Student access to web tools

Presently I am working in an education environment that restricts student access to web technologies that I would like to use.   Keeping students safe is of course of paramount importance, but as we live in the 21st century awareness and use of these technologies are the skills our students need to develop for their future work life.  Working with a group of senior students, we were unable to access multimedia tools and reverted back to moviemaker and powerpoint.  Then came the opportunity to introduce students to networking, blogging, wikis and the like, and again I met with similar frustrations.  I turned to my professional network for advice in this regard and an  interesting discussion then began on this topic with both points of view being expressed in relation to working within the e-learning environment provided by Education Queensland (The Learning Place) and access to resources outside of this environment.

I share here some of the discussion for the information of other educators.  Undoubtedly there will continue to be two viewpoints amongst educators on this issue, similar to those expressed by Shane and Jonathan.

Shane Roberts:

Why would one need to specifically teach their students (and other staff) togo beyond the realms of EQ.  I’m not saying there isn’t relevant stuff out there beyond EQ, but setting out to send students and staff beyond EQ as the first option is not safe practice.

As stated, there is relevant stuff out there, but purposely promoting
external services equivalent to services offered by your organisation is not safe practice.  Ever been to a Telstra store for them to promote another carrier?

My main point of the first email was to outline the services available to EQteachers.  This was not an effort to single out Qld state / public teachers and I apologise if anyone else on this list feels marginalised by this conversation but the initial email was targetted to EQ teachers.

If one takes the time to explore Learning Place, BlackBoard, Voicethread, iConnect (Elluminate), and Curriculum Exchange they will be amazed at the functionality and resources they have access to.

And finally, we (EQ) teachers need to restrict publishing of student work to
public places to ensure student safety.  It is all about providing a safe
environment equitably for thousands of teachers and hundreds of thousands of students in an EQ location.  This is no different to any other learning environment needing to be safe.  As a HPE teacher I know students at some stage may swim in the surf.  This does not mean I teach them there.  I would love to be able to have open access, but as an employee of EQ I don’t, and it is therefore my responsibility to ensure I follow policy and expectations.

Something else to consider is that any work we produce is owned by EQ, not personally by us.  Therefore decision to host outside of EQ services cannot be a decision made by an individual teacher.  Its also important to note
that we do not own student work either, and requiring them to host outside EQ services is fraught with danger in my opinion.  Now this generally gets the back up of many people but it is true – the work is owned by EQ therefore they control copyright.

Jonathan Clark:

OK. How about this scenario?…

/You’re organising a Travel Buddy project with a teacher in the USA.
That teacher says, “Great. I am excited about this. I am going to make a
web site where we can place pictures, conversations and things we learn from our Travel Buddy exchange.” The teacher sets up the site, but of course it’s blocked in EQ so can’t be shared with the class.

“OK,” says you, “I’ll build the site in Blackboard (ie within the EQ
System).”
/
On the surface this seems OK. But the issues I have are:

a. It takes away the initiative the teacher from the USA showed. I have
to say to her, “I can’t use your site, but you can use mine (if I set
you up access).”
b. It means that I have to do that work. It’s harder to share the load.
c. It smacks of arrogance. “OK. We can collaborate, but you have to do
it in OUR system, as we are not allowed to use your system as our
department views others’ systems as inferior (and unsafe).”

This scenario is happening to me right now.

So, in answer to Shane’s question: Because I want to collaborate on a
legitimate and valuable educational project with a teacher outside the
EQ system (and indeed outside my country).

BTW How many real problems were created in the past from all those
online curriculum projects we designed, built and participated in well
before our education systems started building their own online facilities?

Margaret Lloyd, Ph D:

Thank you to all contributors to this conversation thus far – the postings have given us a glimpse at the complexity of the whole issue.

My first response is to be concerned about the oz-Teachernet projects and their future in Queensland state schools. But this is something I will follow up off-line with the Learning Place. I am hoping that our projects – and we’ve just launched Land Yachts for the third time – are going to be seen as OK. We do spend considerable time and effort to make our spaces ‘safe’ and ***touch wood*** have had no incidents of inappropriate behaviour from teachers or students in the 15 years we’ve been running online projects.  We don’t charge anyone anything – and never have. We think we are running these projects for the ‘right’ reasons and putting some real power into the hands of kids and teachers. Although similarly based in Queensland, we don’t see ourselves in opposition to the Learning Place. We see them as complementary.

Having said that, I do understand why EQ, or in fact, any system does what they do to protect the kids in their care. It would be irresponsible to allow Web 2.0 into schools and not put any boundaries on its use. I have this feeling that an equilibrium will one day be found between care and access. All systems need to begin with rules and tight parameters that start to be relaxed as people feel their way with what they can and can’t do, or should and shouldn’t do. Having said that, I am prepared to put up a fight to continue to have EQ schools take part in oz-Teachernet projects. Last year, Land Yachts had 400 kids in all states of Australia taking part. None of us would do anything to put any one of those kids at risk.

Andrew Westerman:

In EQ, the Learning Place provides a location for parents and schools to
set up booking timetables for interviews via The Learning Place. This is
secure. Frankly, I would have thought a system based on email would have
been sufficient or better, but the facility is there if EQ schools want it.

The Learning Place also offer blogs (to refer to Marie’s query). While
Global Student may provide a more attractive interface, the
functionality is the same. But security is guaranteed with the LP.

As a teacher, I cannot be sure who runs or works for Global Student.
This means I am exposing my children to potential threats by using it.
Most teachers can see the possibilities for breach of duty of care in
that, especially if the blog is very personal (as we hope some will be).

Michael:

“Why would one need to specifically teach their students (and other staff) to go beyond the realms of EQ”

Because there is a big wide world out there that is inhabited by all the
students we teach on a daily basis, because every teacher has their own teaching style, preferences and needs, because teachers specifically (as a profession) are open and adventurous and like to try new things to see what works best in their classes (and every class dynamic is different), because teachers like to share and collaborate with teachers and classes all over the world. Or maybe we could just wrap Queensland in cotton wool, cut all the cables and pretend that there is not a world out there that our students need to be prepared for.

Jenni Fewtrell:

With Ed Qld’s revised Code of Conduct it looks like we may have to work
within the Learning Place for blogging and other collaborative projects.

Maybe with all of us working together to provide feedback about the
functionality of the LP. they will work on better usability for our younger students. For one, the multiple passwords to access LP is so difficult with any primary student.

We can only try….

Well said Jenni.