Twitter

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.

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.

Social Networks in Schools: How to Make it Work

Introduction

As the use of social media in education increases so does the argument for and against.  The purpose of this article is to try and take a balanced view of both sides of the coin and also to look at some of the reasons why schools won’t engage using social media.  In order to achieve this Matt Britland (@mattbritland) and Alan Mackenzie (@esafetyadviser) have collaborated, with Matt looking at the curriculum aspects and Alan looking at any e-safety aspects.

The first step to understanding some of the issues was to create and Tweet out a link to a survey of 10 simple questions, the results of which were all saved to a Google Docs spreadsheet (put in public link).  Then, a further Google Doc was created to collaboratively write the article.

Clearly this has some restrictions; for example using Social Media (in this case Twitter) to ask for respondents to the survey would suggest that the survey results would be one-sided and in favour of social networking, however that didn’t turn out to be the case.  Additionally this is by no means an in-depth survey,  27 persons responded however their responses were quite diverse and gave enough scope to be able to understand some of the issues. (Results can be read here)

What is also important to remember is that schools and individual teachers are masters of their own destiny (with limits); in the same way that some schools are really pathfinding the innovative use of new technologies, some schools/teachers just don’t “get” social networking, some don’t want to get it, and no amount of coaxing or good news stories will ever convince them otherwise.

For the sake of clarity and to save this becoming too long we have had keep this fairly concise; some of the questions and answers could be individual blogs as they generate discussion from multiple standpoints.

Definition of Social Media and Social Networking

Definition is from Dictionary.com

1. A network of friends, colleagues, and other personal contacts: Strong social networks can encourage healthy behaviors.

2. Computers .

a. An online community of people with a common interest who use a Web site or other technologies to communicate with each other and share information,resources, etc.: a business-oriented social network.

b. A Web site or online service that facilitates this communication.

How Many Social Networking Services Are There?

That is very difficult to determine; of course we all know the popular ones: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr and Edmodo to mention a few.  Wikipedia lists 199 social networks (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_social_networking_websites) but I suspect there are many more than that and it all depends on what your own interpretation of “social” is.

A couple of interesting facts  http://www.socialnetworkingwatch.com/all_social_networking_statistics/ :

  • Social networking sites have increased 6% year on year.
  • Pinterest is the fastest growing social network with a growth of 4377% between May 2011 and May 2012; Twitter grew 58% and Facebook just 4%.

What uses are there for social media in education?

There are many uses, for example:

  • 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, saves 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.
  • 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 and keeps them up to date on the latest happenings at the school.
  • 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.
  • Pinterest is becoming popular as a virtual pinboard. It is great for sharing web resources that students will find interesting or relevant.

We should not shy away from using social media in education; it is clear from our 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, one of the many reasons for not using a personal profile for Twitter, Facebook or whichever social network you choose. Having this second 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. This is not a massive problem for me as communicating through social networks is actually better for use outside of school. Whether this is at home or at lunch or break. 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.

What about e-safety?

Social networking raises many obvious and some not so obvious e-safety concerns in schools.  e-Safety from the context of school governance is much like health and safety; the responsibility of the school and its’ staff, governors and parents is to mitigate risk by reasonable endeavour.  In much the same way that technology should not drive the curriculum, e-safety should not be your showstopper (in most cases) regarding innovation.

Regardless of what we do there is a risk involved; driving to and from work, lifting something off the floor, and as I found out recently to the detriment of my back, keeping fit!
Driving a car – we get in a car, drive it and we are steadily given more freedom on faster roads by the instructor.
Lifting something – we are shown to bend our knees.
Keeping fit – warm up correctly and maintain correct form.

In all of the above examples we are taught to be safe by “doing”, not by sitting in front of a Powerpoint.  (Actually that’s not strictly true, there is sometimes a little bit of theory first, but you get the gist).  In the same way I don’t promote sitting in a classroom and “teaching” e-safety because it is difficult to teach something which is constantly evolving; certainly you can discuss the risks (predators, bullying, personal information, trolls to name a few) but a fundamental outcome of e-safety is to empower the user from a young age to enjoy  technology through safe use.  Again going back to the driving analogy, practicing your driving skills and risk assessing hazards becomes second nature; this is a life skill, not a lesson.

The three fundamentals that I work to:  policy, liability, safe use.

Safe use – We need to dispel some of the ridiculous myths and scaremongering which seem to prevail with many internet “experts”.  On an almost daily basis I am reminded that all our children are in extreme danger, that predators are hanging around every corner of the web, their bank accounts are going to be continually emptied and the Nigerian government person who kindly emailed me to say that she needed to shift some funds because they had too much is really a scam (http://www.snopes.com/fraud/advancefee/nigeria.asp).  Incidentally, I still haven’t had my cheque!  Of course I am not belittling the facts, I am acutely aware that every time I get into my car and drive there is a significant risk to myself and others.  I am also fully aware of internet risks, and that’s the point:  I am aware of them and I risk assess against them.

Liability – schools need to understand liability; in other words what could happen if I don’t do something, or if I don’t do something correctly.  A good example of this is internet filtering.  When a filter is simply used to block websites (and I have seen some horrifically restrictive policies) you are wrapping the child in cotton wool.  It is detrimental to the education of the child and is detrimental to the teacher in so many ways.  On the other side of the coin there are many that call for schools to have no internet filter.  From a liability perspective this is impossible for a school (although I have seen it done).  Illegal downloads, illegal images etc. would put the school at huge risk.  Don’t use filtering as a tool to block – use it as a tool to manage.

Policy – Only when you understand safe use and you are aware of the liability to the school can you wrap this up in policy.  Policy is simply your school rules, written in easy to understand language (age appropriate) and understood by the whole school.

Social networking has all the same risks as the traditional online safety risks.  Many of the e-safety reasons cited for not using social networking in school are understandable because the risks are simply not fully understood.  This is because of a lack of awareness, which in some cases will be down to scaremongering.  This then culminates in the inability to risk assess because some schools don’t know what to risk assess against, and how to mitigate those risks.  I have written a brief document for schools titled “Twitter for Schools: Policy, Liability, Safe Use”.  It would be better to download this instead of reiterating everything here but the bottom line is this:

If you do want to use social networking in school.

  1. Start off small and don’t take bigger steps until you are comfortable.  For example use a broadcast account as a parental engagement tool (Facebook and Twitter are both good for this).
  2. Engage the parents first, nurture them along with you and I think you will be surprised the positive effects this can have.  Tell them what you are doing and why, e.g. better engagement, up to date and quick communication, cost saving (printing and letters), urgent messages (school shut due to snow) etc.
  3. Discuss what you wish to achieve with all school staff and why.  Discuss the tools you will use and who will use them.
  4. Set boundaries of use in regards to appropriate/inappropriate.
  5. Risk assess – note all the risks that everybody raises (regardless of how silly or unlikely some may sound).
  6. Expand the risks and mitigate them all (if possible).
  7. If you can’t mitigate, is it a red or amber risk?  If red there is a problem, if amber can you mitigate using reasonable endeavour?
  8. Wrap all this up into a social networking policy and cross reference to other appropriate policies (i.e. AUP, Behaviour, Bullying etc.)
  9. IMPORTANT: Before you start, engage all staff with an e-safety awareness session.  If you can do the same with parents, great!  If parents sessions at your school are poorly attended try to get the news out using alternative means.  You could always send out a parents online safety newsletter.

It sounds a lot, but it isn’t once you’re in the flow and others are onboard.

e-Safety: Dispel the Myths, Promote the Positive Use of Technology.

If you are not following Matt (@mattbritland) or myself (@esafetyadviser) on Twitter please do, say hello and ask questions about any of the above.  We’re pretty friendly!

Social Networks in Education (Survey)

The use of Social Media in educational settings is beginning to show terrific benefits. Many schools have already grasped some of these benefits, but many more are struggling to come to terms with the ideology of social media and how it best fits; a number of reasons can be cited e.g. Lack of strategic incentive, a lack of (or the myth of) technical know-how and concerns of e-safety to name a few.

Matt Britland (@mattbritland) and Alan Mackenzie (@esafetyadviser) have joined forces and are going to write a collaborative piece to tackle some of these issues. The outcome of this article will is:

To give examples of the type of Social Media services available.
To indicate the benefits of Social Media and give examples of good practice.
To mitigate some of the e-safety concerns of using Social Media in an educational environment.

If you wish to add further comments that aren’t identified in the survey, please email Matt and Alan as follows:
mr.britland@gmail.com
alan@esafety-adviser.com

The answers you give in the survey questions are a building block to this piece of writing; Matt and Alan would like to thank you in advance for your contribution.