A lengthy conversation on twitter this afternoon has set me to thinking – yet again- about the use of social media and whether people have responsibilities regarding their influencing of others. The gist was that sometimes leading by example isn’t enough. That we are now past the phase of “hey, look at this, isn’t it great? Now go and use it in your classroom tomorrow!”. The people taking part in this conversation were all people I choose to follow, as I respect their opinions, enjoy reading their ideas and blog posts, and think that they are people I would choose to have in my ‘ideal staffroom’. One idea put forward was that we are the leaders, which I guess we are, regardless of our actual positions within our actual schools.
I guess what Kelli referred to in her post http://kellimcgraw.com/2010/07/12/reframing-change/ applies to me also. I started getting interested in using technology when my old school got a smartboard in every room. All staff were expected to use them, as there was no longer any alternative. Even day to day casuals were expected to be able to deliver lessons using smartboards. That didn’t mean I considered myself a leader at that stage, I was just really enthusiastic and enthralled by the promise of what could be done. Traditionally maths is a pretty dry subject to teach, enlivened by as many hands on activities as you can think of! Because I was prepared to spend time experimenting, mainly at home, my skills grew until I ended up training my colleagues in the use of my preferred software. For many people the bare minimum of knowledge sufficed, enough to put notes on the screen and change the slide when required. Did it cause a shift in their pedagogy, engagement, or infuse them with the desire to go out and change the world. Generally not. Some people, however, did become very enthusiastic and went off to learn more by themselves. Guess these were the first and second followers, shown in that video Pip Cleaves is fond of!
At my new school there is a lot less technology in the school. Yes we are working on getting more resources and learning how to incorporate it into our teaching more productively; and yes there are people who are keen to use technology to engage the students. Classroom management, National Partnerships applications, new curricula and other things take lots of time and energy. In the new term, I hope that people will start focusing on incorporating tech again.
Do I feel that it is my responsibility to demand that they start spending huge amounts of time learning how to use web 2.0 stuff? No. Would I help them if they wanted to? Yes, gladly. In my own time. Over and over until they felt confident. Will I make suggestions where I feel an application would be great for that person? Yes. Insist on them trying it? No. I understand that there are family commitments, and ‘real lives’, and that some people have no desire to spend their time glued to a computer at home, particularly if they find it challenging to even turn one on…
It has been my experience that people telling me I have to do something (especially if I know I actually DON’T have to) has been enough for me to dig my heels in. And incorporating technology on a regular basis is not compulsory in maths. Spreadsheets and the use of graphics software are recommended, only the former actually mandated. The staff in my current staffroom have proved fairly receptive to ideas on using technology, we are currently giving an assignment which is paperless to be completed by yr 10. This is a huge step for all my staff, prior to this year there was one data projector and OHPs.
Another point from the discussion was about the dominance of some people online (this was not necessarily from Kelli’s post ). That ‘leaders’ on social media sites post more, influence more, and have responsibilities to their followers than the ‘others’. I only follow the people I choose to, and have ‘unfollowed’ tweeps who I felt I was not learning from, enjoying social chatting with, or just couldn’t keep up with the sheer volume of their largely irrelevant ( to me) tweets. As an individual I have that right. I feel no responsibility to my followers, neither do I assume that those I follow are responsible for my personal development. I love talking to my PLN and they make me laugh, question what I am doing at times, and contribute to my continual professional development.
Though them I have learned other things too; where to send my sons to school in an unfamiliar area, gained the chance to be involved in some exciting projects in this region, advice on things I knew little about, and genuine compassion when two of my grandparents died in the past fortnight. I have learned so much in the past year from my PLN, and that’s why I spend hours on my computer reading their tweets!