UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Pupils to Study Twitter and Blogs in Primary Shake-up

Posted by Brian Kelly on 27 Mar 2009

Guardian front page (25 March 2009)It was announced in the lead article in yesterday’s Guardian “Pupils to Study Twitter and Blogs in Primary Shake-up” (and note this was the main section of the paper, and not the education supplement).

There have already been a number of blog posts about this headline, ranging from the sceptical (“It’s already bad enough having students checking their mobile phones for text messages every five minutes. Soon they’ll all be Twittering as well!) to the neutral. But in my initial skim though the search results I couldn’t find any positive responses. So I’ll position myself in this space.

John Bangs, head of education at the National Union of Teachers was quoted in the article saying “It [the report] seems to jump on the latest trends such as Wikipedia and Twitter“. So once again, it would seem, defenders of the status quo are dismissive of innovation as being merely trends (the term ‘fads’ is sometimes used in this context) with the implication that is detracts from traditional areas of study.

My view is that there is a need to engage young people from a early age in understanding communications technologies, especially those they are likely to be using before they become adults. And understanding how micro-blogging tools such as Twitter and Yammer (and related technologies such as SMS messages) work, their subtle differences and the ways in which they can be misused is a new media literacy skill which young people need to develop.

Now Andy Powell pointed out that the “twitter terms of service prevent use by primary age children“. But for me this is not a show-stopper: terms of conditions can change and the term “Twitter” may be being used to describes a range of micro-blogging applications and not just the Twitter services itself.

I would expect many in the higher and further education sectors to particularly welcome this news, as ensuring that student arriving at college or university will several years of experience of such technologies should help to ensure that they can make use of such communications and collaborative tools more effectively when begin their studies.

And I find this announcement particularly interesting coming as it does that day after Ewan McIntosh, in the closing plenary talk at the recent JISC09 conference, praised the Twitterers in the audience who were engaging in active learning and discussions during his talk, whilst others were being passive consumers – which is particularly ironic as JISC and many learning developers are actively seeking ways in which innovation can enrich learning experiences. Perhaps in a few year’s time those senior managers will be seeking help from their children – or possibly grand-children – on how to make effective use of such micro-blogging services.


6 Responses to “Pupils to Study Twitter and Blogs in Primary Shake-up”

  1. I’m also extremely positive about the announcements – although the idea of ‘twitter and wikipedia’ was the thing most media outlets emphasised, actually it is the direction of travel indicated by the report that I think is good – thinking about how we engage with information via computers and the web is something I really believe needs to be dealt with in schools – for me this is part of the digital/information literacy picture. Of course the detail is important – I’m not interested in children being taught how to ‘use wikipedia’ as such – I’m interested in them being taught about how to interact with this type of information – how to assess it, how to add to it etc.

    I also agree – products aren’t the issue here – the question is not Twitter or Wikipedia specifically, but the type of online information and interaction they represent.

    I’m also really pleased to see that the report suggets an emphasis on keyboard skills as well as handwriting. Learning to touch type was one of the most enabling things I’ve done in terms of being able to exploit technology. It seems trivial, but it is incredibly important to remove basic barriers – like pecking out letters on a keyboard – and touch typing isn’t something you just fall into – you have to learn it.

    Finally, it is worth saying the Guardian report is based on a leaked document – I’m willing to give some benefit of the doubt and assume that the final report will focus on the issues rather than specific implementations of various technologies.

  2. Nicky said

    I think my concern in all of this is the importance of teaching children basic information literacy skills, rather than concentrating on the tools that are used. Yes, it’s good to get experience of the tools that are available, but surely it’s more important to learn the basic skills – how to find information and how to assess it for quality and relevance, how to take notes – and I’m not sure this is happening much in schools.

  3. […] 報紙畫面,圖片來源:UK Web Focus […]

  4. AM Doherty said

    I am often surprised by the argument that we need to start children learning about technology early on. Not least because it implies we grown-ups who use, develop and discuss communications technology have suffered a steep learning curve with the late arrival of the digital comms epoch sometime in our adulthood.

    With the emphasis on UI and usability thesedays ‘adults-to-be’ surely have far less to learn than their forbears, perhaps with the exception of privacy and security issues.

  5. Patrick Marshall said

    To be honest investing time and money in specific tools that have no clear focus or direction is a waste of time and resources. The reason that they have no clear focus or direction is that they are driven mainly by social contexts and not learning contexts. If they are placed within a learning context blogging and microblogging tools take on different meanings for children, in effect they mightn’t utilise the tools to same extent.

    Currently we are in a situation where children have a clear understanding of these tools and are more adept at using online tools for engaging with their peers. A vast majority of people in the education arena have no concept of theses tools and no clear vision on using these tools.

    Before learning tools can be introduced clear usage and learning guidelines would have to be delivered to teaching personal to stimulate learning benefits from such new media. Pedagogy should be driven by children’s needs and not on tools that are the latest buzzwords. The focus needs to remain with the student and not with the tools.

  6. […] have been many blogs about this subject already, one such entry may be found here Online version of the same […]

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