In 2004 one the hottest new terms in pop culture was “Web 2.0”. Coined by Tim O’Reilly, the phrase describes the new generation of World Wide Web sites that allow its users to interact, have discussions and collaborate with others. Web 2.0 sites include, but are not limited to blogs, wikis, social media sites, online games and video sharing.
Over the past decade, these sites have gained significant popularity, especially on college campuses according to the ECUCASE Center for Applied Research (2011). In the article “Gender divide and acceptance of collaborative web 2.0 applications for learning in higher education” (2013), Huang, Hood and Yoo assert that social networking use has skyrocketed from 65.3% in 2006 to 90% in 2011. In 2009 Jones and Fox found in their research that 75% of adults and 93% of teens in the United States regularly use Web 2.0 applications.
While there is no doubt that Web 2.0 is accessed by millions on regular basis, there is a concern that women may not be using Web 2.0 applications at the same rate as men which could detrimentally impact their learning opportunities as these applications are used in higher education institutions across the country as significant means of collaborative scholarship.
Based on the research cited in this article, women in general are less competent and technologically savvy than their male counterparts. Males tend to use the internet more than women. When women utilize the internet, it is more likely for email and school related activities and less for entertainment purposes. Additionally, women typically have a less positive attitude toward internet usage than men.
In their study, Huang, Hood and Yoo confirmed the results of previous research. They examined the differences in men and women and their perception of Web 2.0 applications and their utilities for learning tasks. They conducted an on-line survey with first year and sophomore students from a public, Midwestern university enrolled in an introductory level educational technology course. They found that while both males and females were anxious about the use of blogs, wikis and “immersive virtual environments” females had greater anxiety than males when using these applications and that they did not use the internet as often as the male students in spite of the fact that they had the same level of access as their male peers.
This research is very important as faculty members examine how they use Web 2.0 applications in their learning environments. Special attention, in my opinion, should focus on how the applications are presented to the users and the level of support available for students (not just women) in an effort to make the process less intimidating, more user friendly and more effective for learning.