So, I emerge from my reasonably safe landing craft onto the surface of an altogether new type of moon, the educational or teacher blog. There, not so bad, just made my first step.
Continuing with the moon landing metaphor, my journey here began many weeks ago by dipping my toes back into Twitter. I’d opened an account a couple of years ago, got bored, couldn’t really see the point of it, it went dormant. Then I saw some of my (rather wonderful all girls group) of yr 11s getting a tad obsessive about Twitter and my curiosity was peaked. After scratching my head, peering back into the mists of time, my username and password emerged out of the ether and I logged back on.
Initially, I trooped down the more frivolous route of finding celebrities I knew or rated and eagerly followed them, much like my yr 11s. I’m almost, but not terribly, ashamed to admit to being rather over-excited when @EmmaK67 (Emma Kennedy) and @ajhmurray (Al Murray) replied to some direct tweets. In my defence, and admittedly, it’s a weak one, I was tweeting Emma about her book ‘The Tent, The Bucket and Me’ If you’ve never read it, please do, you may well even LOL and ROLF (deliberate use of text speak there, you know, so I’m a bit ‘street’) and Al Murray when he was having a justifiable moan about tweeter’s lack of grammar skills, mainly involving homophones. I posted him a link of ALL the homophones within our mongrel language and got a reply, and, even more groupie like, kept the emails notifying me of their replies. I was becoming swept away by the possibility of contact with ‘real’ celebrities. I could go off on a postmodern, Baudrillardan diatribe here, but think it moot not to, better to move onto the nub of the post.
This did not last long. My twitterverse soon began to change and I think I can lay the blame for this firmly at @ukedchat’s door when I stumbled across it while scrolling down my twitter feed, and like Lucy Pevensie stepping into C. S Lewis’s beautifully crafted wardrobe, I’d emerged into an altogether more worthwhile Twitterverse.
I emerged wide-eyed and blinking, and rather than happen across a talking fawn, I stumbled across a new acronym. I’m not a huge fan of acronyms, they are often like getting an eye-lash stuck in your eye, an irritant. This new, pedagogical one was a mystery and she is called #SOLO. Baffled, I waded in on a #ukdedchat discussion (every Thursday evening, 8pm, hosted by a different teacher each week) about it and asked some naive, perhaps even blonde questions. The first being, ‘What is #SOLO?’ Now, I could have got a barrage of ‘You call yourself a teacher?’ kind of comments but instead, @ICTEvangelist, that evening’s #ukedchat host, posted me a wikipedia link that briefly explained what it was: Structure of Observed Learning Outcome. I was a little wiser, but not much. I needed context and I needed it quickly.
Before I knew it, Obi Wan Kenobi, or @Learningspy (David Didau) wondered into my feed, @ICTEvangelist posted me a youtube link of David’s that showed him explaining #SOLO to his colleagues. I had a light bulb moment, I translated it into something I understood in my head, and quite simply #SOLO is all about joined up thinking. The joined up thinking enables students to do so many things but one of the most important is to make considerable progress during the course of a lesson, VERY Deatheater, I mean OFSTED, friendly, but more importantly, fully engage pupils in their learning and even better still, allows them to fully internalise the content of a lesson and understand its content BEYOND that of what you may have expected. The learning is deep and thorough and involves using hexagons in a way you may not have expected. Have a peak at @David_Triptico’s http://www.triptico.co.uk/thinklink.html to give you an idea of how hexagons and #SOLO can work together.
So, my light bulb had not just been lit, but sparked, something different and inspiring had entered my brain, a new and better way of teaching, I had to keep returning to my feed and find out more, find more teachers to follow, I had become a very different kind of groupie and kept returning to @ukedchat each Thursday evening and hoovered up twitter teachers as often as I could. Twitter had changed from the celebrity caterpillar into a CPD butterfly. (I’m going to run out of analogies and metaphors if I’m not careful).
Twitter teachers are full of opinions, ideas, resources, advice, support, friendship, banter and an urge to drink heavily at the end of term.
Many, and I do mean many, of them write blogs. Whilst marking what seemed like an epic amount of OCR A2 Media Studies papers, my wind-down time was spent mooching on twitter, chatting to tweachers, and reading numerous useful, well-written, inspirational, downright scarily good blogs about education and teaching, which was, in many ways, intimidating. I thought, ‘These people aren’t just good, they’re bloody brilliant.’ which is what has put me off contributing to the blogosphere, cowardice. However, I have a strong sense of justice and was it really fair me to read all these blogs and not contribute myself? Perhaps not.
I have two tweachers to thank here: @Pekabelo and @kennypieper for encouraging me to blog, advising me of the best platform to use, providing me with a deadline to complete my blog post (yes really) and offering to proof-read and give feedback before going public with it, which is frankly a little terrifying.
So here I am, having my small step for me, but Twitter continues to make its giant leap for teacher kind, and long may it do so.
Here follows a list of tweachers who I follow and often interact with and the very good reasons for doing so. Their blogs are on their Twitter autobiographies.
1. @Learningspy (Obi Wan Kenobi) – writes regular, informative, intelligent, inspiring blogs about teaching and debates (there are so many) that surround it. Author of ‘The Perfect English Ofsted Lesson’. (waiting for me at school along with Pam Hook’s books on #SOLO), frequently posts many useful articles about teaching.
2. @hgaldinoshea English and Media Teacher, regular tweeter of interesting opinions, ideas, encouraging and supportive of #SOLO, good twitter tweacher banter.
3. @lisajaneashes English teacher, AST, soon to be published author and advocate of #SOLO, full of enthusiasm, writes a mean blog.
4. @LGolton – Physics teacher, fully fledged #SOLO teacher, excellent blogger.
5. @KDWScience – was an NQT when we ‘followed’ soon to be Director of Literacy in her school, #SOLO advocate and blogger.
6.@CanonsOPP – always a sage voice amongst the maelstrom of a #ukedchat dabate, well except near the end of term. Blogger of a wide range of educational topics, #SOLO advocate, leader of teaching and learning.
7. @tomboulter – HoF English teacher, blogger and helpful on all things AFL especially with KS3, lots of useful stuff on his school site.
8. @tombennett71 – TES behaviour guru, fabulously entertaining and useful tweets and blogs, a must read.
9. @ICTEvangelist – does what it (he) says on the tin, organiser of teachmeets, all round good egg.
10. @Pekabelo – blogger, first class tweacher banter, encouraged me to blog and set my deadline
11. @kennypieper – blogger, advocate of teacher blogging and encouraged me to do this.
12. @JamesTheo – English teacher, tweeter of ideas, opinions and no end of useful articles, and am eternally grateful for the ‘Slinky on a treadmill’ youtube clip, which has an infinite number of possible uses; discussions on ‘Classroom Praxis’ – e.g. planning lessons with very open ended outcomes.
13. @MissBex-M – young, bright eyed and bushy tailed teacher with a beautiful blog on tumblr.
14. @GeorgeEBlack – fellow OCR examiner and has a most excellent blog hub for her AS and A2 Media Students, exemplary (speaking as an ex-A2 Media Studies moderator for OCR).