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3 ways to prevent being ‘unfollowed’ on Twitter

Some people reading the title of this blog post may claim not to be bothered when they’re ‘unfollowed’ on Twitter, FriendFeed, etc.  I don’t believe them.*  😉

Most people on Twitter also have a blog. The reason you have a blog rather than write in a personal diary is to share your ideas with the world. You’d like to influence others in some way.

As a result, whether you like it or not, if you’ve got a blog you’re in the marketing business. You are (potentially) a global micro-brand.

All this sounds a bit business-like, especially for an educator with a professed aim to change the education system for the better. But, as I have blogged about recently, our ideas gaining acceptance is one way to achieve a sort of immortality. And if we do want to change the education system, we need to influence as many people as possible! 😀

So yes, you do need to be concerned when people ‘unfollow’ you on Twitter. One or two may not be a problem, but if there’s somewhat of an exodus, it means that they’re not getting what they thought you’d be delivering. Let’s see how we can make sure that state of affairs doesn’t obtain…

1. Speak in full sentences

When I teach lessons that involve students answering questions, I stress the importance of making sure they don’t start their answer to a question with ‘because’, and that they explain the context. Otherwise, when they come to revise, they won’t ‘get it’. Similarly with Twitter, you’re not just having a conversation with another individual – people who are following you are also listening. Don’t say ‘it’ – say what you mean and link to what you’re talking about (if relevant) – and in every tweet involved.

2. ‘Direct message’ people more

Just because someone’s used an @ reply to you (e.g. @dajbelshaw: my interesting message) doesn’t mean you have to do likewise to them. If what you’re going to say is unlikely to interest others apart from that individual, send them a direct message. Just be sure to double-check that you’re following them as well, otherwise it could be slightly embarrassing. I talk from experience… 😮

3. Don’t binge-tweet

I use FriendFeed as well as Twitter. FriendFeed summarises when someone sends more than one tweet in quick succession. Yesterday, someone I follow posted 25 messages in quick succession. When you’re following hundreds of people, that’s too much to handle. Be focused.

I’m always very aware that my tweets are one of the first things you see when you visit dougbelshaw.com. That means I try to keep the most recent tweet fairly interesting and relevant to both Twitter followers and visitors to my site. If I post a reply which may be useful to others but fairly geeky, I try to follow it up quickly with something of greater relevance.

These ideas may not work for everyone, but they work for me. What do you use Twitter for? What are your tips for using it?

* This post came about after a discussion about a new service called Qwitter that emails you when someone stops following you on Twitter.

(Image by Mykl Roventine @ Flickr)

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Digital Permanence: Death & Data

I’m worried about dying. No, not in terms of my mortal flesh and immortal soul; I’m worried about what will happen to my data when I die. :-p

That may sound a little, shall we say, geeky, so let me explain. There’s two ways you can ‘live for ever’ in this world. The first is to become so famous that people talk about you until the end of time. As that’s difficult for most of us, the second way is more likely. All you’ve got to do with the second way is to pass on your genes (and your surname) to your offspring. I’m doing well with the latter: my son Benjamin Belshaw was born 20 months ago and will, I hope, continue the illustrious Belshaw line. With the first method, however, I’m still struggling.

My problem is this:

  1. Most of my ideas are in the form of writing in the digital landscape (i.e. on this blog or others on the Internet)
  2. Books and other printed matter in the physical realm are a lot more ‘permanent’ at present that writing in the digital realm.
  3. When I die dougbelshaw.com will cease to exist.
  4. Ergo, unless my ideas are so amazing that they become ubiquitous during my lifetime, they will have little impact after my death.

So I’m left with a problem. Should I start writing a book? Is all I’m writing here ultimately futile? Should I be creating static HTML pages so archive.org can index them?

Does this even matter?

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Why we should adopt the OA5 system in education

My friend Paul Lewis, he of the infrequent blogging, very kindly let me have his Dilbert omnibus last year. I’ve been reading it again recently and it’s got me thinking about conformity and creativity. The omnibus brings together 3 Dilbert books into one volume. Joy! 😀

In The Dilbert Principle, Scott Adams outlines the ‘Out At Five’ business model. Enshrined within it are not only some comic gems, but some great pieces of advice. If we stuck to some of these in education, we’d go a long way to reforming the whole system.

He divides his principles into two subcategories:

Staying out of the way

  1. Scott Adams advocates letting the ’employees dress any way they want, decorate their work spaces any way they want, format memos any way they want’. This is because that there is no proof that any of these impact productivity. Instead, they create a message that conformity is valued above efficiency or creativity. Whilst I would still advocate some form of school uniform to prevent undue focus on students’ clothes, I do think schools in general could be a bit more laid-back about the ways both students and staff express themselves. I’m certainly not saying profanity, drugs and alcohol should be imported to create some type of dystopian educational system. Instead, I’m saying that we should value difference and (that abused word) diversity over conformity and standardization.
  2. Eliminate artificial processes. In businesses these are obvious, but in education they can still be seen. For example ‘Every Child Matters‘ and ‘Personalising Learning’ agendas. They’ve got titles no-one can disagree with, but lead to bureaucracy and a loss of focus on the actual students themselves. It’s my belief that every educator has, at their core, the well-being and interests of students in their charge. As Scott Adams puts it:

If you have a good e-mail system, a stable organization chart, and an unstressed workplace the good ideas will get to the right person without any help The main thing is to let people know that creativity is okay and get out of the way.

What does an OA5 manager do?

  1. Eliminate the assholes. Quite blunt, but you know exactly what he means. There’s people who put a downer on the whole enterprise of education. They’re quick to blame students rather than themselves, they’re more interested in internal politics than student wellbeing and achievement, they like being controversial for the sake of it. Let’s get rid of them. In fact, I’m all for moves to make it easier to remove teachers from their posts. Why should we get, in effect, ‘immediate tenure’?
  2. The second is my favourite: make sure employees (i.e. teachers) learn something new every day. As Scott Adams remarks:

    The more you know, the more connections form in your brain, and the easier every task becomes. Learning creates job satisfaction and suports and person’s ego and energy level.

    But more than that, as teachers, we should be good role-models as everday and curious learners! 🙂

  3. Cultivate all the little things that support curiosity and learning. Questions such as ‘What did you learn?’ when you make mistakes are more powerful than, ‘What the hell were you thinking?’
  4. Teach employees how to be efficient. Lead by example – keep meetings short, refuse to take part or go along with low-priority activities because it’s ‘polite’, and (my favourite) respectfully interrupt people who talk too long without getting to the point. I’d force everyone to read blogs such as Lifehacker, Zen Habits and Unclutterer every day. But that’s just me… 😉

What do YOU think? Besides the name (Out At 5) is there anything with which you’d disagree?

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Give your students a voice with VoiceThread

Sometimes it’s hard to get the views of everyone in a class. When you’ve 25-30 students in front of you, it’s easy to miss the views and ideas of the quieter members of your class.

That’s why VoiceThread is so good. You put some type of stimulus material – a picture or video, for example – on the website and then invite your students to give their opinions on it. I’ve been using it with my GCSE History students for them to be able to practice analysing historical sources. The great thing is that each user can annotate pictures and videos to illustrate their point. They can also use a microphone or webcam to record their thoughts, too!

Follow the guide below to get started with VoiceThread and click here to see one in action!

My Ed.D. thesis: introduction and a ?

Having found readers of this blog very helpful in the past – especially when it came to my most recent job description – I thought I’d ask for your help again. The input of all my readers to what follows, but especially those of a philosophical persuasion like Stephen Downes and George Siemens, would be fantastic.

What follows is a rough, not-long-enough first draft of introduction to my Ed.D. thesis. Trouble is, my interests have led to a slightly different focus from that outlined in my thesis proposal; I need a new working title, please! :-p

The structure of my Ed.D. thesis is going to be something like:

  1. Introduction
  2. Literature review (including discussion of ‘literacy’, ‘visual literacy‘, ‘media literacy‘, etc. and how these terms developed)
  3. Worldviews on ‘digital literacy’ (how various education systems around the world discuss the area)
  4. ‘Digital literacy’ in the UK (analysis of stakeholder policies and discussions of the area)
  5. ‘Digital literacy’ & educational institutions (suggestions of ways in which schools & universities can promote the skills congruent with the area)
  6. Conclusion

So please, read this rough outline to my introduction and I’d love it if you could think of a title. I’m currently thinking of something as simple as: What is ‘Digital Literacy’? A Pragmatic Investigation.

(Rough) introduction to Ed.D. thesis

“All human activity is subject to habitualization. Any action that is repeated frequently becomes cast into a pattern, which can then be reproduced with an economy of effort and which, ipso facto, is apprehended by the performer as that pattern.” (Berger & Luckmann, 2002:42)

Human beings are tasked with making sense of the external world. We feel the need to decipher and communicate oft-repeated experiences and sensations, allowing other minds to share the same (or similar) conceptual space to our own. For example, research in Phenomenology tells us that two individuals may have two markedly different sensations when viewing a red pillar box. If, however, they agree on the category ‘pillar box’ to refer to approximately the shape they see before them, and that the colour sensation they are experiencing shall be called ‘red’ then meaningful discourse can ensue.

All human communication must begin in this manner. We train toddlers and young children to be able to understand the world around them by allowing them to use the constructs we ourselves use. These constructs we largely inherited from our parents, and they from their forebears. There comes a need, however, in each generation to create and agree upon new ways of understanding the world. This can be as a result of natural changes in the environment, new (disruptive) technologies, or some other way – usually involving politics or economics – that alter human relationships.

This thesis shall discuss the concept of ‘digital literacy’. It shall be my contention that, as psychologist Steven Pinker puts it, “some categories really are social constructions: they exist only because people tacitly agree to act as if they exist.” (Pinker, 2002:202) As we shall see, although a consensus is growing around the term ‘digital literacy’, other competing ways of describing a similar conceptual space have emerged. This is partly due to a lack of clarity over the seemingly-straightforward term, ‘literacy’.

When dealing with conceptual spaces, metaphor and new ways of communicating experience and sensation, it makes little sense to talk of ‘reality’ and, indeed, ‘truth‘. Without wishing here to go into too much phenomenological and philosophical depth, it would seem clear that descriptions and talk of ‘digital literacy’, ‘digital competence’, ‘digital fluency’ and so on are of a different order than ‘sky’, ‘chair’, and ‘lamp’. There is a qualitative difference: the first seeks to be a lens in the way the second does not. It is the lens of ‘digital literacy’ that this thesis shall discuss, the aim being to seek to describe the changing landscape and terminology surrounding such conceptions.

To avoid the quagmire of correspondence theories of truth and slips into solipsism, then, this thesis will employ a pragmatic methodology. This way of approaching the world was first suggested in the 19th century by C.S. Peirce and developed by William James. Although there are disagreements within the Pragmatist movement, James perhaps has been the clearest exponent of classical Pragmatist philosophy. He argues that there is no ‘end to enquiry’ and that we “must bring out of each word its practical cash-value, set it at work within the stream of [our] experience.” (James, 1995:21)

The above meshes with the phenomenological account presented earlier; if we are socially-constructing what we term ‘reality’, then changes in human relationships will alter our conceptual ‘realities’ and vice-versa. Pragmatists, without needing to hold onto a correspondence theory of truth do, however, reject the notion that the conceptual and practical realms are completely divorced. As James (1995:20) puts it,

There can be no difference anywhere that doesn’t make a difference elsewhere – no difference in abstract truth that doesn’t express itself in a difference in concrete fact and in conduct consequent upon that fact, imposed on somebody, somehow, somewhere and somewhen.

With regard to this thesis, therefore, discussions that either make no or could make no difference in practice shall either be only mentioned in passing or disregarded entirely. Although a non-empirical thesis, what comes hereafter is intended to be of use and be able to inform policy-makers.

So, what do YOU think? Title suggestions, please!

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How to create engaging video starters without any creative talent using Animoto

Students inhabit a visually-rich, media-driven world. Sometimes, as educators with limited time on our hands, it’s difficult to compete. Animoto is an easy-to-use and extremely powerful way of creating short videos to grab students’ interest. Better still, it’s free for educational use!

Follow the guide below to get started… 🙂

Here’s a video I produced using Animoto in an attempt to encourage more Year 9’s to opt for GCSE History:

What to do when you can’t be RSSed…

If the following leaves you confuzzled, the BBC have a useful guide to RSS which you should probably read!

If you’re anything like me, you read a wide range of things on t’Internet and, along the way, subscribe to a fair number of RSS feeds. On a couple of occasions I’ve just found the sheer number of blog posts ‘unread’ in my feedreader overwhelming. I ended up just unsubscribing from them all and starting again.

Now, though, I’ve found a system that enables me to keep on top of things. It’s a combination of a really useful web service and a Firefox plugin that works with Google Reader.

AideRSS

Most websites only offer one RSS feed. I have a separate RSS feed for each category, but Lifehacker, for example, goes one step further in having a ‘top posts’ feed. You can actually do this for every RSS feed you come across using AideRSS.

All you do is visit the website, give the website address and it comes up looking something like the screenshot below:

As you can see, there’s an RSS feed for the ‘Good Posts’, ‘Great Posts’, ‘Best Posts’ and ‘Top 20’ posts. The PostRank that you see on the left-hand side takes into account:

  • The number of times that blog post has been bookmarked on del.icio.us
  • How many comments the blog post received
  • The number of other blogs and websites referencing the post
  • How many times the blog post has been ‘dugg’ at Digg.com
  • The number of tweets from Twitter.com linking to the post

It’s out of 10 and is only relative to that particular site, being the top 20%, etc.

If you do this for blogs that update very frequently, it’s easier to deal with the firehose… :-p

Feedly

I’ve been using a plugin called Feedly for the last few months. It’s basically a front-end for Google Reader in that you have to have a Google account for it to work. Feeds are presented in a very good looking magazine-like format:

There’s some great social features of Feedly as well – not least, The Wall:

Although perhaps the screenshot above doesn’t do it justice, The Wall features recommendations from other Feedly users’ that you’ve ‘subscribed’ to. It’s a fantastic feature.

Finally…

Don’t forget Twitter and FriendFeed. The things your friends on social networks share are likely to be of interest to you as well! 😀

How do YOU keep on top of your unread blog posts from RSS feeds?

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Digital Literacy, Pragmatism and the Social Construction of Reality

Note: This blog post is to clarify my thoughts on the subject and provide an easy point-of-reference as I begin to write the Literature Review section of my Ed.D. thesis. Feel free to skip it if that’s not the reason for which what you came here/subscribed to my RSS feed! You can read my thesis proposal here and I collate links and quotes from my research on my wiki. 🙂

As I ‘write’ this I am looking through corrective lenses at a screen that is a representation of a digital ‘reality’. The alphabet by which the words and sentences are constructed is a social construct, as is the programming language by which the website on which you’re reading this came into existence. This also applies to concepts such as ‘bachelor’, ‘virgin’ and, indeed, any other idea that presupposes a limit to its application.

‘Digital literacy’ is one such concept. It is a social construct that has gained some momentum by its explanatory power in the face of technological change that has left some bewildered by the abilities of one generation with respect to another. That the term ‘literacy’ is attached to the concept shows the historical legacy, applicability and origin of the term. It is a concept mostly applied by an older generation about a younger generation (and especially the attitude towards technology of the latter).

Literacy used to have a rather precise definition: the ability to read and write with a pre-determined level of proficiency. Since the middle of the twentieth century, however, literacy has been applied to much more wide-ranging concepts such as Multimedia literacy, Computer literacy, Information literacy, Technacy (or Technological literacy), Critical literacy, Media literacy, and Health literacy. This appears to be akin to early descriptions of cars as ‘horseless carriages’, the understanding of the new through an old, outdated framework. Or, to put it more formally, in the words of Berger & Luckmann (2002:49-50),

What is taken for granted as knowledge in the society comes to be coextensive with the knowable, or at any rate provides the framework within which anything not yet known will come to be known in the future.

Knowledge about society is thus a realization in the double sense of the word, in the sense of apprehending the objectivated social reality, and in the sense of ongoingly producing this reality.

What is necessary, therefore, when looking at concepts that are defined socially and in the light of their historical use, is to determine their ‘cash-value’. The Pragmatic method, invented (arguably) jointly by C.S. Peirce and William James, would seem to be a useful approach. James states the method thus (James 1995:21),

But if you follow the pragmatic method, you cannot look on any such word [such as ‘God’ or ‘the Absolute’] as closing your quest. You must bring out of each word its practical cash-value, set it at work within the stream of your experience. It appears less as a solution, then, as a program for more work, and more particularly as an indication of the ways in which existing realities may be changed.

To explain a difference between ‘standard’ literacy and ‘digital’ literacy, therefore, means to see what difference there is between the two in practice:

There can be no difference anywhere that doesn’t make a difference elsewhere – no difference in abstract truth that doesn’t express itself in a difference in concrete fact and in conduct consequent upon that fact, imposed on somebody, somehow, somewhere and somewhen. (James 1995:20)

It is necessary to go beyond simple ontological arguments as to whether or not ‘digital literacy’ exists and instead flesh out whether belief in such a concept would make a tangible difference. My thesis will be concerned less with dogmatic attack or defence of particular terms and rather more with the ‘cash-value’ of concepts such as ‘digital literacy’.

Associated ideas such as ‘digital natives’ vs ‘digital immigrants’ (or more recent distinctions such as ‘digital resident/outsider’) will tangentially be discussed, especially in their usefulness as ways of understanding attitudes towards technology. The latter term – ‘technology’ – shall also be defined more accurately, perhaps as having a ‘digital’ aspect rather than being the use of any man-made object to achieve an particular human end.

My idea when beginning my thesis is that I shall not discover a coherent set of ideas and assumptions behind terms such as ‘digital literacy’, ‘digital competency’, ‘digital fluency’, and the like. Still, as heuristics, as commonly-agreed methods by which to understand an observed difference, they will ‘work’ and have a ‘cash-value’ during an indeterminate and temporary period. Much, in fact, like the term ‘horseless carriage’. :-p

(Image credit: yellow rope with knot by limonada @ Flickr)

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Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavour.

I usually dislike it when people blog about conferences and meetings they’ve been to. I mean, as if I care if you sat around a table with some suits and drank coffee at ridiculously short intervals! I feel I need to preface the following, therefore, by saying that there’s some great links I’d like to share.

I was invited by Dan Sutch to another Futurelab-hosted event, this time on behalf of Channel 4 (a UK independent broadcasting company) to, of all places, Bristol Zoo! The quotation that comprises the title of this post came during the course of the day from a fellow teacher attending the event by the name of Alice Bigge. A quick Google search would seem to indicate it originated with Truman Capote. It’s a great one that, no doubt, will make its way onto my classroom wall. It kind of sums up my pragmatic educational philosophy. :-p

The purpose of the day was to review from a formal learning perspective some informal learning resources produced by Channel 4. I’ll summarise each briefly and what I thought of them…

The Insiders

I thought The Insiders was a great idea. As careers advice given by schools has recently been slated by Ofsted, something like this website is just what’s needed. At present, there’s six occupations that have been dramatised and put online via videos and blogs on MySpace. These were taken and adapted (with permission) from people’s real blogs. A story about each character unfolds and the ups and downs of that career/job are highlighted in an engaging way. The six that were chosen – actress, doctor, fashion assistant, musician, policeman, teacher – are those that came top in a recent survey of UK teens as to what they want to do when they leave full-time education. I was surprised to see teacher in there!

I’ll definitely be recommending this to the Citizenship/PSHE co-ordinator at our school. In fact, I may even follow one or more of the stories with my Year 9 form group. 😀

Slabovia.tv

I have to say that I was less impressed with Slabovia.tv. This was the one that our group had to explain to the other groups, and we did so (at my suggestion) via a glog:

Whilst it deals with more than sex education, I do feel that the conceit created to deliver the message wasn’t the right path to go down. As other teachers noted, there may be issues relating to eastern european migrants in UK schools. Additionally, it’s probably got a limited audience to which it would appeal – the type of audience that wouldn’t want to be seen on anything a teacher pointed out in a lesson. I think this one is best kept in the ‘informal learning’ space.

Year Dot

From the information I received about Year Dot:

Year Dot follows a fly-on-the-wall documentary format that cuts across both linear television and online. 15-20 teenagers over the course of a year will try to gather support from around the internet, through social networking and video-sharing services, to reach a personal goal. The story of each teenager will be told as part of two series to be aired on Channel 4 in the autumn.

There’s a diverse range of goals that these teenagers want to achieve. One of the most moving was the teenager with Asperger’s Syndrome who, after receiving lots and lots of support from his school and local community, was purposely moving far away from home to go to university. His emotional journey, heightened by his condition, would really hit home with students with whom you shared his video journey.

The goal he had set himself was to come off Prozac and to manage to live independently. Other teenagers are trying to set up a dance company, get selected for Arsenal Ladies‘ First Team, or become one of England’s youngest ever Members of Parliament. Year Dot is another resource I’ll be recommending to the Citizenship/PSHE co-ordinator at my school. 🙂

Battlefront

Finally, Battlefront was the one about which I really couldn’t make up my mind. It has the potential to be revolutionary, but I’m afraid it might have life-changing experiences for the 19 currently involved and few others. The idea is that 19 – eventually 20 – young campaigners around England try to get out there and do something to make things better. For example, there’s a girl battling against the ‘Size Zero’ culture, someone campaigning against free newspapers ‘costing the earth’, and one trying to bring back free university education for all.

As I say, it’s got high-minded ambitions, but I’m not sure. Apparently, you can get in touch with Channel 4 to get any of the Battlefront campaigners to come into your school to talk to your students. If I can be of any help pointing people in the right direction for this, just ask!

I found it at once heartening and extremely disappointing to hear that all the other teachers in the room had major issues to do with Internet filtering. The content that Channel 4 has spent money on – most of which is excellent – resides in places that teenagers already visit: MySpace, YouTube, etc.  In other words, all the places blocked by school filtering systems. 🙁

There’s got to be a debate, and soon, about filtering in schools. It’s my belief that it’s holding back innovation and good practice in education. The sooner that something is done about it, the better.

I love going to Futurelab events as they are always very positive experiences. I was able to show fellow teachers about various things that they were having problems with, such as downloading YouTube videos. All in all, I found the day to be a very worthwhile use of my time, that I added to a debate, and that I met like-minded people with a real enthusiasm to move things forward. I might add that, as with many Futurelab events, the day’s ideas were represented pictorially by Dave Clark, who kindly let me use the image of the Slabovian general our group commissioned him to draw at the top of this blog post. 😀

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Politics: the biggest problem in education

The biggest problem in education is political interference in the work of classroom teachers. This post has been brewing for a while. One long-term influence is dissatisfaction with the current education system. This dissatisfaction is one of the reasons I entered the teaching profession in the first place, and also a reason I’m in favour of the Conservatives’ idea of independent state schools under the Swedish model. More short-term influences include Vicki Davis’ excellent blog post Administration Should Be Like The ‘Pit Crew’ and a meeting/confrontation I had today. As usual on this blog, I’m not going to mention where I work nor individual names there.

Although with the recent financial turmoil this is turning into a less illustrative example, the delegation of responsibility by the UK government to the Bank of England for some financial matters I see to be a great idea. It puts those with the greatest knowledge and experience in charge of something very important. Education, on the other hand, is a very party political matter with endless tinkering of the system to attempt to win the support of middle-class voters. I’m a believer in government being as small as possible: whilst the state needs to intervene in the ‘big picture’ of education, I think there are other organizations and bodies eminently more suitable to deal with assessment and examinations, for example.

Ever since the Conservatives introduced a free market into UK education in 1990, schools have become more and more like businesses. I’ve seen the good and bad side of this system. In 1990, the new rules allowed my parents to take me out of the local, very poor, middle school (at my request) and install me at a much better school. I’m not against parental choice, per se, but I’m certainly against the endless analogies and comparisons of schools to businesses. Educating children is not like making products to sell at a profit. Instead, I think a better model is schools as charities.

If schools were seen as charities they would be:

  • Independent
  • Able to raise money from various other organizations
  • Focused on process as well as results
  • Diverse in nature

The type of leaders needed in charities and NGOs are different from those required by business. I’m generalising monumentally here, but those at the helm of the former tend to have inspiration and drive quite unlike those in the latter group.

So those in charge in schools shouldn’t be good managers, they should be great leaders. Instead of flaunting their power within the ‘corporate hierarchy’ they should, as Vicki Davis states, support teachers – those on the front line:

To me, times are lean and mean.  The classroom should be like a well maintained car and administration should be like the pit crew. They should give the classroom the tools they need, encouragement, a mission, and quick “pit stops” to improve and keep them going…

If you’re not helping the cause of education, you’re hurting it.  And with times being tough, those who count themselves leaders need to take a hard look at their own rolls when asking teachers to make cuts.  For, to ask teachers to make sacrifices when you aren’t willing is unfair and breeds contempt.

Although I’ve been accused of it for the first time today, I’m not one for manipulating others and playing politics within my organization. Not at all: I’m there to make things better for the system – locally, nationally and internationally. The problem with a strictly hierarchical system is that it is nothing like a meritocracy. I’m certainly not questioning the overall ability of the senior management at my school, but I have felt, at times, and in my career overall, times when my ability as a professional to make decisions and put forward opinions has been undermined somewhat.

I’d like, as Vicki again mentions, school hierarchies to be as ‘flat’ as possible. Obviously, there’s a need for management. But now, more than ever, teachers need to be given freedom and be shown trust to exercise their professional judgement over issues affecting them. Not to do so would be to play politics for politics’ sake and to undermine potential educational experiences for a great number of children.

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