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Teachers not as switched on to Web 2.0 as their pupils

Ntl:Telewest Business : 05 September, 2008  (Technical Article)
Classroom usage of Wikipedia and YouTube lower than expected with parents and children being more likely to be advocates of Web 2.0 technology than teachers
Teachers are split over the merits of Web 2.0 tools in the classroom, according to research conducted for ntl:Telewest Business. Half of teachers questioned believe that Web 2.0 applications, such as Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and Wikipedia are valuable educational tools, yet the rest felt they are a distraction with no real academic benefit.

This confusion over the advantages of Web 2.0 tools in the classroom can be linked to teachers being in the dark when it comes to next generation applications. A fifth of all teachers polled felt that when it came to Web 2.0 tools, they lacked the knowledge or training to integrate them into their lessons. Another key barrier to their adoption in the classroom proved to be security concerns. Almost a quarter of teachers worry about the amount of personal information that students disclose online and their behaviour when using social networking sites.

Tech-savvy parents are the biggest advocates of Web 2.0 technologies, with two thirds of parents feeling that the tools were useful for engaging and teaching children as they encouraged creativity and helped students to develop their communications skills.

Dave Alderson, Public Sector Specialist, ntl:Telewest Business, said: "Web 2.0 has really crept up on the school system as social networking sites, blogs and YouTube have become a global phenomenon in a relatively short space of time. Many of today's pupils live and breathe this technology, using applications such as instant messaging, Facebook, MySpace and Wikipedia every day to create content, communicate and collaborate with people worldwide. Whilst security is a valid concern, there are measures that can be put in place to address this."

"Schools and colleges need to ask themselves if they are living up to the expectations of the digital generation. The interactive and collaborative nature of Web 2.0 tools is ideal for engaging children in the classroom and nurtures the skills and enthusiasm they have developed at home."

According to the study, next generation applications are now an integral part of children's personal lives:.

- 54 per cent of 13 to 18 year-olds use YouTube in their spare time.
- Half use social networking sites.
- 47 per cent use Wikipedia.

When children were asked what Web 2.0 tools would be useful at school:

- 44 per cent stated Wikipedia.
- 35 per cent chose instant messaging.
- 34 per cent said YouTube.

However, less than a fifth of teachers used Wikipedia as a resource in classrooms and only five per cent used YouTube. Even general internet information sites only scored 14 per cent of teachers' votes, despite the fact that almost a third felt the internet had added the most value to education.

Mr Alderson added: "Our study reveals that there is a Web 2.0 chasm between the tools that children would like to see in the classroom and what teachers are actually using. The key to using these tools effectively though, is having the right infrastructure to deliver them. Schools and colleges need to have a robust Next Generation Network (NGN) in place that can provide sufficient bandwidth and resilience to support media-rich applications and offer the necessary foundation for a collaborative, digital environment.

"Some schools and colleges are in the early stages of adoption and it is only a matter of time before Web 2.0 takes on a more extensive role in the classroom. Whether using YouTube to view the latest videos from around the world in geography, or visiting Facebook sites to collaborate with other students, schools need a provider that can help them plan, design, and implement the technology required to deliver to the digital generation, the interactive education they demand."

ntl:Telewest Business is a major next generation telecoms supplier to the education sector, working with leading institutions such as Hillingdon Grid for Learning, Cambridgeshire County Council and Hertfordshire Grid for Learning. By combining its NGN capability with a customer-centric mindset, ntl:Telewest Business designs and implements networks to meet each customers individual requirements.
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