Over the past year RSC London has been exploring the issues associated with the educational potential of web 2.0 tools such as MySpace, Facebook and Youtube. We have undertaken surveys of learning providers to find out what their policies are and how they manage issues such as classroom control, copyright, and bandwidth usage. We have held a webinar aimed at discussing the issues and reaching a common approach to the challenges. One of the difficulties identified is that the legal framework does not keep pace with technology. A conclusion from our group discussion was that learners using a computer for ‘non educational’ purposes is a classroom management issue and not an IT problem. A third consideration is the increasing capability of student owned mobile devices and the access these give to learners.
Our survey asked
Do you restrict access to web 2.0 tools
11% of respondents said ‘we block everything’
56% of respondents said ‘we block some web 2.0 applications and allow others’
33% of respondents said ‘we allow access to all web 2.0 services’
When asked what they were planning in future the number who said they plan to block everything shrunk to 6% which indicates that learning providers in London are becoming more open to the value of web 2.0 applications in their organisations.
We also asked who decides whether to block. Most learning providers reach this decision by a group process although some still leave it to the IT Director alone.
In future we may ask what mechanism is there for allowing a blocked application through in your organisation? Can a tutor request access to Youtube?
How to utilise web 2.0 tools in education is an on-going debate. The trend appears to be moving toward fewer controls as an understanding of the educational potential of this technology increases with familiarity. Also as we become e-mature more decision making is administered by policies and procedures rather than blocking imposed by IT systems.