Teachers Lead Adoption of Web 2.0, but Perceptions Stifle Social Networking

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Web 2.0 tools are now in use at most schools, and teachers have been largely responsible for making this happen, according to a national K-12 technology survey released this week. But of all the various applications of Web 2.0 technologies, social networking remains the outcast, with the vast majority of districts reporting that few or no teachers engage in this type of communication.

The study, "National Online Survey of District Technology Directors Exploring District Use of Web 2.0 Technologies," was conducted by Interactive Educational Systems Design and commissioned by ed tech developer netTrekker and security vendor Lightspeed Systems. It surveyed more than 500 district technology directors around the United States and found that teachers are the drivers of Web 2.0 adoption in schools, according to 78 percent of those participating in the survey.

"The research indicates that the movement toward Web 2.0 use to engage students and address individual learning needs is largely being driven in districts from the bottom up--starting with teachers and students," said Jay Sivin-Kachala, vice president and lead researcher for IESD, in a statement released Monday. "Furthermore, the results show that many districts are using or planning to use Web 2.0 tools in teacher professional development, which suggests that teachers will become increasingly comfortable with these technologies and better able to teach students how to use them safely and productively."

Engaging student interest, increasing students' options, and addressing individual learning needs were the three most frequently cited reasons for adopting the tools in school, according to the research. And online parent/student communications and digital multimedia resources were the most used tools by teachers.

So what specific Web 2.0 applications are in use in schools?

According to the research:

  • 56 percent of district technology directors reported that at least three-quarters of their teachers are using online communication tools to reach out to parents and students, and 75 percent said their districts have plans to promote or adopt the use of this type of tool;
  • Half of the survey's respondents said at least three-quarters of their teachers use online multimedia resources; and
  • 67 percent of districts reported that at least a quarter of their teachers are using teacher-generated content.

So what were the not-so-popular Web 2.0 tools?

Sixty-five percent reported that student-generated online content is in use by few or no teachers. Forty-seven percent reported that few or no teachers are using virtual learning environments.

And an enormous 83 percent said that few or no teachers are using social networking technologies.

Why?

Well, the two most significant reasons cited were security concerns and lack of know-how on the part of teachers. Sixty-six percent of respondents said they had concerns about students posting personal data; 54 percent worried about inappropriate content; 53 percent worried about cyberbullying; 55 percent cited a need to monitor appropriate use; 51 percent cited concerns about teachers' abilities to use the tools effectively; and 48 percent of respondents said teachers themselves doubt the instructional value or appropriateness of online social networking.

What's more, district technology leaders also reported district network and data security concerns (35 percent), limited support systems (35 percent), and student "safety" concerns (76 percent) among the technology barriers to the adoption of social networking.

Districts are taking steps to address security concerns, including:

  • 95 percent have installed Web filters;
  • 79 percent instruct faculty, staff, and students on Internet security;
  • 70 percent provided students with tips for effective use of Internet searches; and
  • 56 percent provided tips for parent on the use of the Internet.

As for the future of Web 2.0 tools in schools, the researchers reported that teacher-generated online content will be the "the next area of growth in the use of Web 2.0 technologies. Almost half of districts have plans for adopting or promoting the creation and sharing of this content through Web 2.0 tools."

The research was the first stage in a larger project being conducted by netTrekker and Lightspeed, according to the companies. They reported they will conduct "online focus groups, prepare a white paper summarizing and interpreting the research, and develop resources based on the insights learned to help guide districts in harnessing the educational power of the collaborative Web. The companies are exploring reaching out to curriculum directors and other educators next year to get their perspective on Web 2.0 use."

A full copy of the first report can be accessed free of charge. Registration is required. Further information can be found Lightspeed Systems' site here or on netTrekker's site here.

About the Author

David Nagel is the executive producer for 1105 Media's online K-12 and higher education publications and electronic newsletters. He can be reached at dnagel@1105media.com. He can now be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/THEJournalDave (K-12) or http://twitter.com/CampusTechDave (higher education). You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=10390192.

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