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Social Media in Primary Schools? Afterthoughts from ICTEdu (Thurles 2012)

May 28, 2012

Social Media in Education – great in universities – and yes,  you can use them in primary schools!

Conference badges, pen, stickers etc.!Thoughts prompted by a workshop by Catherine Cronin at the ICT in Education conference in Thurles, Tipperary Institute, 19 May 201

Who will be blogging about this? asked Simon Lewis even before the conference was over. There will be many others who’ll give an overall view (I hope), some already have published theirs, and I’ve put some links to presentations at the bottom of this blog entry. –  I could write about all the workshops and plenary sessions I attended, and there would be many, many things to mention. I could also write about the experience of attending with my 11-year-old son, Ciarán, whose presence added a lot to my day, and who enjoyed his time immensely. I could write about the CESIMeet on the 18th – again, a fantastic occasion where you never know what the next presenter will be talking about, and if you are new to the format, find more out about it on the CESI Website. Or I could mention my (still nerve-wrecking) second presentation at such a meet, about my current passion (ICT-wise), Minecraft, and the website I set up to help primary teachers find out about it, . And I could write a lot about the inspiring and invigorating inputs by Ira Socol and Pam Moran, who made us reflect on the issues of comfort and learning, and how technology can help liberate children from certain constraints. Or about the fact that you can’t beat a conference like this, when it comes to re-motivating yourself. And how much I’m looking forward to continuing the discussions online at the weekly #edchatie Twitter chats.

The tweet asking for blogs....

However, what I’m actually going to write about is:

Social media in education – in primary schools!?!

Social media – that part of online life where you can interact with others. Twitter, Facebook, Google+ – these come to my mind first of all, and we have seen those used in third level.

Social media in schools give everyone the chance to be part of the dialogue, including those not eager to talk out in class. They are motivating, and they allow for a more involved learning experience for the students.

Catherine Cronin’s session,  “Social Media, Learning, Space and Time”, ‘explored how social media can help us to break down the walls of the classroom.’ This quote is taken from her Blog entry about the ICT in Education conference, by the way.  Her slides and the videos she fed into the session can be accessed there as well.

Catherine talked about the way she has been using Twitter her 2nd-year students over the last couple of years. It proved itself to be a great levelling tool between teacher / lecturer and student, giving both a (nearly) equal footing in discussions and conversations.

And in primary schools? While asking each child in a class, or even computer club, to sign up individually and start using Twitter might not work, other platforms allow for online dialogue in a safer, protected setting. Edmodo  could be a good way to get children used to communicating in a (semi-) public setting. “Edmodo provides teachers and students a secure place to connect and collaborate, share content and educational applications, and access homework, grades, class discussions and notifications. Our goal is to help educators harness the power of social media to customize the classroom for each and every learner.” (

Many primary schools have class blogs. The most successful ones have comment facilities, and they can become a platform for an exchange of opinions in a public arena. Children learn that their virtual conversations can be overheard by others; they learn that what they say, may be commented upon, just as comment on what they read. A good place to go if you want to see examples of class blogs from all over Ireland is SeasSuas. One blog that does have comments enabled, and where the students are making more and more use of this facility for their communication, is

Social media can help open up the dialogue beyond classroom walls. As one fellow attendee tweeted during the session: “Writing that is only shared between student and teacher is artificial.”  While that need not always be the case, being read by someone ‘real’ – someone besides the teacher – encourages children. Catherine introduced us to the “100 Word Challenge,” an initiative ideal for primary-school children. Every week, a writing prompt is issued – could be a picture, a short text, it varies. Teachers organise their classes to write up to 100 words based on it. The entries are uploaded, and others can then comment on them. Apparently, children have great fun doing both the writing and the commenting, and reading other people’s comments on their work, too! See the initiator’s invitation to join the 100 Word Challenge here!

A lot more was covered in the workshop, and I do encourage you to go to Catherine’s blog or her slide-share site to explore it further. However, the most important message for me was that social media can very definitely be used at primary level – and that we should try to do so, as publishing, commenting, and reacting to comments online is a life-skill of ever-increasing importance. And: Practicing it in school can be great fun!


Links put up by presenters at the ICT in Education conference in Thurles, Tipperary Institute, 19 May 2012

And related but different – added because some people mentioned at the conference they’d like to use Twitter, but aren’t sure how or where to start:

  1. Many thanks for the mention! Glad you enjoyed the conference!

    • You’re very welcome, Julia – I hope I’ll be able to use the 100 Word Challenge soon myself. The conference was great, well worth a trip! 🙂

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