Over the weekend I have been dipping into various online feeds and giving some thought to where we are going within education, e-learning and the digital environment generally. If you want to check out the posts I have been writing you can find them here:
I have also been reflecting on various sources of information coming into my twitter feed. Some thoughts started to come together about the teenagers we teach, their digital consumption and use and their social interaction. The first thing that struck me was a tweet from @ruskin147 on the use of texts by teens:
The article is here and the headline speaks for itself. Teachers of teens will know how important a part of their life texting is but a figure of 3,339 for 13-17 year olds with girls on average texting over 4,000 times is staggering. What surprises me more is the rising trend when this age group who are self confessed as living on Facebook. It appears that this move over the last 3 years has not dulled their appetite for text messaging with an 8% increase year on year.
At the same time I was struck by the video below, however contrived the setup may have been, which continues to show the importance of music within teen culture. This when combined with the growth of smart phones and the rise of apps and data usage (up from 14mb to 62mb per month amongst 13-17 year olds) shows how much of a digital society they are increasingly living in.
At the same time as all this interaction, immersion and interconnectedness one study which was highlighted in the Boston Globe shows a significant decline in empathetic skills amongst teenagers. Whilst these digital natives may be growing a vast social network and are increasingly willing to volunteer it is possible that their ability to care for others is declining. Could it be that our online worlds are leading to a decline in real and genuine relationship skills amongst our teenage generation? As an anecdote, when I first started teaching almost every teenager was on MSN messenger in the UK. I remember the first time I asked a teenager why she liked spending so much time chatting online instead of in person she said ‘it allows me to be more blunt and honest with my friends and tell them what I really feel’. I am sure this is the case for many teenagers and the preference for texting where emotion is so hard to convey over voice calls can surely only lead to less empathetic teenagers?
You may have worked out through my 150 blog posts in a year that I am a big SharePoint fan! I am particularly excited about what is to come with SharePoint 2010 and the fantastic improvements which have been made with UI and end user experience in general. I think the product will both sell well and be a great hit for Microsoft and the community. In recent gatherings with SharePoint folk I have however been at odds over one area of SharePoint in 2010 and that is social. To explain why first take a look at the video below called ‘The Lost Generation- for me it epitomises Generation Y’s use of social media as a tool. If you have already seen it as I am sure many have it wont do any harm to take another look
I saw this video used at school this week and the impact on our students was astonishing. This is the way they communicate with each other and share their feelings. I agree I am a little off topic with this post but back to the point. Many people think the improvements in social coming in SharePoint 2010 are significant and this is a fair statement. At the same time most SharePoint folk who see this as a big step forward tend to be working in the business environment. In education SharePoint 2007 is light years behind the social media tools students use in their everyday life. So what about SharePoint 2010? Alas my first thoughts when seeing the improvements were ‘too little, too late’. The moment I saw the video above my first thought was a) to share it quickly and b) grab the embed code from YouTube. This is the society we live in with powerful social media tools. In this WordPress blog I can write this blog post in minutes and add rich media with ease.
The same is unfortunately not true of SharePoint 2010 where embedding code seems not to be a standard operation. I use embed code as an illustration of one of the improvements amongst many I feel we still need for social in SharePoint 2010. Whilst the improvements in social are there and may well satisfy our business community my greatest fear is that social in SharePoint 2010 will be lost on this generation I teach.
Earlier today I posted a blog on The Social Media Revolution and wrote some thoughts on why we need to adapt to the changes that currently are and increasingly will affect the way we communicate and interact. The Social Media Revolution is a crucial change in society which has a major impact on our role as teachers supporting students in a learning environment. Most of the people reading this blog are likely to be focused predominantly on the Online Learning aspect of schools and the impact of Social Media is most profoundly felt in this area. So the other question which I wanted to raise today was how are teenagers responding to The Social Media Revolution?
I thought it might be useful to put together a few resources of different depth which I have been reading and viewing. These cover the impact of Social Media on teenagers from three countries: UK, Australia and the US. For a light bite take a look at this short YouTube video from Melbourne Australia where off the cuff interviews took place on the street asking teens how the use social media. Turn the volume down to avoid the evil music intro.
At the end of the summer one news item caused a media storm in the UK which the Guardian called Twitter is not for teens. This article covered a 15 year old called Matthew Robson who was asked to write a research article on how teenagers consume media. The full text of his research can be found here and although it is not shocking and a total surprise at the same time there is some really good information here.
Finally, from the US I have recently been watching an excellent lecture by Danah Boyd discussing her research on patterns of use in social media by teenagers. Although this is 40 minutes long it is well worth taking some time out when school has settled down to watch this. If you are time poor then pick up the education theme from 29 minutes.
The summer is now officially over as schools have had their influx of students and next week is the first full week back throughout England. One of the biggest changes we are experiencing at Twynham school is managing a large increase in our Sixth Form over the last 3 years and we are close to approaching 400 17 and 18 year olds enrolled last week. One of the big challenges I think schools face with all students aged 11-18 but especially those of Sixth Form age is making online learning relevant. One of the things I have been talking a lot about with colleagues within school and across the country is constant evolution. The things we used for Online Learning two years ago are unlikely to still be relevant today.
At the heart of all this thinking about the need for evolution in Online Learning is the idea of The Social Media Revolution. Over the last two years the Internet has undergone a massive transformation which has changed the way teenagers live their lives. At the moment there is a great video doing the rounds, created in the ‘Shift Happens’ style called The Social Media Revolution. It is very unoriginal of me to stick it on my blog and jump on the bandwagon but if you havent seen it then it is well worth a look.
The Social Media Revolution is already having a profound impact on how we engage with students and how they learn. Those entering the many 6th Form institutions around the country this week joined secondary schools in the same year YouTube and Facebook went live. Having started teaching ten years ago the students I had to teach how to use Microsoft Word then bear no resemblance to the near Digital Natives who spend their life sharing music and videos with each other whilst playing video games with people all over the world. Thinking a further 5 years from now my 6 year old nephew who I have blogged about here and here will be joining secondary school for the first time this week. They are pure digital natives who have only ever sat at a computer in a Web 2.0 world. The Social Media Revolution is coming and in fact is already here. How will you respond?
Filed under: Learning Gateways, Online Learning, SharePoint, Twynham School
Back in March 2007 we started developing SharePoint beyond our use with staff at Twynham School in order to support students in their preparation for GCSEs. Students had a ‘Student Gateway’ page before this which was used for notices and key information but at this time we had not ventured into providing significant content. How did we go about engaging students back in 2007 when web 2.0 was an emerging term (in our world)? With our 2 year anniversary nearly here our work has enjoyed significant success with 50% of students using or online resources on a recent snow day without direction.
When we started to think about making content available our first question was ‘how do students use the internet?’ We did our research then and I have repeated this today which shows the same trends but with new ideas emerging.
- Teenagers spend 31 hours online a week- Top 3 activities are messenger (50% of teens are using MSN messenger in the UK at last count), You Tube (instead of TV) and then homework.
- Teenagers main driving influence online are music and gaming.
- Teenagers are increasingly moving away from email as a form of communication.
This information left us daunted as we considered how we might compete (or at least co-exist) with the influences on a teenager’s social life. Our next decision was perhaps the most important in engaging teenagers- we decided not to compete or be compared with a teenagers web 2.0 world until we had the right resources available. The key to this decision was student voice and in particular interviews we ran with students. They told us that they didnt want or need us to replicate their web 2.0 world and school should be functional and not attempt to be cool. Most importantly we found a need that the internet did not fulfill- a clean and simple one stop shop to help students revise efficiently and effectively for all their GCSE exams. BBC bitesize and other sites are simply too generic, trying to cover all topics and exam boards.
What was really revealing is they way students approached the internet. One student gave this example saying, ‘Google is great but I spent 3 hours searching for a good Maths GCSE revision site and couldnt find one. There was just to many options’. What became clear is teenagers are not as good at searching the net as we think and evidence suggests they are less succesful than adults. Talking to students at length showed us that they wanted high quality resources, produced by their teachers (who they trusted) in an simple and easy to use interface. The result of all this preparation and talking to students was our Revision Gateway. Were we succesful? Within one month of building a site we had 70,000 visits from the 240 students in year 11. Below is an image of our Revision Gateway homepage and tomorrow I will explain how we built this relevant online learning resource for our teenagers which has gained such high user adoption.