Twitter as a teaching tool
CHILDREN now at secondary school have been described as the Martini generation – anytime, any place, anywhere – because they have never known a world without the internet at their fingertips.
They are accustomed to being constantly "connected" through laptops, tablets, gaming devices and phones and they run their lives on the move through texting and social media.
Schools are beginning to adapt to take account of this but are understandably wary. Enthusiasts see the possibilities in social networking for encouraging students to become independent learners – but other teachers worry that their careers could be at risk if they are seen to be behaving inappropriately online.
The majority of schools take the view that Facebook is best left to the children's out-of-school hours but an increasing number are beginning to use Twitter as an aid to sharing and developing learning.
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Redland Green School, for example, has set up separate accounts for various subject faculties where staff can share revision tips, information and news items with students. Some even allocate homework using hashtags.
Head teacher Sarah Baker said: "The school uses Twitter to communicate with students in a number of ways, including giving information such as home learning, snippets of revision advice in the lead-up to exams, details of school events and competitions and to share best practice. We also use it to educate students, for example 'on this day...', 'did you know...' and we use it to promote debate between students. We also use it to promote department successes and school competitions.
"Staff at the school use Twitter as a useful tool to communicate with parents. When on trips and visits they use it to keep them updated on what their children are enjoying while away from home. Twitter is not only a great learning tool but we want students to have the skills that make them a valuable asset to employees. The use of digital technology is obviously essential to that environment."
Both primary and secondary schools are making use of blogs and wikis to encourage writing, sharing of information and making contacts.
Twitter, with its limit of 140 characters per Tweet, can be used to help develop the art of expressing thoughts succinctly while Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, has described the poem as the original form of texting.
"It's a perfecting of a feeling in language – it's a way of saying more with less, just as texting is," she told a newspaper.