E-learning with web 2.0


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- ► category - Social sharing platforms are classic web 2.0 services which allow users to access and contribute to global conversations. Thus, they can link neatly to the notion of collective intelligence. A number of major social sharing platforms have app versions for mobile devices and in some cases mobile app use may surpass web use. The use of apps on location-aware smart devices introduces a geolocation element to this kind of social sharing (see Going Mobile below).

- ► what - Social sharing services, many of which have important educational and/or professional uses, facilitate the sharing of resources like text (with common services including Scribd and Box), audio (AudioBoom), slides (SlideShare and SlideSnack), photos (Flickr and Picasa) and videos (YouTube and TeacherTube). Most of these services allow you to make your materials either public or private, though there may be a cost attached to the latter. The image to the left and the widget to the right (the latter created by Roy Tanck and available here) both display photos from Mark Pegrum's Flickr photostream.

Despite the apparent specialisation of these services (with a focus on text, or photos, etc) many of them, including textsharing services, in fact host multimedia documents and artefacts. Social sharing services typically offer space for commentary on the documents and artefacts being shared, as well as encouraging users to connect with each other and network around the shared materials. In fact, social sharing services are arguably a subset of social networking services, since they share many features with the latter.

Note that social sharing services differ somewhat from document sharing applications such as Google Drive (formerly Google Docs) or Zoho, which offer word processing, spreadsheet and other related functions to a small number of users collaborating on a given document. While true social sharing services do not have editors or gatekeepers, in recent years we've seen the emergence of text hosting and video hosting sites, in particular, which are quality-controlled. Some examples are included below under textsharing and videosharing. At the same time, some of the original social sharing services now also host professionally produced material, including material for purchase.
► why - Social sharing services provide easy access to a large number of multimedia resources with educational value. Many of these are available under a Creative Commons licence - including more than 100 million photos on Flickr alone - meaning that they can generally be freely used by teachers and students. It is also possible for educators to share their own materials on these services. Students, too, can post their multimedia creations on such services, sharing them with and receiving feedback from class peers (via private channels) or the wider internet (via public channels). Two key advantages of storing multimedia materials on social sharing services are: 1) you don't use up your storage capacity on your own website, blog or wiki, and 2) you can usually obtain an embed code provided by the social sharing service so that you can embed your stored documents and artefacts on your website, blog or wiki. For example, the embed code for a YouTube video can be obtained by clicking the Share and then Embed functions beneath the video screen; the screen capture on the left above shows these functions for Lee Lefever's video Social Media in Plain English. Once you have copied the embed code, you need to paste it into your website, blog or wiki, using a widget, gadget or multimedia function.

- ► where - The most common services on which educators and students share materials include Flickr, Picasa, YouTube, TeacherTube and SlideShare. For more extensive lists of options, see below.

- ► types - There are platforms for many different kinds of social sharing, including audiosharing, photosharing, textsharing, videosharing, multimedia sharing and news sharing. Some services worth exploring are listed below.


  • Flickr allows users to upload their own photos, and view and comment on public photos uploaded by others. (Photos can be made private or public.) Public photos can be tagged not only by those who upload them but by others who view them, so Flickr is sometimes seen as a good example of a folksonomy. It was also the first site to make use of tag clouds. Students can upload, organise and tag their own photos, as well as linking them to the places they were taken on a world map. For a list of Flickr applications, see The App Garden.
  • Photobucket, Picasa and Shutterfly are alternatives to Flickr. Note that nowadays many photosharing services also permit videosharing.
  • Instagram is an app for sharing photos on mobile devices, usually filtered through one of a series of inbuilt lenses.
  • Note that many graphics programmes allow you to anonymise images by pixellating, blurring out, or covering faces and other identifying features. Other options include Facepixelizer and the apps Touch Blur and Touch Blur Free.
  • Fotonea and PicMonkey allow you to create static photo collages.
  • Cincopa allows you to create interactive photo galleries.
  • PhotoPeach and Photosnack produce slideshows from photos. Many website and wiki services allow you to automatically import slideshows from Flickr or Picasa. For an example of a slideshow imported from Flickr, see Mark Pegrum's bio page.
  • Animoto and Smilebox allow you to create slideshows of images with accompanying text and a soundtrack.
  • Photosynth synthesises overlapping photos to produce a 3D effect, and the resulting images can then be shared.
  • Popplet allows you to produce a mind map annotated with images and text.
  • Thinglink allows you to add commentary and links to hotspots within images.
  • Canva provides free graphic design tools and a huge selection of photos; you can create your own designs individually or collaboratively, and you can save the results or share them on social media platforms.
  • For a service that adds audio commentary to images, see the entry on VoiceThread under Multimedia sharing below.


  • The main slidesharing service is the appropriately named SlideShare, which allows you to easily share and embed the slideshows you've uploaded.
  • SlideSnack is a similar service to SlideShare.
  • Prezi is alternative presentation format to PowerPoint, and allows presentations to be embedded.
  • Projeqt and ProjeqtEd allow the creation of dynamic slide presentations, which can also be embedded.
  • Bunkr and Microsoft's Sway are two newer slideshow creation platforms.


  • Scribd is a service for sharing text-based documents, though they may also include images. It allows you to embed text in a variety of other platforms.
  • Box is a secure content sharing service that allows you to embed your texts in a variety of other platforms.
  • Docstoc is another service which allows free sharing of educational texts.
  • Flipbook services, like FlipSnack, PageFlip-Flap and Publitas, generate digital booklets from pdf files. You can share these online.
  • Diigo allows the highlighting and annotation of web pages.
  • Curriculet is a service that allows teachers to add annotations and quiz questions to online texts.
  • Inspirably is a service for creating and sharing attractive presentations of quotes.
  • It is now also possible for teachers and/or students to publish their own books using the Kindle Direct Publishing or iBooks Author software.

Sites akin to social sharing services, but which involve stricter editing or gatekeeping procedures, include:

  • Services like cK-12 and Flatworld (note that the latter is a paid service) allow teachers to contribute to online textbooks and compose their own textbooks using others' contributions.
  • Open educational resources sites such as MIT Open Courseware and the British OU's OpenLearn.
  • Many e-book services offer the option of highlighting and annotations, which can be shared between readers. Amazon's Kindle service, for example, indicates areas of purchased books which have been highlighted by past readers. Inkling produces educational books which can be annotated with users' questions and comments.


  • YouTube allows users to upload their own videos, and view and comment on publicly viewable videos uploaded by others. (Videos on YouTube can be made private or public.) The TechWelkin infographic to the right gives an overview of YouTube as of mid-2012. It is now possible to watch YouTube videos on a clean screen stripped of comments and other material through services including quietube, SafeShare, and ViewPure. SafeTube is an app which screens YouTube for material unsuitable for minors, while YoouKids allows teachers and parents to create educational playlists from YouTube which are synced to children's devices.
  • Other general video services include Blip and Vimeo. Secure video hosting is also offered by Sendvid (formerly VideoBam).
  • Other educational video services include TeacherTube and YouTube EDU. It's also worth checking out the article 197 Educational YouTube Channels You Should Know About.
  • Ustream allows users to broadcast live video.
  • Your Truman Show allows videos to be woven into personal narrative threads.
  • YooouuuTuuube offers unusual multi-screen presentation formats for YouTube videos.
  • For animation services like Voki and Blabberize, see the vodcasting page of the E-language wiki.
  • TED-Ed, launched by TED (see below) in 2012, offers customisable lessons built around videos, and allows educators to create their own lessons built around any YouTube video.
  • EduCanon is another service teachers can use to add information or quiz 'bulbs' to videos.

Sites akin to social sharing services, but which involve stricter editing or gatekeeping procedures, include:

Multimedia sharing

  • Museum Box allows users to create multimedia information boxes, displayed as cubes, which combine text, images, audio, video and weblinks.
  • PowToon allows you to create animated presentations.
  • VoiceThread offers the possibility of multiple individuals adding audio or text commentary to images. Examples of student VoiceThreads can be seen in the VoiceThread Digital Library and in the ESL/EFL Student Showcase.
  • Glogster (now Glogster EDU) allows users to create multimedia posters called 'glogs'. These are a good way of bringing together multiple media in a compact online format. Like blogs, they incorporate a comments feature.
  • Pinterest allows the sharing of images, videos and commentary in a bulletin board format.
  • Blendspace is a service for teachers, which allows you to collate online materials and activities for students.
  • Services which fuse folksonomy and social sharing elements include Bag The Web, which allows the creation of curated collections of materials on a topic; LessonPaths (formerly MentorMob EDU), which allows teachers or students to compose 'playlists' of materials related to a given topic; and eduClipper, which allows you to collate and share educational resources.

For examples of different kinds of multimedia documents created by students and teachers, see the Talk with Media wiki. For examples of work by language students using services like Blabberize, Glogster, VoiceThread, Voki, Wordle and Xtranormal, see the E-language Exemplars wiki.

News sharing
  • On social news sites like Digg and Reddit (see icon on right), stories rise or fall depending on user ratings.

- ► going mobile - Some major social sharing services, including photosharing services like Flickr and videosharing services like
Blip, Vimeo and YouTube, are available in mobile app versions. An example of a well-known mobile-first social sharing app, as mentioned under Photosharing above, is Instagram. Because they are location-aware, smart devices allow easy tagging of multimedia materials which are recorded on mobile devices and shared through mobile social sharing services. See the geosocial networking page of the E-language wiki for more information on this related area.

- ► dangers - As with a number of other web 2.0 tools, the main dangers for students are a lack of privacy, and inappropriate feedback. To avoid problems, private channels can be set up on social sharing services and made visible only to class members or, in the case of public channels, students can be warned not to show their faces or include identifying information. A very different problem is a lack of feedback on work posted by students, but this can be compensated for by a task structure which requires students to comment on a minimum number of their peers' creations.

It is also important to take into consideration copyright law, especially when it comes to reusing and sharing images. In addition to educational exemptions allowed in many legal systems, teachers and students can make use of Creative Commons materials, which can generally be freely used for educational purposes (subject to licencing conditions, such as the need to include an attribution). See the list of Creative Commons & Free Materials on the E-tools page of this wiki.

- ► more - For academic and journalistic references about social sharing, see the E-learning references page. You'll also find current information in the E-learning tag cloud.

Credits: The image at the top left shows a collection mosaic from Mark Pegrum's Flickr photostream, as does the widget on the top right; the widget was created by Roy Tanck and is available here. The YouTube embed code image comes from the page for Lee Lefever's video Social Media in Plain English. The YouTube infographic comes from TechWelkin. The Reddit icon comes from My Social Buttons (since discontinued). I owe the Animoto link to Kim Hartley, the Cincopa link to Jay Han Gan, the Curriculet and EduCanon links to Paul Forster, the Docstoc link to Nicola Chapman, the Facepixelizer and Touch Blur links to Fiona Mayne, the Museum Box and VoiceThread links to Nik Peachey, the E-language Exemplars link to Penny Coutas, the Fotonea and Photosnack links to Martha Alvarado, the Glogster EDU link to Mary Lee, the Inspirably link to Karen Choi, the PowToon link to Hannah Gabb, the Projeqt link to Marianthe Loucataris, the Publitas link to Deborah Leicester, and the SlideSnack link to Sasha Claughton.

Contact: There's no such thing as a finished wiki. Like all wikis, this one is a work in progress and there will be changes from time to time in organisation, content and links. However, don't let that stop you from contacting me at any time with comments, suggestions or questions.