New ways of learning

With the advent of Web 2.0 people are communicating, sharing and learning in new ways. Essentially Web 2.0 is about flexible applications that are consumer orientated, lightweight, simple, informal and interoperable. You may have come across Flickr,, MySpace, and various other applications (there are zillions of them out there). Jane has recently been looking at 43things, which provides a place for people to express their interests and ambitions and to team up with others with the same goals to set targets and discuss issues.

Yesterday Jane went to a very interesting talk by Scott Wilson of CETIS about Web 2.0 and how it might influence learning within the higher and further education communities. It seems that Web 2.0 heralds a move away from heavyweight, industrial-scale services to smaller, flexible services that provide people with a greater sense of individual ownership. We also like the idea that these services blur the boundaries between learning, which can be considered formal and structured, and leisure interests. Jane’s aims on 43things include both practising yoga regularly and learning XSLT.

The Archives Hub has been looking to embrace these new technologies. We have RSS for feeds for our Collection of the Month, and needless to say we also have a blog. We are currently looking at providing modules that people can use in ‘mash-ups’. If that means nothing to you (and it didn’t mean anything to us until recently), the idea is that people combine content and services in ways that suit them. For example, rather than coming to the Hub website to search, they can incorporate a Hub search facility within their own personalised page. We have now created modules to enable people to do this for their own personalised home pages with netvibes and Google homepage.

There are clearly questions, problems and challenges with Web 2.0, but it is a reality and it is a very interesting and exciting new era. Any move towards simplicity, flexibility and the creation of global communities for sharing and learning can’t be bad.

There’s a really good introduction to Web 2.0 in the archival context in a talk by Peter Van Garderen which he gave at the recent Association of Canadian Archivists conference in St. John’s, Newfoundland. If you’ve got a spare half-hour, we can highly recommend the webcast of the talk on Peter’s site. Peter is doing a PhD on access to digital archives, and has some excellent ideas about the ways in which archives can take part in the future digital landscape.