Reflecting on learning via social media

As Headteacher of a primary school I have been blogging for just over two years. The main aim was to engage parents and the wider community in showing them the learning that was taking place and how this was moving the school forward. A number of other positive aims were also achieved including: showing parents that I was a different style of leader to my predecessor, building further lines of communication and also creating an online evidence base for OFSTED to trawl. With this in mind I created ht1parkhill.wordpress.com and so far in just over two years there have been over 40,000 hits.

The aim was always to roll out blogging to each phase in the school and to allow the children and staff to personalise the experience further. The only problem was that I kept on putting off implementing this with staff (this usually happens when I’m unsure of the potential impact) because I know that, whilst WordPress can be easy for some to pick up, it can also be quite challenging for others. I started to wonder if there was an easier and more effective solution. The vision was about sharing learning and the journey the children were on – I began to question if WordPress was the right format because blogs of this nature take a while to write (especially for staff who already have marking and planning to do) and in the worst case scenario a child may show the teacher a great piece of work but, due to other pressures, this may not get added to the blog until the following week and in this case the impact of the learning is lost. The conclusion that we came to was that a traditional blog is great for the HT or a senior leader to relay information but there are better formats out there for showcasing work with the best being Twitter.

twitter v social media

The advantages of Twitter are: it’s not time consuming for staff (max of 140 characters), it’s easy to use and access, it works well on a mobile device and most importantly it is instantaneous. With a Tweet taking no more than 30 seconds to write it is the ideal format for showcasing learning – we live in an age of social media where people expect instant recognition. Twitter is great at providing instant feedback and, when a child has produced an outstanding piece of work, there is instant verification and recognition that they have achieved great learning. This is where Twitter has the edge over Facebook and WordPress. Below is an example of a Tweet referencing learning and top tips for showcasing children’s work on Twitter.

PH tweet

Top Tips

  • Make sure that you have upskilled parents (we do this with workshops during parents evening).
  • Create a Twitter account for each phase in school.
  • Always photograph the learning and add a sentence to place the learning into context.
  • Use only first names of the children so as to not give too much personal information away.
  • Use a hashtag. We use #ParkHillPrimary because that way if a parent wants to see learning from Nursery through to Y6 for the day they simply have to search the hashtag.
  • Ensure that you have enough mobile devices around school to capture learning.
  • Build in time for staff training – we use five minutes at the start of a staff meeting to practice Tweeting.
  • Place a minimum expectation for how many Tweets should be generated a day – we started with a minimum of one and worked upwards from there when staff were comfortable.

If you are interested in the learning at Park Hill then follow @ParkHillPrimary

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The launch of @PairandShare #PairandShare

As HT of a primary school in Coventry I have been fortunate enough to have been able to link with some fantastic schools and colleagues from across the UK. I have visited schools who are Outstanding, Good, RI and in Special Measures and on each visit I have gained so much and brought something new back to my own school. I always find it fascinating to see how another school operates, the approaches they have and the way they go about providing the best learning opportunities for their pupils. It is amazing what is going on in other schools and the more I see the more ideas I have for my own school.

@PairandShare came about because I now have a good network of schools to tap into but I’d like to see more ideas from a greater range of schools and, to be honest, locating further schools to look at with the same approach to sharing ideas is not always easy. After all, how do you forge links with a school outside of your local authority unless someone has given you a recommendation? It’s not that easy and that’s where @PairandShare comes in – it’s free and all you have to do is complete the short form (click here) where you highlight what you’d like to see, how far you are willing to travel and what you are able to offer a school visiting you and the rest is simple – I will pair you up with a like minded school. The one and only aim is to raise the quality of pupil outcomes through school to school collaboration.

Recent experience shows me that school leaders worry when they have to share something good about their school – they don’t want to seem boastful or underestimate the practice they have going on. It’s important to realise that what one school sees as basic good practice another school will not have thought of this idea – this is a particularly strong argument for linking with schools outside of your local authority because we all approach things in different ways.

How to use @PairandShare

@PairandShare links you with another school (this is done on a termly basis but it’s up to you how often you signup from once to every time we do it) and the rest is up to you. Personally, for my school, I plan to use it in two ways. The first way is that I aim to get out with the Senior Leadership Team and see how other leadership teams approach school improvement and secondly I aim to send groups of staff to look at a specific focus (this is going to be a real driver at Park Hill Primary where each staff member has an entitlement to visit another school every term because it’s all too easy to become insular within our own school).

@PairandShare #PairandShare

@PairandShare #PairandShare – it’s the dating agency of School Improvement!

The more schools that sign up the more great practice we will be able to share – if you sign up we’ll find a school for you to visit. The only thing that is asked  (if you have a Twitter account) is that you take photos of what you see and tweet about it using the #PairandShare so that we can all see the great practice going on in schools.