Social Media in Lifelong Education (SMILE): The debate

An event designed as an intergenerational debate between students and teachers to find ways forward for social media to be used for educational purposes from this joint perspective.
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Social media tools have changed social behaviours; they generate both concerns and excitement but not everyone in society (teachers and children included) engage with them.

There is fragmented social science research around the pros and cons of using social media in education but the time is ripe for a debate between students (often seen as ‘digital natives’) and their teachers about their respective social media usage.

We wanted to understand attitudes to and behaviours surrounding social media. Any such discussions occur:

  • within the social media for those who engage
  • in general media
  • informally in playgrounds, households and workplaces

These spaces do not always cover the educational potential, nor do they include an inter-generational debate platform or plan for further action.

The event

This event was really fun and enjoyable. There could be more time for the art competition. Apart from that it was amazing. Thank you for a wonderful day!"
It is amazing and if I was you I would create a website for us to look back on and read"
We definitely needed MUCH more time for the artwork. Otherwise amazing experience

The National Space Centre was host to our main event on 4 November 2014 and was preceded by an adapted version organised at the University of Leicester on 29 October 2014 for year 8 children visiting from local Leicester schools.

The events (supported by the ESRC and Wyggeston and Queen Elizabeth I College) contributed to developing an inclusive educational community, finding a meaningful role for ‘student voice’ and allowed groups of students (aged 10-18) and teachers to explore the potential to use social media for educational purposes; including wider participation through art and video contributions and other activities.

This culminated in a plenary generating a charter for schools and a research agenda for Universities as a shared way forward. The charter is now being distributed through various networks and shared with the Child Exploitation and Online Protection centre (CEOP).

A Social Media Charcter - For Schools and Colleges


Assisted by volunteers from the University of Leicester and sixth-form students from Wyggeston and Queen Elizabeth I College, participants reflected together on the potential and challenges of using social media for educational purposes through a carousel of activities including:

  • Art competition
  • Response to video discussions
  • ‘Knowledge café’
  • Voting, using Quizdom voting pads.

Presentations drew on children, teachers, University of Leicester research, and research and international colleagues interested in the issues of using social media effectively and safely.

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Contact Details

College of Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities

Kathy Baddiley-Davidson
(PA to Head of College, Henrietta O'Connor):
+44 (0)116 252 2679

Denise Challinor
(PA to Director of Operations, Ruth Daly):
+44 (0)116 252 3875

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