Real Life has greater bandwidth

The first person I heard say this was musician, artist and educator: Bobbie Gardner. “Real life has greater bandwidth” she said and then waited for me to take in her words of awesome wisdom.

It has a phrase that has stuck with me, so much so that it has become one of my pub theories. Get me in a pub, give me a pint of beer, mention social media and I’m bound to utter those words. I really am terribly predictable.

It means a lot to me, because sometimes I have got so much into social media that I have become almost dependent on seeing the next tweet in which I’m mentioned, or yearning for someone to comment on my blog.

But the thing is, real life has greater bandwidth.

You gain things from Twitter, from Facebook, from blogging, but you can’t gain as much as you can from sitting with someone and talking. Or standing in stadium and watching. Or walking somewhere in the rain.

On Twitter, you can’t smell the coffee. On Facebook, you can’t appreciate the subtle complexities of an Islay malt. And when you receive a comment on a blog, you can’t see the ironic smile, or the encouraging eyes, or the slightly disappointed frown.

I’m trying to blog more this year, to help me reflect on things I believe and things I’m trying to learn. But I’ve got to remember that real life has greater bandwidth: sometimes it is more important to take in the view than to take a photograph it.

To help me, I’m using scheduling on my WordPress site. This means I can post things on different days, but write them all at once if I want. Right now, it is Wednesday, but I know this post won’t go live until I’m just brewing my first coffee in my Bialletti on Saturday morning.

I’m also planning not to broadcast at all on Sundays. Sundays are going to be a social media Sabbath for me. Time to go to church, spend time with family and generally not look at too many screens.

Don’t use Facebook: it’s naughty and bad.

I’ve been at two meetings this week in which contrasting views on the usefulness of Facebook were shared.

In the first, I was sharing with my Key Stage 2 staff the growing demands on school websites and how it is becoming increasingly necessary for schools to broadcast what they do.

For example, a year by year curriculum is now required on a school website so that parents can find out what they can expect their children to be taught. As this curriculum can be tweaked from year to year, I was arguing that rather than place this on a static website,  updates could be made on something like a Facebook page (or indeed a Google + page, or a blog, or a Google site).

In order that staff can begin experimenting with this, I have opened up staff access to Facebook and other social media within my school. I have had Facebook open on my own computer for a few years so that I can manage the whole school Facebook page; by opening it to the teachers also, I’m hoping that some may start using a class Facebook page to begin broadcasting what they do.

Personally I’ve found that having a presence on Facebook as a school has been quite useful. It means that there is a common starting point in discussions with parents about Facebook and also, in the odd occasion that a child or a parent complains about inappropriate Facebook use, I can address the issue by taking screenshots of what has happened. Recently I’ve also discovered that Facebook are quite prompt in acting on information concerning inappropriate use, especially from under-age users. I found two children using Facebook each other, told Facebook that they were under-age, and Facebook removed their profiles.

I digress. In my second meeting that I referred to, Facebook came up in a more negative context. A headteacher had had negative experiences with Facebook and urged others to consider asking their staff not to use Facebook.

How strange for me. On the one hand I had urged staff to use Facebook to help them broadcast their class news. On other hand I was being urged to ask my staff to stop using Facebook.

I suppose where you fall on this divide will depend on your views on how to educate children for e-safety. But that’s another post, for another time.

Developing Digital Literacies. #1: Be out there

Having been challenged by Steve Wheeler that maybe primary schools do have a role to play in digital literacy, I’m now thinking about what we actually do at my school to encourage, or even teach digital literacy.

1. Being Out There.

Schools have got to have an online presence. Aside from the legal requirement, by being online you show your online parents that you care. A study by Weber Shandwick shows that company bosses who use social media are 10% more likely to be seen as open, honest and respectful. If this is true for business, surely it is true in education too.

The legal requirement, I hear you ask? Yes, there is now a comprehensive list of things that are required to be published online, including the school prospectus, how school spends the pupil premium funding and how school spends the new sports funding. A more comprehensive list can be found here.

In my own experience having a Facebook page for my school has drastically cut down the number of cyber-bullying incidents that were happening two to three years ago. Instead of it being a regular distraction to the business of school, there is at most one incident per year – just on a time-saving basis this has been worth it, but add to it the negative impact on learning and the emotional hurt of cyber-bullying and I would say that having a Facebook Page for a school is a must. I would direct you to my school’s Facebook page, except that I know of a better one – my colleague Chris Talbot at Broadmeadow Junior School has a better one than mine.

Of course in small schools, managing an online presence can be painful and time consuming, or expensive. You’re already spinning thirty seven plates and now you have a website and social media to think of too. Myself I’ve cut down the time and expense by using Using this service I write one post on Google+ and it automatically posts to Twitter and Facebook, so instead of having to write something in three places, I can write in just one.

Schools that are being digitally literate are encouraging their students to be digitally literate too. It’s a role modelling thing. Take Lyndon Green Junior school for example. Their Twitter stream is full of content that it must help their students and parents improve their digital literacy.

So be out there. Be online. Be on social media. If professionals at schools can’t do it safely, how can we expect our communities to do likewise?

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