As a consequence of our Web 2.0 in FE project, the college’s ILT Champion surveyed college (teaching) staff about which Web 2.0 technologies they were using, why and how. The survey was conducted via e-mail over three days at the end of April this year. The number of responses (28) was high given the short turn around and is a higher response than usual to ILT surveys of this kind. The responses were mainly in relation to the use of such technologies in teaching, but also included mention of personal use by staff.
The main reason cited for using Web 2.0 technologies was that they provided functionality not available on college networked software. Staff also cited the freedom from ‘network control’ as being another motivator for using these technologies. Only a couple of staff cited their use for collaborative creation/user feedback – which are of course the defining features of Web 2.0 technologies.
The main purposes of using Web 2.0 technologies were:
- Lesson content
- Galleries of student work
- Learning activities
- File sharing
- Virtual meetings
A small number of ILT Champions in other Welsh colleges were also surveyed. Web 2.0 applications, although outside college control, are increasingly seen as having a positive impact in terms of developing generic IT/Web based skills which benefit learning in general and, in particular, enhance the use of college Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs). Until recently many colleges have been blocking access to many Web 2.0 sites because their use was seen as social/recreational rather than educational. Colleges are, however, encouraging the use of Web 2.0 technologies (such as blogs, chat rooms and instant messaging) within existing VLEs. This ensures an element of control and enables teaching staff to be better supported in the use of such technologies (rather than using unsupported third party software).
The Web 2.0 technologies used (and their purpose) were as follows:
Distributing student work
Obtaining feedback – which was seen as a positive functionality, in a commercial/marketing sense, for students studying media, design etc
Demonstration – eg engineering activities, dance/drama techniques, biomechanics in sport, learning languages etc
Information – eg on tourism, sport, history, psychologists etc
Social networking sites (mainly Facebook)
Graphic design – creating skins on Bebo
Improve ICT skills/knowledge – a couple of staff made the point that it is the mature students who want to know more about Web 2.0 technologies (presumably the younger students already know). Whereas some (college) library services have dismissed Web 2.0 technologies as being the preserve of young students who are only interested in their social uses.
Keep in contact with alumni
Communication – within a student group and between former and current learners
As an example of emerging technologies
As a virtual classroom
However, Second Life was the Web 2.0 resource that staff were most concerned about, with regard to the presence of ‘inappropriate material’
For information/course content
For teaching audio production
Social bookmarking (Del.icio.us)
To access bookmarks across PCs
Collaborative creation by a group of students
To produce assignments
Opportunities for the library service
The responses lend themselves to library involvement in supporting the use of Web 2.0 technologies by teaching staff in a variety of ways:
Supporting the use of Web 2.0 technologies as information sources
The library staff can provide Selective Dissemination of Information (SDI) services to alert staff to new resources to support their vocational/subject area. We are using the library blog and subject specific Del.icio.us accounts to this end. Alternatively library staff can support teaching staff in setting up their own SDI/alerting services using RSS feeds/newsreaders (it was noticeable that only one respondent said they used RSS feeds in teaching).
Promoting emerging technologies
It would appear that the use of Web 2.0 technologies in teaching is still limited to a relatively small number of applications. By experimenting with Web 2.0 technologies, in a library context, then library staff are ideally suited to raise awareness of those technologies (and their potential use for collaborative creation and obtaining user feedback) amongst teaching staff.
A number of respondents specifically asked whether the college would be providing staff training on the use of these technologies. In response, the library staff have run staff development sessions on Web 2.0 technologies raising awareness of the technologies and promoting the library’s own Web 2.0 developments. Consequently, for September, we are already being asked to provide similar training to students.