April 30, 2011

New South Wales, Australia, opens Facebook to teachers

And Twitter. And Flickr...

I'm often asked how one goes about changing culture to the point where draconian rules on filtering social networking sites might be lifted for use in the classroom or even in the office space. The ever-innovative New South Wales have just legislated to allow teachers to access social networking sites, through a mix of consultation and bottom-up involvement, and top-down legislation to make those discussions effective.

Involving community and professional groups as well as experts in learning and technology is a vital part of making guidelines that stand the test of time. This is the same approach we adopted with vigour six years ago in East Lothian when we kicked off the wiki-based consultation on our own social media guidelines.

The benefits are clear:

"A Department of Education spokeswoman said the change would help improve communication between schools and their communities.

"It would also give staff a ''greater understanding of technology being used by students''.

"A spokesman for the Minister for Education, Adrian Piccoli, said the change would also help teachers combat cyber bullying.

"With careful use, social media should be embraced as ''part of the 21st century and something students and teachers need to be aware of'''.

"The immediate past president of the NSW Secondary Principals' Council, Jim McAlpine, who was involved in discussions with government about the digital education revolution and social networking, welcomed the development.

''I am strongly supportive of teachers having access to social networking so they can use worthwhile educational sites such as Facebook and particularly YouTube,'' he said. ''Teachers will be able to teach their students about digital citizenship so that students will be responsible users themselves of social networking sites at home.''

Read more. Pic from David Lea


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I am not sure who will read this comment or whether it is the right place to post my question, but I have been looking for research that the use of ICT improves student achievement.
I teach in a NZ primary school and we are currently working to ensure that we have sound pedagogy in place to support our teachers as they deploy ICTs in the classroom. Any ideas where to look for help or guidance? Thanks Penny

I think the question might be the wrong one to ask - "Does medicine make you better?" can be answered with a yes. But if the medicine is cough syrup and you have a brain tumour, the results would be disastrous.

It's *how* we apply technology in the classroom that makes the difference, and there are piles of research showing how technology has opened up pedagogical opportunity that, pre-technology use, was cumbersome, overly time-consuming or less effective.

On a simple level, for example, an explanation of geographical features of a mountain through a traditional textbook achieves so much. Google Earth explorations, with students independently seeking out corries, arretes and peaks themselves, is more vivid, more memorable and encourages curiosity in a child. But add to that a fieldtrip to the Remarkables and you have a dynamite experience.

Another example might be from formative assessment - keeping learning logs on paper is cumbersome, and often they get lost, are not compelling for the youngster to keep up to date and therefore don't serve to remind learners what they learnt before and what they think they need to learn to achieve their goal tomorrow. Sending short blog post learning logs, by text message, mobile blog post or simply through a webpage on the classroom computer in the corner, means that the student has a medium they find more compelling (and therefore use more frequently). It also allows linkage out to relevant resources, creating a student-owned and -created revision tool, and the sense of audience - that other people might read this log - means that more care is taken to show what has been learnt in a coherent manner.

It might be worth, instead, looking at a particular pedagogical area in your school - formative assessment, enquiry-based learning, student-led or group-based learning, projects - and in addition to all the regular issues of planning, resource allocation and length of the period of leanring, you consider technology as part of the mix. In this process you will experience first hand how technology is adding to the mix, improving learning, as part of a bigger package.

I hope that makes some sense, and is of some use.

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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

What does Ewan do?

Module Masterclass

School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

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