Views & Opinion Understanding learning and development

go together in any classroom Comment by ALICIA BLANCO-BAYO, Early Years teacher, Kirkham Grammar School

How many times have we been observed by an inspector, a moderator or even a colleague and felt the observation was more a judgement of performance than an analysis of how children were benefiting from our teaching? How many times have we felt unable to challenge the observer’s conclusions? How often do we feel perhaps we should be doing something so that the observers see what they want to see? All these are questions many of us ask ourselves regularly, and unless we allow ourselves the time to reflect on our practice, we may end up believing the observer knows best and we need to change our ways. Well, let me tell you that, first of all, what goes on in the Early Years classroom is not about the practitioners, it is about the children and only the children. Teaching is not a competition where we receive a medal because we came up with the best ideas (usually taken from one of the millions of webpages available today) to keep the children busy. Teaching is about supporting children so that they are engaged in their own learning, no matter how simple the activity might be. Whether it has taken hours to prepare lots of resources to wow the observer is neither here nor there. Teaching is about connecting with children and taking them where they want to go, through interactions that can contribute to their development.

Understanding children

There are still teachers who focus on what needs to be achieved and set up the environment so that each child has an aim to work towards. I was

once one of those, and since that’s all I knew at the time, it seemed right to work like that. What I realised over time was that I would spend too long worrying about what children could not do and how to help them be able to do it. This meant that I often did not look for what those children could do, because that was not a statement next to one of the boxes I needed to tick.

Over the past few days I have been reading and highlighting some very interesting aspects from the Early years foundation stage profile 2018 handbook. At last I am pleased to read that observing children’s emotional responses is given more prominence, and even government policy is being written so that the emotional needs of children are at the top of the development pyramid. I am still unsure whether terms such as assessment need to be at the centre of the profile, because in this data-driven world I can foresee it being a little confusing for Early Years practitioners. I would, however, question whether Key Stage 1 teachers focus too much on academic achievement since the new curriculum set much higher expectations. If we are told we can let children be until they are five years old and guide them through their developmental needs, but then as soon as they start Year 1 we set high expectations everyone has to work towards, is there a real transition that suits all individual needs? One document on its own is not going to change how we approach learning in schools in England today, but appropriate training and nurturing of future practitioners might.

Is social media the saviour for UK university recruitment? Comment by PHIL CHATTERTON, Industry Principal, Higher Education at Hootsuite

Higher education is integral to any country’s success. It drives economic growth, decreases unemployment and a creates a seat at the international table.

UK is home to some of the world’s best universities. But to remain competitive, universities are working incredibly hard to make themselves part of the current discourse. Enter social media: a potential space for conversation and mutual education, turning stern institutions into relatable and engaging academia.

This kind of discussion and approach matters more than ever in the UK. According to Deloitte’s annual The State of the State report, vice-chancellors and universities are “deeply concerned about the impact of exiting the EU on their institutions…”

As recruitment undoubtedly grows more competitive and more pivotal for the UK, universities need to turn to new channels to attract students, researchers and funding.

Social media has changed the game

Social media is shaping how prospective students and researchers discover and perceive universities. According to the 2017 International Student Survey report, 83 percent of prospective students are using social channels to research universities.

It has quickly become a mission-critical communication platform. According to a Hootsuite global survey, over 90 percent of institutions now use social media to market to top talent. Additionally, 71 percent of higher education institutions use social to drive student enrolment and 67 percent use social to drive fundraising efforts.

While these numbers are promising, 45 percent of respondents predict no January 2018

change in budget for headcount or technology in relation to social media. Where is the disconnect?

Universities understand the importance of social media– but they are not yet ready to fully invest in its upkeep.

The problem might come down to a lack of understanding around what social media engagement can bring back to the business itself. Not knowing what to track and how to relate measurements back to the university’s performance means that social is never seen as the incredibly savvy communication and business tool it can be.

The A star examples of universities leading the way Cambridge began using social media in 2009; it now manages hundreds of social media accounts. To stay consistent and authentic, the university uses insights, aggregates reports to monitor social accounts, and implements social media guidelines for trainings. This allows them to see the social ROI, including a 400% increase in Facebook followers over just a few months. Oslo and Akershus University College (HiOA), Norway’s largest state university college, turned to social media to establish an online reputation and better target and reach its audience. The university set up specific keyword search terms so they could tailor content to match. They also encouraged staff and students to share relevant content on personal networks via social amplification tools. This amplified content drove better traffic to student and science stories than paid social ads.

The numbers are staggering and the application of social media will only continue to grow. It is essential for universities to ante up and put their resources where it really matters, investing in the health of the UK’s future. 19

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