Open Thinkering


Tag: fail

#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.


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)

Bad Trip

Is Everyone Here?So there I was, tucking into my once-a-week lunchtime pizza, bathed in glorious sunshine, and sitting on the steps of Grey’s Monument in the centre of Newcastle. The smooth sounds of a highly talented musician (whom I’ll refer to as a ‘busker’ for convenience) was putting everyone in a good mood – or at least all those who had managed to dodge the charity workers multiplying like the city centre pigeons.

And then.

A column of blue entered my vision from the right as, penguin-like, a class of primary school children filed in front of me, two-by-two. Straining to be heard over the busker a middle-aged male teacher proceeded to lecture those children who could hear. His subject? A Brief, Boring and Rather Inaccurate History of Central Newcastle.

The children, meanwhile, did their level best to scribble down some ‘notes’ on flimsy pieces of paper with a blunt pencil. One lucky soul had obviously been a very good boy the week before and was snapping away using a disposable 35mm film camera. I was frustrated on their behalf.

When the busker realised what was happening he stopped playing and waited for the school party to move on. Had he not, the whole experience would have been an even more spectacular fail that it already was . The children were impeccably behaved, but the members of staff were so concerned about them following instructions that they didn’t even realise the courtesy the busker had shown them.

Walking back to work I realised that I’d just witnessed something I hadn’t experienced for twenty years. Back then, however, I had been on the other side as a child myself. Whilst in 1991 it was, to some extent, forgivable to run that kind of trip (it at least got us out of the classroom) in 2011 such practices are anachronistic and give schools a bad name. It was evident there had been no pre-trip use of online mapping tools. And why couldn’t all of the children take photos with their mobile phones (or school-provided digital cameras)? Why did they have to line up in twos? Why did they have to struggle to write on scraps of paper? Who’s trip was this?

Doing something for its own sake can be damaging and, as someone who has run school trips, there is absolutely no excuse for what I witnessed today. Conformity is not an end of education, but inspiration certainly is.

Image CC BY-SA Wm Jas