A colleague recently asked me for advice about the following quote in a model e-learning policy from a north-west local authority:
Straight away I want to ask some questions:
What is the definition of new technology? PCs have been around for 25 years plus, so do they count? Is this risk assessment to be carried out before each use of the technology in question? What exactly is being risk assessed? The ability of children to destroy keyboards, break buttons, snap earphones on sight, or electrocute themselves? The financial risk of acquiring new equipment and whether it will actually work or not? Or, as I suspect, that one of the little darlings will go off message and try and access something inappropriate on the Interweb. Worse still, the teacher hasn't done their homework as to the likely search results for "Roman Goddess."
I then asked my Twitter network where this would end. Would we be expected to risk assess PE lessons. And apparently we do... in some cases. One teacher said that they had a bunch of "generic risk assessments" for things like PE. Generic risk assessment?!? Surely a risk assessment is only valid if it is carried out by the responsible person for a specific circumstance or activity? This is bureaucratic nonsense designed to do nothing more than cover backsides. Another teacher tweeted that they didn't risk assess literacy, to which my reply was that if you teach the children to read you are exposing them to all kinds of material that might be considered inappropriate, so she should undertake a risk assessment immediately. The notion that you now have to risk assess the normal everyday routine of school life and teaching and learning is completely bizarre. Sorry kids, playtime is banned, it's waaay to risky.
It took my good friend and colleague, Peter Ford from Northamptonshire to introduce a measure of sanity to the proceedings with his simple "Fordy's VAIN analysis for assessing technology".
V - Where is the VALUE for learning?
A - What ADVERTS and ADD-ONS accompany the technology, and can I Iive with them?
I - Is it INTUITIVE enough to hook and sustain my use and that of colleagues and pupils?
N - Does it mitigate NIGHTMARE scenarios with moderation, privacy and admin options?
The trouble is, Peter, I'm not sure that's what the jobsworth responsible for the quote at the top had in mind.