One of the things that makes Natterhub unique is its presentation. All our lessons are presented in a gated, secure social network that mimics the kind of platforms pupils will use every day as they get older - and in some cases, are using already.
We chose this approach because we believe that mimicry is an effective aid to learning; by modelling social media we can demonstrate both its virtues and potential pitfalls, and equip children with the skills, knowledge and character traits they need to navigate the digital world. There’s perhaps no trait more important than metacognition.
What is metacognition?
Metacognition is often described as ‘thinking about thinking’, but in practice it’s a little more complicated than that. Psychologist John Flavell said that it “refers to one’s knowledge concerning one’s own cognitive processes, or anything related to them.” It’s usually broken down into three different stages: planning, monitoring and controlling.
Think of reading a book as a cognitive process. You read the words on a page and decipher their meanings. But what happens if you encounter a word you’ve never seen before and don’t know the meaning of? There are lots of things you could do: look the word up online or in a dictionary; ask someone else if they know the meaning; or skip over the word, keep reading and see if you can guess the meaning from context. This is the planning stage.
Once you’ve made your plan, you then monitor what happens next, and use that to evaluate the effectiveness of your plan. If you still can’t guess the meaning of the word from context clues, then you may decide to try the dictionary instead - this process of changing your plan is called controlling.
The important thing to remember is that just because the dictionary proved the best strategy once, it doesn’t mean it will be the best option every time. Effective metacognitive learners are constantly planning, monitoring and controlling; using their different strategies like tools on a toolbelt.
Is it effective?
There have been plenty of studies which have shown that metacognitive strategies have a positive effect on pupils’ learning. For example, a study of pupils in West Yorkshire
in 2014 found that children who adopted a strategy called ‘Self-Regulated Strategy
Development’ (SRSD) for their writing made nine months of additional progress on average when compared to a control group.
How does it relate to online safety?
Once pupils understand the concepts of planning, monitoring and controlling, they can be applied to almost any activity that a child undertakes - including being safe online. Say, for example, that a child receives a message from someone they don’t know that makes them feel uncomfortable. At the planning stage, they can think about different solutions: ignoring the message, saying no, talking to a trusted adult or blocking the person who messaged them. The child carries out the plan and assesses whether it was effective (monitoring), then decides what to do next (controlling).
We rarely find one-size-fits-all strategies to help us through life. By teaching pupils to internalise these metacognitive processes and create a whole array of potential strategies, we make them more resilient, resourceful and empathetic people, not just online but in the real world as well.