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Web 2.0 and quality – rate your teacher

November 13th, 2006 by Graham Attwell

I spent a tedious morning yesterday subtitling a video into five different languages (and in the course of it discovering every bug in i-Movie). To entertain myself I was listening to BBC Radio 5 – mainly because I’m thinking about chat show formats and their applicability to simultaneous on-line teaching and learning.

And on came this fascinating report.

“Five Live Report: ‘Bullied Teachers’

Teachers have always had to face cruel gossip from kids, but until very recently the trouble has usually been contained within the school building. Now – with the advent of the video mobile phone and websites like Bebo.com and ratemyteacher.com, they are finding themselves publicly humiliated and even falsely accused of sexual impropriety. Reporter James Silver looks at the internet phenomenon encouraging school children to grade their teachers and talks to those in the profession at the receiving end of malicious comments and allegations.”

The big discussion was over the web site, ratemyteacher.com. Students create their accounts and are able to rate their teacher. There is a flag for alerting to inappropriate content which the site managers say will then be taken down and investigating. One cause of controversy is whether this does happen and if so, how long it takes. Clearly the process is not as effective as the service claims.

The second, and here the teachers unions in the UK were most unhappy, was over the stress it can cause to teachers. My fear is that students are probably quite fair – teachers are unlikely to be stressed by unwarranted invective but may well get stressed by learning the truth of how students perceive their teaching.

There appears little effort by the (commercial) service developers to educate students in providing constructive feedback, neither is their a mechanism for discourse between teachers and students.

Given that such services will flourish in the future, education providers are going to have to rethink how students can be involved in the development, design and management to teaching and learning. It is only by giving learners a voice (and by listening to that voice) that constructive and inclusive approaches to quality (for this is – albeit crude) a quality system) can be developed.

NB. The programme is available to listen to over the internet for the next six days. But you will have to listen tot he whole programme and I think this report occurs about half way through. What a pity that the BBC does not make this sort of content available as a download for remixing – this would be a great piece of content for starting a discussion with learners over the use of the internet and quality systems.

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