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Students tutor technology school staff in wonders of Facebook

Facebook has forced an about-face at a secondary school in Cheshire, which has enlisted pupils to train teachers in social networking and other new communications tools.

Despite its specialism, many teachers at Hyde Technology School admitted they knew very little about the Web 2.0 world of instant messaging, video-sharing and online social networking.

So from next month, two Year 11 pupils will begin delivering continuing professional development sessions to their teachers.

Gail Elms, assistant head, approached the students and asked whether they would offer the sessions after school.

The school is preparing to set up Facebook-style social networking on its own secure network, and video-sharing based on the YouTube model. Pupils and teachers will able to use the facilities for teaching and learning, though the school does not expect its website to replace external social networking in the teenagers' lives.

"YouTube is currently banned in school, but staff would like to use it as a resource," Mrs Elms said. "They don't know where to start - but the kids know it inside out."

She anticipated that sites such as Facebook, Bebo, Flickr and YouTube would become useful tools for teaching and learning. "When we were looking at our students interacting with other schools, here and internationally, they could only use wobbly video-conferencing," Mrs Elms said.

"Now, this could open up the channels. Students in Hyde can be quite insular.

"They don't tend to move out far. This would broaden their horizons."

Teachers' pay is now linked to improving their professional skills, so these sessions will benefit them. But there are no immediate plans to pay the pupils for delivering them.

Callum Williams, 15, is one of the two pupils who will be training staff.

His science teacher already uses YouTube videos to demonstrate difficult experiments: "It helps the class learn," Callum said. "It's easier than writing everything down.

"If it's an ongoing thing it would help if I got paid so I can buy new professional programs."

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