Status update: Facebook can help pupils pass English

19th February 2010 at 00:00
School adopts experimental GCSE prep course that teaches language skills through social media

Teaching pupils to use websites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and MySpace can help pupils focus on their work and pass their English language GCSEs, a school has found.

Bishop Challoner Catholic Collegiate School in east London was the first to adopt an experimental course that teaches English skills through social-media websites, with the aim of motivating pupils through a medium they are familiar with.

The social-media fundamentals course devised by Andrew Davis, a former MySpace marketing head, allowed pupils to complete two-thirds of their English language GCSE coursework in four weeks.

It incorporated work on creative and persuasive writing, and presentation and listening skills, alongside showing pupils how to use social networks to their advantage.

The school ran the course in November and December with 30 borderline CD grade pupils. James Chinery, head of English on the boys' campus at Bishop Challoner, said that as a result there were pupils who he was now more confident could achieve C or B grades.

"It has helped some of them with their motivation and given them a bit more of a spark in getting their work done," he said.

"We wanted to use something that they knew. Social media is what they are most comfortable with, so we thought it could really fire their interest."

Skills included showing pupils how to be precise in their writing. As part of the persuasive section they wrote press releases that they then had to boil down to the 140 characters needed for a Twitter message or "tweet" without using text message-style shortcuts. They were also given talks by professionals working in the industry.

"If you look at the job market, the only ones that there is really a demand for is digital and social media," said Mr Davis, who is now in touch with Waltham Forest Council about bringing the course to schools in the east-London borough.

"I think the numbers speak for themselves. To ignore social media will lead to pupils suffering."

Mr Davis said jobs were available in social-media companies and the growing number of social-media departments in mainstream companies.

"Every young person I have spoken to is involved in social media in some way," he said. "To ignore that and allow them to run riot rather than explaining how they can use (social media) safely and to their benefit is, I think, dangerous.

"This is using what they already know and pushing them in the right direction."

Mr Chinery said a key benefit was the speed at which it had allowed pupils to complete coursework, freeing them up to spend more time on other aspects of English, such as analysing literature.

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