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Social media: a force for good or evil?

Depending on your point of view, social media is either going to save the world, or it’s going to drive us back into the dark ages. So should our schools and teachers be embracing social media, or should they be working to prevent its use by pupils?

When it comes to children using social media, it is natural for teachers and parents (and the rest of us) to have concerns about how it is being used and what effect this has on them. But are we focusing too much on the negative?

It’s true that there are examples of people using social media for illegal and immoral purposes; the Telegraph tells us about a female teacher who seduced a 16 year old student on Facebook. Other negative stories aren’t so clear cut though.

For example, a Daily Mail article tells us that children’s literacy is being damaged by social media.

The article cites a research study that blames social media for poor spelling and grammar. It states, “pupils are too distracted by sites such as Facebook and Twitter to bother to read a book. As a result, thousands are poor spellers and have little understanding of grammar.” The research, conducted by Booked, a magazine for schools that encourages children to read and write, found that half of Britain’s headmasters are concerned about their pupils’ approach to reading.

It surveyed 214 secondary school heads and reports: 70% believe Facebook and Twitter are ‘bad for literacy’.

Booked’s chairman, Tsol Keoshgerian, comments, “From a social perspective, it appears to confirm the massive rise in social media use among the young is having a major impact on writing skills with little or no attempt by parents to stop it.” The article links the use of social media with the poor literacy standards demonstrated by school leavers in their job applications.

The report, and the article, seem to be saying that if these youngsters weren’t spending their time on social media, they’d instead be reading wholesome books, encouraged by their parents, and learning to spell ...

Believe it or not, there are people out there who embrace the use of social media by pupils.

An article on Schools Improvement Net called How I’m using twitter to remind students about their homework – and it seems to be working! by teacher Mhairi Healy has a far more positive take on social media: “I set up a Twitter account for my S5/6 Higher pupils this year and I feel that it has had a positive impact on the students. I have enthusiastic and hard working pupils who are keen to do well in their Higher exams and I am using Twitter to continue to raise attainment in my classes.”

She reports that as a result of using Twitter, she has a better relationship with pupils, and that she has seen an improvement in homework deadlines being met as well as an improvement in the quality of homework.

“I feel that using Twitter as another way of communicating with pupils has had a positive impact on my classes. I enjoy it and I think that they do too. There is a lot of negative press about social media (I am very aware of this) but this perhaps shows that it can be used in a positive way.”

This is just one example of how social media is making a positive difference to one class of pupils in Britain.

Looking further afield, according to a BBC article by David Whitty, a young social entrepreneur from Kenya, Joel Mwale, is ‘connecting education and social media together in a meaningful way’ – and this time on a global scale.

Mr Mwale has created a website, called Gigavia, that includes a personal library section for sharing books at a class level, has a section for mentoring, and also allows for traditional social networking with “the usual personal social media chats and sharing with friends”.

According to David Whitty, the website “is a simple website which looks similar to Facebook in its layout, but with the added sections for mentoring, school assignments, teachers and schools”.

With more than one million people around the world having signed up as users, Mr Mwale hopes that by combining education and social media he can transform the way young people use social media.


Female teacher struck off for seducing student, 16, on Facebook

Facebook and Twitter 'harm pupils literacy': Headmasters claims children are so distracted by the sites they don't bother to read books

Guest post: How I’m using twitter to remind students about their homework – and it seems to be working!

Joel Mwale - bringing 'Facebook' education to Kenya
BBC Newsday, Nairobi



Sarah Pooley, Account Director



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