Grassroots leadership of learning and technology

Screengrab of tweet from Phil Bagge

Since the expected announcement by the new coalition government in May that they are to close down BECTA, I’ve been really heartened by the optimisim and confidence that have emanated from what you might call the educational technology grassroots about how peer-to-peer networks and collaboration can continue to promote innovation and advocate for the enhancement of learning through technology.

Peter Ford makes this case very persuasively in his blog post ‘Passing the technology baton? to grassroots networks‘ and Martin Wheeler did likewise in his post ‘The sun sets on Becta‘.

However, a recent tweet from Phil Bagge has prompted me to contribute the thoughts below to the ongoing conversation.
On July 5th, Phil posted the following comment on Twitter:

“Now is time for educational twitterati to prove/promote value of ICT in education. Let’s all get blogging. The free gov lunch is gone.”

Phil’s first and third sentences are absolutely spot on. With the free lunch gone, Phil is right to call on “the educational twitterati” to step up and fly the flag for technology-enhanced learning. Phil’s right to make this call because we have in this country a very healthy and extremely talented and motivated ‘network’ of practitioners who are leading learning and teaching through technology at all levels, from primary through to HE. We have numerous practitioners continually sharing their practice online and who are very well-connected, particularly via Twitter. (In fact, the creativity evident within this group causes me almost weekly to wish that I was a classroom teacher once again.) It’s the personnel and the energy of “the educational twitterati” that has driven the growth of the TeachMeet movement and the rapid increase in the number of TeachMeet events that have taken place in the last two years.

So, Phil’s call for this ‘group’ to take more responsibility for proving and promoting the value of ICT is certainly in synch with the energies of that healthy, talented and collaborative network.

Where I would take issue with Phil is with his second sentence: “Let’s all get blogging”. Yes, let’s share more. Let’s narrate our work more and generate more evidence of great practice. No problem with that. But Phil’s call for “the educational twitterati” to step up and lead is a strategic call. It’s a call to try to try to have more influence across the system. And more blogging doesn’t necessarily equate to more influence because the people you want to influence aren’t yet reading your blog.

So we need to be more strategic. We need to take the conversations and the stories of great practice outside of the echo chamber and into the wider system to where large numbers of practitioners and key decision-makers outside of “the educational twitterati” already are. These could be face-to-face events; these could be other online locations.

I’d like to put in a little plug for one online location (amongst others) where I think “the educational twitterati” could exert significant influence: the National College’s online network.I should state my interest here: it is a large part of my day job to lead the development of the College’s online network and to look after its day-to-day running. Yet the case for considering the College’s network as a key space is strong. School leaders in their tens of thousands are visiting the College’s online network every month. The vast majority of participants on the College’s leadership development programmes will be using it by the end of the Autumn. Motivated leaders and key decision-makers with a desire to learn from their peers are in there daily, open to persuasion and influence.

So, alongside Phil’s call to “the educational twitterati” to step up I’d like to put my own little call out to invite “the eductional twitterati” to think more strategically about ways to influence the wider profession. The TeachMeet movement is already doing this, and in fact in the current political climate I think that the call for TeachMeet to become a more organised body is the right way to go in order for it to have more strategic influence.

In the case of the National College’s online network, a small amount of time per month spent contributing to discussions, answering questions or participating in groups in the network could have much more of an impact on the system than simply blogging more – because of who and how big your audience could be. In fact, maintaining a small presence in the College’s online network could increase the readership of your blog too. Everyone’s a winner. It’s not the only location where you can exert some influence outside of the echo chamber, but it’s definitely one worth considering.

What do you think? Can you recommend other locations, events or audiences that we should bear in mind to in order to influence the wider system about learning and technology? What topics and issues should we be featuring within the College’s online network in the coming months? Would you like to suggest or lead one of those discussions? As Phil says, “Now is time for educational twitterati to prove/promote value of ICT in education”.

Image CC BY Larion Enerdil