During the Web 1.0 years, a small number of web developers created web pages for a large number of readers. Web pages were “read only” and were written in hypertext markup language (HTML). In contrast, recent developments have changed the “read only” web to a “read/write” web, which in many cases allows users to add content to the web page. The specific technologies and tools of these new developments are collectively known by the name “Web 2.0” and include blogs, podcasts, wikis, photo-sharing, social bookmarking, collaborative document tools, instant messaging, mash-ups, and really simple syndication (RSS), among others.
A useful feature of Web 2.0 technology is that it makes online collaboration possible. Users themselves (instead of the web page author) are able to edit, comment, create, and share content with other users. This collaborative feature of Web 2.0 comes along at a propitious time, because many sources are increasingly considering collaboration to be an important factor in the success of educational, social, and technological endeavors, especially those pertaining to the web.
To illustrate, the Environmental Scan: Pattern Recognition
(2003), produced by the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC), deems the most effective solutions to be collaborative ones [1
]. Similarly, Boulos and Wheeler find collaborative activity to be “an important component for success in web-based environments” [2
]. Furthermore, Bender states that collaboration enhances learning by helping students “understand questions, develop arguments, and share meaning and conclusions among a community of learners” [3
Turning their attention to potential advantages of Web 2.0 tools for education, Boulos, Maramba, and Wheeler state that Web 2.0 tools allow “anytime anyplace” learning, which is especially useful to “students and clinicians in remote and rural areas” [4
]. In a study examining the impact of Web 2.0 tools on teaching information literacy, Brown and Bussert conclude that student learning will increase due to “personal engagement, use of preferred learning-styles, and application to daily life” [5
In foreshadowing a possible role for medical librarians, Sandars and Schroter (in a survey of 3,000 medical students and 3,000 medical practitioners) find a high awareness of Web 2.0 technologies but a lower indication of actual use [6
]. Respondents are interested in using the tools for educational purposes but note a need for training in the use of these technologies.