AQA’s Centre for Education Research and Practice asked me to write a little piece about Pedagoo.org. You can check it out using the link below…
The above talk by Mick Waters at Westminster is worth a watch. He doesn’t start until six minutes in if you want to fastforward it. He’s sharing some of his ideas from his new book “Thinking Allowed on Schooling” which also looks as if it might be worth checking out.
Having heard Mick speak in the past, why anyone would ask him to read something out as opposed to speaking his mind is beyond me. Despite this he does make some very interesting points, and he does get to speak more freely in the second half of the video when he sums up the event. In the video, and presumably the book, he is calling for a radical rethink when it comes to education – which he summarises by calling for an ‘education spring’. Although much of the specifics of the discussion are very England-focused, I think much of what he says applies in Scotland too. For example, although we don’t quite have the same politicisation of educational policy, as there is largely cross-party agreement on the direction of travel – this is not necessarily guaranteed in the future. And, I’m sure his idea for a NICE equivalent in education would be just as applicable North of the border. Plus, much of what he says on the role and evaluation of the teaching profession is relevant in Scotland also.
I think Mick is right to highlight the complex and high-level changes which would be required to enact a radical change in educational policy, but a spring would also imply that it starts with the grassroots. Being as I am quite interested in this sort of thing through my role in Pedagoo, it makes me wonder where something like Pedagoo fits in to this idea.
Pedagoo began life as a place to positively share classroom practice and there have been discussions quite recently about the possibility that it could also provide a space for teachers to more vocally oppose the policies of governments and their agencies. Whilst I appreciate this sentiment I strongly oppose(d) this widening of our remit – there are plenty of other outlets to communicate such sentiments in my opinion.
However, Pedagoo for me can still fit into this idea of a grassroots educational spring. Obviously it doesn’t by any stretch of the imagination play a massive role in achieving a radical rethink in changing educational policy, but in a small way I do believe that it helps us to positively provide “clarity on what the role of teaching should be in our society“, which is one of Mick’s four things which need to change. It is also an example of “teachers contributing to their own profession”. And I also believe that by speaking positively and publicly about our practice that we could in a small way be countering the perception one could have of teaching from the media as described by Mick.
So if you’re a teacher who agrees with what Mick Waters has to say and you’re not yet involved in Pedagoo – you should check us out!
I’ve been meaning to post about this for a while, but while I’m lying here in a hospital bed listening to Kenny & Neil being interviewed by John for Radio eduTALK at the ACTS Conference, I thought I’d give it a go just now.
My favourite question from John was “is there a plan?” which I think Neil & Kenny answered brilliantly, especially considering there isn’t one particularly. John also raised the interesting issue which could arise if Pedagoo grows to such an extent that the volume is so high it becomes overwhelming. Questions such as these have been occupying my mind for months now as Pedagoo’s growth has become exponential.
In the short term, we’ve already taken some steps to address some of these issues. All new posts now need to be approved by a member of the admin team. This is allowing us to stagger the posts out a bit (preventing the boom and bust approach we often had before) but it’s also allowing us to give authors a bit of feedback before their post is published.
If the site continues to grow though, we’re still likely to encounter problems. In many ways, I already feel that the site could be moved to more of a magazine style format. This would allow for easier categorisation of posts on the homepage and allow users to more easily scan over a greater variety of content and choose what is most relevant to them. But whilst I can see the advantages of this sort of approach, it worries me deeply also for two main reasons.
- Managing the site would take a lot more time: it’s already at the point were it’s a fair bit of effort to keep the site ticking over, most magazine themes require much more effort due to the need to include images etc.
- It would discourage people from posting: many teachers already feel too threatened by what’s on the site to post themselves, I’d be worried a more professional appearing layout might make this worse. I like to think of Pedagoo as a community, but I worry this is decreasing as a smaller and smaller proportion of our readership also write posts themselves.
Perhaps we need to make our core purpose clearer on the site so readers understand why it has the format it has. It hasn’t got a magazine format because it’s not a magazine, it’s a learning community.
It’s not just the site though that I’m constantly pondering, it’s the nature of Pedagoo itself. At the minute it’s a domain name, some goodwill hosting, a bunch of teachers and buckets of positivity and creativity. There is no funding involved. We don’t even have a bank account. I often wonder if Pedagoo would be better if we turned it into a charity or social enterprise. Then we might be able to try and access funding and enhance the things we’re trying to do. But, like with the blog theme, the danger is we’d ruin the very essence of what makes Pedagoo so good. It’d have to be a lot more ‘formal’ which could well be a total disaster…?
So, I suppose the question is, how do we walk the tightrope of improving Pedagoo whilst keeping true to its origins and original purpose? Answers on a postcard. Or as a comment would probably be easier…or even better, as a post on Pedagoo.org!
Wow, Pedagoo is really growing still. More and more teachers are reading the blog, signing up to the site, sharing posts, organising local events, following the twitter account, tweeting on #PedagooFriday or liking the Facebook page. But how did we get here? Are there lessons we can learn so far which could be used to help grow the site, or spread the approach? This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for some time, but now that Lisa-Jane Ashes has agreed to lead on increasing Pedagoo’s presence in England, I’ve finally been motivated to sit down and write it – at least for her benefit.
The key to Pedagoo for me is that it has facilitated a move from an emerging network to a community. Blogging, and then twitter, had allowed for networking between practitioners in a way that hadn’t previously been possible. However, whilst these new networks are powerful in terms of the new forms of communication they permit, a network will always be limited in terms of impact as it implies that the members are primarily sharing as opposed to collaborating. Providing Pedagoo as a focal point for the members of these networks, allowed for a shift towards community. Another feature of a community which Pedagoo provides, which networks tend not to, is a voice. By coming together under one umbrella term we’ve been able to pool our positive, professional approach to curricular, pedagogical and assessment change to such an extent that I feel that we’re now being heard in a way we weren’t previously. But, how have we achieved this? I’m still unsure, but here’s what I think are a few key features, but please feel free to add your own below.
Build on existing networks: Part of the reason I think Pedagoo got going in the first place is there were strong electronic networks in place between like-minded teachers in Scotland already. These had begun between teacher blogs before twitter, but had really exploded with the arrival of twitter. Looking back it’s clear to me now that these networks were at the point where they were screaming out for something to tie us together and provide a focal point to our conversations. Without these teachers who were already comfortable with sharing and communicating online, and could see the benefit of this, I don’t think we would have ever got off the ground. I think it’s important therefore to start from pre-existing networks and tap into their needs and direction.
Develop the community in public: The creation of Pedagoo was a very public process. We started with a collaborative blog with a different name and when we decided we didn’t like that we had an online open meeting to discuss alternatives. All of the alternatives were shared online with lots of people contributing ideas. The resulting name was decided through an online poll and all the draft logos were shared through twitter for feedback. I’ve tried, as much as is practical, to be as public as possible with the development of Pedagoo throughout. This doesn’t mean that all of the decisions have been taken collaboratively, there is a need to just get on and make things happen – but at the very least I’ve tried to always share what’s going on publicly. This can mean that the site doesn’t have a professional polish, but I see this as a good thing as it is an amateur, grass-roots community, not a commercial product.
Harness enthusiasm and ideas: As Pedagoo has grown, lots of people have shown a real enthusiasm for the community. I’ve tried, as much as possible, to try and harness this. If someone shares lots on #PedagooFriday, they get a little direct message asking them to consider writing a post on the site. If someone comes forward with a great idea for the community, I ask them to become an Admin to make it happen. And now, keen members can become pedagurus or organise a local Pedagoo community. I’ve noticed that everyone is open to doing a little more to help grow the community, the question is the time they have available to commit to it, so it’s always worth asking and if they haven’t the time they will say so – but lots do!
Don’t be shy: In order to help grow the community it’s important sometimes to shout a bit. I’m really keen on involving more teachers who aren’t already on twitter and the question is how to reach them. We’ve tried asking teachers already involved to spread the word in their schools, but we’ve also pushed for mentions and pieces in the Times Educational Supplement in Scotland and walked around events handing out Pedagoo mini cards from Moo.com and wearing Pedagoo merchandise! Although it can feel a little shameless, at the end of the day it’s for the benefit of our learners and so it’s worth suffering the uncomfortable feeling that I get. I’ve even got a little “Do you Pedagoo?” link in my work email signature! It’s also useful to have some powerful voices backing you as they get to speak to lots of teachers in a way that no one else does. We’ve been lucky to have lots of Head Teachers, Education Officers, Quality Improvement Officers, Heads of Education, University Lecturers, Directors (and former Directors) of Education and even a Cabinet Minister promoting the site!
Organise offline events: Whilst the web has brought new powerful ways of working together, we mustn’t forget the power of meeting up. Every time I go and meet up with other Pedagooers I come back reenergised and enthused, and I’m sure I’m not alone. This can include PedagooAdmin meetings, or more open and informal BeerMeets. However, we recently organised our first ever larger event – the TeachMeet Scottish Learning Fringe – and what an impact it has had. Not only are our existing members participating more, but we’ve had a massive influx of new readers, members and followers. I think it’s important not to underestimate the power of getting together in the real world when growing a community, which has also been demonstrated by the spontaneous creation of PedagooLocal communities and their enthusiasm to organise local get togethers.
As I say, all of these are my own personal reflections on the growth of Pedagoo so far which I hope might prove useful to others who want to build a community out of their networks. Ultimately though, Pedagoo has been successful thanks to the enthusiastic participation of lots of classroom teachers, because they find it useful. The evidence of this? Have a look at the responses when I asked on twitter “What is Pedagoo?”