Guardian front page (25 March 2009)It was announced in the lead article in yesterday’s Guardian “Pupils to Study Twitter and Blogs in Primary Shake-up” (and note this was the main section of the paper, and not the education supplement).

There have already been a number of blog posts about this headline, ranging from the sceptical (“It’s already bad enough having students checking their mobile phones for text messages every five minutes. Soon they’ll all be Twittering as well!) to the neutral. But in my initial skim though the search results I couldn’t find any positive responses. So I’ll position myself in this space.

John Bangs, head of education at the National Union of Teachers was quoted in the article saying “It [the report] seems to jump on the latest trends such as Wikipedia and Twitter“. So once again, it would seem, defenders of the status quo are dismissive of innovation as being merely trends (the term ‘fads’ is sometimes used in this context) with the implication that is detracts from traditional areas of study.

My view is that there is a need to engage young people from a early age in understanding communications technologies, especially those they are likely to be using before they become adults. And understanding how micro-blogging tools such as Twitter and Yammer (and related technologies such as SMS messages) work, their subtle differences and the ways in which they can be misused is a new media literacy skill which young people need to develop.

Now Andy Powell pointed out that the “twitter terms of service prevent use by primary age children“. But for me this is not a show-stopper: terms of conditions can change and the term “Twitter” may be being used to describes a range of micro-blogging applications and not just the Twitter services itself.

I would expect many in the higher and further education sectors to particularly welcome this news, as ensuring that student arriving at college or university will several years of experience of such technologies should help to ensure that they can make use of such communications and collaborative tools more effectively when begin their studies.

And I find this announcement particularly interesting coming as it does that day after Ewan McIntosh, in the closing plenary talk at the recent JISC09 conference, praised the Twitterers in the audience who were engaging in active learning and discussions during his talk, whilst others were being passive consumers – which is particularly ironic as JISC and many learning developers are actively seeking ways in which innovation can enrich learning experiences. Perhaps in a few year’s time those senior managers will be seeking help from their children – or possibly grand-children – on how to make effective use of such micro-blogging services.