They just don’t get it

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.

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9 Responses

  1. This is a superb post and reminds me of a tweet I saw a few weeks ago. ‘Facebook has folks you went to school with. Twitter has people you wish you’d gone to school with’.
    I was quite negative about social networking until I read and listened to a few stunning books.
    I have an impression that a certain group believe that if it’s not in facebook, then it doesn’t count.
    Twitter is astounding me.

    • Hi Mike thanks for your very kind words. I am a real Twitter fan and agree totally with you about it’s potential and power. I loved your quote about the difference between a Twitter user and a Facebook one!

      • I ran an IT development session in a primary school today and asked ‘who uses facebook?’. They all do.
        ‘How about twitter?’ – the reaction was somewhere between counting my heads and why had I vandalised the staffroom!

  2. It’s amazing how negative education can be towards social media. During a recent professional development day I shared my blog with my fellow teachers only to discover that many of them have never even visited a blog of any sort! They had no idea what to do! Sad. No wonder stuedents are bored.

    The experience inspired me to write this post: http://technologyinclass.com/blog/2010/05/13/click-around/

  3. nail

    You met the Mundanes. Now meet the imagineers.

  4. This post has really got me thinking of some great ways to follow-up on professional developments. Teachers can utilize Twitter and Facebook to create a support system for new material. I must admit that I don’t have an account with Twitter, but after this article I feel that I might be losing out on something wonderful.

    It is amazing that teachers are still such an isolated group of individuals, who like to find excuses to stay in there classroom “bubble.”

  5. I tell every Pgce student that passes through our school to use Twitter for a PLN – it has changed my teaching. I’m just not sure they do it though. I’d have to agree that they seem to view all social-networking sites as tools for social networking and not professional networking, learning and development.

  6. As an NQT, the future of web technology didn’t form part of my training in any way at all. The standards required that I could use technology in lesson preparation (so school data & word to type a lesson plan) and in lesson presentation (Powerpoint for lesson plans, a couple of lessons on basic internet skills). Beyond that is so far beyond what anyone else in school was doing and what the infrastructure/investment of the school was up to, that I doubt it would get much further than that even if the Uni had tried to promote it further. Most messages I received were of the ‘teachers get sacked for whatever was on their Facebook profile/mobile phone’ variety, with online social interaction viewed as pretty frivolous. It’s only been my experience studying with the OU and relying on their own social network facility that’s encouraged me to be more adventurous.

    Now that I’m in another school, again the technology is pretty limited in terms of what I might be able to do in lessons, and as a new member of staff trying to deal with a much increased timetable I know that I won’t have the energy to try and change that from ‘the bottom’. I value the possibilities, but some of the drive also needs to come from above if I am going to feel at all supported in trying to move things forward.

    It’s disappointing that more people don’t want to try new things, but I’m not sure where to even begin addressing that. I guess people are never too keen on change, teachers included.

  7. After thinking about the comments made, I don’t agree that teachers don’t like change or don’t want to create a professional network using the social sites, but are more afraid to. There was a small reference made but it is true that teachers do get fired or scrutinized more than others for things they post on social sites. What if teachers posted negative comments about school systems or other influential practices then where would they be? Everything that is posted can always come back to haunt you if someone knows how to manipulate it their own way.

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