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Answering your questions

Posted on Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

In each edition of The Channel we will answer readers’ questions on anything related to learning, education, young people or families. This month we hear from vInspired and Anglian Water who want to know about social media in schools and employability skills for young people.

Are schools using social media channels?

Communicating with the outside world has always been a challenge for schools nationally, with letters that never get home and newsletters that struggle to capture the essence of the many things schools do well. So how is social media being embraced, and to what extent is video adding another dimension to the content now accessible from anywhere, at any time?

It is fair to say that schools are often slow and reluctant to exploit social media for teaching and learning purposes, save for sporadic classroom innovators. However, this is changing with increasing numbers of schools communicating through Facebook pages and Pinterest boards, and removing mobile phone bans in favour of promoting Bring Your Own Device initiatives. The dawning realisation now is that they can actually help learning, complement assessment, and promote two way communication with home and the community.

Djanogly City Academy in Nottingham connects with both parents and students through social media. They have 1,400 people on their Faceook page and 600 Twitter followers. Facebook particularly is used for gauging parental opinions and for getting feedback following school events.

The 140 character limit of Twitter, and its education-specific cousin Edmodo, encourages discussion and clarity of argument, supporting sharper extended writing pieces often shared on blogging sites such as WordPress and Blogger. Pinterest is being increasingly used to showcase student work and develop skills around design and visual literacy with minimal use of words to convey meaning and enabling students and teachers to comment on work.

In five years’ time, every school will look back and wonder what the fuss was all about. So if you are currently developing or running an education programme, remember that social media use by schools is increasing year-on-year.

If you would like to talk to somebody further about social media and the education landscape, please feel free to contact us.

By Sanjesh Sharma, Digital Education Consultant


What are employability skills and where do they fit into the school environment?

When we talk about employability skills we are referring to both educational and vocational aptitudes. Employability skills include effective communication, persuading and influencing, using initiative, negotiation, managing conflict, and being proactive.

Employability skills undoubtedly need greater prominence within the curriculum. The education community must commit to investing more time and resource to this key area.

The topic of employability skills can currently fall under Careers Education, or be discussed during Business Studies or Economics classes, but is too often lacking in wider context.

The job market changes on a daily basis and our curriculum cannot adapt as quickly. Therefore we should look forward either to a future featuring dedicated Careers Staff within schools, or partnerships with corporate organisations, in order that students learn relevant employability skills reflecting the current employment climate.

Young people will learn best when the theory taught by their teachers is combined with contextual, up to date industry information. A partnership between content and context will benefit all stakeholders and make for a more prepared, and therefore more employable, future workforce.

By Darren Nixon, Education Consultant, Northern Ireland