This post reviews the scope and quality of gifted education coverage across selected social media.
It uses this evidence base to reflect on progress in the 18 months since I last visited this topic and to establish a benchmark against which to judge future progress.
- Proposes two sets of quality criteria – one for blogs and other websites, the other for effective use of social media;
- Reviews gifted education-related social media activity:
Across the Blogosphere and five of the most influential English language social media platforms – Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter and You Tube and
Utilising four content curation tools particularly favoured by gifted educators, namely PaperLi, Pinterest, ScoopIt and Storify.
- Considers the gap between current practice and the proposed quality criteria – and whether there has been an improvement in the application of social media across the five dimensions of gifted education identified in my previous post.
I should declare at the outset that I am a Trustee of Potential Plus UK and have been working with them to improve their online and social media presence. This post lies outside that project, but some of the underlying research is the same.
I have been this way before
This is my second excursion into this territory.
In September 2012 I published a two-part response to the question ‘Can Social Media Help Overcome the Problems We Face in Gifted Education?’
- Part One outlined an analytical framework based on five dimensions of gifted education. Each dimension is stereotypically associated with a particular stakeholder group though, in reality, each group operates across more than one area. The dimensions (with their associated stakeholder groups in brackets) are: advocacy (parents); learning (learners); policy-making (policy makers); professional development (educators); and research (academics).
- Part Two used this framework to review the challenges faced by gifted education, to what extent these were being addressed through social media and how social media could be applied more effectively to tackle them. It also outlined the limitations of a social media-driven approach and highlighted some barriers to progress.
The conclusions I reached might be summarised as follows:
- Many of the problems associated with gifted education are longstanding and significant, but not insurmountable. Social media will not eradicate these problems but can make a valuable contribution towards that end by virtue of their unrivalled capacity to ‘only connect’.
- Gifted education needs to adapt if it is to thrive in a globalised environment with an increasingly significant online dimension driven by a proliferation of social media. The transition from early adoption to mainstream practice has not yet been effected, but rapid acceleration is necessary otherwise gifted education will be left behind.
- Gifted education is potentially well-placed to pioneer new developments in social media but there is limited awareness of this opportunity, or the benefits it could bring.
The post was intended to inform discussion at a Symposium at the ECHA Conference in Munster, Germany in September 2012. I published the participants’ presentations and a report on proceedings (which is embedded within a review of the Conference as a whole).
I have not previously attempted to pin down what constitutes a high quality website or blog and effective social media usage, not least because so many have gone before me.
But, on reviewing their efforts, I could find none that embodied every dimension I considered important, while several appeared unduly restrictive.
It seems virtually impossible to reconcile these two conflicting pressures, defining quality with brevity but without compromising flexibility. Any effort to pin down quality risks reductionism while also fettering innovation and wilfully obstructing the pioneering spirit.
I am a strong advocate of quality standards in gifted education but, in this context, it seemed beyond my capacity to find or generate the ideal ‘flexible framework’, offering clear guidance without compromising innovation and capacity to respond to widely varying needs and circumstances.
But the project for Potential Plus UK required us to consult stakeholders on their understanding of quality provision, so that we could reconcile any difference between their perceptions and our own.
And, in order to consult effectively, we needed to make a decent stab at the task ourselves.
So I prepared some draft success criteria, drawing on previous efforts I could find online as well as my own experience over the last four years.
I have reproduced the draft criteria below, with slight amendment to make them more universally applicable. The first set – for a blog or website – are generic, while those relating to wider online and social media presence are made specific to gifted education.
Draft Quality Criteria for a Blog or Website
1. The site is inviting to regular and new readers alike; its purpose is up front and explicit; as much content as possible is accessible to all.
2. Readers are encouraged to interact with the content through a variety of routes – and to contribute their own (moderated) content.
3. The structure is logical and as simple as possible, supported by clear signposting and search.
4. The design is contemporary, visually attractive but not obtrusive, incorporating consistent branding and a complementary colour scheme. There is no external advertising.
5. The layout makes generous and judicious use of space and images – and employs other media where appropriate.
6. Text is presented in small blocks and large fonts to ensure readability on both tablet and PC.
7. Content is substantial, diverse and includes material relevant to all the site’s key audiences.
8. New content is added weekly; older material is frequently archived (but remains accessible).
9. The site links consistently to – and is linked to consistently by – all other online and social media outlets maintained by the authors.
10. Readers can access site content by multiple routes, including other social media, RSS and email.
Draft quality criteria for wider online/social media activity
1. A body’s online and social media presence should be integral to its wider communications strategy which should, in turn, support its purpose, objectives and priorities.
2. It should:
a. Support existing users – whether they are learners, parents/carers, educators, policy-makers or academics – and help to attract new users;
b. Raise the entity’s profile and build its reputation – both nationally and internationally – as a first-rate provider in one or more of the five areas of gifted education;
c. Raise the profile of gifted education as an issue and support campaigning for stronger provision;
d. Help to generate income to support the pursuit of these objectives and the body’s continued existence.
3. It should aim to:
a. Provide a consistently higher quality and more compelling service than its main competitors, generating maximum benefit for minimum cost.
b. Use social media to strengthen interaction with and between users and provide more effective ‘bottom-up’ collaborative support.
c. Balance diversity and reach against manageability and effectiveness, prioritising media favoured by users but resisting pressure to diversify without justification and resource.
d. Keep the body’s online presence coherent and uncomplicated, with clear and consistent signposting so users can navigate quickly and easily between different online locations.
e. Integrate all elements of the body’s online presence, ensuring they are mutually supportive.
4. It should monitor carefully the preferences of users, as well as the development of online and social media services, adjusting the approach only when there is a proven business case for doing so.
Applying the Criteria
These draft criteria reflect the compromise I outlined above. They are not the final word. I hope that you will help us to refine them as part of the consultation process now underway and I cannot emphasise too much that they are intended as guidelines, to be applied with some discretion.
I continue to maintain my inalienable right – as well as yours – to break any rules imposed by self-appointed arbiters of quality.
To give an example, readers will know that I am particularly exercised by any suggestion that good blog posts are, by definition, brief!
I also maintain your inalienable right to impose your own personal tastes and preferences alongside (or in place of) these criteria. But you might prefer to do so having reflected on the criteria – and having dismissed them for logical reasons.
There are also some fairly obvious limitations to these criteria.
For example, bloggers like me who use hosted platforms are constrained to some extent by the restrictions imposed by the host, as well as by our preparedness to pay for premium features.
Moreover, the elements of effective online and social media practice have been developed with a not-for-profit charity in mind and some in particular may not apply – or may not apply so rigorously – to other kinds of organisations, or to individuals engaged in similar activity.
In short, these are not templates to be followed slavishly, but rather a basis for reviewing existing provision and prompting discussion about how it might be further improved.
It would be forward of me to attempt a rigorous scrutiny against each of the criteria of the six key players mentioned above, or of any of the host of smaller players, including the 36 active gifted education blogs now listed on my blogroll.
I will confine myself instead to reporting factually all that I can find in the public domain about the activity of the six bodies, comparing and contrasting their approaches with broad reference to the criteria and arriving at an overall impressionistic judgement.
As for the blogs, I will be even more tactful, pointing out that my own quick and dirty self-review of this one – allocating a score out of ten for each of the ten items in the first set of criteria – generated a not very impressive 62%.
Of course I am biased. I still think my blog is better than yours, but now I have some useful pointers to how I might make it even better!
Comparing six major players
I wanted to compare the social media profile of the most prominent international organisations, the most active national organisations based in the US (which remains the dominant country in gifted education and in supporting gifted education online) and the two major national organisations in the UK.
I could have widened my reach to include many similar organisations around the world but that would have made this post more inaccessible. It also struck me that I could evidence my key messages by analysis of this small sample alone – and that my conclusions would be equally applicable to others in the field, wherever they are located geographically.
My analysis focuses on these organisations’:
- Principal websites, including any information they contain about their wider online and social media activity;
- Profile across the five selected social media platforms and use of blogs plus the four featured curational tools.
I have confined myself to universally accessible material, since several of these organisations have additional material available only to their memberships.
I have included only what I understand to be official channels, tied explicitly to the main organisation. I have included accounts that are linked to franchised operations – typically conferences – but have excluded personal accounts that belong to individual employees or trustees of the organisations in question.
Table 1 below shows which of the six organisations are using which social media. The table includes hyperlinks to the principal accounts and I have also repeated these in the commentary that follows.
Table 1: The social media used by the sample of six organisations
The table gives no information about the level or quality of activity on each account – that will be addressed in the commentary below – but it gives a broadly reliable indication of which organisations are comparatively active in social media and which are less so.
The analysis shows that Facebook and Twitter are somewhat more popular platforms than Google+, LinkedIn and You Tube, while Pinterest leads the way amongst the curational tools. This distribution of activity is broadly representative of the wider gifted education community.
The next section takes a closer look at this wider activity on each of the ten platforms and tools.
Comparing gifted-related activity on the ten selected platforms and tools
As far as I can establish, none of the six organisations currently maintains a blog. SENG does have what it describes as a Library of Articles, which is a blog to all intents and purposes – and Potential Plus UK is currently planning a blog.
Earlier this year I noticed that my blogroll was extremely out of date and that several of the blogs it contained were no longer active. I reviewed all the blogs I could find in the field and sought recommendations from others.
I imposed a rule to distinguish live blogs from those that are dead or dormant – they had to have published three or more relevant posts in the previous six months.
I also applied a slightly more subjective rule, in an effort to sift out those that had little relevance to anyone beyond the author (being cathartic diaries of sorts) and those that are entirely devoted to servicing a small local advocacy group.
I ended up with a long shortlist of 36 blogs, which now constitutes the revised blogroll in the right hand column. Most are written in English but I have also included a couple of particularly active blogs in other languages.
The overall number of active blogs is broadly comparable with what I remember in 2010 when I first began, but the number of posts has probably fallen.
I don’t know to what extent this reflects changes in the overall number of active blogs and posts, either generically or in the field of education. In England there has been a marked renaissance in edublogging over the last twelve months, yet only three bloggers venture regularly into the territory of gifted education.
Alongside Twitter, Facebook has the most active gifted education community.
There are dozens of Facebook Groups focused on giftedness and high ability. At the time of writing, the largest and most active are:
- NAGC – National Association for Gifted Children (2,420 members)
- International Gifted Education (868 members)
- Mary’s Gifted Contacts (614 members)
- Davidson Institute – Educators Guild (580 members)
The Facebook Pages with the most ‘likes’ have been established by bodies located in the United States. The most favoured include:
- Supporting Gifted Learners (18,582 likes)
- Gifted Homeschoolers Forum (18,349 likes)
- Center for Talented Youth (13,924 likes)
- Duke TIP (13,344 likes)
- Hoagies Gifted Education Page (13,024 likes)
- SENG – Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted (9,121 likes)
- Davidson Institute for Talent Development (4,339 likes)
- The Global Centre for Gifted and Talented Children (2,039 likes)
- World Council for Gifted and Talented Children (1,616 likes)
There is a Gifted Phoenix page, which is rigged up to my Twitter account so all my tweets are relayed there. Only those with a relevant hashtag – #gtchat or #gtvoice – will be relevant to gifted education.
To date there is comparatively little activity on Google+, though many have established an initial foothold there.
Part of the problem is lack of familiarity with the platform, but another obstacle is the limited capacity to connect other parts of one’s social media footprint with one’s Google+ presence.
There is only one Google+ Community to speak of: ‘Gifted and Talented’ currently with 134 members.
A search reveals a large number of people and pages ostensibly relevant to gifted education, but few are useful and many are dormant.
Amongst the early adopters are:
- Gifted Homeschoolers Forum (+986)
- The Gifted Parent blog (+60)
My own Google+ page is dormant. It should now be possible to have WordPress.com blogposts appear automatically on a Google+ page, but the service seems unreliable. There is no capacity to link Twitter and Google+ in this fashion. I am waiting on Google to improve the connectivity of their service.
LinkedIn is also comparatively little used by the gifted education community. There are several groups:
- Gifted Talented Network (2,663 members)
- International Gifted Education (2,174 members)
- National Association for Gifted Children (2,310 members)
- International Gifted Education Teacher Education Network (1,286 members)
- Gifted and Talented (1,157 members)
But none is particularly active, despite the rather impressive numbers above. Similarly, a handful of organisations have company pages on LinkedIn, but only one or two are active.
The search purports to include a staggering 98,360 people who mention ‘gifted’ in their profiles, but basic account holders can only see 100 results at a time.
My own LinkedIn page is registered under my real name rather than my social media pseudonym and is focused principally on my consultancy activity. I often forget it exists.
By comparison, Twitter is much more lively.
My brief January post mentioned my Twitter list containing every user I could find who mentions gifted education (or a similar term, whether in English or a selection of other languages) in their profile.
The list currently contains 1,263 feeds. You are welcome to subscribe to it. If you want to see it in action first, it is embedded in the right-hand column of this Blog, just beneath the blogroll.
The majority of the gifted-related activity on Twitter takes place under the #gtchat hashtag, which tends to be busier than even the most popular Facebook pages.
This hashtag also accommodates an hour long real-time chat every Friday (at around midnight UK time) and at least once a month on Sundays, at a time more conducive to European participants.
Other hashtags carrying information about gifted education include: #gtvoice (UK-relevant), #gtie (Ireland-relevant), #hoogbegaafd (Dutch-speaking); #altascapacidades (Spanish-speaking), #nagc and #gifteded.
Chats also take place on the #gtie and #nagc hashtags, though the latter may now be discontinued.
Several feeds provide gifted-relevant news and updates from around the world. Amongst the most followed are:
- Gifted Homeschoolers – (4,820 followers)
- NAGC (4,240 followers)
- SENG (2,709 followers)
- Javier Touron (2,151 followers)
- Begabungs (2,141 followers)
- Lisa Conrad (2,129 followers)
Not forgetting Gifted Phoenix (5,008 followers) who publishes gifted-relevant material under the #gtchat (globally relevant material) and #gtvoice (UK-relevant material) hashtags.
You Tube is of course primarily an audio-visual channel, so it tends to be used to store public presentations and commercials.
A search on ‘gifted education’ generates some 318,000 results including 167,000 videos and 123,000 channels, but it is hard to see the wood for the trees.
Honourable mention should be made of:
- Duke TIP (152 subscribers)
- The Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (110 subscribers)
- The Global Center for Gifted and Talented Children (103 subscribers).
The most viewed video is called ‘Top 10 Myths in Gifted Education’, a dramatised presentation which was uploaded in March 2010 by the Gifted and Talented Association of Montgomery County. This has had almost 70,000 views.
Gifted Phoenix does not have a You Tube presence.
Paper.li describes itself as ‘a content curation service’ which ‘enables people to publish newspapers based on topics they like and treat their readers to fresh news, daily.’
It enables curators to draw on material from Facebook, Twitter, Google+, embeddable You Tube videos and websites via RSS feeds.
In September 2013 it reported 3.7m users each month.
I found six gifted-relevant ‘papers’ with over 1,000 subscriptions:
- The Gifted – High Ability Daily curated by Douglas Eby (2,800 subscriptions)
- Gifted Success curated by Sonia Daboussi (2,100 subscriptions)
- The #Gifted Daily – a paper.li community (2,000 subscriptions)
- Gifted Kids and Parents curated by Kim McNeill (1,900 subscriptions)
- Differentiation Daily curated by Laurie Westphal (1,200 subscriptions)
- #Gifted Talented Daily (#gtchat) curated by giftedcanada (1,200 subscriptions)
There is, as yet, no Gifted Phoenix presence on paper.li, though I have been minded for some months to give it a try.
Pinterest is built around a pinboard concept. Pins are illustrated bookmarks designating something found online or already on Pinterest, while Boards are used to organise a collection of pins. Users can follow each other and others’ boards.
Pinterest is said to have 70 million users, of which 80% are female.
A search on ‘gifted education’ reveals hundreds of boards dedicated to the topic, but unfortunately there is no obvious way to rank them by number of followers or number of pins.
Since advanced search capability is conspicuous by its absence, the user apparently has little choice but to sift laboriously through each board. I have not undertaken this task so I can bring you no useful information about the most used and most popular boards.
Judging by the names attached to these boards, they are owned almost exclusively by women. It is interesting to hypothesise about what causes this gender imbalance – and whether Pinterest is actively pursuing female users at the expense of males.
There are, however, some organisations in the field making active use of Pinterest. A search of ‘pinners’ suggests that amongst the most popular are:
- Gifted Homeschoolers Forum, which administers 23 different boards, together accounting for 3,452 pins and 1,415 followers;
- E-Gifted Online Learning which has 59 separate boards containing 3,667 pins and with 1,023 followers; and
- IAGC Gifted which has 26 boards, 734 pins and 400 followers.
Gifted Phoenix is male and does not have a presence on Pinterest…yet!
Scoop.it stores material on a page somewhere between a paper.li-style newspaper and a Pinterest-style board. It is reported to have almost seven million unique visitors each month.
‘Scoopable’ material is drawn together via URLs, a programmable ‘suggestions engine’ and other social media, including all the ‘big four’. The free version permits a user to link only two social media accounts however, putting significant restrictions on Scoop.it’s curational capacity.
Scoop.it also has limited search engine capability. It is straightforward to conduct an elementary search like this one on ‘gifted’ which reveals 107 users.
There is no quick way of finding those pages that are most used or most followed, but one can hover over the search results for topics to find out which have most views:
- High Ability curated by Douglas Eby has 12,000 views
- Methods and Materials for Gifted Education curated by LuAnne Forrest has 2,400 views
- Gifted Education News curated by Molly Koniers has 1,700 views
- Nurturing Giftedness curated by Kids Ahoy has 1,200 views
- All Things Gifted and Talented curated by Ginger Lewman has 778 views
Gifted Phoenix has a Scoop.it topic which is still very much a work in progress.
Storify is a slightly different animal to the other three tools. It describes itself as:
‘the leading social storytelling platform, enabling users to easily collect tweets, photos, videos and media from across the web to create stories that can be embedded on any website. With Storify, anyone can curate stories from the social web to embed on their own site and share on the Storify platform.’
Estimates of user numbers vary but are typically from 850,000 to 1m.
Storify is a flexible tool whose free service permits one to collect material already located on the platform and from a range of other sources including Twitter, Facebook, You Tube, Flickr, Instagram, Google search, Tumblr – or via RSS or URL.
The downside is that there is no way to search within Storify for stories or users, so one cannot provide information about the level of activity or users that it might be helpful to follow.
However, a Google search reveals that users of Storify include:
- #gtchat with 27 followers
- IGGY with 9 followers
- Douglas Eby with 8 followers
- Gifted Canada with 5 followers
These tiny numbers show that Storify has not really taken off as a curational platform in its own right, though it is an excellent supporting tool, particularly for recording transcripts of Twitter chats.
Gifted Phoenix has a Storify profile and uses the service occasionally.
Comparing the six organisations
So, having reviewed wider gifted education-related activity on these ten social media platforms and tools, it is time to revisit the online and social media profile of the six selected organisations.
The WCGTC website was revised in 2012 and has a clear and contemporary design.
The Council’s Mission Statement has a strong networking feel to it and elsewhere the website emphasises the networking benefits associated with membership:
‘…But while we’re known for our biennial conference the spirit of sharing actually goes on year round among our membership.
By joining the World Council you can become part of this vital network and have access to hundreds of other peers while learning about the latest developments in the field of gifted children.’
Both Twitter and Facebook are of course available to members and non-members alike.
At the time of writing, the Facebook page has 1,616 ‘likes’ and is relatively current, with five posts in the last month, though there is relatively little comment on these.
The Twitter feed typically manages a daily Tweet. Hashtags are infrequently if ever employed. At the time of writing the feed has 1,076 followers.
Almost all the Tweets are links to a daily paper.li production ‘WCGTC Daily’ which was first published in late July 2013, just before the last biennial conference. This has 376 subscribers at the present time, although the gifted education coverage is selective and limited.
However, the Council’s most recent biennial conference was unusual in making extensive use of social media. It placed photographs on Flickr, videos of keynotes on YouTube and podcasts of keynotes on Mixlr.
There was also a Blog – International Year of Giftedness and Creativity – which was busy in the weeks immediately preceding the Conference, but has not been active since.
One of the strands of the 2015 Conference is:
- Setting the stage for future sharing of information
- E-learning options’
And one of the sponsors is a social media company.
As noted above, the World Council website provides links to two of its six strands of social media activity, but not the remaining four. It is not yet serving as an effective hub for the full range of this activity.
Some of the strands link together well – eg Twitter to paper.li – but there is considerable scope to improve the incidence and frequency of cross-referencing.
Of the six organisations in this sample, ECHA is comfortably the least active in social media with only a Facebook page available to supplement its website.
The site itself is rather old-fashioned and could do with a refresh. It includes a section ‘Introducing ECHA’ which emphasises the organisation’s networking role:
‘The major goal of ECHA is to act as a communications network to promote the exchange of information among people interested in high ability – educators, researchers, psychologists, parents and the highly able themselves. As the ECHA network grows, provision for highly able people improves and these improvements are beneficial to all members of society.’
This is reinforced in a parallel Message from the President.
There is no reference on the website to the Facebook group which is closed, but not confined solely to ECHA members. There are currently 191 members. The group is fairly active, but does not rival those with far more members listed above.
There’s not much evidence of cross-reference between the Facebook group and the website, but that may be because the website is infrequently updated.
As with the World Council, ECHA conferences have their own social media profile.
At the 2012 Conference in In Munster this was left largely to the delegates. Several of us live Tweeted the event.
I blogged about the Conference and my part in it, providing links to transcripts of the Twitter record. The post concluded with a series of learning points for this year’s ECHA Conference in Slovenia.
The Conference website explains that the theme of the 2014 event is ‘Rethinking Giftedness: Giftedness in the Digital Age’.
Six months ahead of the event, there is a Twitter feed with 29 followers that has been dormant for three months at the time of writing and a LinkedIn group with 47 members that has been quiet for five months.
A Forum was also established which has not been used for over a year. There is no information on the website about how the event will be supported by social media.
I sincerely hope that my low expectations will not be fulfilled!
SENG is far more active across social media. Its website carries a 2012 copyright notice and has a more contemporary feel than many of the others in this sample.
The bottom of the home page extends an invitation to ‘connect with the SENG community’ and carries links to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn (though not to Google+ or You Tube).
In addition, each page carries a set of buttons to support the sharing of this information across a wide range of social media.
The organisation’s Strategic Plan 2012-2017 makes only fleeting reference to social media, in relation to creating a ‘SENG Liaison Facebook page’ to support inter-state and international support.
It does, however, devote one of its nine goals to the further development of its webinar programme (each costs $40 to access or $40 to purchase a recording for non-participants).
SENG offers online parent support groups but does not state which platform is used to host these. It has a Technology/Social Media Committee but its proceedings are not openly available.
Reference has already been made above to the principal Facebook Page which is popular, featuring posts on most days and a fair amount of interaction from readers.
The parallel group for SENG Liaisons is also in place, but is closed to outsiders, which rather seems to defeat the object.
The You Tube channel has 257 subscribers however and carries 16 videos, most of them featuring presentations by James Webb. Rather strangely, these don’t seem to feature in the media library carried by the website.
SENG is largely a voluntary organisation with little staff resource, but it is successfully using social media to extend its footprint and global influence. There is, however, scope to improve coherence and co-ordination.
National Association for Gifted Children
The NAGC’s website is also in some need of refreshment. Its copyright notice dates from 2008, which was probably when it was designed.
There are no links to social media on the home page but ‘NAGC at a glance’ carries a direct link to the Facebook group and a Twitter logo without a link, while the page listing NAGC staff has working links to both Facebook and Twitter.
In the past, NAGC has been more active in this field.
There was for a time a Parenting High Potential Blog but the site is now marked private.
NAGC’s Storify account contains the transcripts of 6 Twitter chats conducted under the hashtag #nagcchat between June and August 2012. These were hosted by NAGC’s Parent Outreach Specialist.
But, by November 2012 I was tweeting:
And in February 2013:
This post was filled by July 2013. The postholder seems to have been concentrating primarily on editing the magazine edition of Parenting High Potential, which is confined to members only (but also has a Facebook presence – see below).
NAGC’s website carries a document called ‘NAGC leadership initiatives 2013-14’ which suggests further developments in the next few months.
The initiatives include:
‘Leverage content to intentionally connect NAGC resources, products and programs to targeted audiences through an organization-wide social media strategy.’
‘Implement a new website and membership database that integrates with social media and provides a state-of-the-art user interface.’
One might expect NAGC to build on its current social media profile which features:
- A Facebook Group which currently has 2,420 members and is reasonably active, though not markedly so. Relatively few posts generate significant comments.
- A separate Facebook page for Parenting High Potential which was launched in January 2010 and now has 2,913 likes
- A Twitter feed boasting an impressive 4,287 followers. Tweets are published on a fairly regular basis
- A suite of 13 Pinterest boards which currently attract only 35 followers. One of these boards covers Social Media and Advocacy but it has only four pins at present.
- A You Tube channel with 45 subscribers.
There is additional activity associated with the Annual NAGC Convention. There was extensive live Tweeting from the 2013 Convention under the rival hashtags #NAGC2013 and #NAGC13. #NAGC14 looks the favourite for this year’s Convention which has also established a Facebook presence
NAGC also has its own networks. The website lists 15 of these but hardly any of their pages give details of their social media activity. A cursory review reveals that:
- The Research and Evaluation Network has a Facebook group
- The Counselling and Guidance network has a Facebook group
- The Conceptual Foundations network has a Facebook page
- The Curriculum Studies network has a Weebly site
Overall, NAGC has a fairly impressive array of social media activity but demonstrates relatively little evidence of strategic coherence and co-ordination. This may be expected to improve in the next six months, however.
NACE is not quite the poorest performer in our sample but, like ECHA, it has so far made relatively little progress towards effective engagement with social media.
Its website dates from 2010 but looks older. Prominent links to Twitter and Facebook appear on the front page as well as – joy of joys – an RSS feed.
However, the Facebook link is not to a NACE-specific page or group and the RSS feed doesn’t work.
There are references on the website to the networking benefits of NACE membership, but not to any role for the organisation in wider networking activity via social media. Current efforts seem focused primarily on advertising NACE and its services to prospective members and purchasers.
The Twitter feed has a respectable 1,426 followers but Tweets tend to appear in blocks of three or four spaced a few days apart. Quality and relevance are variable.
There is much room for improvement.
Potential Plus UK
All of which brings us back to Potential Plus and the work I have been supporting to strengthen its online and social media presence.
Potential Plus’s current social media profile is respectably diverse but somewhat lacking in coherence.
The website is old-fashioned. There is a working link to Facebook on the home page, but this takes readers to the old NAGC Britain page which is no longer used, rather than directing them to the new Potential Plus UK page.
Whereas the old Facebook page had reached 1,344 likes, the new one is currently at roughly half that level – 683 – but the level of activity is reasonably impressive.
There is a third Facebook page dedicated to the organisation’s ‘It’s Alright to Be Bright’ campaign, which is not quite dormant.
All website pages carry buttons supporting information-sharing via a wide range of social media outlets. But there is little reference in the website content to its wider social media activity.
The Twitter feed is fairly lively, boasting 1,093 followers. It currently has some 400 fewer followers than NACE but has published about 700 more Tweets. Both are publishing at about the same rate. Quality and relevance are similarly variable.
The LinkedIn page is little more than a marker and does not list the products offered.
The Google+ presence uses the former NAGC Britain name and is also no more than a marker.
But the level of activity on Pinterest is more significant. There are 14 boards each containing a total of 271 pins and attracting 26 followers. This material has been uploaded during 2014.
There is at present no substantive blog activity, although the stub of an old wordpress.com site still exists and there is also a parallel stub of an old wordpress.com children’s area.
There are no links to any of these services from the website – nor do these services link clearly and prominently with each other.
The new wordpress.com test site sets out our plans for Potential Plus UK, which have been shaped in accordance with the two sets of draft success criteria above.
The purpose of the project is to help the organisation to:
- improve how it communicates and engage with its different audiences clearly and effectively
- improve support for members and benefit all its stakeholder groups
- provide a consistently higher quality and more compelling service than its main competitors that generates maximum benefit for minimum cost
Subject to consultation and if all goes well, the outcome will be:
- A children’s website on wordpress.org
- A members’ and stakeholders’ website on wordpress.com (which may transfer to wordpress.org in due course)
- A new forum and a new ‘bottom-up’ approach to support that marries curation and collaboration and
- A coherent social media strategy that integrates these elements and meets audiences’ needs while remaining manageable for PPUK staff.
You can help us to develop this strategy by responding to the consultation here by Friday 18 April.
I shall begin by reflecting on Gifted Phoenix’s profile across the ten elements included in this analysis:
- He has what he believes is a reasonable Blog.
- He is one of the leading authorities on gifted education on Twitter (if not the leading authority).
- His Facebook profile consists almost exclusively of ‘repeats’ from his Twitter feed.
- His LinkedIn page reflects a different identity and is not connected properly to the rest of his profile.
- His Google+ presence is embryonic.
- He has used Scoop.it and Storify to some extent, but not Paper.li or Pinterest.
GP currently has a rather small social media footprint, since he is concentrating on doing only two things – blogging and microblogging – effectively.
He might be advised to extend his sphere of influence by distributing the limited available human resource more equitably across the range of available media.
On the other hand he is an individual with no organisational objectives to satisfy. Fundamentally he can follow his own preferences and inclinations.
Maybe he should experiment with this post, publishing it as widely as possible and monitoring the impact via his blog analytics…
The Six Organisations
There is a strong correlation between the size of each organisation’s social media footprint and the effectiveness with which they use social media.
There are no obvious examples – in this sample at least – of organisations that have a small footprint because of a deliberate choice to specialise in a narrow range of media.
If we were to rank the six in order of effectiveness, the World Council, NAGC and SENG would be vying for top place, while ECHA and NACE would be competing for bottom place and Potential Plus UK would be somewhere in the middle.
But none of the six organisations would achieve more than a moderate assessment against the two sets of quality criteria. All of them have huge scope for improvement.
Their priorities will vary, according to what is set out in their underlying social media strategies. (If they have no social media strategy, the obvious priority is to develop one, or to revise it if it is outdated.)
The Overall Picture across the Five Aspects of Gifted Education
This analysis has been based on the activities of a small sample of six generalist organisations in the gifted education field, as well as wider activity involving a cross-section of tools and platforms.
It has not considered providers who specialise in one of the five aspects – advocacy, learning, professional development, policy-making and research – or the use being made of specialist social media, such as MOOCs and research tools.
So the judgements that follow are necessarily approximate. But nothing I have seen across the wider spectrum of social media over the past 18 months would seriously call into question the conclusions reached below.
- Advocacy via social media is slightly stronger than it was in 2012 but there is still much insularity and too little progress has been made towards a joined up global movement. The international organisations remain fundamentally inward-looking and have been unable to offer the leadership and sense of direction required. The grip of the old guard has been loosened and some of the cliquey atmosphere has dissipated, but academic research remains the dominant culture.
- Learning via social media remains limited. There are still several niche providers but none has broken through in a global sense. The scope for fruitful partnership between gifted education interests and one or more of the emerging MOOC powerhouses remains unfulfilled. The potential for social media to support coherent and targeted blended learning solutions – and to support collaborative learning amongst gifted learners worldwide – is still largely unexploited.
- Professional development via social media has been developed at a comparatively modest level by several providers, but the prevailing tendency seems to be to regard this as a ‘cash cow’ generating income to support other activities. There has been negligible progress towards securing the benefits that would accrue from systematic international collaboration.
- Policy-making via social media is still the poor relation. The significance of policy-making (and of policy makers) within gifted education is little appreciated and little understood. What engagement there is seems focused disproportionately on lobbying politicians, rather than on developing at working level practical solutions to the policy problems that so many countries face in common.
- Research via social media is negligible. The vast majority of academic researchers in the field are still caught in a 20th Century paradigm built around publication in paywalled journals and a perpetual round of face-to-face conferences. I have not seen any significant examples of collaboration between researchers. A few make a real effort to convey key research findings through social media but most do not. Some of NAGC’s networks are beginning to make progress and the 2013 World Conference went further than any of its predecessors in sharing proceedings with those who could not attend. Now the pressure is on the EU Talent Conference in Budapest and ECHA 2014 in Slovenia to push beyond this new standard.
Overall progress has been limited and rather disappointing. The three conclusions I drew in 2012 remain valid.
In September 2012 I concluded that ‘rapid acceleration is necessary otherwise gifted education will be left behind’. Eighteen months on, there are some indications of slowly gathering speed, but the gap between practice in gifted education and leading practice has widened meanwhile – and the chances of closing it seem increasingly remote.
Back in 2010 and 2011 several of my posts had an optimistic ring. It seemed then that there was an opportunity to ‘only connect’ globally, but also at European level via the EU Talent Centre and in the UK via GT Voice. But both those initiatives are faltering.
My 2012 post also finished on an optimistic note:
‘Moreover, social media can make a substantial and lasting contribution to the scope, value and quality of gifted education, to the benefit of all stakeholders, but ultimately for the collective good of gifted learners.
No, ‘can’ is too cautious, non-assertive, unambitious. Let’s go for WILL instead!’
Now in 2014 I am resigned to the fact that there will be no great leap forward. The very best we can hope for is disjointed incremental improvement achieved through competition rather than collaboration.
I will be doing my best for Potential Plus UK. Now what about you?