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Culture

Class of '06 out, class of 2.0 in

The Internet's effect on education is hardly a new topic, but the relationship between technology and learning is taking a significant leap forward in the Web 2.0 era.

Read/WriteWeb, for example, is running a two-part series this week called "E-learning 2.0: How Web technologies are shaping education." As author Steve O'Hear observes, "Teachers are starting to explore the potential of blogs, media-sharing services and other social software--which, although not designed specifically for e-learning, can be used to empower students and create exciting new learning opportunities."

Students are using the technologies to help each other as well. The same day O'Hear's series began, Solution Watch posted an item about a new service called Stu.dicio.us (not to be confused with Del.icio.us), which not only helps students organize their own materials but also allows them to share information with others. That makes it a groundbreaking "social notetaking service"--and, by the time classes begin in September, Stu.dicio.us plans to have added such features a public system in which students can vote on the quality of notes, as well as share them.

The power of emerging technologies in today's higher education system was evident last week at a conference that invited me to participate on a panel. At the annual gathering of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, I was surprised and heartened to hear so many accounts of professors and students using blogs, wikis, peer-to-peer networks and other social-networking technologies as a regular part of teaching and learning.

These examples showed a comfort and facility with technology that was light-years ahead of operations in many "old media" newsrooms. The irony: Those are the same newsrooms where many students will be applying for jobs. But the way things are going, perhaps that won't be the case for long.