Do you get the most from your students’ love of social media? US Journalist Kayla Matthews discusses the best ways in which Twitter et al can be used to raise school pride and activity.

You’ve probably used social media to send class updates, event invitations and other school-related news. You may have also had to compete with Twitter and Instagram for your students’ attention. But did you know social media can also be the perfect platform for boosting school engagement and awareness?

Given how often most students access social media sites, it’s now becoming more common for schools to utilise them for education purposes. The Lady Eleanor Holles’ director of ICT Matt Britland waxes lyrical on how social media can help innovate your school.

The summer is not too far away, and many school will be thinking about next year. Perhaps 2014-15 is the time for your school to begin to use social media, if you’re not using it already. Maybe you're already using social media but would like to experiment with different services? Using social media in education can show young people how it can be used responsibly and productively. I have compiled a list of social networks to try and how they can be used.

Mobile learning devices are great for classroom use, but to get the most out of them, lots of educators believe in taking tablets outside. With British weather now entertaining the idea of being pleasant, teacher and outdoor learning-expert Juliet Robertson gives her thoughts on how best to get the most out of this field.

The idea of using digital technology outdoors continues to produce an interesting array of feelings from educators. The spectrum seems to range between love and loathing, freedom and fear, or curiosity and curtailment. For me, the lure of a tablet being part of an outdoor activity is the untapped possibilities that we have yet to discover. The value of experimenting and exploring the world around us through a digital eye is worth the time invested. It’s not because I want to see a child glued to a screen outside. It's because I know for some children a mobile device provides alternative ways of exploring the environment which may spark a life-long interest.

Results from a report published at the beginning of March shows that in Year 7, when students are making the transition to secondary school, children are choosing books six months below their chronological age and from then on reading difficulty plateaus or declines. However, in primary schools both the difficulty levels of books chosen and the accuracy with which they are read is on the rise.

This time last year, I had a class full of high achievers that gobbled up literature for fun; however, the reality is, most classes are not like that. The pupils I teach do not choose my subject, it is mandatory and pupils often question its purpose. My current Year 11 class are your typical challenging, huffy, childish and loud learners who generally take their free education for granted, having known nothing else. I could spend the year complaining about them and use their typicality as a mid-set group as an excuse for average results.

Great poetry can be the kind of art that stays with you forever, be it Mid-Term Break by Seamus Heaney or Daffodils by William Wordsworth. However, given the old-school nature of poetry means that a lot of students will need a great introduction from a teacher. James Harlan discusses some cool ideas for getting students into the artform. Rereading and performing poetry are two of the most common techniques used in poetry-introductions. Others would require students to conduct their reading on topics, like meter and rhyme. These methods are effective.

Every year I make the attempt to alter my voice to become characters in stories that I read to the class. Every year I try to set the tone for our reading with pictures, lights, and sounds. Every year I some how fall short. I either forget the dialect I originally used, I play the wrong kind of music in the background, or I’m honestly just having an off day.

Given how important and useful digital devices have become in education, industry expert Chris Wiseman gives specific reasons why BYOD is so paramount.

As published in the September 2013 edition of our magazine.

Schools have and always will be faced with tough decisions when it comes to new technology: Which platform to purchase? What codes and practices to adopt?

Perhaps the most difficult choices come during the early phases of emerging trends, such as Bring Your own Device (BYOD), a mobile learning framework whereby students are allowed to use their own tablets or smartphones for educational purposes on the school network. It is not unusual for digital natives today to own multiple devices for different situations and activities. Smartphones, tablets, notebooks, laptops, and e-readers are all valuable learning tools for schools to tap into. Whilst most schools would like to be able to provide a device for every student, in reality it may be unfeasible, particularly in financially unstable times.

How best to capture a student’s interest? Mo Yafai, Shireland Collegiate Academy’s Curriculum Theme Manager, considers themes to be a great way of encouraging curiosity and enjoyment in the classroom.

Themes are contextually diverse vehicles for learning. They provide meaningful contexts in which students have the opportunity to achieve proficiency in a range of competencies. Each theme gives students the opportunities to acquire the skills needed to be successful at Key Stage 4 and promotes social responsibility as well as personal reflection and growth.

To ask what makes an excellent theme, is to ask what are the conditions for excellent learning. The core learning and teaching principles that underpin an excellent theme are as follows:

On 30th January, Theresa Eicholz publishes another thoughtful article from San Antonio, Texas; this time on how to think outside the box, leaving the instructions behind....

“The real value of the Lego set doesn’t come until the kid takes it apart and realizes they’ve lost the instructions.” - Randy Rogers

In his TCEA 2014 presentation, “Failure to Innovate,” Randy Rodgers stated the above quote, and I realized that it really says a lot about the problems in education today. Our students are far too reliant on following directions, and so many are afraid to deviate in order to do some creative thinking. I remember my daughter being the same with an old Lite-Brite we had inherited from a friend. She loved it as long as there were papers she could stick on it to make the designs. But as soon as we ran out of the papers, she didn’t know what to do. When I suggested she make up her own designs, she looked at me like I was crazy. As parents and teachers, we need to find ways to encourage creation, rather than only rewarding products that basically just prove our students know how to follow directions.

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