Aim: To improve engagement with the KS5 curriculum and enhance exam performance.
Background: There was a high uptake of Geography at KS5 but it was not necessarily matched with a commensurately high level of academic attainment and engagement, nor a high level of uptake of Geography (or related disciplines) in tertiary education.
Year 1: A survey amongst current and former students showed that Facebook (81%), Instagram (70%), YouTube (70%) and Snapchat (81%) had high rates of at least daily usage. Twitter had a comparatively low daily usage rate (48%), but a strong overall usage rate (93%). After research, Snapchat, YouTube and Instagram were deemed to have relatively low potential for educational application so were not considered for the project at this stage.
Nine Geography departments across the UK were also surveyed, all of which used Twitter for a range of applications, including sharing news stories (and encouraging further reading), reminders and announcements, photo sharing and sharing good work. Pupils also generated some interesting ideas such as allowing students to ‘take over’ the account for a week, sharing a wider range of news sources and general interest stories and making more interactive content, e.g. quizzes.
27 former and current KS5 Geography students were surveyed about their use of and attitude towards, the AGGS Twitter account as an educational tool. All students surveyed used the account for further reading to some extent; some on a weekly basis but others only monthly or less frequently. The nine former students interviewed had all used further reading they had found from the Twitter account to inform an answer in a written examination, and seven out of eight had used it for homework and mock examinations. The also had good interaction with other features of the account such as ‘FotoFriday’ and ‘Map of the Week’.
Year 2: Improvement in the ‘Analytics’ section of the Twitter desktop website meant that it was possible to analyse the ways in which followers interacted with our tweets. The department also started an Instagram account and found that although there were fewer followers than on Twitter, students were more likely to interact with posts. However, given that only photographs or videos can be posted, the practical applications of this are uncertain.
Evidence: Student surveys, analysis of social media usage, exam results.
Impact: Analytics showed that students typically engaged more with light-hearted content, and as a means of drawing them in and enthusing them about Geography this is clearly very positive. However, there was no clear evidence from examination results how, or if, social media had enhanced learning because there were too many other variables to consider. A staff survey showed that all full time staff had contributed to social media content, and their own areas of interest had helped to enhance the content made available to our students. For example, the head of department (a keen photographer) contributed the FotoFriday content on the Twitter account, and a younger, more tech-savvy member of staff set up the departmental Instagram account .
Reflections: The academic benefit of using Twitter is something that we did not manage to quantify, however the potential for engaging or enthusing students about a subject is considerable. A key success of this project is the development of a manageable use for Twitter (in terms of time and bureaucracy) which works for the department and students. We feel it is sustainable and look forward to continuing to use Twitter with future academic years.
Contact: Mike Lovelady, email@example.com