Blogs, wikis, social software, Web 2.0—it’s not really about the technologies but about the method of collaboration between users that presents some of the more interesting advantages. For example, we are co-authoring this article in real time using Google Docs & Spreadsheets and Google Talk.
Although librarians and other educators worldwide are learning about and integrating Web 2.0 technologies and collaborative tools in practical and worthwhile ways, including at the K–12 level, skepticism still exists. For instance, some believe that these tools and methods are just a fad or that they are consumer hype (Kroski 2006). We do believe, though, that we need to constantly strive to better reach and to connect our students and patrons with these technologies and specialized sites. This can help us assist our library users more efficiently and effectively in meeting their changing demands.
A recent article in MultiMedia & Internet@Schools discussed some practical Web 2.0 tools for librarians and educators to begin using: blogging with Blogger, reading RSS feeds with Bloglines, social bookmarking with del.icio.us, and building wikis with PBwiki.com (Lackie 2006b: Web 2.0 and Its Technologies for Collaborative Library Communication). Proceedings from another recent school librarian conference highlighted top social networking sites and "people-finder" engines (Lackie 2006a). Discussions occurring within blogs, at conferences, during workshops, and in articles continue to provide free and useful ideas on how libraries and librarians have successfully (and unsuccessfully) used these services and tools to connect with and assist each other and those they serve.
Our goal for this article is to continue the discussions of practical Web 2.0 tools and social networking sites that have been brought up in this magazine and at recent school librarian conferences and to highlight other collaborative tools and exciting developments in free Web 2.0 social software, items we will categorize as "Useful Collaborative Tools" and "Practical Mashups"—both very exciting and practical for today’s teacher-librarian! Let’s start, however, with a little background on the basic technical jargon associated with all of this.
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