The BBC has announced that as of March 20, its BBC Jam service will be suspended. Having worked on the 14-16 year bracket for Spanish, this comes as something of a shock, and disappointment to me- I was genuinely excited about the prospect of seeing what the software designers managed to make of all of our ideas!!
However, this is by no means to say that the project is dead- but rather under review. And in some ways this can be a good thing. Gareth Davies, in Never Mind the Technology, Where's the Learning? makes the excellent point that our world is changing- Web 2.0 tools and the use of open source software are gradually taking over from the traditional world of schools having to pay hefty licensing costs, which many departments simply cannot afford to keep paying AND to move forwards for the sake of improving their educational delivery. I recently pitched an idea to my governors for a project involving 16 local primary schools for 2007/8 building up to the European football Championships. How much would all the software that I wanted to use cost, they kept asking? Nothing. And for many people, that's in some ways more scary for some people than giving them a huge quote.
But should it be? Well, simply put, no. In an ideal world we should all be able to use whatever we want, but that's never going to happen, because a lot of people put in a lot of work to create excellent pieces of software. So sometimes we need other, complimentary, resources, which can provide an extension to the teaching and learning opportunities provided by Web 2.0 tools. In my eyes, BBC Jam SHOULD be able to offer this. It has the expertise, and it has what is a unique opportunity. To use the 14-16 Spanish example, careful research was done by Francisco Villatoro into what is already available on the market, whilst Scott Davenport and myself were also able to further this with our own classroom experience. By the end of the session we had in Jaunary, the project looked to be highly exciting. I came to the table with a head full of 2.0 ideas, but alas, for the BBC many of these would not be possible, either due to upkeep or the very stringent content limitations which are put on them. Nonetheless, if this review forces them to realise the way the world is moving, fantastic, the world is a bright place. If, however, it leads to the total abolition of BBC Jam, then we should all rue what will be a huge, huge missed opportunity.