I have just had a phone call from a Guardian reporter who is writing an article for the Education Guardian which is due to be published next Tuesday.
Her feature is about “academics who argue that universities should relax their constraints on students’ use of MSN, MySpace and Facebook. They say these sites can actually be helpful for students and even help their academic work.” She asked for my views on why universities are imposing constraints on use of such services – and was, I think, somewhat taken aback when I suggested that many universities have moved on over the past few years and are acknowledging the potential benefits of such services. I gave example of the survey carried out by Edinburgh University of IT Service department policies on use of MSN Messenger. Although the report was internal to the University of Edinburgh, I did receive a copy, which included some great quotations such as the following which I used in a talk I gave on What Can Internet Technologies Offer? at the UCISA Management Conference way back in March 2004:
“IM … is ‘here to stay’ – an ‘unstoppable tide’. Seen as part of youth culture, along with … SMS” – Liverpool John Moores University
“Students will arrive familiar with, and expecting to .. use such tools. Email seen by younger people to be ‘boring’, ‘full of spam’, IM and SMS immediacy preferred” – University of Bath
From subsequent talks I’ve given to senior managers in IT Services (the most recent one on “Web 2.0: How Should IT Services and the Library Respond?“) I’ve got the feeling that, at a senior management level, IT Services are willing to embrace use of such technologies, leaving it to the academics to discuss the learning benefits and the challenges of assessing use of the services. And others have put it to me that it is actually other academics who would like to see such technologies based, and not the service departments. This was how I finished my contribution to yesterday’s Webinar on Web 2.0 for content sharing for learning and teaching in which I gave a talk on Content Creation: Web 2.0 Is Providing The Solution!.
Have IT Services redefined themselves, or does the management rhetoric fail to be implemented by the staff who are responsible for implementing such policies? And am I missing out on the general trends? Perhaps we are better served, in this respect, by BUCS, the Bath University Computing Service than other institutions?