Tag Archives: read-write matrix

Extending the read-write matrix

Read-write matrix of Web 20 tools for learningLimitations of the matrix

The read-write matrix provides a model for analysing the roles of learners in working with documents in a Web 2.0 context. The complexity of Web 2.0 tools, however, has prompted me to explore ways of extending the model to provide more detail, including different forms of contribution and collaboration. In addition, some readers have found the two-dimensional matrix difficult to interpret.

I’ve been wondering for some time how to show additional dimensions to the read-write matrix. This is necessary because it’s helpful to distinguish between different sorts of editing rights. For example, the blog reader cannot usually edit someone else’s blog posting but can normally add comments to it.

We can simplify the read-write matrix by considering only three user types:

  • self (the learner)
  • peers (fellow learners enrolled in the same course)
  • the world

We can now assign a value to each of these user types based on the ability to:

  • read the document
  • comment on the document
  • edit the document

Table 1: mapping the roles

We can now create a simple table for any given application of Web 2.0 tools:

Edit Comment Read
Self X X X
Peers X X
World X

We can use such a table to define clearly how we might want a specific wiki or blog activity set up for a learning activity, and we can use it to communicate to teachers and/or students how an activity is meant to work. A simple tick or cross in a cell shows that that user type has that role.

Table 2: the geek version

And for the more technically-minded, we can steal an idea from Unix’s chmod to provide a shorthand way of describing the characteristics of the activity:

Edit Comment Read
Self 4 2 1
Peers 4 2 1
World 4 2 1

We now have a shorthand way to describe the read-write roles within a learning activity using (say) a blog or wiki – add the values in each row that apply and show as a three-digit number. The roles shown in table 1 would be 731. (I’m not sure that this version will be popular, however!)

Where to from here?

We could easily extend either version to include the additional user types in the read-write matrix: the sub-group of peers and the wider group of a learning community. We could also add other types of contribution in addition to commenting and editing: eg annotation or bookmarking.

In addition, I envisage simple planning tools which incorporate something like table 1 to help communicate decisions around educational use of Web 2.0 tools to other teachers, technical support staff and learners. The table extends the read-write matrix by adding detail to the types of collaborative contribution, but also provides a simple means of communicating the analysis to others.

Educators need better models for the use of Web 2.0 tools

Educators getting started with using wikis and blogs and other Web 2.0 software as tools for learning need to develop a structural understanding of the different potential forms of collaboration and interaction. But some of the models used as references for such educational use come from other contexts, and are unlikely to be sufficient as models for designing effective learning and teaching.

For example, an Open University blog refers to the ladder of participation, a model developed by Forrester Research. The participation ladder categorises consumers according to their level of active participation with online social networking tools.

I don’t find the ladder metaphor and the categorisation particularly helpful for educators, because:

  • The ladder metaphor suggests both a hierarchy of behaviours and progression up the ladder, whereas in a learning context such behaviours are complementary and equally important.
  • Categorising learners in the same way marketers categorise consumers is not productive: learners are not a market to reach and exploit but autonomous individuals who dynamically use a range of behaviours depending on the context

I’m not intending to suggest that the ladder is not a really valuable tool for marketers, or that education cannot learn from and apply models developed in a business context. Indeed, the ladder does provide a valuable insight into the diversity of learners in terms of the use of such tools.

But to help educators develop effective strategies for applying Web 2.0 tools, we need models which build on models such as the ladder and better reflect the educational context. In particular, we need models which:

  • Reflect the values and ethos of the education sector, with learners as autonomous individuals
  • Provide a means to analyse the dynamic and diverse nature of learning and teaching interactions

Until we develop such models, the application of Web 2.0 tools for learning is likely to be hit and miss.

Related posts:

The read-write matrix of web 2.0 tools for learning

Wikis in Moodle and the read-write matrix

Wikis in Moodle and the read-write matrix

I’ve been asked how wikis in Moodle relate to the read-write matrix I published recently. There is significant correlation, because the standard wiki module installed with Moodle offers various settings to control who has read access and who has write access.

When creating a new wiki, it’s best to check out the help file for the wiki type setting. This is a screenshot of the help file, with labels added for reference. The matrix of 3 rows and 3 columns provides 9 options for who can read and who can write to the wiki.

Moodle wiki types

I’m not concerned here with the first row (options 1 to 3) since these are teacher wikis and cannot be edited by learners. Types 1 to 3 are useful for teachers to publish materials they don’t want learners to be able to edit: eg administrative information or course details.

The types I find most useful for read-write learning are types 4 (for a fully collaborative class wiki) and type 9. But a class incorporating small group activities might use other types such as 5 and 6.

I’ve mapped some of these Moodle wiki types against the read-write matrix below:

The read-write matrix and Moodle wikis

While the Moodle wiki has quite a few limitations, the ability to control access and the ways that learners can collaborate can be very useful. But my advice is to plan the teaching and learning strategies carefully before setting up a wiki in Moodle – once the wiki is in use it’s not always easy to change the type!

The read-write matrix of web 2.0 tools for learning

A few years ago, Scott Leslie published his matrix of some uses of blogs in education, which provides a very useful analysis of potential applications for teachers and learners.

For my professional development workshops, I wanted something similar but which was focused solely on learning applications. In addition, I wanted to reflect some of the additional options that learning management systems such as Moodle and Blackboard provide. In particular, wikis and blogs within an LMS tend to provide greater granularity and control of who can access learner-created documents.

To reflect these needs, I’ve developed the read-write matrix of web 2.0 tools for learning which maps various uses of blogs and wikis onto a similar two-dimensional matrix to Leslie’s. The matrix is intended to apply also to other Web 2.0 tools for writing, such as Google Docs.

The purpose of the read-write matrix

I’m hoping the matrix will be helpful to teachers in planning the educational use of Web 2.0 tools. Careful planning is needed because:

  • While blogs and wikis within learning management systems typically are less sophisticated functionally than stand-alone software tools, they provide more complex options for controlling who reads and who writes.
  • For varying combinations of read and write access, there are both risks and opportunities for learners and effective learning. It’s important to consider these and how they will be best managed.

Presentation: the read-write matrix


The presentation should be reasonably self-explanatory, or you may prefer to read about the matrix first.