School of Thought: Social Networking to Enter Curriculum
Children should be taught new media, such as social networking, blogging and podcasting by the time they enter secondary education, according to proposals. New Media Knowledge took a look at how this might work.
The process will start early. Children could be taught new media skills before they leave primary school, according to new proposals and the digital industry has welcomed the move.
According to The Guardian: “Children [will] leave primary school familiar with blogging, podcasts, Wikipedia and Twitter as sources of information and forms of communication. They must gain "fluency" in handwriting and keyboard skills, and learn how to use a spellchecker alongside how to spell.” Research published in the US this week shows that teachers are already leading the way with Web 2.0 services and technologies:
- * 56 percent of district technology directors reported that at least three-quarters of their teachers are using online communication tools to reach out to parents and students, and 75 percent said their districts have plans to promote or adopt the use of this type of tool;
- * Half of the survey's respondents said at least three-quarters of their teachers use online multimedia resources; and
- * 67 percent of districts reported that at least a quarter of their teachers are using teacher-generated content.
At the tertiary level, Birmingham City University will start its MA in Social Media from September this year. Denying it was merely a “masters in Facebook” the university says the course is “an academic exploration of communication.”
So is teaching new and social media at all levels a positive move for the industry and, if so, what form should it take?
Ewan McIntosh is digital commissioner for Channel 4’s 4iP programme, which looks for new digital talent, and is a top educational blogger. He believes it is essential that young people learn how to harness the social web for their own good, which includes understanding what they should and shouldn't publish for their future university admittance officers, employers, in relationships and using search engines.
“A really good way of doing this easily is for children to learn at the right time for them how different types of tools can be used, whether that's self-publishing 140 characters at a time on Twitter or with some more thought and reflection (and space) on blogs, or sharing their artwork, design and environment on a photosharing site like Flickr. It might also stretch to discussions about what ‘friends’ are on their favourite social networks,” McIntosh told NMK.
“The challenge in any education system which has a top-down curriculum is that teachers, who have been disempowered and de-professionalised by waiting on 'permission to teach' x, y or z, will generally believe that anything new needs something else to drop off the timetable,” he added.
McIntosh believes social media is not an add-on to an overly busy curriculum, but a set of skills that enhances the potential for that learning to be reinforced, re-accessed from anywhere by anyone and which helps create connections between the classroom and the outside world.
At the Coal Face
The Hillingdon Grid for Learning provides modern networking and computing services to local educational establishments, libraries and council premises. The grid connects 97 schools and 60,000 staff and students in Middlesex with 1Gbps bandwidth to help with video-rich teaching resources.
Dave Alderson, public sector specialist at ntl:Telewest Business, the firm that built the Hillingdon Grid for Learning network, says that schools are asking for more bandwidth to accommodate for increasing demand for rich media applications.
“By introducing Web 2.0 tools into the primary school curriculum, an attempt is being made to close the chasm that has developed between the tools that pupils want to see in the classroom and what teachers are actually using,” Alderson said.
Ministers will respond to proposals when they are published this month.