Sunday, 23 October 2011

Social media supporting teachers CPD

A fews days ago I went to an interesting event promoting a new report published by the Pearson Centre for Policy and Learning here in London.  It is called:  Tweeting for teachers; how can social media support teacher professional development?  I'm going to use it to reflect on the social media and education.

I'm going to give detailed analysis of the parts that interested me to help me reflect and articulate my thinking.

Overall, it's a useful and worthwhile read but it promises more than it delivers.  The overall message is noble and it could act as a inspirational call-to-arms for educators to start investigating social media. I saw some of this at the event and I hope the message can reach out there.  The recommendations are sounds although a little obvious.  There are also some interesting case studies about initiatives I wasn't aware of.  There is a deliberate link to teachers' CPD which is good and the review of research is interesting.  However, there's a distinct lack of 'how to'.  More on this later.

Firstly, the event I attended was well organised and free.  Their #tweetingforteachers worked well as they had dedicated people looking after it.  I ended up participating quite a lot as things occurred to me.  The usefulness of micro-blogging to facilitate communicate in events cannot be disputed.  It's a pity they didn't have the stream setup on the screen but there was a fair bit of interaction.  It helped that I got a good 3G connection.  Interestingly, most delegates didn't participate in this showing how far we have to go.

Next, the title - tweeting for teachers.  I don't like this.  It's catchy yes but it's a marketing phrase which is misleading as the overall scope of the report is social media. It's true that lots of the examples were about twitter but if the report wants to be about social media in general then it's not an appropriate title.  Tweeting for teacher is a great title if you were to extrapolate the bits about twitter and add practical guidance on the processes involved in twitter.

Overall, it's a report that can only scratch the surface of this subject.  Social media is a huge, huge area.  In a 36 page report it's not going to happen.  Also, the contexts with which it can be used a numerous.  The case studies consist of 3 people that blog and tweet for their own learning, a local authority blogging facility that worked well, a video competition, #ukedchat and Teachmeet.  Of these, #ukedchat and Teachmeet are the most inspirational.  They are both established synchronous events which can be engaged in.  The others are interesting but they would benefit from guidance on how to act if you're inspired to setup something similar.  Also, where are the dynamic image creation and sharing tools, the video creation, use of audio, mindmapping tools, social bookmarking, multimedia posters, social networking/group sites etc.  I worry about teachers will read this report and think that the case studies cover everything that's possible.

Finally for this post - categorisation.  with some about self-directed learning and personal learning networks and others about sharing, reflective learning and still others about synchronous event, the report is crying out for careful categorisation so that content is made "meaningful to teachers and manageable within the context of teaching practice."(p20 of this report).

This is the massive gap we have in education with learning technologies.  We have to make things easier for our teachers and academics.  We need to show them how and in their context.  Something like http://www.teachertrainingvideos.com/ and http://www.freetech4teachers.com/ are more useful in this regard.  There is a wealth of policy advice and a wealth of how to use tools advice but it's the middle ground of putting it in our context which is lacking.  I believe that largely teachers can do this for themselves but only if we promote and facilitate it.

In my next post, I'll reflect on the key recommendations from this report.

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