Using SharePoint to engage teens without web 2.0

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.

  1. 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.
  2. Teenagers main driving influence online are music and gaming.
  3. 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.


10 Responses to “Using SharePoint to engage teens without web 2.0”
  1. apearce says:

    Great blog Mike – keep up the hard work.

    I’ve been thinking about student search. They dont always use google to search – they know how to get to sites because they know what to search for on google. They travel to a website instead of remembering the web address.

    I wonder how many students search for the school name in google, go to the school website and then click on Student Gateway or Learnign Gateway. This is their travel to the learning gateway instead of remembering the address.

    It would be interesting to know how many pupils have bookmarked their learning gateway/vle to their favourites and where they have book marked it to – Favourites root or links so it appears at the top of their web browser? Maybe even their home page?

    Should we be looking at applications to drive the information to their desktop at home as well. They may visit the VLE/Learning Gateway get information/revision notes but could we be delivering it through RSS, podcasts etc to their desktop, mobile or music players?

    You always get more questions and thoughts

    Speak to you soon


  2. Mike Herrity says:

    Alex thanks for your thoughts on this topic. I think you are right when you say that we should be looking to engage students in being more sophisticated in their use of technology. I cover this a little further in my latest blog post on the use of forums. In that instance we needed to train students how to use the environment before they engaged appropriately. I also think that there are different technology natives out there. The students I taught 10 years ago did not grow up with the net in the same way as those 5 years ago and those I am teaching now. Our students are becoming more tech aware and confident. I had a class of year 9s last year and wanted them all to make a Movie Maker project. half the class had done this before and the other half had not but you would never have guessed this. Within minutes all students were working with the software teaching themselves and each other as they went. They have a lot of potential!



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