Social media can be a contentious issue for the education sector - both in terms of the content published by young people and how pupils and teachers behave online. But from the moment David Goodhew joined Latymer Upper School in Hammersmith, West London in September last year, he regarded Twitter as an opportunity to bridge the potential communications gap between himself, his pupils and their parents, and as a way for teachers to share positive examples of how to use social media for academic purposes by integrating it into courses.
Twitter can be a great way to share news and celebrate achievements in real time rather than waiting for end-of-term newsletters or weekly assemblies.
Goodhew also "crowdsources" school news: if he is unable to be at a school fixture, teams or their parents will tweet him the results of matches; he then retweets their match reports to the school community. Also, simply scanning his timeline (the feed of tweets from the individuals he follows) is an effective way of keeping up to date with national developments in education.
The school's academic departments have also been using Twitter to update parents and colleagues on activities taking place inside and outside the classroom - for example, lunchtime concerts in music.
Both the biology and economics departments have used it to share extension reading and links to the latest data and debates. This encourages pupils to use the social network to access academically valuable material quickly and conveniently. Both in academia and in the world of work, the trend is towards increased use of "collaborative learning", and so it makes perfect sense that knowledge should become social.
Tips from the scheme
Twitter is better than Facebook when it comes to engaging with pupils as it avoids many of the issues that teaching staff face around invasion of privacy (for example, the question of whether to become Facebook friends with pupils).
Keep everything public: by not following pupils back, all communication is in the public domain. Do not use the direct messaging function.
Using hashtags will make it easier to follow topics as they emerge.
Evidence that it works?
Goodhew says: "In the short time we've been using Twitter to connect with the school community, we've seen an increase in interaction from parents and pupils. Most of the 500 followers I have acquired in the past 14 weeks are current parents, pupils and colleagues.
"For departments, it's extending the way we interact with students, and at a time when social media is integral for communicating with contacts throughout the world, it's important that Latymerians become adept at using Twitter to broaden their horizons, not just socially but intellectually."
Approach: Using Twitter effectively to engage with pupils and parents
Leader: David Goodhew, headteacher of Latymer Upper School (@LatymerHead)
Name: Latymer Upper School
Location: Hammersmith, West London
Age range: 7-18
Intake: Academically selective, but socially inclusive via a means-tested scholarship programme.