in Education

#ukedchat #fail: TES attempts takeover cover-up whilst Pearson muscles-in on grassroots Twitter teacher CPD.

Fail Whale

Every Thursday night on Twitter there’s an hour-long conversation around the hashtag #ukedchat. The idea is that interested parties (mostly teachers) vote on what they want to talk about relating to UK education (almost always UK schools) and a moderator keeps things on-track. It’s a bit anarchic and intense, but worth it. I dip in and out and have moderated one session on the purpose(s) of education. Afterwards the moderator tries to ‘tell the story’ of what was discussed, including the most influential (usually the most reteweeted) tweets. It’s a fantastic example of grassroots innovation and, dare I say it, even a form of CPD.

But.

Last night the topic was the Pearson learning awards, hosted by someone from Pearson. I wasn’t the only one who thought that was a bit strange and that #ukedchat seemed to be going in a new direction. Low and behold I received a couple of Direct Messages (DMs) that suggested not only was Pearson muscling in on the success of #ukedchat but that, in fact, the Times Educational Supplement (TES) was taking over the running of the weekly discussion. Those who had been told were hushed to secrecy.

Being committed to open education and transparent practices I decided to, without revealing the names of those who told me, inform those involved in #ukedchat discussion. Things were already going so awry that the moderator had decided to switch topics half way through the hour. It was an example of companies doing social media in completely the wrong way. Whereas for-profit organizations such as Scholastic and BrainPOP! really do get social media as being about openness and conversation, the TES and Pearson seem to have conspired to commodify #ukedchat in an underhand, Machiavellian way.

I can’t tell you how disappointed I am, despite the claims of the TES to the contrary, that #ukedchat – an example of grassroots innovation by teachers, for teachers – has been effectively ‘sold off’ behind closed doors. Part of the problem is that busy teachers are delighted when a big name comes in and is interested in their enterprise. What often occurs, and my teaching career is littered with examples of this, is that companies become parasitic upon the goodwill and enthusiasm of teachers. They take what they can and suck the life out of it.

Teachers, don’t let this happen. Strike for better pensions on the 30th November and, if necessary, set up a new #ukedchat. You’re worth it.

(I’ve curated tweets from that hour using Storify here)

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  • http://twitter.com/familysimpson thefamilysimpson

    Really quite disappointed at this – I missed #ukedchat tonight but usually loiter and soak up some great links, advice, ideas and a feeling of collegiality that is sometimes lacking from real-world staff rooms. To hear that it has in effect become an advertising segment makes my blood boil (again, it’s been a busy week!). Thanks for publicising!

  • Pingback: Trust Networks and why #UKedchat wobbled on Twitter | Learn 4 Life

  • http://elearningstuff.net/ James Clay

    Guessing my comment to the “official” response won’t be published, so putting here instead.

    This comment concerns me

    The only thing that will change is that Colin and I will be able to dedicate MORE time to #ukedchat once it is officially supported by the TES (which it isn’t yet). 

    How will it be supported?

    With money?

    With resources?

    Why are TES doing this? I would expect it is because they want to increase sales of TES.

    TES support for #ukedchat may be nice, but it does mean that #ukedchat is no longer independent.

    You should change the name to #TESukedchat and be honest and open about it.

    • http://dougbelshaw.com Doug Belshaw

      I agree, James. They could easily have something like #TESchat and then it would be obvious what’s going on.

  • http://twitter.com/joecar Joe Wilson

    Opportunistic , rapacious , and big part of marketisation of education system – but all legitimate if done in open way –

    • http://dougbelshaw.com Doug Belshaw

      Well, anything can be legitimised if people don’t care enough about what’s being commoditised. :-/

  • Robj

    Hi Doug,

    My name is Rob and I work for the Teaching Awards. I understand all of your concerns above and just wanted to take a second to clarify a few points. 

    We are a small independent charity with 4 staff that work hard to recognise the transformational role that teachers play in the lives of the students they teach. We hear amazing stories from students around the country every day and try to place these positive stories in to the media. 

    As a charity, we rely on sponsorship and donations to fund the awards. This year Pearson have come on as our headline sponsor and we also have some funding from the Government. We are very grateful for Pearson’s contribution, as without this we probably would not exist given the current financial climate. They are in no way involved in our judging process or running of the organisation, their name is merely attached to us through sponsorship, though they are very supportive. We are not involved with the TES in any way.

    Our aim last night was to have an open chat with teachers to see how they feel about awards in general and whether there was anything we could do in order to support the teaching community. I see now that this was not the correct forum for this as it deviated too much from the usual #UkEdChat purpose and structure. We hope that #UKEdChat continues to bring teachers together to discuss practice, policy and new thinking  - and hope that our ‘one-off special’ has not put a dent in its valuable contribution to the teaching community as a whole. 

    Apologies for hi-jacking the chat. Our intentions are good, but slightly misplaced on this occasion. Perhaps a rookie social media error. It’s definitely something I’ll learn from and we certainly have some constructive feedback to help with this.

    Kind regards,

    Rob

  • David Deubelbeiss

    You missed a few of my own posts about a year ago when Pearson opened their “new” social networking site and was paying others to plug it around the web (and my concern at that time was that there was no declaration that said writers/presenters were indeed only participating in social media because they were being paid and had a promotional intent. If they’d been clear with a disclaimer, I’d of been kosher. 

    Seems this is still the agenda.  Not really working for “education” is it? Rather , all about market share and control. 

    Thanks for being brave and responsible enough to post something about this. Many aren’t.

    David Deubelbeiss

    • http://dougbelshaw.com Doug Belshaw

      I agree. Asserting nothing will change doesn’t mean that’s true. Look at the government’s double-dealing.

  • http://dougbelshaw.com Doug Belshaw

    Rob, I have two main issues with your comment and organisation:

    1. The awards (which I’m against as they’re divisive) are *called* the Pearson Teaching Awards. Not so independent.
    2. This is not simply a ‘rookie social media error’. This is the cynical and exploitative corporate takeover of a grassroots activity.

    • http://twitter.com/PatParslow PatParslow

      To be fair Doug, I think it may have been a ‘rookie social media error’ on the part of Rob & his colleagues. I am fairly sure you have a good point regarding the underlying machinations of some others implicitly involved, though.  It is all too easy for well meaning folk to be manipulated by less-well-meaning ones.