Janet Hawtin in TALO sent through URLs to the slides of a workshop for the Education Network Australia by Ken Price…

Web 2.0 and education: best friends or worst enemies

[seems there are still many people in our “leading” education agencies still waking up to this Web2 thing while some of the “early adopters” start pulling each other apart Keen style.]

Ken’s presentation is a good overview. Does the usual (but necessary) overkill-to-hammer-the-point-home on the many many useful tools out there, but more importantly he posits a few questions and considerations… nothing too heady… nothing that questions the very fabric of education and the like.. just everyday questions for everyday people getting by day by day.

About half way through he posits the idea that schools go through 5 stages when presented with a technology:

  1. Some online tool becomes available freely available
  2. Students use it at home and school
  3. Some educators may (validly or otherwise) see this tool as a threat. They respond by restricting, renouncing or simply banning it.
  4. Tool becomes widespread in wider community (Gladwell’s Tipping Point reached?). Student use or expectation reaches critical mass, education sees its potential and the need to provide it securely
  5. Education responds with a secure and manageable replacement… And everyone breathes a sigh of relief….

Now, I’m not sure if Ken was hinting at something there with that last line ending in a … , and later in the presentation it becomes a little clearer, but I’m personally not feeling clear enough on this…

It does appear in education to be the common road to take – responding with a “secure and manageable replacement”. Why is that the default, and why am I the only one who continues to take issue with that?

Ken shows a long long list of free web based tools with examples of their uses (as we all do). I didn’t see any “secure, manageable, replacements” in his list, and I certainly can’t imagine a school, or even a centrally controlled agency of the State like EdNA or Department of Ed successfully “managing a secure replacement”. The only example I can think of is email, (I won’t even acknowledge the arsed up attempts with LMS and SharePoint!) and even email is going back the other way as we all start adopting gMail accounts for the better functionality than the State email provides. I know for sure that if they did try and provide a manageable and secure replacement, it’d take so long to get through, and be so crippled and unpopular by the end of the process, (the millions of dollars spent by NSW on webservices anyone? check the history, what a flop!) that it could never even hope to be web2 (needing popular participation and all!). What is this security we keep noding to as though we all know what it is? Is it a mish mash of network computer security and duty of care? I reckon its the terrorism we all know is waiting at every airport and bus stop… fear – paralysing fear.

Ken does list risks later on though… are these the things he/we refer to when we say secure?

  •  Where is your data?
  •  Who else can get to it?
  •  Does the application encourage inappropriate use?
  • What happens if the service provider has technical problems, goes out of business?
  • Usernames and passwords – how to manage them all?
  • Security risk if you use same username/pwd as on your own systems? Need for different levels of password
  • Data volume and bandwidth requirements

These are risks, some of them I think we just need to get over really, but all of them have a range of management strategies possible in the practice of Web2 before we expect our underpaid, and over worked IT managers to provide a “manageable and secure replacement” – that by the way, should be as cool and popular as all the web2 tools we are already using…

Poor guy, by the time he gets through all the red tape to get a project going that simply investigates this web2 thing (because he hasn’t found time to keep on top of the RSS feeds the past 3 years), the deal he’s been negotiating with Microsoft Sharepoint, Elluminate and Blackboard over the past few years has finally started to look possible… and by the time he gets all his staff up to speed with this Web2 bubble, it will have tp’d off to the Second Life and virtual worlds crew who will have figured out a way to integrate Web2 with Web3D and the 2nd wave teachers watching Ken will be asking for a “manageable and secure version” of Web3D too!

Ken’s presentation is worth looking at. Its nicely self contained so you don’t feel like you need him there to talk you through it. It raises some good questions – perhaps tries to answer them too much, and covers a good range of issues for schools to be thinking about.. while the rest of us think about how to get those issues out of schools.