Innovative Practice - Connected learning

Using Twitter, Facebook, email and apps to help students revise for GCSE and A-level exams

Darren Evans

The background

Teachers at Olchfa Comprehensive School in Swansea have been keen on embracing new technologies and expanding their use of ICT for a number of years.

The school has already developed a virtual learning environment on the e-learning platform Moodle and was awarded a Becta ICT Mark in 2010 in recognition of its work on integrating digital technology into the classroom.

Last year the school's ICT coordinator, Nick Francis, noticed that every pupil in his GCSE graphic design class used an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch, so he started creating revision notes they could download and read on their devices.

"It's easier for them to access and read on the go and it doesn't feel like revision," he says. "They can interact with it and read further links or watch videos through it - something a textbook cannot do."

Other staff wanted to see how they could use technology to help revision in their own subjects, and the project grew from there.

The project

Teachers use social network sites to drip-feed revision advice and tips to students alongside exam-style questions and reminders of key information.

For example, chemistry teacher Dez Hylton is using Twitter to help his chemistry students ahead of their A-level exams by sharing relevant articles and videos, and history teacher Dave Stacey is using both Twitter and Facebook to get revision notes to his students.

Teachers are also making themselves available via social networking and email for pupils to ask questions or raise concerns.

Pupils download revision apps to help them order and structure their thinking, and use their phones' cameras to take snaps of revision notes. They even record audio notes and listen to them while travelling to and from school.

"Although the school has a policy of no mobile phones in class, it's different when it comes to exams," says Francis.

Tips from the scheme

"Pupils have an incredible amount of technology at their fingertips, so why not use it for a positive educational purpose," says Francis.

Setting up special Facebook and Twitter accounts for educational projects is safer for teachers than sharing information on their own private accounts.

Evidence that it works?

Teachers say that pupils are more engaged in their revision and seem to feel less stressed by the pressure of exams. The Welsh government has hailed Olchfa's work as an example of best practice for digital classroom teaching across the country.


Approach: Using apps and social networking to help GCSE and A-level students with revision

Started: 2011

Leader: ICT coordinator Nick Francis


Name: Olchfa Comprehensive School

Location: Swansea, Wales

Pupils: 1,824

Age range: 11-18

Intake: Pupils come from varied social backgrounds, with a lower than average number entitled to free school meals

Estyn overall rating: Excellent (2011).

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Darren Evans

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