Reflections on #Social #Media in #Education.

A couple of weeks ago I blogged about Social Media and the stress it can cause to the lives of young people. I have found it interesting for years how social media sites like Facebook and Twitter can have huge impact on the lives of the people we teach but that as teachers we ignore the topic all together. We ignore it mostly because we don’t know what to do with it. When I was writing my dissertation for my Masters on the topic of teaching in the 21st Century, I made the same point; that I too don’t know what place they have or how we can use them. However, the students that come into our classrooms are full of these technologies and networks. 

Following on from my blog, I delivered an assembly to my year group (Year 10) in which I discussed how I felt their lives are different to our lives when it comes to how integrated they are to the internet and mass communication. I made the point in the assembly that when I was their age I would rarely text my friends (because it cost so much and not many of my friends had mobile phones) and sites like Facebook et al did not exist. I left school in 2000 to start University and graduated in 2004; I didn’t join Facebook until 2005. 

The main focus behind this all was the way that all of this interaction and connection can cause stress. I made the point that you can leave school at school, homework in your bag, your parents downstairs, but now, with mobile phones connected to wifi or 3G you cannot block your friends out. When I was at school, and it is the same for pretty much all teachers, if there was a fight or falling out it got left at school and usually by the next day it had died down. This is not the case if the person who you had a falling out with posts a message on your profile which is commented on my 15 people or retweeted to the whole year group. 

The problem is that we as adults, teacher and parents, don’t really realise the stress this causes. We didn’t have it in our day so, at best we can’t empathise, or at worse we downgrade the significance of it seeing it as trivial. Yes, having this connection to all of the information of the world is fantastic at times when you need it but young people these days do not have the luxury of an off button, unless they choose to do it and social pressures of wanting (or needing) to be in the loop often stop this.  The same kind of argument is often extended to the darker side of the ‘net. Parents proclaim they ‘don’t get’ Facebook so let their children spend too much time on it and potentially open themselves up to the dangers we hear about on the news more and more. I have spoken to teachers, who are also parents, who talk about how they get their children to show them have to work these sites. I am digressing from my main argument, but you wouldn’t let your child teach you how to cross the road, so why let them learn themselves how to use these potentially dangerous sites?

The second aim of my assembly was to help manage this. In the first instance through recognising the impact it does have on their personal lives. I challenged them to not use either all, or part, of their social networks for a whole weekend. The assembly ended with them writing down something they would aim to do. I also took up the pledge: to not use Facebook or Twitter for 48 hours. I wanted them to realise the time it took up of their lives and to think more about the future.


For myself, I found it hard. Twitter in particular is a big part of my life. I check it every morning (I also have two accounts) and every evening when I get home from work; I am then on it constantly throughout the evening. I watch TV with it in my hand; I use it to check football scores (making a weekend blackout even harder), keep track of news, interact with blogs and comments….everything really. Cutting it out meant I had so much more time. The weekend I chose was a pretty quiet one, meaning that I had loads of time to potentially tweet. Instead however, I read a book (pretty much from start to finish), I cooked more than usual and I planned my lessons probably more successfully then usual. It was in many ways a revelation. Since the blackout, I have gone back to using it but I think with the awareness I do use it too much sometimes. I have tried to charge my phone away from the bed side so that it isn’t always there as soon as I wake up and I have tried to put it down more in the house, instead of having it in my pocket. 

After the weekend of blackout I emailed (the irony is not lost on me) a survey to the students for their feedback. These are some of the responses:

It gave me more time to do other thing, such as read a book. I did. however, also feel I was bored.  

I read more

I could get on with homework quicker.

It was hard not to do it on auto-pilot but quite nice not to feel like I should be keeping up to date BUT then I got an email saying I had a message on facebook and I have not checked it yet…

It made me realize that I don’t always have to be on Facebook all the time, although it made me use messaging on my phone more!

Less stress about my social life.

This has shown me how that social media comes with a lot of stress so in the future i will be online a lot less throughout the day and at nights.

Some of the response were less positive to what I asked them to do. A few said that it didn’t teach them anything or that they gave up half way through the process. One student said they needed to use it ask their friend about some Science homework. I was buoyed, however, by those that had a go at it and reflected a little bit on the process.

From a pedagogy point of view it was also helpful. We as teachers don’t do enough research (where would we fit that into out schedules?) but getting feedback on the assembly was helpful. There were about 240 students in the assembly, just over 30 replied but I do see the just over 10% response as positive (how many of your class would do homework if it were optional?). Mostly, the whole process got me thinking more about social media. I don’t have the answer to how we can use it, maybe we can’t, but we do need to realise its presence and acknowledge the strains it can put on young people in and out of school.   


War Poetry

This week I started the war poetry unit with Year 8. The aim of the unit is to introduce the topic of War Poetry in a more interactive and less conventional way. In the first instance I wanted the class to understand the context of why the poets wrote their poems and where the ideas came from. Image

In the first lesson I had a range of information stations around the classroom for students to visit and investigate, giving them a range of different sources that hopefully gave them an understanding of different perspectives. Some of their responses were excellent for not looking at any of the ideas before and this fed into the second lesson of looking at the poetry. 

For the second lesson I turned the classroom into the trenches (by turning the tables over and facing one side of the room against the other). Firstly the students had to work on PEE using evidence from the poem. They then had to ‘grenade’ their poem to the other side of the room by throwing it to the other side (which they enjoyed). I lastly introduced a third poem. Some of the responses to the poems were excellent and I feel the interactive elements of the lesson worked well. As a way of starting the next lesson I got student to write on post-it notes and stick to the board what they had learnt from the previous



lesson. Imagey

Today, in the third lesson, they sat under tables and wrote empathy pieces from the point of view of the poets/soldier in the trenches. I played a soundtrack of bullets and bombs for students to get immersed in idea of the trenches. I have just read through some of their responses and they were excellent. I wrote with the students in the lesson (which I always think is a good idea) but I was very impressed by what was produced. 

I hope by the end to have a unit of work that using all of these different ways of approaching this topic. 

My teaching ideas this week.

One of the aims of starting up this blog linked to my teaching was to stop the fact that I sometimes become lazy. I think I always try to plan engaging lessons but I feel I often need to push myself to try new ideas outside of what I know works. By having the blog I can hopefully push myself more so that I have something interesting to write about. 

This week in particular I am looking forward to teaching Y10 and Y8. With Year 10 I am preparing the class for their first controlled assessment for Of Mice and Men. We have read the book and they have all of the learning and ideas they need, now they need to focus it and put it into the right form. I am going to use group planning sessions and brainstorming sessions to push them in the right direction. 

Tomorrow, I am going to have a number of statements related to the assessment (without actually giving them the assessment) around the classroom. They are going to circulate and add any ideas and thoughts to help each other, in passing they will pick up ideas and take them to their plans. Later in the week, again before they have the assessment title, I am going to get them to plan, whilst setting up a Teacher Information Desk (a bit like you might find a Tourist Information Desk). This will be me static at  table with ideas and information cards that they can visit during the lesson. If I have more than 3 people with me, they will need to go elsewhere and they will be set to a 5 minute time limit to seek advice. Hopefully this whole process will encourage independence towards their planning. I am secure in their knowledge and we have worked through generic essay planning in the past, this will be them putting all of the pieces together. 

With Year 8 I am introducing a new topic of poetry, and more specifically World War 1 poetry. It’s a great topic that is full of context and emotion. To start off, I want them to think about the emotions of the poets and understand why serving soldiers saw their own way of expressing their frustrations was through poetry. 

In the first lesson I am going to have a number of sources around the room linked to WW1. On one table I am going to have a diary entry, on another war posters, on another an extract from the novel Private Peaceful (which is about two brothers in WW1). I am also going to have a laptop with footage from Blackadder that can be watched. Finally, I will have a table with extracts from the poems on. They will be aiming to answer what the sources tell them about how poets felt during the war and where these feelings may have come from. They will visit each table and collect ideas.

In the second lesson (this is a designed 3 lesson series of introduction), we are going to visit the trenches. I am going to set the room into two sides with tables upturned and chairs removed. They will have more poetry extracts and will be investigating the emotions of the trenches and war whilst being sat in make shift trenches. When they have used a piece of evidence, they will screw up the quote into a ball. At a designated time, they will throw the ‘word grenade’ to the other side of the classroom, across the no-man’s land. Once they receive the grenade, they will unscrew it and compare it to the quote they were originally dealing with. Once we have repeated this pattern a couple of times we will plenary. The plenary will be by sending a member of the brigade into no-man’s land to discuss with the enemy what they have found out. 

The final lesson will be back in the trenches. This time as individuals they are going to put themselves in the place of the soldiers and write a first person account of life in the trenches trying to explore some of the emotions discussed in the previous two lessons. It will also mean from a writing point of view they can lie down, sit up etc instead of be sat behind desks. While they are writing, I am going to play a soundscape of trench noises (sirens, bombs, bullets, whistles, silence etc) to help inspire the writing. As always with these kind of writing exercises, I will write myself. I am planning to wear a big army surplus coat I have from my days as an unfashionable teenager and hope that the history department have a hat I can borrow. 

All of these lessons will hopefully set us up well for looking at the poetry itself. I really want to teach most of this unit (5 weeks or so) in this manner of different structures and placements. The end assessment is an oral assessment, which lends itself to not needing to have a formal sit down assessment piece. 

I am hoping with this week’s lessons for Year 8 that I can film and document how it goes. Obviously I won’t post any faces of students, but I might post some of the work in action as much as possible. 

I think if I focus on introducing new ideas of doing things a little at a time (thus a focus on two classes this week) it will improve my practice. I’ll update later in the week.