This post is a continuation of my previous post on Web 2.0 and VLES prompted by a detailed comment posted by Nick Sharratt.
First a couple of caveats – the views expressed here are purely my own views and not those of the school that I work at – we still have a VLE and it is the official platform for delivering resources and submitting work online. My blog is deliberately anecdotal – I am a classroom teacher and my blog records what is happening in my teaching practice.
As someone who was until 5 years ago a project manager for a major retail bank I have had plenty of experience of the requirements of the data protection act and also of dealing with ‘business critical’ systems. The eighth principal of the data protection act, for instance, is not a blanket ban on holding personal data outside the EU, rather a requirement that countries outside the EU have adequate protection for individual’s personal data ( it being assumed that those within the EU already do so – not sure with RIPA this is actually the case in the UK anymore ). Thus when I was working for the bank I was part of a team moving data processing to sites in
. Banks took the approach of making acceptance of overseas data processing a requirement of opening an account. This is also the case with regards to Web 2.0 applications where the terms and conditions ( which I know everyone reads in detail ) will contain a clause to cover the service provider. The argument with students under the age of 18 is whether they are in the position to give informed consent to this. India
The approach that we have taken is that students give only the most limited personal data to web 2.0 application providers. Many of the applications we use do not require any sign-up ( and hence any transfer of personal data ) e.g. Etherpad, Solvr. Others require name and email address – for which we insist on students using their school email address e.g. iGoogle, Bubbl-us, Mind Meister. For reasons of e-safety students are not allowed to add identifiable personal data to any of the sites we use.
Use of web 2.0 is limited to disposable documents. If the document needs to be kept it is downloaded and stored locally. This also applies to the submission of coursework. Where work has been submitted e.g. on Edmodo it has been draft versions for feedback and refinement. Final versions have to be printed off as exam boards still require hard copies. There is therefore no reliance on these tools for business critical processes. This contrasts with the use of VLEs to submit work. Had I been relying on our VLE when it was taken down without warning over Easter all of my coursework would have been inaccessible at a critical assessment time. Furthermore our VLE provider attempted to end our contract earlier this term. Again this would have resulted in my losing coursework and resources. Yes it is possible that a web 2.0 site is taken offline but from my experience so far it is far less likely that google will cease to do business than that my VLE provider will pull the plug.
In my previous role I was often in the position of rolling out new systems and liaising with users re development requirements. Had I treated people with the indifference that has been shown by our VLE provider I would have been sacked. You cannot develop a system with a take it or leave attitude towards the user. My experience so far has been that VLE development has been driven by what the provider wants to develop rather than what the user needs, a situation which would not be tolerated in a business environment. I would say that in my experience of researching alternative VLEs the Frog VLE has proved the exception to this – from all reports they appear to be very responsive to their users needs.
Your point re a lot of the issues being management issues is correct. However these issues have not been resolved in six years – longer than many of our students have been at the school – this is not acceptable.
However my main objection to VLEs is this gated community attitude to online access. We need to prepare students for life outside school. The minute students leave school they lose access to the VLE and all the associated tools. Web 2.0 tools are for life, not just for schooltime.
With regards to the amount of time required to get to grips with the Web 2,0 applications either the application is intuitive to use or I don't bother - I just move onto another application - I am not tied financially or contractually to trying to make something work. Hence two years ago I did not use google sites because it was not easy to use - now it has been developed further I am using it with relish. Yes I may be naive and rogue but I poured my energy and enthusiasm into the VLE for 2 years with very little to show for it. Now I feel I am finally getting somewhere and a making a real difference to my students learning.