Why Don't You Use Twitter?

Over the past year or so, I’ve been asked by a number of schools how and why we use Twitter.

We originally used Twitter as a means of parental engagement. We wanted a way to communicate with parents in an easy way, what exactly was happening in school and what their children were learning.

It all started fairly innocuously: Our aim was simple: to share a video we had shown in that day’s assembly; and it worked! The next day we had pupils telling us that they had shown the video to their parents.

As these things tend to do, it grew. While conducting lesson observations, I tweet about the great practice I’m seeing; I get pupils bringing me their work and I tweet it under #purplepenwork so that parents and the wider community can also share in their children’s success; I tweet on school visits so that parents know their children are enjoying themselves (and more importantly, when the coach is going to be late back!)

I can also highlight/re-tweet things that I think my parents might find interesting and/or useful.

There have been concerns expressed by other Headteachers about the inherent dangers of Twitter. Yes – there are risks, but as a responsible user, we mitigate against those. We follow Kent’s e-Safety Policy and never use full names of students, we seek parental consent from all children and if we can’t get it, that’s what the back of children’s heads are for!

I have only had one concern raised by a parent around the school using Twitter (I can share this now because the child in question has left!).

In the early days (about 2 years ago), a parent came and saw me saying that we had pornography on our Twitter feed. Naturally I was quite surprised about this, especially as only I and the previous Headteacher were able to publish. I was a bit concerned about what I might find! Needless to say I found nothing.

I asked the parent to explain what had happened. They had given their nine-year old son unsupervised access to Twitter, they had clicked on the School profile, then clicked on a parental profile, then another and another until they came to a profile name best suited to those postcards you may find in phone boxes. Yes, they clicked it. Lo and behold, I have a parent ranting: ‘The school has pornography on its Twitter feed.’

I am being slightly flippant in this but the point remains that we were able to educate this parent around their child’s use of Twitter (1. They shouldn’t be. 2. If you allow it – supervise it.) This is something that schools are very well placed to do – be role-models of responsible use of social media (in my experience, children are a lot more responsible than their parents).

More and more schools in Kent are now using Twitter. I follow every school I can, because I want to see what other schools are doing and (potentially) steal their ideas. Not just how schools are using Twitter but wider practice. This has just recently happened when I saw a tweet from another Ashford School and I thought: ‘Why don’t we do that?’

So I put it to you: ‘Why don’t you?’

This post was originally written for the Kent Teach Blog on 20th February 2015.