The very social network

2nd September 2011 at 01:00

This article was originally published in Talk, Listen, Take Part - a special supplement produced by the TES to a brief agreed with The Communication Trust. Thesupplement was paid for by The Communication Champion and BT.

See the full supplement as a digital edition.

For those who prefer to communicate via a keyboard rather than the spoken word, social media has expanded their world. Now the launch of a Facebook app to help young people aged 14-19 develop their communication skills could expand it back into a vocal environment.

Young people like Chris Pike, 18, from Warrington, Cheshire. Chris has Asperger's syndrome and finds it difficult to pick up on nuances in the spoken word. He explains: "It's actually an incredibly complicated thing, communication. You think it's really simple, but actually a tiny change in the way you say a word can make a massive difference to the meaning of a sentence."

Using BT's Talk Gym has helped him learn more about himself, but also, importantly, how to deal with his relationships with his friends.

"It has certainly taught me some things. It has made it easier for me to communicate with my friends. It has made me empathise with my friends a bit more in certain situations . you start to understand the hidden messages behind people's communication."

In the UK, 47 per cent of businesses in England claim that they find it difficult to recruit staff with an appropriate level of oral communication skills. Often, young people do not realise how vital good communications skills are until they enter the world of work.

Using the Talk Gym Facebook app, users can check their "talk fitness" by answering six questions about themselves and then a friend or relative can answer the same questions via Facebook. The answers appear anonymously in a graph and the app uses the responses to assess the individual's communication ability. From this, the Talk Gym user receives information on why communication skills are important and tips on being clear, listening, talking in groups and being interviewed.

Talk Gym has been designed to support speaking and listening in the National Curriculum for England and Wales, the Cross-Curricular skills in the National Curriculum for Northern Ireland and a number of strands in Scotland's Curriculum for Excellence.

Free teachers' resources are available to download to help teachers make the best use of the app, and this includes guidance on using social media as a learning tool.


Moving from school into the world of employment brings new communication challenges, and Moving On is a free resource designed to help young people.

Part of the BT Learning amp; Skills programme, Moving On has three online modules that are linked to the curriculum and designed to help those aged 14-19 learn more about themselves, the skills they will need in life and work and how to develop and show these when applying for jobs. Through a mixture of video, student worksheets, audio clips, students can work through the resources and find out more about how to approach jobseeking and what sort of jobs they would suit.

BT's Moving On


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