if they are in Facebook, let alone if they have an e-mail address. We just assume everybody does. Who knows what's next.
In the era of Web 2.0, everybody blogs, everybody participates. You can be a part of anything. It is all about finding a niche and exploiting it to the maximum. There’s an audience for everybody.
So you teach English. Why not using the Internet and its limitless resources in improving you class? Web 2.0 offers dynamic, interactive and highly involving apps (short for applications) where the user/student is not just a reader but an active participant.
Say your students like making videos or writing about surfing. Video blogs, social networking sites such as MySpace and FaceBook, or student edited wikis, can be fed with student-created podcasts, vodcasts, pictures, texts, animations, designs and are all highly effective means to have your students do what they like while learning the language. You get them involved in their own education far more successfully than with the traditional photocopied handout.
Check the following websites and start interacting yourself.
And there are so many more. Try uploading a video to YouTube, post the link in Facebook and Twitter and wait a couple of days, even the worst videos get responses. You wouldn’t believe it.