August 29, 2008

Facebook Can Help Pupils Learn, Claims Academic

By Kay Smith

Scottish pupils should have access to social networking sites in schools according to a Westminster government and industry adviser.

Social networking sites such as Bebo, MySpace, Facebook and You Tube "are vital educational tools which encourage collaboration and learning among pupils, " said Charles Leadbeater, Visiting Fellow to the UK National Endowment of Science, Technology and the Arts, and adviser to the Department for Education and Skills' Innovations Unit.

Leadbeater is due to deliver a speech at the curriculum agency Learning and Teaching Scotland's national conference to be held in Glasgow in September.

The sites are routinely banned on school computers yet, Leadbeater insisted, " t's a natural way of doing things for them. They want to learn hrough discovery and enquiry and through technology. " Pupils can create animations, videos and swap ideas and information through social network sites. But Scottish local authorities block access to these sites for fear they may expose children to paedophiles, offensive materials or bullying.

Ken Cunningham General Secretary for the head teachers' organisation School Leaders Scotland, said:

"It is unlikely that any head teacher in Scotland will allow access to social networking sites ."

Learning and Teaching Scotland is developing Glow, which will digitally link schools through a range of tools including video links and chat rooms.

Programme Director Marie Dougan said: " Pupils have told us they like Glow for the way it separates social networking with networking for learning."

But Rick Instrell Independent Media Consultant, Convenor of the Association for Media Education in Scotland and former Principal Teacher of Computing, said: "Glow is huge and cumbersome.

"Everyone would benefit if site bans were lifted in schools now. "

Originally published by Newsquest Media Group.