Today I was travelling back by train from a meeting in Manchester. Hot choc in hand I arrived at the platform and found that the train I was to catch had been cancelled. No worries. Trainline App to hand (I wasn’t alone – another guy also had this) I worked out what I needed in no time. No worries.
In front of me was a chap who looked confused. He asked another guy what was happening with the trains and he replied to say he had an app that said the next train was due shortly, quick change then onward no worries. Chap was pleased to help and confused guy glad of the info and he hung around phone app guy in some sort of subconscious thankyou mode.
The platform soon filled with lots of other people. One threesome couldn’t see their train on the departure board so they went off to seek a train person to ask. There was shoulder shrugging and frowning in equal measure.
Finally the train arrived, we all piled in for one stop then piled out again at the next station to change. The app people, including myself, stepped straight onto the connecting train on platform 3 quite confidently. Elsewhere other voices could be heard asking the same question.
Is this the train for Preston? Is it? You think so? Yeh I’m pretty sure it is. According to this app it is yes. Noone seems to know for sure. You’d think they’d put someone on here to ask wouldn’t you?
Complete strangers reaching out for the right information and reassurance but sadly both were in short supply. People were resigned to their fate now. Doors shut and necks continued to crane looking for signs and confirmation that they were headed in the right direction. Like a slightly smug individual I opened my laptop on a free table and got working.
Why the train story? For me it illustrates what happens when there’s an enforced change and people have to divert from their usual trajectory. Some people are in the know and can crack on. Some people are good at finding out the answers and seek either authority or peers. Passengers with access to the latest info at the point where it’s needed are able to cope with the change and even become useful to those who are less connected.
When social media is used proactively, responsively and strategically by schools to the benefit of their community it’s magical and empowering and it’s precisely why we do it; we’ve called it ‘improving the parent journey’.