The OER Schools Conference – the first event of it’s kind in the UK – took place in Leicester on 29 January 2015, organised by Leicester City Council in partnership with De Montfort University. 92 attendees from 48 primary, secondary and specialist provision schools took part in the day, as well as representatives from five UK universities.
The conference was designed to take forward the council’s recent work in ensuring school staff are benefiting from understanding, finding, using, creating and sharing Open Educational Resources (OER). The day focused on exploring two key recent developments:
Leicester City Council’s recently released OER guidance and resources for schools, produced by Dr Bjoern Hassler, Helen Neo (University of Cambridge), and Josie Fraser (Leicester City Council), developed with the input of Leicester school staff, through review and practical trialling.
The council is a global leader with respect to it’s work in this area, which is itself shared under open licence so that other educators, schools, local and national governments can benefit from and build upon the resources.
Find out more about OER school policy and the permission Leicester City Council has given to school employees to openly licence their educational resources here, and download model documents to help your school or local authority implement this approach.
OER Schools Conference, 29th January 2015, Phoenix, Leicester
Leicester City Council, in partnership with De Montfort University, held a free day conference focusing on finding, using, creating and sharing Open Educational Resources (OER). The event builds on the council’s recently released OER guidance and resources, which can be downloaded from http://schools.leicester.gov.uk/openeducation
The resources were produced by Dr Bjoern Hassler, Helen Neo (University of Cambridge) , and Josie Fraser (Leicester City Council), and have also benefited from the input of school staff, through review and practical trailing.
The majority of school staff use and create digital resources to support their learners and schools – including presentations, lesson plans, and study guides. However, the DigiLit Leicester project identified a gap in support and information for teachers relating to the use and creation of Open Educational Resources (OER).
An understanding of OER and open licencing will support schools and staff in sharing and accessing resources, and in developing staff and learner digital literacy skills and knowledge. OER are learning materials (including presentations, revision guides, lesson plans) that have been released under an open licence, so that anyone can use, share and build on them for free. Many openly licensed resources are available for schools to use and develop.
At a time when schools increasingly work with, and rely on, digital and web based materials, understanding how copyright works, and making the most of available resources, is essential for staff and schools. Creating OER allows schools to connect and collaborate with others through sharing work. Sharing can also help promote the great work that school staff and schools are doing.
Speakers and Workshop Leads
Richard Hall Richard Hall (@HallyMK1 on Twitter) is Professor of Education and Technology at De Montfort University (DMU), Leicester, UK. Richard chaired the OER Schools Conference opening panel and led the conference closing session with Marieke Guy. He is DMU’s Head of Enhancing Learning through Technology and leads the Centre for Pedagogic Research. Richard is a National Teaching Fellow and a co-operator at the Social Science Centre in Lincoln, UK. He writes about life in higher education at: http://richard-hall.org
Bjoern Hassler (@bjoernhassler on Twitter) focuses on pedagogy, Open Educational Resources (OER) and digital technology. He produced the OER Guidance and resources for schools, along with Helen Neo and Josie Fraser. Bjoern provided the conference with an introduction to the guidance and resources on the opening panel, and led two workshops for school staff looking at practical ways to use the resources to support teaching practice. He also led the JISC-funded ORBIT project, which produced an Open Resource Bank on Interactive Teaching for teacher education, focusing on innovative digital technology use in mathematics and science education. He is co-leading the OER4Schools project, introducing interactive teaching and digital technologies in Zambian primary schools.
Marieke Guy (@mariekeguy on Twitter) is a project co-ordinator at Open Knowledge, a global not-for-profit organisation that wants to open up knowledge around the world and see it used and useful. Marieke spoke on the opening panel about the international context of open education, and also led the conference closing session with Richard Hall. Over the last two years she has been exploring open data in education and its relationship with open education as part of the LinkedUp Project. Her current projects are PASTEUR4OA , developing and/or reinforcing open access strategies and policies across Europe, and Europeana Space, creating new opportunities for employment and economic growth within the creative industries sector based on Europe’s rich digital cultural resources. Marieke has been working with online information for over 16 years and was previously employed by UKOLN, a centre of expertise in digital information management at the University of Bath. Marieke co-ordinates the Open Education Working Group.
Josie Fraser (@josiefraser on Twitter) is a UK-based Social and Educational Technologist. Since June 2010, she has lead on technology for Leicester City Council’s multi-million pound Building Schools for the Future (BSF) Programme, one of the most accelerated build programmes in the UK. She is also responsible for setting, promoting and delivering on a city wide agenda for educational transformation in relation to the use of technology within schools. She developed and leads on the DigiLit Leicester staff development project, run in partnership with De Montfort University and the 23 BSF schools. The project achieved recognition as one of five global winners of the Reclaim Open Learning innovation competition, organised by the MacArthur Foundation, The Digital Media and Learning Hub, and MIT Media Lab. As part of this work, she has lead on the OER Schools project. As a panellist, Josie talked about why Leicester City Council has provided permission for school employees to openly licence their work, and the benefits for educators and schools in engaging with open licencing. She also ran two workshops, focusing on school policy and practice in relation to OER.
Miles Berry (@mberry on Twitter) is principal lecturer and the subject leader for Computing Education at the University of Roehampton. He teaches initial teacher education courses, and his principal research focus is the role of online communities in the professional formation and development of teachers. Miles was part of the drafting groups for computing in the 2014 national curriculum. Miles spoke on the opening panel about the importance of OER and open licencing in relation to the primary and secondary computing curriculum, and ran two workshops, one for primary practitioners and one for secondary level staff. Until 2009, Miles was head of Alton Convent Prep. In his former post as deputy head of St Ives School, Haslemere, he pioneered the use of Moodle and Elgg in primary education. His work on implementing Moodle was documented as the dissertation for Leicester University’s MBA in Educational Management, and won the 2006 Becta ICT in Practice Award for primary teaching. His other professional interests include knowledge management in education, use of open source software and principles in schools, provision for the gifted and talented and independent learning.
Dave Foord (@davefoord on Twitter) is an experienced teacher. Some of his best known work is in the area of learning technology (also known as ILT, e-learning, ICT) – using technology to enhance the learning experience. Dave has been a keen advocate on accessibility considerations within this area of work, and specialises in the creation of resources that are highly accessible, mobile optimised, and easily adaptable. Dave provided the conference with a workshop on basic accessibility considerations for producing OER, including this simple checklist he produced for the workshop:
Chair: Richard HallPanel: Miles Berry, Josie Fraser, Marieke Guy, Bjoern Hassler
Introduction to OER for school staff – Bjoern Hassler
School Policy – Josie Fraser
Computing, Primary – Miles Berry
Lunch & feedback
1.40pm – 3pm
Introduction to OER for school staff – Bjoern Hassler
School Policy – Josie Fraser
Computing – secondary school – Miles Berry
Creating accessible OER – Dave Foord
3pm – 3.30
Next steps & close
Opening briefing session
City school leaders who were unable to attend the whole day were encouraged to register for the opening briefing session which provided them with information to take their schools forward in relation to copyright and open licensing. The session covered key legal and practical issues for schools – including copyright and open licensing, international approaches, and employment and policy.
Introducing OER – this hands on session was designed to get staff started with finding, using and creating open educational resources. Attendees found out how to tap in to a wealth of free openly licensed resources, and how OER can help staff and schools connect to local and global communities.
School policy workshop – This session took school leaders through the process of creating a school OER policy, to support staff development, classroom practice and resource sharing.
Computing curriculum workshop – This workshop looked at what computing staff need to know about open licensing, and what their students need to know. Two workshops were held – one for primary, and one for secondary schools, and looked at how the OER guidance and materials can be practically incorporated into lessons to support Key Stage 1,2,3 and 4.
Creating accessible resources – all staff and schools have a responsibility to consider the basic accessibility of electronic resources – whether these are only shared within the school community, or more openly available. This session introduced staff to the basic accessibility issues all schools need to be aware of when creating digital resources.
The majority of school staff use and create digital resources to support their learners and schools – including presentations, lesson plans, and study guides. However, the DigiLit Leicester project identified a gap in support and information for teachers relating to the use and creation of open educational resources (OER). An understanding of OER and open licensing will support schools and staff in sharing and accessing resources, and in developing staff and learner digital literacy skills and knowledge.
The opening briefing session provided school leaders with the information to take their schools forward in relation to copyright and open licensing. The session covered key legal and practical issues for schools – including copyright and open licensing, international approaches, and employment and policy.
Richard Hall chaired the panel and introduced the OER Schools Conference.
Richard’s introduction highlighted the global importance of the DigiLit Leicester project, a collaboration between Leicester City Council’s Building Schools for the Future Programme, De Montfort University and 23 of the city’s secondary and SEN schools. The project focuses on supporting secondary school teaching and teaching support staff in developing their digital literacy knowledge, skills and practice, and identified that school staff and communities would benefit from support in relation to copyright education, specifically with regard to open licensing and open educational resources. The council’s open educational resources (OER) schools work is designed to address this.
Bjoern Hassler introduced the recently released OER Guidance for Schools
“Practice changes and policy has to play catch up”. Bjoern introduces the OER Schools Guidance, explaining it’s designed to underpin existing practice and support schools in using, creating and sharing digital resources. OER aren’t exclusive to Leicester, or something that the project team has made up! He talks about the importance of attribution and giving credit where credit is due, and the ease of finding and using OER.
Marieke Guy talked on OER and open education around the world
Marieke Guy, from Open Knowledge, talks about the international context of open education and OER. She co-ordinates the Open Education Working Group and is involved in a range of open knowledge projects, including work around open access, education data, and work with galleries, libraries and museums. Marieke talks about the global open education community : “anyone can be an open practitioner, it involves people from all over the world, and we are really keen to involve as many people as possible”. Open education includes a wide range of areas (including policy, resources, licences, accreditation and practice) with initiatives and activities taking place worldwide.
Josie Fraser talked about the permission Leicester City Council has given to schools to openly licence their educational resources
Josie talks about how the permission provided by Leicester City Council to school staff is designed to recognise the current legal framework relating to intellectual property rights, and enhance the position of school employees in relation to this. Staff rights in relation to the work produced in the line of work are by default very limited. Josie talks about the benefits for school staff of understanding and engaging with open licensing and open educational resources (OER). Supporting knowledge about OER is a positive way to extend staff understanding of intellectual property and copyright issues in relation to professional practice and the terms of their employment. By providing the permission, the council is focusing on the promotion of OER as a constructive conduit for school communities to take a fresh look at how digital resources are used, created and shared. Josie poses key questions for schools.
Miles Berry talked about the relation of OER to the new computing curriculum
Miles was instrumental in the development of the new English national curriculum computing programmes of study. In this talk he outlines the relevance of open licencing to the new computing curriculum at Key Stage 1, 2, 3 and 4. Miles discusses how knowledge of copyright, and open licencing in particular, links to and can support learners to “use technology respectfully” (KS1); “be discerning in evaluating digital content”; “recognise acceptable/unacceptable behaviour” (KS2); “create, reuse, revise and repurpose digital artefacts”; “use technology respectfully and responsibly” (KS3); and “develop their capability, creativity and knowledge in digital media” (KS4).
Leicester City Council has recently become the first Local Authority in the UK to give permission to its school employees to openly license the educational resources created in the course of their work. This permission was formally provided to community and voluntary controlled staff at 84 city schools in September 2014. Briefing notes and model policies for all schools were also circulated. During the OER Schools panel session, Josie Fraser looked at why the council have provided this permission, and how it benefits learners, staff, schools and the city. Josie asked school staff to consider the following key questions:
Do staff in your school know about open licensing?
Are all staff in your school aware of the OER permission Leicester City Council has given?
What existing or new resources should/could staff in your school be sharing?
How can we support school staff to share work openly?
The permission and a briefing containing further information for schools can be downloaded here:
Josie ran two workshops designed to support staff in thinking through the process of creating and implementing a school OER policy. She stressed that an OER policy should be linked to everyday school practice, supporting staff to share their resources openly and benefit from using OER other people have shared. The workshops went through the model policies which have been provided to schools to help frame discussion and decision making: OER School Model Policy – Community and VC (PDF) OER School Model Policy – VA, Foundation and Academy (PDF) Editable versions of these resources are also available to download from the OER Schools Resources page (under OER Permission and Policies – zip file).
Staff also worked through three scenarios, in small groups. These were:
A staff member applies to you to because they have accepted a commercial offer to sell materials they have developed for their class. How do you respond?
A staff member has created some excellent learning materials. You suggest they openly licence and share their resources more widely. The staff member refuses point blank. Why do you think they might not want to share their resources?
As Head of Department, you are looking to embed open sharing of educational resources in order to support professional development and collaboration. What key practices would you implement to support staff in sharing their resources?
Giving permission to community and voluntary controlled school employees to openly license digital resources provides a wide range of benefits. These are worth keeping in mind when developing your own schools approach and implementing local policies:
Schools and school staff have a great culture of sharing, most of which is informal. A fraction of what currently gets shared by schools is openly licensed. Open Licences build on the existing legal copyright framework to provide clear permissions for flexible uses of work – an open licence provides an opportunity to clearly signal how the work can be copied, shared and developed, and who should be given credit for the resource.
Online and digital resources are routinely made use of and created in all our schools. This increased use and creation of digital and web-based resources means that understanding the copyright rules and permissions that relate to the use of digital and online teaching and learning materials is very important. Digital resources are protected by copyright in the same way as other resources. Looking at OER in relation to schools policies and practices can promote whole school awareness and discussion of copyright, ownership, and accreditation – all important areas for staff to be modelling good practice for learners.
Leicester City Council wants to support schools in promoting and sharing the great work that they are producing. Openly sharing high quality educational resources helps other educators and learners benefit from, and build upon the work staff are doing.
The council is committed to public value – to deriving all possible benefit from publicly funded work. We want to support schools and school staff in increasing access, fostering collaboration and ensuring value for money.
Without knowledge of how to find and use OER, staff are likely to spend unnecessary time creating original resources when they could be adopting or adapting existing works. By using OER, learners and educators can benefit from the care and expertise that has gone into producing resources, and energy can be put into developing work to better suit learners’ and school’s needs, rather than starting from scratch.
The creation and use of openly licensed resources can promote the development of connections and collaboration and the sharing of expertise across professional communities.
We asked conference attendees to feedback on three questions: their key take away, a follow-up action, and challenges to embedding the use of open licences across their schools.
What is your key take away from today? We asked staff members to tell us what they considered to be the most important thing they found out about, or were prompted to think about.
A staff member told us “I know basically now what OER is!” This was great to hear. The guidance and the conference are starting points on our journey, as individual schools and as a city, to having a schools workforce that are confident and conscientious about copyright and open educational resources and able to model great practice through their work. Embedding OER into everyday practice represents a big cultural change, but one that’s essential for educational professionals who daily use and create electronic resources. One of the key aims of the conference was to introduce open licensing and OER to schools – since they can’t take advantage of the wealth of opportunities they represent without knowing about them! The conference let us talk to staff directly about the OER schools guidance resources.
The majority of staff feedback on key issues related to copyright knowledge, copyright awareness, how to create OER, and the importance of attribution. Attendees flagged the importance of “increasing staff awareness of copyright and licensing”, “staff awareness of OER”, “copyright attribution” as key takeaways. Some attendees key take away was a recognition of the importance of having conversations with staff about where and how they are currently sharing material . The idea of unregulated sharing of resources prompted mild panic in some. It’s important to remember that sharing resources is really important to encourage, and that the permission is provided in order to promote resource sharing and support staff in adopting best practice in resource sharing.
One staff member commented “Resources created by teachers belong to Leicester City Council and not the teacher”. Many staff are not aware of the terms of their employment in relation to copyright. The legal position is that unless a specific agreement is in place, the employer is the legal and beneficial owner of copyright of materials produced by these employees in the course of their employment. This is not specific to school employees or to Local Authorities as employers– it applies to all employees working under a contract of service, unless a specific agreement is in place. Leicester City Council has become the first Local Authority in the UK to give permission to school staff to openly license the educational resources created by their school employees in the course of their work. This permission has been given to support staff in their use and sharing of work. It’s important to be clear that the permission does not represent a change in the position of staff in relation to copyright ownership, but an enhancement of the rights of school staff to be named as the authors of their materials (if they want to be) and to share their work under open license with the support of their employer. “Sharing is a good thing” was also highlighted by participants as a key message, as was the “need to ensure staff understand the importance of copyright and the benefits of open licensing and OER”
Other areas flagged by participants included practical information – particularly in terms of basic accessibility checks for creating materials, how to search for openly licenced materials in different mainstream sites and search engines, and information about the computing curriculum. We planned the day around workshops which provided practically focused activities with concrete outputs – so it was great to see staff validating the benefit this approach in their identified key takeaways.
One participant identified Leicester’s position at the forefront of school open educational resources awareness and activity as the most important message of the day :”Being a trendsetter is the best position to be in!”
What do you see as your biggest challenge in embedding open licensing? We asked attendees to name the issue that they felt might hold their school back.
Awareness and understanding was cited as the key issues faced by schools, and in particular, current levels of staff familiarity with copyright and licensing. Current practice which included the use of unlicensed and/or unattributed materials was felt to be indicative of this.
Time and competing priorities was cited by one delegate as the key challenge. Typically, for staff in the schools workforce, this is the most common challenge listed by participants in relation to any new initiative. It was heartening that only one delegate listed this as an issue, and hopefully indicative that the general message of the conference – that work in this area builds on everyday, existing activities and supports staff in relation to baseline professional practice. Creating and using OER isn’t ‘one more thing’ that staff have to do, but a way of developing and enhancing their existing practice and sharing their excellent work. OER can actually save schools time in the longer term – staff can reuse or build on existing OER legally, giving them time to focus on the needs of their learners in the class or in personalising materials for learners. Incorporating OER into practice also supports staff in modelling and communicating good copyright practice to their learners.
Attendees also asked for more support in relation to how schools many use of learner created resources – given that the student is the owner of these. with The copyright belong to the student, so schools are interested in how they can manage consent around the use and open licensing of learner created resources.
What one thing will you be doing when you get back? We asked delegates to let us know if the day had prompted any actions.
The majority of delegates replied to this question in terms of staff development. Ensuring staff were aware of what they could and couldn’t do with their current licences (particularly the CLA and ERA schools licences), understanding copyright, becoming better informed about open licensing, looking at whole school training for staff in relation to open licensing and OER, and raising awareness about the permission provided by Leicester City Council. Staff also planned to sign-posting and sharing the OER schools guidance across their school.
Discussing and agreeing an approach with head teachers, the Senior Leadership Team and governors was also high on the list of ‘what’s next?’
Leicester City Council has recently become the first Local Authority in the UK to give permission to school staff to openly licence the educational resources created by employees in the course of their work. We’ve given the permission in order to take open education forward across the city – with the aim of ensuring all school staff are aware of and able to benefit from the use of openly licensed resources – and also able to create and share open educational resources (OER). We’ve also released a range of guidance and resources to introduce open licensing and open educational resources (OER) to school staff to help with this.
In Leicester, I’ve been working with schools to support the development of staff digital literacy skills. Our work has highlighted that many staff aren’t aware of open licensing and don’t know what open educational resources are. As well as providing practical, introductory information for schools about finding, using and accrediting OERs, we want to encourage the adaptions and creation of OER – to support schools in promoting and sharing the great work that is being produced across Leicester, and to actively contribute to open education.
There are many different types of schools across the UK. In Scotland, the picture is relatively straight forward, with the 32 Scottish Local Authorities in the position of employer for local, special, and denominational schools. In England, the Local Authority is the employer of staff working at community and voluntary controlled schools, but not of other types of school – for example academy, foundation, and voluntary aided schools, where the governing body is typically the employer. In Leicester, there are currently 84 community and voluntary controlled schools. The council is the legal and beneficial owner of copyright of materials produced by these employees in the course of their employment. This isn’t something that is specific to school employees or to Local Authorities as employers– it applies to all employees working under a contract of service, unless a specific agreement is in place. Sometimes there will be an explicit statement in an employee’s contract that references this, for example:
The council shall be the legal and beneficial owner of the copyright in and all other rights to the results of the development of and the application of all work produced by you during the course of your employment and as a consequence of your employment.
However, not all employees (including school employees) have statements like this in their contract – typically, whether it’s there or not, unless a specific agreement is in place, the expectation is that employees should obtain permission from their employer to share work created in the course of their employment. The rights to work created outside of the course of employment – for example, a presentation a staff member creates on their own time for an event that they are not attending as part of their job – belong to the employee. Students also own the rights to their own work.
Staff don’t have an automatic right to take copies of this work from one employer to another, and they don’t automatically enjoy moral rights – the right to be acknowledged as the author of the work.
Schools and school staff have a great culture of sharing, most of which is informal. Sharing educational resources benefits everyone – learners and educators can benefit from the care and expertise that have gone into producing resources, and energy can be put into developing work to better suit learners and school’s needs, rather than starting from scratch. Most schools and educators will at some point have adopted someone else’s, lesson plan, activity, or policy.
This informality potentially leaves staff vulnerable in a number of ways. Others might adopt or use their work in ways they aren’t happy with, or they may not get proper credit for their work for example. Leicester City Council has providing formal permission as an employer for school staff to openly licence their educational resources in order to address some of the issues that might arise ahead of time. It sends a clear message that we are encouraging staff to share their openly licensed work, and enables schools to put in place local policies.
A fraction of what currently gets shared by schools is openly licensed. Open Licences build on the existing legal copyright framework to provide clear permissions for flexible uses of work – an open licence provides an opportunity to clearly signal how the work can be copied, shared and developed, and who should be given credit for the resource.
Along with the permission, we’ve produced a leadership briefing note giving more information, and provided two model school policies – one for the schools where the permission is in place (i.e. Leicester City Council has provided it, as employer) and one for schools where the governing body could put permission in place, through the adoption of a policy. In this way we are raising awareness of OER across all schools in the city, and hoping to encourage them in taking a similar approach.
Looking at OER in relation to schools policies and practices can promote organisational awareness and discussion of copyright, ownership, and accreditation – all important areas that staff can model good practice in for their learners. Online and digital resources are routinely made use of and created in all our schools. This increased use and creation of digital and web-based resources means that understanding the copyright rules and permissions that relate to the use of digital and online teaching and learning materials is very important. Digital resources are protected by copyright in the same way as other resources.
Permission to share educational resources through open licence represents an exciting opportunity for schools to take a fresh look at the original materials staff are producing, and how these can best be used to promote the school and build connections to other educators and organisations. I very much hope that other Local Authorities will look at Leicester City Council’s model, and make use of the resources we have created and shared to take the use and creation of OER forward.
The ‘Policy Pack‘ resources include Leicester City Council’s formal notification of permission for community and voluntary controlled schools, as well as model school policies and a briefing for schools on why the council has provided school employees with permission to openly licence their educational resources.
Earlier this year I delivered a further cyberbullying guidance document on behalf of Childnet International for the UK Government's Department for Children, Schools and Families. The Guidance follows up (and designed to compliment) cyberbullying guidance, a comprehensive document that formed part of the Safe To Learn: Embedding anti-bullying work in schools suite of advice. While the initial document was really well received both within the UK & internationally, teachers unions and associations were increasingly being asked to deal with school employee cyberbullying cases – in which the staff member was the person being victimised. I welcomed the opportunity to produce further guidance which would both support employees in term of basic digital literacy information and encourage employers to meet their statutory obligations. The document set out, ambitiously, to encourage policy and procedure be put in place for preventing and dealing with cyberbullying as a whole school community issue – which includes meeting and recognising the specific needs, rights and responsibilities of employees. In no other area of harassment would it be acceptable for an employee to be expected to deal with cases that rose within the work place on their own – yet the reports from school staff included cases where cyberbullying was not taken seriously or understood, and where they had been expected to sort out situations for themselves.
Cyberbullying: Supporting School Staff (PDF) was released in April this year (Google doc version here). I've been talking about the document a lot recently, and I want to just explore in a little more detail the thinking behind the advice given to school employees regarding friending students in social networking services. The actual text is (with my emphasis):
‘Friending’ refers to the act of giving contacts permission to view information or contact you within web-based services. The terminology will vary from service to service – ‘Friends’ may be called contacts or connections, for example. Most social sites enable you to give different levels of access and set privacy levels on your own content and activity. These functions will vary from service to service but typically include: • Information that is only available to the account holder • Information that is accessible by contacts on the account holder’s approved list, and • Information that is made publicly available, either within the service or across the whole of the internet.
‘Friends’ does not necessarily refer in this case to people who are your actual friends, although you may choose to restrict your connections to that. ’Friends’ in this context may also be work colleagues, family members, and people that you have met online.
If you have a social networking account, do not friend pupils or add them to your contact lists. You may be giving them access to personal information and allowing them to contact you inappropriately. They may also be giving you access to their personal information and activities
So the text above outlines three basic levels of permissions granularity that can be found on most sites, gives a definition of friending, and very explicitly says don't friend pupils. This is explicitly prescriptive advice, based on the case studies reviewed during the document negotiations, and an implicit understanding that the school staff accounts referred to are either personal, or contain elements of personal activity (I previously posted on a definition of three basic online identities, characterised as personal, professional, and organisational).
The approach taken then – don't friend pupils – reflects the kind of boundaries between staff and learners that we'd expect to see in offline behavior. You wouldn't expect a teacher to give a school aged pupil their home phone number, show them pictures of their friends or regale them with the weekends social exploits. Obviously friending isn't the only issue here – managing publicly available information so that you are comfortable with what co-workers, learners and employers can access about you is also addressed in the document. The research and anecdotal evidence indicates that we operate within social network services as if we were in a closed, private world. This isn't naive – I think it's a necessary fiction which makes social networking services human spaces. The do not friend advice is there to reinforce the message that private online is typically back of a post-card private, especially if we are within environments where we're not entirely sure who has permission to see what (*cough*Facebook*cough). It also reflects the leakiness of our online identities, the way in which the personal is often hand in hand with the professional.
What the advice isn't trying to do is to put anyone off evaluating social networking services to see if they could support learning & teaching effectively. The advice goes on to state:
If you want to use web-based social networking sites for a class or for the whole school, use a service that doesn’t give contacts access to personal information and updates, or allows collaboration without requiring permissions.
Alternatively ask pupils to create new, work-focused accounts for themselves, and run them as they would an online portfolio or CV.