Social Networking



Guy Merchants’ article Unravelling the social network: theory and research argues that networks can create a sense of belonging. The social network is a way of ‘conceptualising social grouping and interaction’. Wellman (2002) suggests that social networks in traditional societies are ‘characterized by a predominance of face-to-face encounters contained within relatively small geographical areas’. Though technology can make new connections possible, it can also be seen as a way of enhancing pre-existing relationships (Vincent 2000; Gillen and Hall 2010). With many social networking sites available- Facebook, Bebo, MySpace, and Twitter, educators are starting to wonder about using these networks as a different way to learn.  Merchant (2010) identified a number of areas which were characterised as learning about SNSs, learning from SNSs and learning with SNSs. Educators are using social networking to engage students to learn in a new and exciting way. One example is how Walker (2010) used Twitter with his class of 6 year olds to show the value of online social networking in evaluating and reflecting on learning. Using social network in a classroom can create meaningful discussions and help students exchange ideas with each other. It can have benefits by creating better communication between students and teachers, homework or class notes can be uploaded and messages or events can be announced. Though using social networking will always cause worries. Children might become the subject of cyber bullying or they might lose the interpersonal skills they need for the future. But if it is monitored and used correctly then it will always have its benefits. Many schools are using VLE as a way of creating a social network in a safe and secure environment that can be monitored easily by their educators. Since primary school children are to young to have a Facebook account, creating a classroom on a VLE is a great way for them to communicate with each other in a safe way. It also gives them a better start to learning how to behave and stay safe on a VLE before they are old enough to start using social networking sites.


Here are some useful websites on using social media in the classroom:




The Hour of Code

This week in the UK has been the launch of the Hour of Code with the aim to get young people exciting about coding. It started in the US and made a great impact in schools. With the new computing curriculum coming in September in the UK, most teachers are in a panic about how to teach programming. The Hour of Code has made a great website for children, teenagers and teachers to have a go at 20 different activities with videos to show you what to do. The games involved making an Angry Bird move to get to a pig. When you have completed the tasks, you can input your name and print out a certificate to keep.

The first few task start off easy and then increasingly get harder. It’s designed for ages 6+ and most of my Year 1 class managed to get through to level 5 before starting to struggle, though some managed to get to level 9 without any support! I model the lesson for a fellow teacher and convinced her and my teaching assistant to have a go as well. After completing the activities, they both got over their fear of approaching the new changes in the curriculum.

Have a go yourself!

The Digital Inequality Debate

NIACE (2001) stated that there are over 9 million adults in the UK that don’t use the Internet. This might leave them digitally, socially and financially excluded from society. Though the argument is that ICT can bring a ‘digital inequality’. These inequalities factor in gender, age, income, race, education background, geography and disability (Golding 2000). After the Pew study of US internet culture, the data showed that those who were more educated, relatively well-off, urban dwelling, white and male who are more likely to enjoy a higher quality of ICT access and use (Livingstone 2004, Kaiser Family Foundation 2005, Chinn and Fairlie 2004).

So how does society fix this problem? In the digital inclusion action plan ‘Why digital Inclusion Matters’ (2013), it argues that ‘making sure people who are offline understand the benefits in their day-to–day lives is the first step in helping people go online’. The UK government has defined digital inclusion as “using technology as a channel to improve skills, to enhance quality of life, to drive education, and to promote economic well-being across all elements of society” (Cabinet Office, 2004). Many institutions such as schools, libraries and community centres have invested in improving their computer facilities. Many offer free internet access and some have classes to learn IT skills. Governments and other agencies are shifting their attention towards establishing online communities of young people. Online media are now being used for global, nationwide and local consultation exercises with young people (Selwyn, 2006). Garnett (2005) stated that new technologies being promoted have allowed young people to play an active role in today’s society.


The government website ( made this picture to show how using the Internet has benefitted people. People are logging on to look at policies, find out about benefits, jobs, education, or information on visas. The picture showed that 1 in 5 people were using the site via a mobile phone. Marc Prensky (2001) called young people who grew up with technology as ‘digital natives’. These young ‘digital natives’ are deemed as confident users with mobile phones, social networking sites, Internet activities like online shopping or blogging. Though the argument is if these young digital natives don’t have access to ICT, it can bring inequalities. Some may have low levels of literacy so they can’t access the information or they can’t purchase goods or services because of lack of funds. Beastall (2006) stated that it would be better adopting a strategy by following activities that young people are already engaged in. Schools in the UK are now allowed to spend Pupil Premium money on investing in new technologies to help children learn. Many are investing in more computers, laptops, ipads and wireless access so children can learn technology skills at schools before they enter the workplace. Howland (2004) argued that ICT “enables young people to engage with adults on more equal terms and reduce some of their inequalities of power, self-expression and access that currently hinder their public involvement”. If we continue to invest in giving ICT access to people, should there really be a digital inequality?

Blogging in the Classroom


Anne Bartlett-Bragg wrote an article called ‘Blogging to Learn’ (2003) that argued there was a 5-stage process called the Blog-o-sphere. Students at Stage 1 –Establishment learn to establish themselves and start blogging following structured questions. In Stage 2- Introspection, they start relating to their own experiences and emotions. When they enter Stage 3- Reflective Monologues, the student start to reflect and evaluation their progress. At this stage they start to develop their sense of writing styles through short paragraphs of their learning. By the time they reach Stage 4- Reflective Dialogue, many students will need encouragement to continue without the structured support questions. Some stop blogging but those who continue will reach Stage 5- Knowledge Artefacts. They start reading each others blogs and make comments.

If I had to pick a stage where I would be…it would be between stage 3 and 4 (depending on the day).  Stephen Downes brings ideas to using blogging in the classroom in his paper titled ‘Educational Blogging’ (2004). Though it came out just when blogging was still considered new in schools, he makes some valued points. Children stated that it gave them a chance to communicate and write for a purpose. Blogging offered students the chance to reflect on what they were writing about. They were able to write about a topic over a period time and learnt to engage the reader and the audience. The UK Education Department is always trying to improve our writing standards (especially boys in primary schools) and blogging is a great way to bridge the gap between the sexes. Giving them a topic to explore and write about with a world wide audience helps them to write for different purposes.

Some Ideas and Help to using blogs in the classrooms:

Identity- to post or not to post

David Buckingham stated that ‘identity is something unique to each of us that we assume is more or less confident over time’. Why do we feel the need to create an identity online? Maybe it’s just a way to release the thought from our everyday lives. Erik Erikson (1968) said that adolescence was a critical period of forming identity. He stated that before they move on, adolescence must undergo a ‘crisis’ where they start to address their key values. Well that was in 1968 before the days of the internet. Now children are using MySpace and Facebook from a young age, many not even old enough for the legal age it states. All children in school now are as Prensky (2006) calls ‘Digital Natives’. They have grown up with using the internet and making identity online through social networking, avatars, email, blogging or instant messaging.  But what are the dangers on this new identity? Technology has been seen to have effects on social and psychological changes. The computer is seen as an ‘autonomous force that is somehow independent of human society and acts upon it from outside’ (Marvin, 1988). The Child Exploration and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) made a video called Jigsaw in 2009 to teach children the dangers of online identity. It was aimed for 8- 10 year olds but the message was clear- would you do the same in the real world that you do online? It asked children if they would leave their front door open or post photos of themselves on billboards in town, many of them said no of course but didn’t think of the seriousness of doing that on their social networking site.  We can’t stop children from creating their identities online, we just have to educate them to do it safely.




I went to BETT and all I got was a lousy pen….

So headed to the BETT show last Saturday to check out some new resources. Since I went on the last day of the conference, it was a nice mellow crowd compared to the pushy competitors last year. But the down side was all the good freebies were gone! Having signed up for too many companies and now dodging their calls and emails this week, I finally managed to catch some talks on using ipads in school. Our school has spent a lot of money buying ipads for the children and I’ve spent hours finding great its the challenge to use them to the most effective way to enhance learning.  

One great app I’ve found is Lightbot. It’s designed to teach kids about programming..but its highly addictive for adults to play. Though my enthusiasm to use them with my class backfired… yes they were Year 1..and yes it’s probably designed for KS2 children..but they gave it their best shot. 


Next week…we try A.L.E.X