It’s OK to miss things


Originally uploaded by Kilgub

My best mate at school was a huge music fan. Dave had thousands of albums by bands I couldn’t even pronounce, let alone remember. He was always ready for the next big thing, spotting the likes of Pulp and many others long before the likes of you and me had come across them. I was fortunate to borrow a few CDs now and then – I distinctly remember him introducing me to Nirvana, and many other groups you’d likely never have heard of – but I was never really up on the whole music thing.

I always felt slightly envious of him – because he never missed anything. He knew exactly what was going on and always kept his finger on the bleeding edge (I do love a mixed metaphor).

In the years since then I’ve met lots of people like Dave. When I first started teaching I worked with Darren Smith, an early Moodle adopter who seemed to be very well up on where ICT in schools was going. When I first got into blogging it was all about Islay, and Islay Ian was my go-to guy for all things Web 2.0 and technology in the classroom. Once I got into Twitter it was the likes of Doug Belshaw who seemed to be the kind of person who knew exactly what was going on and somehow managed to keep lots of fingers in lots of pies, while still maintaining excellent classroom practice.

And as great as Darren, Ian and Doug are, they’re also pretty daunting as exemplars. Like my friend Dave, they seem to never miss a trick, to always be up on the next big thing and they can easily make the rest of us feel, if not inadequate, certainly less successful.

A couple of years ago my morning routine used to consist of reading through all of the overnight tweets in my timeline, lest I miss some key conversation or idea. Then going on to my RSS reader and seeing what was going on in the blogosphere. I couldn’t bear the thought that I would miss out on something.

Of course, that’s ridiculous. There are bound to be conversations I’m not part of, blog posts I don’t get to read and ideas that pass me by entirely. That’s as it’s always been and how it should be. It’s OK if I don’t hear about a piece of software before a colleague, or if someone in the staffroom is sharing a new online tool with me instead of the other way around. And it is important that I take time away from reading up on ideas and actually try using them in the classroom (that and eating, sleeping, spending time with my family…).

What brought this to my mind is the collection of tweets, blog posts and the Teachmeet livestream coming out of the NAACE conference over the last few days. I’m not really involved with NAACE, although I know many who are. And for a moment I felt guilty that I wasn’t spending my Saturday watching the Teachmeet being beamed out live. And that I hadn’t followed who was presenting what throughout the conference. But if it’s important or key, I know that some very good people will make sure it floats to the top. Because the good ideas do tend to do that, and those very good people are on the case.

And at the next Teachmeet, I’ll try to do the same. I’ve not been to one yet that hasn’t resulted in a number of blog posts and many tweets – and those who aren’t there might pick up on one thing or another. Or they might not. And we’ll all cope, because it’s OK to miss things. We’re only human, after all.

We trust you with the children but not the Internet

Edit #2: Having spoken to SMT I feel a bit happier. There are sensible points in there about making people aware that something posted even in private can easily be made publicly and taken out of context and other very reasonable content. Knowing the SMT at the school as I do, I doubt very much that it is a stick to beat us with or a tool to use in a witch-hunt – much more a set of rules that mean we can’t claim ignorance as a defence if we do something stupid. I don’t agree with all of the points and I have been invited to feed in any thoughts or opinions about how to make things more transparent. Much as with e-safety, I would personally be much happier if I was simply left to get on with it – but I appreciate that policies and guidelines are required and that if nothing else, it forces me to consider whether what I am doing is sensible, foolish or a balanced risk.

This was going to be a rant about the new Social Networking policy I received yesterday1. In fact I spent a good 10 minutes venting my spleen into this very editing window. As I started to balance out my argument though, I realised that actually I was over-stating things, although that doesn’t mean I’m happy.

Our new policy says that we are not to use Social Networking during the school day or using school equipment. I’m not happy with that. I have a Twitter network of over 1000 people who are interested in education*, I am part of a Facebook group that discusses ICT teaching topics, I’m an active member on both the CAS Google Group and the TES forum and, of course, I blog**.

Now I don’t have a copy of the policy in front of me (I’m not sure why, but there weren’t enough to go around at last night’s staff meeting), but I’m pretty sure it said ‘for personal use’ in there. And all of the above can be (IMO) justified as professional use. Yes, some of my tweets can be a bit chatty and… well… social – but the overall effect is that I get a lot of professional value from it. What it does mean is that I shouldn’t be playing Farmville during a cover lesson and then chatting to the three people who still use Bebo. And I can’t really argue with that.

I do feel unhappy about this document – not least that we are told it is about ‘safeguarding staff’ and it is for our own protection. Give us advice, give us guidelines, fine. Give us rules and it feels like you don’t trust us to make value judgements (a bit like our new ID lanyards – but that’s a rant for another day). Most of the people enforcing these rules do not understand the technology or its use. That sounds like an easy get-out clause for a disgruntled employee, but it would be like putting someone with no formal educational training or experience in charge of schools. Oh, no, wait. Bad example. Anyway…

The rules are there and I have to decide what to do. Do I draft my argument /concerns and send it to the Head? Do I carry on as things are and see what happens? Do I remove my online presences? And how do I go about *teaching* about social networks if I’m not actually allowed to use them.

And another tricky one – we are not to interact with / befriend students. Now I know that at least one 6th former reads this blog (which is pretty sad really – and yes I do mean you, haven’t you got something better to do? Find a past paper for Unit 3 or something), so does that mean that this post is knowingly interacting with a student? Very subtle and tricky situations in here.

Ah well, I had a good grace period, and I can’t see me closing my Twitter account any time soon. In the meantime, I’d best go and remove those drunken photographs from Flickr…***

* Plus Stephen Fry, naturally

** OK, not very often of late, but still…

*** This is a joke, just to be clear

1 Edit: The policy is adapted from the LA protocol but is a school policy.

Image Attribution: We trust you with the children but not the Internet Originally uploaded by Scott McLeod