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The Importance of Students’ Online Reputation: How Can We Help?

Online safety is an important aspects of any students education whether it is delivered through ICT/Computing, PSHE or tutor periods. It is expected to be taught in every school and our students need to be aware of the dangers of the internet and how to behave appropriately. My worry is that we spend so much time talking about the dangers of the internet and social media that we don’t always show our students or in fact staff how positive it can be. A positive digital footprint or online reputation can help our students get into university, get a job or get involved with productive activities outside of school. The question is – how can we develop our students positive online reputation in schools?

Firstly, the increase use of social media in schools would help promote productive use. I am very passionate about it and have written several articles and spoken at confernces on the subject. Embracing social media in schools is the best way for our students to engage with it in a way they previously have not. Social networks like Twitter and Facebook can be used for teaching and learning. For instance, students can be encouraged to tweet about their subject and engage in online discussions with other students and their teacher (using a school account). This is all part of their digital footprint and shows those looking at their profile that they are interested in their studies, which gets more important the older they get.

Blogging is also an important tool for developing an online reputation. It gives students an audience for the their writing that is not just their teacher as they are essentially publishing work online. They could write assignments in the format of a blog post or write about what they have been learning, which could in turn be used for revision. Blogging is also something that can be used beyond classroom studies. Its a great way of writing about things that interest them outside of school. It could be a sports team, music, films, outside academic pursuit or perhaps something that could interest them career wise.

Another fantastic way to improve our students online presence would be to incorporate digital CV’s into career lessons. We should encourage students to publish their CV’s online using about.me, LinkedIn or even using a blogging service like WordPress or Blogger. This will give them another way to sell themselves to colleges, universities and employers.

Using social networks and blogs all fits in with what students are being taught in e-safety lessons. Anything they share needs to be thought about and young people need to be confident that what they are posting will show them in a good light. You only need to look at the incident involving Paris Brown to see the importance of having a positive digital footprint. She lost her job as the first Youth Crime Commissioner when it emerged she had posted some offensive tweets on Twitter several years earlier. Teachers have even been caught out because of things they have said online. Our students digital footprint is more important than ever.

There are a number of websites and resources that are useful for helping to teach this. Ollie Bray has shared a useful image that could be used in an assemble on the digital footprint on the GTN resources section. Along the same lines is a great infographic on Edudemic about how different generations leave a digital footprint. The UK Safer Internet Centre website has a great section on professional reputation. It has some great information about online reputation including research as well as tips and advice. Which can certainly be included in lessons or for assemblies.

One great set of resources on online reputation and digital footprint can be found on the LifeSkills website. Once registered teachers can download free lessons and workshops. These contain plans, presentations, worksheets and interactive games for students to engage with. They cover everything from the effective use of social media to online reputation lessons. This will help our students for the future and help them understand how digital technology can help them in further education as well as for finding employment.

The importance of a positive online reputation cannot be underestimated. When our students apply for a job the potential employer will more than likely search for them online. If our students are able to do some of the things I have written in this article, they will be much more desirable to the employer as rather than come across some questionable posts on social media they will find work experience, blogs posts, online CV, a portfolio of work or constructive online discussions. The same works for universities or colleges searching for students who have applied for their institutions.

Students can use the internet and social media to their advantage, we just need to show them how.

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Professionalising The Use Of Social Media: Research in Practice (Presentation)

This is the presentation I gave at the Research in Practice annual meeting about Professionalising the use of social media. It was a great morning and I met some amazing people who are really interested in using social media.

Getting Savvy With Social Media: EdExec Live

On June 18th I will be speaking at EdExec live about social media. My talk is entitled “Getting Savvy With Social Media”.

To help promote my talk I wrote a short blog post on social media, giving a taste of what my talk will be about. You can have a read below.

Head over to the EdExec live website to read the original post and click HERE for tickets.

Using social media is a scary prospect for many schools and teachers. There are a lot of schools who don’t fully understand social media and what a powerful tool it can be for teaching and learning as well as for marketing.  It’s hard to relate to social media if you don’t use it yourself which is why it’s so important to have an expert in your school. This expert can help train members of staff, write an expectable use policy as well as mange and lead you social media strategy.

There are a number of options when considering social media, which include Facebook, Google+, YouTube and Pinterest, but my personal favourite would be Twitter. It’s easy to understand and manage; it’s uncomplicated and gives short bursts of teaching and learning as well as marketing.

Using social media enables schools to broadcast information including achievements, open days, school trips, sporting results and anything else that promotes the school in a positive way. This is fantastic not only for current students and parents but for prospective parents too.

Teaching and learning can also benefit greatly from the use of social media. Having used Twitter and Facebook for these purposes I’ve really been able to see the value of it. Not only is this great for students and teachers but it shows current and prospective parents the impressive things that departments are doing.

When using social media, schools need to be aware of some of the pitfalls. Common mistakes are tweeting from a work account instead of a personal account by mistake, posting images of students whose parent have requested not to be photographed, spelling mistakes, sharing links to articles that have not been checked and sharing incorrect information.

Matt Britland is director of ICT at The Lady Eleanor Holles School. He’s also an ed tech consultant, an avid tweeter and blogs for the GuardianIf you want to learn more about social media, don’t miss Matt’s seminar at EdExec LIVE 2014. 

Top 5 Tips on Using Social Media in Education (Presentation)

I have just finished a webinar for Optimus Education entitled ‘5 Top Tips to Safely and Effectively Utilise Social Media as a Tool to Support Learning’ and I wanted to share the slides. Have a look and feel free to download if you like it.

On the 15th October I am also speaking at ‘Design and Deliver an Outstanding Secondary Computing Curriculum‘, again, for Optimus Education. It will a great day and you can sign up using the link.

If you would like a speaker at a school, conference or webinar head over to www.realiselearning.co.uk.

Social media for schools: a guide to Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest

This blog was originally published by The Guardian on 26th July 2012 and is an update of a previous post on this blog.

• For advice on e-safety in schools, click here

The use of social media in education continues to be something of a hot topic with arguments both for and against.

So I carried out a small survey of 27 teaching professionals in order to create a baseline of understanding into the use (or not) of social networking in schools, and also any concerns over some of the e-safety risks. The full survey results can be found here.

There are many uses of social media in education – below are just a few of the ways they can be effectively used.

Facebook

• Using Facebook as a ‘broadcast’ account. This is a one-way communication from the school to parents, an information portal if you like. This is a great use of social media for many reasons including: quick, easy, cheap, most parents will have an account, saves on “lost” letters on the way home and also saves on printing costs.
• An increasing number of educational institutions are using Facebook pages for promotional reasons. This is another way for schools and universities to market themselves.
• Schools are beginning to use Facebook groups to communicate with students. This is a very powerful tool for sharing information and collaborating with students from a safe distance. Facebook groups do not require members to be friends with each other. Members of the groups can exchange files, links, information, polls and videos very quickly. Anytime someone contributes the group its members will receive a notification. If you have the Facebook smartphone app these can be pushed to your device.
• Facebook pages can also be used to create a central page for students and teachers to share information.

Inspiration:

University of Gloucestershire – This is a Facebook Page from my old university. It has a nice cover images and has a lots of links, articles, videos and photos shared on the wall, most of which are generating some discussion. Plenty for current students to get their teeth into. Plus, useful for future students to see what the university has on.

Cambridge University – Another good example. Like the University of Gloucestershire it’s very active with plenty to read and comment on. The Page has plenty of “likes” which points students and other member of the community to relevant Facebook Pages.

Twitter

• Twitter, like Facebook, is also being used as a broadcast account. This often links to an RSS feed from the website that automatically tweets a news article when it is published on the website. This is great for parents on the move
• Teachers have been setting up subject or class Twitter accounts that students can follow. The teacher then tweets information related to their class. Some even set homework via Twitter.

Inspiration:

Risca Community Comprehensive – A great example of an active school Twitter feed. Varied and informative tweets for parents, staff and students. It is also great to see staff twitter accounts being retweeted. Lots of photos tweeted as well as plenty of tweets from the Head.

Clevedon School – Another great example of an active feed. Plenty of information and photos tweeted. Lots of useful tweets letting everyone in the school community what has been going on.

iClevedon – This is an account from the Clevedon again. This time rather than a whole school feed it is about the school iPad program. This allows more specific information regarding a subject can be communicated.

Pinterest

• Pinterest is becoming popular as a virtual pinboard. It is great for sharing web resources that students will find interesting or relevant.

Inspiration:

Teaching Central Channel http://pinterest.com/teachingchannel/?d – These are both American boards but they are populated with some very useful “pins”. It shows how Pinterest boards can be used and how great they can be for teachers.

Matt Britland – These are my Pinterest boards which I have just started populating. They are aimed at students and teachers. I have tried to split them into categories that students and teachers would find useful. When it comes to September I may create a different board for each of my schemes of work too.

We should not shy away from using social media in education but it is clear from the survey that many senior managers are worried about abuse.

However, if you have experts in your school they can provide a safe and secure framework for its use; they can create training materials and guidelines that teachers and staff can follow to ensure everyone knows what they can and cannot do.

The great thing is that many people know how to use Facebook already, and Twitter is so straightforward it would not take long for people to learn it. If there is no expert in school, seek advice, either from another school or from external expert.

I think it’s important to embrace social media as it is the primary way that young people communicate, alongside text messaging and instant messaging. Much of the time we force students down the route of email. Do we do that because it is easier for us? In my experience of using Facebook groups with students they pick up communications far quicker than email.

It is obviously not always appropriate to use social media, the important thing to remember is to use it where it seems fit. You do not have to ignore email or your VLE altogether. Ask your students. Would they like to have some way of communicating via social media? If so, what is best for them and the school?

Another issue that was raised in our survey was the fact that using social networks can encroach on students and staff members personal space. I can completely understand this and is one of the many reasons for not using a personal profile for Twitter, Facebook or whichever social network you choose. Having this second, professional profile gives the staff member some space.

The same cannot be said for the student, as in general they do use their personal account. That being said, the students I have spoken to don’t see this as a problem so long as the teacher is not too “loud”. Twitter could be used to simply share useful links related to teaching and learning. It can be very unobtrusive.

As mentioned in the bullet points above the social networks could be used as broadcast accounts. This is perhaps the “safer” option, especially if all communication is outwards to the rest of the world rather than used to respond to questions. Twitter is especially good for this as it can be linked to the school RSS feed. This is a huge time saver and reduces the need to keep tweeting news.

However, the Twitter account can still be used for bespoke tweets by the head or nominated member of staff managing the feed. If you are clear in the profile that it is for broadcasting information only, it will not look rude if you do not reply to tweets.

Schools also worry about inappropriate use not only by students, but staff as well. Most schools filter social networks which leads to the question that promoting the use of social networks is hypocritical when we do not allow them in school. You could argue that this is true. My personal feeling is that we need to teach both students and staff appropriate use; by banning them in school we are not teaching anyone anything. I am a realist and understand that most schools will not suddenly unfilter Facebook or Twitter for students.

However, many students are using smartphones to check their favourite network so filtering them in school makes little difference. In fact, by filtering we have even less opportunity to monitor whether they are being used appropriately.

No WiFi or 3G? Will I cope?

In about 45 minutes I will be off to the Peak District with my fiancé. Yesterday I got a text from the in-laws…there is no WiFi or 3G!

Now, I know what your thinking. Stop moaning about it and get on with it. Its not a big deal. This is, of course, true, However, I am expecting some fairly important emails this week so I do worry.

It got me thinking, do I rely on the internet that much? I do, it turns out.

Lets see how I get on. If I am honest, I am almost looking forward to being offline for 5 days. Over the week I will go looking for WiFi so I can check my email and Facebook and send some tweets, but not as a matter of urgency.

All in all though, I am going to relax and enjoy disconnecting from the internet for a while. Although, I plan to write 5 schemes of work over the week so perhaps it won’t be that relaxing.