UK Web Focus

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Use of Facebook in Primary Schools

Posted by Brian Kelly on 23 August 2007

Back in November 2006 Andy Powell wrote a post on Building a Web 2.0 school Web site in which he described the approaches to had taken to support the development of the Newbridge Primary school in Bath, of which he is a school govener.

As Andy described “the site is a mash-up of content pulled from Google Calendar (calendar entries), Flickr(images), Blogger (blogs), Del.icio.us (links) and Google Maps (maps)“. He went on to “The server-side and client code needed to make all this hang together is surprisingly light. A Javascript object here or there to pull in the Google and Flickr stuff. A simple ASP script and XSL transformation to process RSS feeds from Blogger and Del.icio.us into XHTML. Not a lot else.

I thought at the time that the architecture for the Web site (which is illustrated below) was very appropriate for a school, which is likely to have very limited technical expertise. I also felt that this approach could equally be used in many other contexts.

Newbridge Primary School Web site

The provision of a Web site for a school, of course, raises many ethical issues, As can be seen if you visit the school’s Web site there is no information about the children, and photographs on the Web site, which are hosted on the Newbridge Primary school’s Flickr account, are of the children’s art works and not of their appearances in, for example, the school’s Chritmas concert.

A very sensible approach which ensures that the school has a simple to use and maintained Web presence, whilst avoiding the pitfalls associated with hosting personal information related to young children.

Newbridge Primary School's Facebook GroupI was therefore intrigued when I noticed that Andy had joined a Newbridge Primary School, Bath Facebook group. So I subscribed to the group to see how it it is being used.

What I discovered was that the group contains access to photographs and discussions from current and former pupils, on topics such as who the school’s finest teacher was (and the discussion on the best hymn in “Songs of Praise” is not quite what one might expect.

What we seem to have is a Web site based on an appropriate Web 2.0 technical architecture, with thought clearly given to appropriate content and the potential risks, and an environment provided in Facebook where the school children themselves create the content and discuss topics of interest to them.

But if the children are uploading their photos (with video clips surely to come), what are the implications for the policies which apply to the school Web site? The parents will find the Web site useful (it has the prospectus for the schools, dates of school holidays and other information which the parents will need to know). But there seems to be little of interest to the pupils themselves. Will we find ourselves in a position in which the official Web site for a school takes a very conservative approach to access to personal information and provision of user-generated content, whilst such information and discussions can take place freely elsewhere?

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One Response to “Use of Facebook in Primary Schools”

  1. Note that the RUWeb2 blog has a post about use of blogs in primary schools, which includes links to a number of useful resources.

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