Web 2.0 in Education

A couple of days ago I attended a seminar on some emerging research looking at the use of Web 2.0 technologies in schools, given by Charles Crook of the Learning Sciences Research Institute at the University of Nottingham, who is also editor of the Journal of Computer Assisted Learning (JCAL).

The researchers have surveyed over 3000 secondary school children and interviewed over 100 teachers, with the teacher interviews backed up with remote access to teacher PC desktops to see if what they say is backed up by what they do online.

The research is ongoing and the findings preliminary, but as someone who is surrounded by the Web 2.0 world and interested in what I may have to be keeping up with when dealing with the next batch of students in 5 years time – I found the seminar to be a welcome reality check – some notes below:

  • Very little Web 2.0 activity in schools – much less than in HE
  • Where it is taking place, it is much more likely to be due to individual teachers rather than a whole school approach
  • Web 2.0 activities seen as good at coordinating and encouraging communication among pupils, but rarely deliver genuine collaboration
  • Learners are conservative – when asked what electronic resources they wanted, asked for more PowerPoints from teachers
  • Teachers are fearful of the open web, seen as dangerous as reported by the mainstream media
  • Students are cautious of doing educational stuff on the open web, as they know it may still be there X years down the line
  • Most popular site for students was Bebo, their primary Web 2.0 activity was social networking
  • Students are concerned at the amount of time they spend on IM, chat and social networking, are NOT concerned about amount of time spent video gaming
  • No great demand or desire among learners for the way they enjoy themselves online to be part of the educational process
  • No mention at all of Virtual Worlds or Second Life

The seminar then moved into a discussion of Web 2.0 and Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs), which I found somewhat strange – as when I think of Web 2.0 apps, I really would not think about a VLE – and this research seems to back this up, as VLEs are by design walled gardens with authoritative voices, managing learning and are seen as such by those who use them in schools.

As background, some previous research looking at undergraduate learning was referenced (alas no links), but stated that learners are uncomfortable with the way PCs (and therefore work) have invaded their study bedrooms. They also find little use for videos of lectures, as they prefer the contact time of physical attendance and the social aspects of learning.

More on the research is available from the Web 2.0 Technologies for Learning at Key Stages 3 and 4 project page and the Web 2.0 Activities in Secondary Schools page.

Intute: Social Sciences feature more resources on Educational Technology.