Classroom 2.0 (www.classroom20.com) is a social network for educators who are interested in the use of Web 2.0 or collaborative technologies in the classroom. Started in March of this year, its quick and continued popularity is a testament to the ability that social networks have to provide an immediate sense of community and an environment for engaged dialog.
One of the main things Classroom 2.0 was designed to do was to help educators, especially those who hadn’t had any experience with Web 2.0, to quickly feel comfortable participating. Blogs, wikis, and podcasting have been the Web 2.0 tools most promoted to educators in the past couple of years—but as powerful as they are, they take some time to learn to use, and often take even longer to produce a sense of being part of the larger community of users. Social networking sites combine many of the tools of Web 2.0 into a structured environment: forum discussions, blogging, chat, messaging, email, and video-, photo-, and file- sharing. By bringing users together in that inclusive environment, social networks make it much easier for users to connect with each other and with discussions that are of interest.
Unfortunately for educators, MySpace has been the pre-eminent example for most people of a social network. While initially formed around bands and music, MySpace’s unconstrained nature made it wildly popular, but also made it hard to see the value of social networks in more formal settings. Now, “do it yourself” social networking services like Ning.com (which Classroom 2.0 uses) have made it possible to create social networks for specific purposes and audiences, including invitation-only sites.
Classroom 2.0 has turned out to be a great example of the potential for Web 2.0 as a professional development tool, with educators from all over the world collaborating and learning from each other. Expect to start seeing them brought into the classroom as well.