College students’ trial a new ‘Multimedia Advocacy Toolkit’ to support their peers from local schools

Students at an Oxfordshire College have kicked off a year-long research project in which they will use their Wiki skills to mentor and support learners from local schools as they make the transition to College. The ‘Mainstreaming’ project, based at Abingdon & Witney College, combines use of the Rix Wikis with added secure social media and personal organiser tools to help provide peer support and mentoring for the school leavers and make their transition to further education easier.

The students at the College have been working with Wikis for two years as part of Oxfordshire County Council’s Wiki Start Up programme. They have already produced a Wiki called ‘Transitions’ that provides guidance and encouragement for their younger peers by sharing their own memories of leaving the comfort of the familiar school setting and engaging with the wider community at College. The college students call this ‘mainstreaming’ – and they recall finding the transition a challenge; “I was a bit nervous” explains Kieran in a video clip on the Wiki, “But now I am really brave about coming to college” he says, “…and it’s good!”

Rix Research & Media is working in collaboration with multimedia advocacy software company, Multi Me on the project, alongside staff and students from the College and 5 local schools.

Our shared research goal is to trial the potential of adding more accessible online tools to the Rix Wiki and to explore the new system’s potential to facilitate peer support for young people with learning disabilities. The ‘WikiMe’ software created as a prototype for the project features secure multimedia social networking, with additional goal setting, calendar and diary tools. College students will link up with the school leavers, share stories and message each other in the run up to the new academic year in September. The students are learning to mentor and advocate for their younger peers and friendships are being built online that will help make the transition easier for the school leavers. School and College students are acquiring valuable digital skills on a secure online space where all can learn how to use social media safely and in a positive way that can help others face the challenges of adulthood.

Early feedback from the college staff and students has been enthusiastic. Veena, a Teaching & Learning Assistant at the College, posted a comment on the WikiMe network after the first session, “I can see that this is a nice safe place to have a conversation or just show an opinion in a very simple way. Ideal for our students.” Student Connor gave ‘thumbs up’ too and singled out the Goal tool, which he found helpful as it set out the day’s work into step-by-step tasks so that he could get on with his work at his own pace – which is very swift!