Social Eyes on… Education

Social Eyes on… Education image social eyes onSocial Eyes on… Education

This week, I’ll be focusing on the role of social media in education. Let’s start by pointing out that this is a fairly ambiguous area to focus on; social media can be used in the literal sense – ‘to educate’ alongside a much broader application. For the purpose of this blog, I’ll aim to give an overview of its role, using some specific examples. Also, we’ll be hearing from Peter Hopkinson, the Headmaster of Portsmouth Grammar School’s Junior School.

In the broadest sense, I believe social media can be applied in 3 key areas of education:

Education tool for pupils

A few weeks ago, I blogged about the application of social in healthcare; mentioning that this was one of two areas being researched by academics. The other area is education. The majority of research centres around the role it plays in educating pupils. I’ll start by pointing out that social can never replace a teacher / pupil relationship. This has been an on-going argument in the social world; a wasted argument in my opinion. Social can complement teaching; it cannot eradicate it.

This draws significant parallels to the way in which you and I use social media. If we stumble across a particular subject or topic that we have interest in, there is a strong chance that we will explore social, looking for related content – particularly if this interest was originally sparked on social. A similar theory can be applied in education. Once a topic has been covered in class, I believe pupils should be encouraged to do some independent research and Twitter – as an example – can be a great tool to do this, even if further reading takes you off-platform. There is, however, a need for review. Let’s not pretend for one minute that everything someone publishes on social is fact. It is indeed a platform for opinion and debate – so a follow-up discussion in class that explores the various findings would be essential.

I’ll admit it, I detested ‘independent learning’ when I was in school. It seemed pointless and well… boring. However, the fact that social presents such an accessible platform to conduct this is very attractive. Furthermore, you can instantly share this research with your peers. Think of it as a virtual classroom. Who knows, in years to come teachers may create Twitter lists containing pupils of a particular class… which leads us nicely on to my next point.

Social media policies – a subject I’ll never get bored of. This blog isn’t the right place for me to drill home the importance of a policy. Obviously, particular care must be given to social media within education. Peter Hopkinson, Headmaster of Portsmouth Grammar School’s Junior School explained, “We do have a social media policy, which has recently been updated to reflect the many changes and developments that have taken place”. A policy is one thing, but the constant adaption of this is another thing. I wonder how many schools have frequent reviews of their social policies?

On a personal note, I don’t think policies are enough in schools. I really believe social media should become part of the curriculum – not necessarily to teach children how to use social media (because this is becoming an inherent part of the next generations) but to enlighten children of the varying uses of it and, of course, the dangers of it.

I recently did a talk at my old University to a group of 30 Masters Students explaining that their Twitter stream is potentially more powerful than any CV. It’s important for children to realise that social media isn’t simply a place to chat to mates and upload pictures.

Communication tool

Do you remember the constant letters we were given to take home to our parents. Rarely did they make it out of the school gate before being made into paper aeroplanes. This is where social can become a ‘game changer’. I asked Peter how Portsmouth Grammar School is currently using social media…

“It works very well as a communication tool, updating parents and the wider community, on what’s happening at the school via Twitter and Facebook. This also helps to develop virtual communities or villages within the whole school and appeals to those parents who use social media on a regular basis. It is a two way process as I receive comments and likes on the things that are posted. It helps develop my profile as Head of the Junior School as it is not possible to speak to every parent, every day on the playground, but I can speak to large numbers every day via Twitter/Facebook.”

Portsmouth Grammar School has over 1000 pupils. That is a lot of paper! However, one message on Twitter has the potential to reach an audience instantly and create a two-way conversation. This would obviously have to be communicated to parents to ensure they have a presence on the desired platform… why not host a week on seminars enlightening parents?

Peter continued, “I am also encouraging staff to use Twitter more for CPD (Continuing Professional Development), as there is a wealth of information available related to education, learning, technology and sharing of best practice”.

Let’s not forget, a school is still a business and having teachers active on social is the same as having your employees build their own and your company’s brand – providing the aforementioned policies are in place.

The marketing of a school / university

As a business, a school or university needs to market itself. This is the third and final area of focus. I asked Peter if he thought social can be applied to this activity.

“The use of social media also enables us to enhance our marketing and deliver messages about our ethos and philosophy to a wider audience. There is, for some, a misconception about independent education and specifically about the Grammar School. Social media helps break down some of those barriers and presents a human face and insight into what is a very warm and vibrant school”.

It really pleases me to see such an embracement of social. Obviously, this is just one example, but I’d love to hear how others are doing things… I’m not a parent, but I can imagine that when I do have children and the time comes for looking for a school to send them to, this would play a part. I want my child to be taught in a place that embraces the contemporary technology.

I’d like to give my thanks to Peter Hopkinson for taking the time to answer my questions. I was in fact a pupil of Portsmouth Grammar School (for 14 years) and it’s truly gratifying to see the school embracing social media. Peter is on Twitter: @Head_PGJS

That bell is for me… not for you!

Spot the different… a 4 year old Simon at Portsmouth Grammar School and a 24 year old Simon

Social Eyes on… Education image simonSocial Eyes on… Education

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