I recently did a training session with a group of newly qualified teachers. I prepared my Prezi very carefully and decided that I was going to put an emphasis on networking and the setting up of self-support systems using social media and in particular the # communities that can be instantly set up using Twitter.
Now, I am 57 years of age, a highly experienced teacher who is self-taught in web 2.0 and has learnt many things as I have ventured into the strange and yet exciting world that social media has given us.
I now have just about 650 followers on Twitter, I regularly join the #edchat and #ukedchat forums and have picked up some excellent links to new sites and ideas from the discussions, notwithstanding the opportunity that it has given me to clarify my own position on many of the things that are discussed. I know where I stand on tests and testing, on Project Based Learning, on the need to introduce new technology into schools, to promote social interaction for students on a local, national and international basis. I know that I want to see creativity encouraged and forming the basis of any curriculum and I want children to be educated in digital literacy as a key literacy for their future and ours.
Coming from this background I was surprised, to say the least when I found that the 14 NQT’s who I was working with in my training did not have any real views on any of these matters. They were particularly negative in respect of the power of social interaction and the ability to use Twitter (or Facebook) as a means to network with each other and support each other.
Last year, I tried to set up a self-support community for Year 4 (Grade 3) teachers who were attempting to develop their subject knowledge in primary mathematics. Only one teacher of the 23 teachers involved actually got involved! I was told that this was because they were very busy people who did not have the time to add an extra task to their overwhelming workload by taking time to communicate and support each other online. This seems strange to me as many of the people who I network with on my PLN, or Twitter, or Facebook are incredibly busy teachers, many of them deputy heads or headteachers and yet they not only find the time to take part in online discussions but also run really useful and successful blogs!
I remember one occasion a few months ago when a Twitter friend put out a request for links to sites on zoos as he was covering this with his class in the following week. With a few minutes he had received over twenty replies, all with good links that he was able to use with his class. (I was one of the respondents!)
I felt rather despondent therefore when I had finished my training. The part of my Prezi that related to Twitter as a powerful means to network went down like a lead balloon! I was the only Tweeter in the room. They just did not get it….they probably don’t get the power of web 2.0 and how it will eventually transform education.They are NQT’s at the start of what I hope will be a long and rewarding career. They are entering education at a time when there is a great conflict between the past and the present (with the past being in power on both sides of the Atlantic and selling us their Victorian dreams). In their career they will see China and perhaps India overtake the United States as a leading economic power. They will see more and more powerful computers and especially mobile devices and the introduction of new technology into the home, the workplace and eventually (kicking and screaming) into the classrooms that they will be teaching in.
I just wonder what the training colleges are getting up to that they do not see this reality or understand how important the issues that I have become involved in (like PBR and creativity and web 2.0) will effect these young teachers and the children in their classes. All student teachers should be aware of the issues and how it will effect them in the future. I also feel that social networking will actually transform their teaching and their views of the issues… just look at how it has transformed my outlook and attitudes nearing the end of my career.