Are you a member of the Twitterati? You've heard of MySpace and you're probably a whiz when it comes to Facebook, but it seems that we should be all of "a-Twitter" now.
Twitter is the website on which users post statements called "tweets", which can have up to 140 characters. More than 300,000 tweets are already sent every day in the UK.
The actor Stephen Fry is one famous exponent, and MPs have jumped on the bandwagon too. Jim Knight, the schools minister, is a regular tweeter, whose recent posts range from the inane "realised I never had that pancake yesterday - does that mean I can ignore Lent?" to the more waspish "wondering for how much longer we'll have to listen to Michael Gove".
The further education minister, Siôn Simon, has just started tweeting and the higher education minister, David Lammy, even appeared on the BBC's One Show extolling Twitter's virtues.
Now even a few further education colleges have caught on. Sort of. When it comes to writing succinctly, we further education sorts do struggle. We're used to using eight words when one would do, and flabby paragraphs with 50-word sentences. And we do love our jargon.
Twitter pioneers include Deeside College, Havering College, Regents College, Sunderland College and my own college, Cornwall.
News of the Chinese earthquake last year broke on Twitter, as did the first images of the US Airways plane that had to crash-land in New York's Hudson river and last week's crash at Schipol airport near Amsterdam. The FE sector isn't tweeting on such a grand scale, but it's interesting to see the difference between how colleges and universities are using this forum.
University tweets are "talking" to their current students: they warn of campus disruption, inclement weather and current research. Nottingham Trent University is looking for past and present cannabis users - it wants to establish whether users are more prone to developing schizotypal personality.
Meanwhile, some colleges - struggling to see the wood for the trees - are tweeting about the "special of the day" in the canteen.
It gets worse. Delve deeper and you will find some very odd posts on colleges' Twitter pages. One college tells us "network upgrade takeing [sic] place service interruptions possible during next 30 minutes". And that "all studio (gym) classes this week canceled [sic] due to the adverse weather conditions".
Another college "tweets": "Adapting my 'Ldap Active Directory users to SQL database' webpage, Ldap queries are so intuitive (ha ha)." Yet another says: "Just opened a Twitter account." It's gripping stuff; you can see why students would want to enrol.
But is there a right way to use Twitter, and what could colleges use it for? I know my college currently has around 100 "followers" but I don't know who is reading the posts, or where they come from - because you don't have to be a "follower", or even be logged-in, to read a Twitter page. This means it can't be used as a robust marketing tool; I can't measure if it's helping to put "bums on seats".
Colleges can build a "personality" using Twitter; a faceless institution can communicate a sense of humour, passion and even quality through this medium.
Cornwall College's Twitter page isn't "talking" directly to students because younger students aren't yet the ones looking at Twitter. We have seven campuses, 40,000 learners and 3,000 staff, so we need to appeal to a wide community. Students, staff, parents, businesses, alumni - they're all out there, and we need to keep them engaged and interested in the college and what it's trying to achieve.
"I do think it's important for colleges to engage with social media," says Heather Yaxley, a lecturer at Bournemouth University and social media expert. She says it's too soon to see where the real potential lies. "At the least they need to monitor and understand what's going on."
Twitter might not be here for the long term, but colleges should take advantage of the hype. There's such a lot of noise around Twitter - it's free, and easy to get involved in. But be careful, look at what your college is tweeting, and, for goodness' sake, use a spellchecker.
• Ruth Sparkes is PR manager at Cornwall College
Top Twitter tips
• Register your college's name at Twitter, even if you don't use it - or someone else might, and its reputation could be at their mercy.
• Connect with others - start following other colleges, students, media, MPs, quangos, etc.
• Use facilities like www.search. twitter.com to monitor what's being said about your college.
• Never forget that what's written on Twitter is immediately live and public.
• Don't get obsessed about your "followers". Remember, the quality of the people and organisations you communicate with is far more important than the raw numbers.
Oh si, oh si, ooooh si!!!!!
Sieeeeempre lo he dicho. Desde que la Secretaría de "Educación" Pública decidió que la escolarización inicial tenía que ser obligatoria, le pusieron en su mauser a los chavitos pre-escolares, a los kinders, a algunos padres (otros sólo quieren nanas, por lo que les ha de haber caido super la noticia), y sobre todo a la "educación" misma.
Hace algunos años, la escolarización pre-escolar era abierta, libre, los niños iban al kinder con gusto, podían jugar, experimentar libremente... Y ASÍ ES COMO SE APRENDE. Pero,... aaaaah!!!!... salió un gran genio político diciendo que ahora esto tendría que ser estandarizado y ZAZ! ahora la SEP, las escuelas y los mismos maestros caen en el concepto tan conocido de escolarización forzosa, niños sentados en fila, todos haciendo lo mismo al mismo tiempo y "estandarizando también los juegos".
Estamos hablando de niños menores de 6 años, que pasarán los siguientes 15 años de su vida (si sólo llegan a preparatoria) sentados en fila, escuchando a un maestro que juzga si están bien o no, si saben o no según los momentos marcados por nuestra "benemérita" SEP.
La diferencia la he vivido incluso con mis hijas. La mayor tuvo aun (fue el último año que se permitía) entrar a primero de primaria a los 6 años. Naaaaadie se metía conmigo ni cuestionaba si ya sabía leer o no, si estaba siendo escolarizada o no, sin embargo con la pequeña, a quien Kinder 2 le hubiera correspondido una escolarización obligatoria, ha sido toda una aventura, porque desde que tenía 3 o 4 años ya podía escuchar la presión de maestros y familiares cuestionar el porqué no estaba siendo escolarizada.
Tristemente, no puedo escolarizarla ahora, porque NO TIENE CERTIFIDADO DE PREESCOLAR, y si ella ahora decide que le gusta la escuela, no tiene la opción de entrar en estos momentos.... HELLLOOOOOO!!!!!!!!
Pero que no se me malentienda.... puedo estar de acuerdo en el concepto de que los niños vayan a al kinder, siempre y cuando se entienda esta escolarización muy fuera del concepto y paradigma que ahora tenemos de lo que una escuela es y "debe ser". Filas, niños, "socialización" de horas con el concepto de: "Te sientas, te callas y copias lo que veas en el pizarrón o lo que yo te dicte"...
Pero bueno, todo esto se los cuento, para compartir el siguiente artículo publicado por la BBC education. Ya ud. decide si está de acuerdo o no...
Call to start school at age six
The ATL found support for a later school starting age
Children should not be compelled to start school before they are six, many primary school staff seem to think.
A questionnaire completed by 740 members of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers found three quarters believed they should be at least five.
Under current guidelines, most UK children start school in the September after their fourth birthday.
The ATL questionnaire also found staff thought an emphasis on tests, literacy and numeracy was undermining childhood.
The questionnaire was sent to 10,000 members of the union and was completed by over 640 teachers and just under 100 teaching assistants in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Summer-born children often lack the maturity to cope with school
Kent primary teacher
Claire Jagger, a primary teacher in Cornwall, wrote in her response to the questionnaire: "I have taught in Finland, Lapland and Russia and have seen first hand the way in which their seven-year-olds start school ready to learn.
"They are emotionally ready, socially able, physically content and mature enough to deal with the curriculum in school, bringing good solid life experience and a thirst for learning."
A primary school teacher from Kent said: "Summer-born children, especially those born in August, often lack the maturity to cope with school.
"They would be better off staying at pre-school for longer, but there is also a lot of parental pressure for the children to start school so they can go to work.
"I often feel like a child-minder and not a teacher."
Time to play
The questionnaire also found 42% of the respondents thought pupils did not have enough time for playing with their friends.
Over half of respondents said children were not getting enough time in school for non-core subjects such as music and singing, art and crafts and drama.
Nor were they getting enough time being taught on their own or in self-directed learning.
Sheffield primary teacher Heidi Hindmarch said: "I seem to do more assessment than teaching.
FROM THE TODAY PROGRAMME
More from Today programme
"The children are turned off at a very young age because the curriculum is all about attaining a level rather than learning for the thrill of finding out."
The association's general secretary, Mary Bousted, said: "We have a choice: we can either go on overloading the curriculum and testing children at every opportunity, or we can create an environment where children enjoy learning and discovering.
"Primary school should give children the building blocks to continue learning, so they leave with the basic skills they need to be able to make friends, learn on their own and with others, and a desire to do so."
A spokeswoman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families in England said a recent study of 35,000 children had found that beginning reception class in the September of the academic year in which they turned five could have positive benefits on attainment.
"Sir Jim Rose's interim report suggested parents be given the choice that their children start part time.
"He has consulted widely on the optimum time to start primary school with early years' experts and teachers as part of his curriculum review and will report back on his findings shortly."