At the Northern Grid Conference, I continued to refine and express my views about the importance of young people learning social media skills. I have been on about this for a while. Here I am at Teachmeet Bett2010
In my presentation, I described how skills in online communication have equal value to skills in say, letter-writing, instructional texts, reports, explanations etc. Pupils learn about all these genres of writing because there is a recognition that doing so will equip them for a successful future. Do we do the same with social media communication skills? Do we ensure young people learn the subtleties and distinctions between a wiki and a blog? A forum and email? Some teachers do and this is because they recognise that these are essential literacy skills in today’s world. If we deny children this learning, we are not only letting them into the world less well-equipped to succeed but worse, they may end up behaving in a way that adversely impacts upon their own reputation or even result in criminal proceedings.
I talked a little bit about avatars and how just this aspect of online life itself is a potential minefield and one that should be explored with young people. What does your avatar say about you? Look at the examples on the slides in my presentation. They are genuine avatars from a primary school VLE.
Schools are able to use a whole range of tools and resources to help young people learn these skills from low cost web-based tools (such as blogs and wikis) through to commercial VLEs. Twitter is just one example and I shared some excellent practice from KS1 classes – one of which had recently been praised in an OFSTED inspection.
I finished by saying that everyone will make mistakes. We all do. That is where some of the richest learning can be had. When children are given tools with which to communicate, they are going to make some mistakes and get things wrong. This is good and should be celebrated and grasped as a learning opportunity. If they get something wrong in school, and graze their virtual knees, then at least we can apply some virtual sticking plaster and help them move on. By doing this, we might just save them from making a more serious mistake in the future – like publicly posting an inappropriate image of themselves on the internet, saying something offensive or worse.