The Big Facebook Experiment Part 2

This is a follow-up to my previous post on our trials using Facebook in school. If you missed that you can read it here.

Yesterday we finished our first set of trials around using the site for education so I wanted to briefly summarise what we found here. One group of our Spanish students had been testing the idea of using a duplicate profile- we felt one of the lowest risk possibilities for allowing staff and students to interact on the network.

The success I’ve seen is that students seemed keen to trial things with us, and it was very easy to set ourselves up to allow students to access the site in school if we wanted to. Switching the site over into Spanish and asking students to create and interact in the language on the website worked well too- their familiarity with how Facebook works helped a lot with some of the more unfamiliar terms.

However as expected we’ve found that this approach isn’t ideal. From a student point of view asking them to log in using a different account to their personal one meant they wouldn’t be as likely to use it outside of the classroom sessions specifically designed for it. We also found we have a small minority of students whose parents do not allow them to use Facebook at all.

The most major issue with this idea though lies in the Facebook terms and conditions. Point 4.2 on their terms document bans users from maintaining more than one profile, so this counts the idea out completely. We finished the trial off for the sake of completeness, but have now asked students to remove the duplicate profiles.

We are going to continue to work at different ideas for the network in the new school year as I still think there is value in it. The point of these trials was to come up with some evidence to back up what we think could work. Our next attempt will come in September- creating either a group or a page for an MFL class to interact, but with all users using their own profiles. Will post on that later in the year.

The big Facebook experiment

We’re interested in making use of the social networks in school and have been trying a few little projects this year. From this half term we are running a few more to see what impact we can have. Things are happening on Twitter and YouTube that I’ll blog later, but it’s hard to try anything in this area without taking on Facebook. Facebook in school has been a very popular topic on the net for a while, lots of people unsure how to make best use of it and many more scared of the bad things could happen. We wanted to trial something because:

  • Not only are most of our students active users, at the last audit 63% of our parents also had a profile.
  • There is a fairly large potential for issues for eSafety within the network and we wanted to measure any potential impact on learning against these risks.
  • Relevant case studies in the area will really help schools to firm up policy on the site, and support our current AUP on web 2.0.

For about a year now we have had a Facebook page for our community set up here, and this has proved popular (it gets as many views during a week as the community website itself but has the advantage of pushing content to users profiles). The next stage is to start thinking about teacher-student interaction.

Our initial thinking around this has come up with a set of options on how we use it with students. These are listed below, in decreasing order of safety (or increasing personal connection with students). Obviously this can be seen in a positive or negative way depending on circumstance/opinion/personal bias.

  • The teacher running the project sets up a new profile using their school email account, no personal links/information on it. Students do the same. A page (or group) is created for the project and they all sign up to that.
  • Teachers and students set up new accounts, add each other as friends.
  • Teacher creates a new account, students use existing but all communication still goes through a page or group.
  • Teacher creates a new account, students use existing to become friends with the teacher.
  • Teacher and student use existing accounts, create a page or group for the project to interact on.
  • Teacher and students use existing accounts, and using limited profile settings become friends.

Having created this list we have started to think about projects around it. For now I’m writing off the first and the last- they are listed above to provide a complete picture but I don’t feel either would work well enough to justify the time.

So, starting at where we feel the safest option is project one is working with MFL- creating all new accounts and linking them together. Lead by one of our Spanish team, @javiera1974, a group of year 10 students will visit Facebook, switch the site into Spanish and create themselves a new profile in that language. They’ll friend the teachers new profile and then interact only in Spanish. For the sake of the case study we monitor amount of use, quality of the content, etc, etc.

The obvious benefit of this set up is there is no link to the more private profiles of both teacher and student, but the concern linked to this is about usage. Because students will have to log in as somebody else will they choose to do this at home? Would we do better to let them use their own profiles? We’ll finish this example and then look to the next to measure this.

GCSE Revision Cards

A new project for this year here. We decided we wanted to create a pack of cards personalised to each student that would contain the quick revision points for each subject. Each department was given a template to put their content on to, we did some counting of exam entries and got them printed. There was then an evening of putting all the cards into their personalised packs and they were distributed to students last Friday.

I want to publicly thank our printers (Cluett Burns), who for about £2k produced 16,000 double-sided full-colour cards and didn’t sleep a whole lot the week they were printed. Promise we’ll get them to you a bit earlier next year guys….

Link here is to my Flickr gallery of some of the work, we are really very proud of these. Hope they prove useful for the kids. Would really recommend this to other schools reading the blog, simple project that should have a real impact.

Things I learnt from Andy Hargreaves

I’m fairly lucky in my job- I get sent on all sorts of little trips out to be ‘developed’ by the great and good of the education world. On Monday I got to spend the best part of a day listening to Andy, and got the chance to discuss his ideas with all sorts of people far smarter than me.

For those that don’t already know who he is, this is his website and his most recent book courtesy of Google Books is here. Localish people to me- I now have 2 copies so if you want to borrow one let me know.

He largely spoke about change in education and the challenges we face in this process. He also spent some time comparing how we work in the educational sector to other areas- sports teams, large business, etc. I like to try and write up my notes from these things to try and solidify ideas in my head, these were the things I came back with.

  • In our schools ‘personalised learning’ really means ‘customised learning’. We’re offering a customised set of options rather than truly making the learning experience personal.
  • Political stability is absolutely key to helping the change effort. He spoke about examples in both Canada and Finland where a long-term stable government has meant schools aren’t constantly chasing election driven, short-term, high profile targets.
  • Testing by sample was discussed. In all other industries this is common (think medical or automotive testing for example), are we holding ourselves back by the insistence of testing by census? How could this work in school? Among the places that already do this are Scotland, think that can be added to my development trip list…
  • We see our community as customers to deliver a service to. Admittedly this isn’t the case in all schools now, but I understand the point. Community is an asset that should be ’empowered and developed’.
  • There’s an over-reliance on data….
  • Vision is important. We should have clear goals and purpose as an organisation. This should feature the best of what we already have, and the best of what we want to be. Goals need a deeper purpose than just being the best- aiming to just be number one at something is no good.
  • What actually is World class? We talk about it, what actually is it? Car manufacturers actually define this- hundreds of individual statistics that explain exactly what it is to be at that level in any particular area.
  • An ambitious target narrowly missed is so much better than mediocre targets achieved.
  • ‘Mindful teaching and learning’ borrows ideas from Buddhism-
  1. Your teaching should align with your values, teach what you believe in.
  2. Stop, reflect, think. Not just for students, how often do you do this? Find your place where it works (running, long walks, etc) and do it, often.
  • Change efforts are often forced through far too quickly in schools. Look to industry- 9/10 fast business turnarounds fail. In sport, turnarounds are always targeted to be 3-10 years. Why is education supposed to always be so much faster?
  • Changing the manager doesn’t help. Look at the success of a club like Manchester United for evidence of this. It can have a short term positive impact (new managers coming in to football teams, Man City maybe?!), but not beyond the first 5 weeks.
  • An innovation culture should be supported by real-time tracking to protect it. We should be able to quickly analyse new strategies, see very early if the effect is positive or not.
  • In business customer satisfaction is becoming a far more important focus than bottom line profit/loss. Why isn’t the same model applied to schools?

Further reading taken from the session (again, if not downloadable you’re welcome to borrow):

Pupil action plan idea

Not an idea I can take credit for, but we tried something new today. For ages now we have run a scheme of pupil action planning. The idea was simple, each student and their parents have a 20 minute meeting with their tutor where they talk about how they’re doing and set some targets for the year. They meet again at the end of the year to see how they got on. It’s your standard performance management model from the real world…

At the simplest this is a good idea, it gives us another way to support students, and is in addition to the standard set of parents evenings. But, the basic problems (in my opinion) were about quantity (1 tutor, 30 students= hard work) and about time (if you only review targets once or twice it’s harder to focus on development over the year).

So, with this in mind we started to look at how we could improve. This year we are trialling the new system with a small group of students (approx. 100) to see what the impact is. Before half term these students were asked to complete a self reflection exercise online. This was basically a web form that asked them about strengths and weaknesses (not so subject specific, more based around the PLTS framework). This was then saved into their ePortfolios ready for today.

Today was PAP day, when each family comes in for their meeting. The big change we were working here was that meetings don’t have to be with their tutor. Students could be assigned to any member of staff in the school (I have a small number, our site manager has some, etc). We talked through their self reflection, looked at how they could apply their strengths to other areas, and with them and their parents set 3 targets to achieve throughout the year. The target is in three parts, what to do, how to do, how to show I have.

Within my set of students we have a good range of targets- some about improving a specific technique (the ability to break tasks down into smaller manageable parts for example), some about team work, some about organisation/motivation, some about extra-curricular ideas.

This target setting is also part of their ePortfolio. For the rest of the year they can look back at the things we agreed as a reminder. But they can also use their ePortfolio to record evidence of progress. So, a particular piece of work that demonstrates a target could be uploaded, or just a simple comment to document something that happened during the day. As their mentor I get to view/comment/etc on all of this throughout the year too.

We will still meet with our students twice more in the year to review halfway progress (and modify targets where required), and the final outcomes, but by having a smaller number of students we can offer them more time. With only half a dozen students to focus on I will be able to really closely work with them to help achieve these things without having a massive impact on my time, and the students should feel like they have an extra mentor within the school.

If the trial works well this year the hope is we can rollout whole school. All staff could be involved, and we should be able to attempt to match personalities/abilities of the students to the staff. Feeling quite excited about this as a mentoring scheme, positive reaction from involved support staff I spoke to today as well. Ah, and we’re moving on from PAP. Thinking personal learning review- PLR sounds better…