The last couple of weeks have seen some major and significant occurrences that point to potential problems for proponents of the use of social networking tools in school. Though there are very good and valid reasons for each of the changes the simple fact that each has occurred in ways that will require already “time poor” teachers to seek or develop ways to adapt to these changes may be just the reason for them to rationalize that the use of such tools is just a bit too hard. It also serves to bolster the point of view of the naysayers that these tools lack the stability and proven maturity for them to be part of such a conservative institution as education. Far better to wait until they get it all right.
Two weeks back I ran one of my regular intro to blogging days for a group of teachers. As I had been away for some five weeks overseas fortunately I did some checking before the day just to make sure of things when lo I had found out that James over at edublogs had just completed a WordPress upgrade to version 2.8.2. Having been used to this version and the quite radically different dashboard interface via this bog for some time I was greatly impressed that James and the team had made the change. It was also great that he and Sue were all ready for the change with a whole swag of support materials. Whilst I really like the materials that Sue produces I’ve tended to use a set of my own notes that follows the sequence I tend to use for my sessions. Of course the upgrade rendered my previous notes totally redundant but a whole lot of new screen grabs and some revision of the steps and I now have my own version in the tutorials section of this blog.
Whilst James and Sue have done a great job in keeping as many folks in the loop and supported regarding the changes, I know from interchanges and via tweets that there are a number of teachers out there who have struggled with the consequences of the changes and the need to re-learn things. Though I know the reasons why it can’t happen, it is a pity that the structure of this technology doesn’t allow the end user to determine if and when they work with upgrades.
Another service that has gone through an upgrade recently is TeacherTube which is now offering an expanded range of services targeted specifically at education. As a result of the changes all of the TeacherTube movie embeds that were embedded some time back no longer reference the actual movie but simply show the TeacherTube player and a constantly revolving loading arrow. With a little bit of time I can go back and re-embed the movies however as I have a range of wikis and blogs where these embeds are again it will take time to remedy a problem that is really not of my making. Again it is great that TeacherTube is providing even more for free and I may seem churlish for moaning, but many teachers simply don’t have the time to first check up to see if things are working okay and then go back to remedy the ones that aren’t.
It’s not only upgrades however that are causing problems. Service downgrades are also causing angst and re-thinking. Just recently EdNA announced that due to cost reasons it could no longer pay to provide WIMBA services via its free EdNA Groups. Again the reasons for the non-inclusion of this service is unarguably reasonable, however for schools and teachers who were developing units based around WIMBA it has meant some restructuring of courses. Hot on the heels of this has come the news that for financial reasons, Wetpaint will no longer be offering new ad-free spaces for their education based wikis. This will no doubt cause many schools to reconsider the use of this service though fortunately any existing ad-free wikis keep this status. This change of policy has also come as a shock to Jeff Utecht who helped engineer the policy back in 2007.
Both of these developments however are of less concern to users of BubbleShare, and Seed Wiki which are soon to close down their services as is according to Dave Winer, tr.im. Now that’s a real problem.
Of course it could rightly be argued that schools should not be so penny pinching after all an audit of something as simple as photocopying costs in most schools would suggest that this chews through a not inconsiderable amount of the school budget. The problem lies more in that fact that the photocopying has become institutionalized and is part of the expectation of teachers. Paying for computer based activities is either provided via system wide tender or other means. For the trailblazers in schools looking to convince others by example, any additional impost either by cost, the need to invest even more time or the removal of access can be the final straw.
Image Credit Upgrades are Failed by Command-Tab