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Twitter for teaching: don’t believe what you read

March 30th, 2009 by neil

There’s been a fair bit published/blogged/tweeted about Sir Jim Rose’s Blueprint for a new primary curriculum. This report is due out in April 2009 but as been ‘leaked’ and reported widely.

The recent press storm and associated knicker wetting is summed up by some great headlines:

Pupils to study Twitter and blogs in primary schools shake-up by the Guardian

Exit Winston Churchill, enter Twitter … Yes, it’s the new primary school curriculumby the Daily Mail

Pupils ’should study Twitter’ from the BBC

The use of Twitter as a teaching aid has been proposed by a few stalwarts:

Can we use Twitter for educational activities?

Teaching with Twitter

Twitter - A Teaching and Learning Tool

But lets not get too excited here. Teaching by Twitter? Why?

It’s only a piece of technology not a panacea. It’s great if you have an iPhone, though it could be that all this interest in using Twitter for teaching is caused by erstwhile academics wanting to justify their use/purchase/service contract paid by their employer.  Is it because it’s flavour of the month?

Every year eLearning conferences are bloated with the next way forward. Blogging/Wikis/Podcasts/Second Life/Facebook ……. and now Twitter. Yes it’s fine to experiment but please don’t hail it as the second coming. Technology is there to enhance learning not replace it.

Anyway, back the the revelation that primary school children will have to ‘learn how to use Twitter’. Start off by looking at Sir Jim Rose’s - The Independent Review of the Primary Curriculum: Interim Report. The areas of interest include: 

- ICT and personal development are also of crucial importance in the primary years. Along with literacy and numeracy they are the ‘skills for learning and life’ which should be developed across the curriculum.

- Opportunities to develop essential skills (especially literacy, numeracy and ICT) and attitudes where a real and relevant overlap exists with an area of learning. For example, there are ample opportunities to develop ICT data handling skills in the development of scientific and technological understanding.

- ICT has the unique capacity and potential for developing and enlivening all domains of learning, including literacy and numeracy

The revised curriculum should enable all young people to become successful learners who: 

- have the essential learning skills of literacy, numbering and information and communication technology

- are creative, resourceful and able to identify and solve problems

 - have enquiring minds and think for themselves to process information, reason, question and evaluate

- communicate well in a range of ways

- understand how they learn and learn from their mistakes

- are able to learn independently and with others

- know about big ideas and events that shape our world

- enjoy learning and are motivated

- to achieve the best they can now and in the future 

So, nothing about having to learn Twitter at the expense of Winston Churchill in the Interim Report then. Just some sensible ideas about learning and skills and the recognition that ICT and Communication skills are important.

The Daily Mail produced this table from the ‘leaked’ report

Table from leaked report

This table shows what is being removed from  and what is being put in the curriculum. Notice that the teaching of Twitter in place of learning about World War 2 is not to be found. Yes there are some changes to the history curriculum, but only giving schools a choice of what they teach.

The interesting part is the ‘New’ English Curriculum where students are required to Become ‘critical readers’ of texts including Twitter, Wikipedia, blogging, podcasts and instant messaging.

This recognises that these tools may be of use in education, perhaps to use these to process information, reason, question and evaluate not to sit and chatter or to master websites such as Wikipedia, as well as blogging and podcasting.  Surely it’s about giving students the skills to make judgements on information, to realise what they can trust and to make best use of resources.

Who knows, we may have a generation of users who will be able realise that the ’reporting’ around Twitter and learning is just hype and we won’t have newspaper story blogs full of ill-informed, reactionary responses.

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  • 1 Frances Bell Mar 30, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    Obviously we aren’t looking at the whole new curriculum here but I think that students will have to beyond becoming critical readers of text to being good interpreters of context and critical choosers of channels to fit context and communication content.