1 May 2009

Who taught me to use the phone?

Despite a report in the Guardian (on 25th March by Polly Curtis) that the draft Rose Report would recommend primary learners should study Twitter and Wikipedia a full text search of the final report and its documenta (published 30th April) finds no reference to either of those words nor to Facebook or social networking.

I'll comment further on the report in the coming weeks but since it's clear that Rose's team sees an expanded role for technology in in the primary curriculum and that the press and opposition politicians will feast on the proposed changes lets think for a moment about social software in the primary school. According to current policy every secondary school should by now have a Virtual Learning Platform (VLE) up and running and plans to have this integrated with e-portfolios for all students across the curriculum by 2010. Primary schools should not be too far behind.

An integrated VLE should deliver the opportunity to Blog, to build a Wiki and for instant messaging as well as an adaptable profiling tool and the capability for each learner to build a set a friends and message them across the institution regardless of yeargroup or subject. By using these tools across the curriculum in appropriate (and multiple) projects over their school life children will learn about social software in a real and useful environment.

Meanwhile children learn much in informal environments that are not school. Real world social networking tools such as Twitter, Facebook. Bebo and (for primary) Club Penguin are likely to fall into this category of learning. Whilst we do not in the UK have the sort of comprehensive research as that funded by the MacArthur Foundation in the US Mimi Ito et. al's White Paper - Living and Learning with New Media: Summary of Findings from the Digital Youth Project shows just how much informal learning both about and using social software is becoming increasingly peer-based and networked. The curriculum is not intended to compete with this and educationalists might learn something from the structures observed by this team.

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