Technology in 2019 can offer a wide-reaching range of opportunities for pupils and education. At the click of a button, most corners of the world can be connected within their educational setting. At Natterhub, we have been researching the potential use of social media within the primary classroom. Alongside a focus on how to best avoid the pitfalls and dangers of online behaviour, they have also found that children are instinctively capable of using social media to collaborate and engage in active online learning.
We know that young brains, especially the reading brain, is quickly changing as a result of the fast pace-changing way that we process text on a screen. Screens have been notoriously criticised as the reason why more and more children lack eye contact, have difficulty with language processing or following instructions and increasingly, find it challenging to understand the deeper comprehension skills that reading on paper provides. However, if we are to ‘edu-fy’ their online behaviours and make best use of the new skills that are emerging as a result of their engagement with technology, we need to take a hand in hand approach and introduce tech, for the right and real reasons into our education system.
When pupils are able to share work and information at school, they are both aided by, and motivated by immediate engagement with their peers. This gives school work real purpose and provides children with an incentive to improve their shared work. Using a social media framework makes it an easier, faster and more relevant way to interact with teachers and classmates which mimics life outside the classroom. If children are developing these skills from a young age, they are more prepared, less vulnerable and more savvy about digital communication in general. By the time they leave school, children will have expert and professional skills in digital performance and will understand the need for online etiquette.
Pupils are continually connected to the internet through their use of mobile devices, game station and desktops and understand how to send vast amounts of information to a wide audience. If we add an educational slant to this, pupils can share views, opinions, tips, projects, study materials and video clips to enhance their own and others’ experiences. Pupils can support their classmates and have greater access to the power of peer on peer learning. Pupils’ ability to access, evaluate, maintain and share information is crucial to their future lives, careers and personal organisation if they are to find success in a connected world. In a school setting, Natterhub gives children the opportunity to develop these skills organically, age-appropriately and all the while, guarding themselves against the inappropriate content and the pitfalls of ignorantly falling into the internet.
The use of technology needs to be authentic for pupils otherwise we are wasting their time and taking time away from valuable, non-tech-based methodology which may be the best way to teach a concept in the primary classroom. Technology ought not be used in every subject for every topic. Just in the same way that a ruler is the best tool for teaching measure, the right technology needs to be used when you want to teach children what they need to understand digital interaction. Social media education offers the children to learn a life skill, to curate their best educational selves, and understand the importance of a well-planned digital footprint.
We must not allow fear to overshadow the magnitude of digital communication.