Exploring Learning Technologies

Your guide to taking training to the next level

Web 2.0 Wrap Up

Web 2.0 technology provides a plethora of tools to promote and enhance learning. Some of these tools enhance collaboration, others promote communication, and others enable convenience.

Web 2.0 provides a new frontier in learning design. It allows learning to move outside the classroom and become an integral part of learner’s everyday lives. It also has the potential to move education out of the instructor’s hands and place it firmly in the hands of the learner.

In my line of work, corporate learning & development, this last point is especially poignant. According to Gu, Churchill, and Lu (2014), “80% of what people learn at work comes from flexible and self-regulated informal learning activities.” Web 2.0 allows L&D departments to harness and direct this learning, while still keeping it self-directed and asynchronous.

This blog has investigated several web 2.0 learning tools. Among these are blogs, wikis, social media, mobile tools, and gamification.

Blogs allow learners and instructors to become authors. They allow sharing of thoughts and information. They also allow students to critique each other’s work. They are easy to use and are customizable to the author’s preference. The drawbacks of blogs is that they one of the least collaborative of the web 2.0 tools.

Wikis are similar to blogs in that they allow learners to become authors. The difference is that wikis are much more collaborative. Blogs typically have one author. Wikis can have unlimited authors.

Blogs and wikis could be very useful in a corporate learning environment. Blogs or wikis could be set up around different learning topics. Workers could create posts giving their thoughts on the topic. Other workers could comment and a conversation could develop. In my organization I see real potential for blogs and wikis among the L&D team.

We are in eight disparate locations. Often, it is difficult to get everyone together to work on material or to discuss educational topics. Both blogs and wikis provide a great means of enabling interaction and collaboration.

Social media is another tool that could be leveraged in a corporate environment. Twitter or Facebook could be used to push reading material, charts, infographics, or other content out to learners. This allows the learner to view the material on their own time, but still provides some direction from the L&D team.

Mobile technology is even more exciting to me. Our personnel have limited time to study. After all, they all have day jobs to perform. Mobile allows them to learn while waiting at the airport, during slow periods, or while commuting. It allows employees to access material when it is needed. A salesman can’t wait until he is back at the hotel to find the answer to a customer’s question. With mobile technology, he has the answer at his fingertips.

Lastly, gamification, especially scenario tools, allow learners to practice skills in a safe and controlled environment. This is not only fun, but it gives the learner more confidence once they are doing the real thing.

In my organization, this would be great for all levels of employees. Floor workers could practice on virtual equipment. Salespersons could try to close a sale with a virtual customer. And leaders could counsel virtual employees.

Web 2.0 provides many methods to enhance corporate learning. Many organizations across the world have already embraced many of these tools. The remainder need to begin developing programs ot risk being left behind.


Making Learning Fun

Making Learning Fun

What do the following have in common?

A customer walks up to a service counter, peruses the menu board, orders a value meal, makes a payment and receives change. Is he satisfied with his service?

A man in medieval Swansea is hanged and seemingly dies. After he is cut down, he appears to come back to life. Is this a miracle or what actually happened?

A homeowner complains of a leak in a pipe in his basement. Can you properly fix the leak?

Each of the above scenarios is an example of gamification in learning. What is gamification? According to Leaning (2015), gamification is the practice of “using game based mechanics, aesthetics, and game thinking to engage people, motivate action, promote learning and solve problems.”

Each of the above examples also uses a different type of gamification. The first is an example of a simulation. The scenario was developed by City & Guilds Kineo (2015) for McDonald’s when they were launching a new till system in the United Kingdom. The game simulates the entire crew-customer interaction from start to finish (.


As you can see in the above screenshot, the simulation shows the customer, other customers in queue, the till, and several status indicators. It offers several features common to games including a score, lifelines, bonuses, and games within the game.

The advantage of a simulation such as this one is that it allows the learner to practice on something approaching the real device before actually trying the real system. This led to real business results. The time for each till service was reduced by 7.9 seconds per customer (City & Guild Kineo, 2015).

According to McDonald’s crew members it also promoted competition among the staff. Each employee tried to beat the scores of his coworkers. This is even more surprising as the tool was not advertised by McDonald’s. According to Mark Reilly, the corporate training manager, the crews found it on their own, played it, shared it, and played it over and over.

The second scenario is an example of a scenario based game. Learners are placed in medieval Wales and are tasked with conducting an investigation to determine the facts around a strange event that has just occurred. The scenario allows the students to learn about medieval culture, while having fun doing so. In this, it is very similar to the old favorite “Oregon Trail” used by countless school children in the United States for the last few decades.


The advantage of a scenario is that it allows the learner to immerse themselves in the situation. Once again, familiar game features such as scores, maps, and in-game prizes are used to promote interest.

This particular tool, developed by Elucidat, utilizes a branching to insure that no two sessions playing the game are the same. It rewards good decisions and disincentives poor decisions. It also includes a progression so learners can track how much progress they are making (Elearning Superstars, 2015).

The last scenario is an example of a virtual reality simulation. In this tool, designed by Train4Tradeskills, craftsmen such as carpenters or plumbers must successfully complete tasks by selecting and using the proper tools for each job.


The virtual reality allows the learner to visualize an actual environment and apply their knowledge to solve a problem (Elearning Superstars, 2015).

These are just three examples of the hundreds of ways gamification can enhance learning, promote learning activity, and keep learners engaged.



City & Guilds Kineo. (2015). McDonald’s till training game case study. Retrieved from:

Elearning Superstars. (2015). Medieval Swansea: city witness use elucidate to develop an interactive elearning game. Retrieved from:

Elearning Superstars. (2015). Train4tradeskills: virtual reality house. Retrieved from:

Leaning, M. (2015). A study of the use of games and gamification to enhance student engagement, experience and achievement on a theory-based course of an undergraduate media degree. Journal Of Media Practice, 16(2), 155-170. doi:10.1080/14682753.2015.1041807.

Why Mobile Learning?

Why Mobile Learning?

Last month I took my daughter on her first college visit. As a senior in high school, she was impressed by the size of the campus, the plethora of courses and fields of study, and the diversity of the students. What impressed her most though, and me as well, was the large number of students we witnessed using their mobile devices as learning tools.

The odds that you are reading this blog on a mobile device are roughly 51%, and growing larger and larger by the year (Bosomworth, 2015). In fact, since 2000, mobile’s share of total internet usage has jumped from 12.5% to just over 50%. This begs two questions for educators and other learning professionals, why is mobile device usage rising so rapidly and how can we leverage this in education?

This blog will first discuss the growing prevalence of mobile devices in education. Next we will examine how learning can be enhanced through incorporating mobile usage. It will then discuss the drawbacks. Lastly, it will compare the pros and cons of the three most common mobile devices: laptops, smartphones, and tablets.

The Growth of Mobile Learning

A couple of items really stand out to me from this presentation. First, 39% of organizations are already making use of mobile learning technology. This means that the technology is already well past the early adopter stage. For an organization new to mobile learning, there are reams of data available on what works and what doesn’t. This significantly shortens the learning curve for new adopters.

Second, 46% of workers would choose their smartphone over other device types if they could choose only one. Additionally, 30% would choose the iPhone and another 22% the iPad. Content developers should take note. Apps that are hard to use on smartphones will fail and apps that are not available on Apple devices will also fail. A smart developer might develop for the iPhone first and then adapt to other devices.

One drawback stands out. Less than 10% of organizations employing mobile learning fail to adequately evaluate the effectiveness of their material. I find this statistic a little troubling for two reasons. First, it is a massive no-no is instructional design and second, it is fairly easy to build instant assessment into any mobile learning application. These designers should know better.

The Pros of Mobile Learning

Mobile learning offers several advantages over traditional in-class education. In no particular order, these are: access, cost, situational and contextual learning, and communication (Walsh, 2015).

Access is fairly obvious. That is why it’s called mobile learning. Mobile devices can be taken anywhere. Students can learn during their commute, while eating, while waiting in line, while exercising, etc. This provides a very large advantage over traditional delivery methods. Cost can be an advantage for both the students and the institution. The vast majority of students already own at least one mobile device. Electronic content such as e-textbooks and apps is much more affordable than hard covered texts. For the institution, delivering content electronically is much more cost effective than building classrooms, hiring security and maintenance staff, etc.

One of the best advantages of mobile learning is that it promotes situational and contextual learning. Ina n example from Walsh (2015), he describes a med student using his tablet to access material while conducting his rounds. This made his learning directly applicable to the problem he was facing at the time and allowed him to implement his learning immediately. Classroom learning cannot do that.

Lastly, mobile learning promotes communication between students and their teachers as well as between the students themselves. By using apps such as Twitter, Facebook, and others; students can ask questions and discuss assignments whenever and wherever they are; even during the middle of a lecture.

Drawbacks of Mobile Learning

Mobile learning is not without its drawbacks. The absolute largest of these is the fact that it is completely reliant on technology (Walsh, 2015). In your battery runs out, or you are in a poor connectivity zone, you cannot learn. A standard text does not have this limitation.

Other potential drawbacks include the possibility of distraction and the technology infatuation. The first occurs when students are too busy checking their social media, playing games, or surfing the internet to actually study. At least with a traditional textbook a student can hole up in their dorm or the library. With mobile technology the distraction travels with them.

Technology infatuation occurs when the instructor begins to spend more time developing the look and feel of the content rather than focusing on the content itself. Look and feel are important, but not to the detriment of the material.

Three Delivery Devices

Currently, there are three devices on which mobile learning can take place: laptops, smartphones, and tablets. Each has advantages over the others and each has its disadvantages. Although, I would like to add that technology changes fast and the differences between these three device types is becoming smaller by the year.


  1. Physical keyboard – A full size keyboard is just easier and quicker to use.
  2. Storage capacity – Laptops have multiple times more RAM and storage space then other devices
  3. DVD/CD drive – Although cloud computing lessens this advantage, external storage is still commonplace and laptops are the only device that can access it.
  4. Software – The software on your laptop is better. Because of the storage issue related above, laptops use full versions of all popular programs. It is also more likely that any software you encounter can run on your laptop, this is not always the case with other devices.
  5. Compatibility – There are standards around which laptops are built. Whether they be USB ports, HDMI connections, Ethernet, or others; all laptops are the same and all devices designed to be used with them will work with any of them. This is not true with smartphones and tablets (Bradley, 2015a).


  1. Always available – In this modern age, no one leaves home without their cell phone. In fact, even if you choose to use another device, the chances are pretty good that you have you phone with you.
  2. Connectivity – This is a bog one. You smartphone is designed to always be connected if a connection is available. Most laptops and tablets rely on Wi-Fi. Your phone can use Wi-Fi, but also can use your cellular network.
  3. Voice calls – Smart phones are the best communication option. They were designed as communication devices and that is still what they are best at. Try calling a classmate with a question from your tablet.
  4. Text messaging – Same as with voice calls, smart phones are the best device for this method of communication as well.
  5. Versatility – The smart phone is the most versatile of the devices. A good smart phone has all the features of a tablet, and many of the laptop, plus all the communication features it was designed for (Bradley, 2015b).


  1. Portability – Tablets are smaller and lighter than laptops. They can be easily carried from place to place without a massive bag.
  2. Functionality – Tablets have significantly more screen size than a smart phone. If you are reading a couple hundred pages of your text or watch a video with a bunch of charts, your eyes will thank you.
  3. Less cumbersome – Related to its smaller size, tablets are easier to work on when on the go. Trying to work on an airplane, bus, or even when walking around? It can be a real hassle to finagle your laptop out of its case, open it up, and position it so you can both see the screen and use the keyboard. This is not an issue with a tablet.
  4. Battery life – Most tablets have significantly more battery life than a laptop. This is mainly due to having less RAM and storage. But, that is a small tradeoff when you realize you don’t have to lug around power cords and search for a power outlet every couple of hours.
  5. Flexibility – While not as flexible as smart phone, a tablet can take pictures, shoot videos, act as a video communication device, etc. (Bradley, 2015c).


Mobile internet usage is rapidly becoming the norm. Mobile learning is quickly following. Mobile learning offers many advantages over traditional learning. It can take place anywhere at any time, it allows students to seek out and apply knowledge when it is needed, it saves money for both student and institution, and it enables and promotes communication. Several devices can be used to access mobile learning material. Of these, smartphones are the most versatile, lap tops the most powerful, and tablets fall somewhere in the middle. Mobile learning in both education and business offers an exciting new way of transferring knowledge.



Bosomworth, D. (2015). Mobile marketing statistics 2015. Smart Insights. Retrieved from:

Bradley, T. (2015). 5 ways laptops are better than tablets or smartphones. PCWorld. Retrieved from:

Bradley, T. (2015). 5 ways smartphones are better than laptops or tablets. PCWorld. Retrieved from:

Bradley, T. (2015). 5 ways tablets are better than laptops or smartphones. PCWorld. Retrieved from:

Gutierrez, K. (2013). 20 Eye-opening stats you probably didn’t know about mobile learning. Retrieved from:

Walsh, K. (2015). Mobile Learning in Medical Education: Review. Ethiopian Journal Of Health Sciences, 25(4), 363-366. doi:10.4314/ejhs.v25i4.10.

Using Social Media as a Learning Tool

What would you say if I told you that you could reach around 80% of your students at all times of the day? You would probably say that I was crazy. But some educators are using social media to do exactly that.

According to the Pew Research Center (2015a), 74% of all adult internet users have some sort of social media presence. This number only increases among youth. In adults aged 18-29, 84% use social media. In teenagers, aged 12-17, 95% have internet access and of those, 81% use social media (Pew Research Center, 2015b).

This means that educators that can leverage the use of social media have a very powerful method of reaching out to their students.

Social media can encompass many things. We have all heard of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. These sites allow people to connect with others regardless of distance. It also includes technology such as Skype, WebEx, or GoToMeeting. These let us conduct “face to face” conversations, meetings, lectures, etc. without actually being face to face. Other sites, such as Pinterest and Flipboard allow the user to collate information from across the web.

This post will briefly discuss how to use Twitter, WebEx, and Pinterest in a learning environment.


Twitter is micro-blogging site that allows users to post short messages, and send those messages to any person that is following them or following the hashtag used in the post.

One middle school teacher in Texas, Jessica Caviness, used Twitter to engage her students in learning outside of the classroom (November & Mull, 2012).

While attending a Texas Rangers game, Ms. Caviness asked her students a asking them to create a math problem concerning a soda cup.


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Many of her students responded to her tweet with tweets of their own. One example:


Image from:

Twitter allowed Ms. Caviness to engage her class outside the classroom. It allowed her to engage them on a forum that they were already using. What is somewhat surprising is how many of her students took the opportunity to read her tweet, think about it, and create a response. Remember, her students were not at school, they were on their free time.

Another teacher was able to use Twitter to place his students inside a current event situation (November & Mull, 2015). On February 10, 2011, Cairo, Egypt erupted into unrest as President Mubarak gave a less than pleasing speech to a large crowd gathered in the city. Rather than following this development on traditional news sites such as CNN or Fox, Mr. Brian Mull had his class following the activity on Twitter. This enabled his class to see in real time what the local people felt about the speech. Mr. Mull could have let it go at this, instead he sent out his own tweet asking about the situation and using the hashtags #Egypt and #Jan25 (the two most prevalent hashtags used by the protesters). Soon, his class was conversing through Twitter with people directly involved in the protest. He was also able to arrange a Skype session with one of the protesters the next day.

Twitter allowed Mr. Mull to bring a situation happening thousands of miles away from his students close to them by allowing them to observe the real-time feelings of the protesters and even to interact with them as the protests were occurring.


WebEx is a video conferencing technology. Like all video conferencing platforms, it allows users to “meet” with one another regardless of physical location. WebEx allows users to host meetings and share their desktop with the other participants. This means that any presentation, video, image, etc. on your desktop is seen by all other participants. WebEx also allows you to use your web cam to share your real-time image, stream your voice, use a white board, and use chat features.


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My company makes frequent use of WebEx. My organization has eight manufacturing locations throughout the United States. These are located in Golden, CO; Milwaukee, WI; Irwindale, CA; Fort Worth, TX; Eden, NC; Elkton, VA; Trenton, OH; and Albany, GA. Additionally, we have corporate offices in Denver, CO; Milwaukee, WI; and Chicago, IL. My particular department, Learning and Development, has a presence in each of these locations. For us to meet together physically would be vastly cost and time ineffective. However, with WebEx, we are able to “meet” on a weekly basis.

We conduct weekly, half-hour long, learning sessions. As an example, our last session concerned the subject of Visual Design. One of our corporate managers conducted a session on visual design best practices for PowerPoint presentations. He was able to share his material through his desktop. We were able to ask questions both through a conference call and via the chat feature on WebEx. We were all able to see one another through our webcams. For all practical purposes we might as well have been in the same room.

WebEx, or similar technology, could be used in online or distance learning programs to replace class discussions, lectures, or other typical classroom interactions. It could even be used to replace office hours. Additionally, these sessions can be recorded so they can be viewed by your students later.


Pinterest is basically a photo sharing site. But, it is its organization that makes it an effective learning tool. User can “pin” any item from the web to their personal board. This collects the information that is of interest to them in one central location. They can also organize their boards by subject matter. Additionally, the user can “re-pin” pins from other people’s boards to their own.


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Pinterest offers several ways in which it can aid in learning (Bhaskar, 2013).

  1. It can serve a resource board. Teachers can pin material to their boards for use either by themselves or by their students.
  2. It can serve a classroom schedule. Teachers can pin images of their lesson plans, assignments, etc. to the board. Their students then have a very easy means of viewing these materials.
  3. It can help promote collaboration, both within and without the classroom. Both teachers and students can search for other people with similar interests, see what interests them, ask for feedback, etc.
  4. It can promote a community of learning. Teachers can create a classroom board, then allow their students to pin items to the board. This engages the students in collaborative learning and allows each student to access the resources used by other students.

One History teacher, Ole Molvig, used Pinterest to engage his class in various subjects throughout the course (Molvig, 2015). He created a course board for the class. Both he and the students pinned material that was relevant to each subject. This not only engaged the collective work of the class, but also linked them to other Pinterest users with similar interests. This led them to even more information than they were able to find by themselves.


Social media and social networking sites can be powerful learning tools. They engage students within a platform they are familiar with. They leverage the student’s current use of social media. They promote collaboration. They encourage learning outside of the classroom environment. Lastly, they are not limited by distance. Used carefully, social media can augment classroom learning and promote higher level thinking among students.

Download this article as a .pdf: Using Social Media as a Learning Tool


Bhaskar, S. (2013). Pinterest: a great visual learning tool. EdTechReview. Retrieved from:

Molvig, O. (2015). Pinterest as teaching tool. Vanderbilt University. Retrieved from:

November, A. & Mull, B. (2012). How Twitter can be used as a powerful educational tool. Retrieved from:

Pew Research Center. (2015). Social networking fact sheet. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from:

Pew Research Center. (2015). Teens Fact Sheet. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from:

Exploring Learning Technologies: Using Wikis as a Learning Tool

Wikis can be a very powerful learning tool when employed in the online classroom.

What is a wiki? “A wiki is a website that lets any visitor become a participant,” (Teachers First, 2015). Basically, a wiki allows all users to be authors, editors, and readers. The most famous example of a wiki is Wikipedia, but this in only one example.

They are very similar to blogs in that they can be used to promote student interaction with the course material, interaction between students, and interaction between students and the instructor.

See my previous post on using blogs as a learning tool for more information:

Where wikis add to blogs is in the area of collaboration.

email v blog

As you see in the above infographic, collaboration through wiki is very streamlined when compared to email. This is also true for wiki versus blogs.

Blog Collaboration

As you can see collaboration with a blog is much easier than through email, but it is still much more complicated than with a wiki.

According to Lo (2015), wikis can be used in education to expand student knowledge in a field, build research skills, develop critical thinking skills, create learning communities, and work collaboratively with one another.

Some possible uses for wikis in a classroom environment include: posting and answering frequently asked questions, establishing a knowledge base, developing standards, and providing technical help (Malamed, 2015).

Getting started with wikis can be fairly easy. There are numerous websites that incorporate what you see is what you get (WYSIWYG) wiki development platforms. Some learning management systems also incorporate wiki technology.

Wikis also allow for the incorporation of video and imagery to augment the text.

The advantage of collaboration makes the wiki ideal for group work and other activities where shared knowledge is essential.

For more information about wikis, check out:

Richard Buckland, University of New South Wales, Wikis in University Teaching and Learning

College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales,Teaching with web 2.0 technologies: Twitter, wikis & blogs


Lo, C. (2015). What are Wikis? Why use them as assignments? Retrieved from:

Malamed, C. (2015). Using wikis for learning and collaboration. Retrieved from:

Teachers First. (2015). Wiki Walk-Through. Retrieved from:

Exploring Learning Technologies: Using Video as a Learning Tool

Instructional Video:

Lecture Video:

Outside Resources Video:

I hope you enjoyed this post.  For further information check these out:

Dr. Liza Hita from ASU, Using Weekly Videos in Your Online Course:

David Cherry, University of Pittsburgh, Using Video as an Effective Tool for Teaching and Learning:



Alwehaibi, H. O. (2015). The impact of using Youtube in EFL classroom on enhancing EFL students’ content learning. Journal Of College Teaching & Learning, 12(2), 121-126.

Recruitment Juice. (2015). The benefits of using video as a learning tool. Retrieved from:

Exploring Learning Technologies: Using Blogs as a Learning Tool

Blog is short for Web log. What is a blog? A blog can be many things, but at its core is form of micro-publishing that allows the author to post informational content in a reverse chronological order for reading by others (Dabbagh, 2004).

In an educational environment, blogs are generally used to convey information related to the content of the course. In this capacity, a blog can serve three purposes (Hicks, 2013):

  • It can increase student interaction with the material
  • It can increase student interaction with one another
  • It can increase student interaction with the instructor

One use of blogs in the classroom is to require students to post blog entries on the material prior to discussing the material in class. Requiring blog posts not only forces the students to familiarize themselves with the material prior to class, but it requires that the students apply critical thinking skills as well. Student blogs also have the added benefit of allowing the instructor to have an idea of what the students’ thoughts about the material are before the in-class session.

Secondly, by requiring students to reply to each other’s an instructor can promote interaction amongst the class. This has two benefits. First, it offers the students an opportunity to view the material from different perspectives. This promotes a greater understanding of the material. Secondly, when guided by the instructor, it promotes proper internet etiquette.  As more and more business and social interaction occurs online, this is an important life skill.

Lastly, blogging increases the contact between the students and the instructor. Instructors have an opportunity to get an idea of how the class is interrupting the material. The instructor can then provide timely feedback outside of normal class times. An additional benefit is that student posts may prompt the instructor to provide additional learning material on subjects related to the material.

The most common method for using blogs in a classroom is for the instructor to provide a prompt and have the students respond with a blog post on their individual blogs. The students are then usually required to comment on a set number of their classmates’ blogs. While this can be time consuming for the instructor, they have to read and respond to all the blog posts, this method can promote a deeper understanding of classroom materials.

Getting started with blogging is relatively easy. Some learning management systems have blogging as a feature. If your does not, the instructor should choose a medium, such as WordPress, to host the class blogs. They then have the students create their individual blogs. Expectations and etiquette rules should be laid out ahead of time.

One further benefit of blogs is that they are not limited to the written word. Blog authors can embed video or images to enhance their post. They can also include links to other information. This allows that blog to serve more as a multi-media platform and can appeal to learners that are put off by long blocks of text.

Blogs can be very powerful tools for the promotion of a deeper understanding of course material, interaction between students, and interaction with the instructor. However, they can be very time intensive for both student and instructor. To combat this, blogs should be used judiciously and topics should be constrained to the topic at hand.

For more information check out the following:

Using Blogs in an Online Class as a Learning Tool by Sher Ratnabalasuriar –

Using Blogging as a Learning Tool from Johns Hopkins University –


Dabbagh, N. (2004). Using Blogs as a Teaching and Learning Tool. Retrieved from:

Hicks, K. (2013). The Benefits of Blogging as a Learning Tool, Part 1. Retrieved from:

Exploring Learning Technologies: Web 2.0 Tools

So, we’ve all heard about how Web 2.0 is revolutionizing learning.

I don’t know if I totally buy that, but I do believe that Web 2.0 tools can enhance learning.

Watch the video below to learn about what Web 2.0 means and how blogs, wikis, and video sharing can be used in a learning environment.

Other Resources:

Link to a PDF of this presentation:

Exploring Learning Technology

Link to my paper “Incorporating Web 2.0 Tools in the Learning Environment.”:

Incorporating Web 2.0

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