I read a couple of reports this week about life in perpetual beta and try but never buy culture. Both of these things relate to the way teacher educators carry out the formidable task of mediating the exploding internet and entrenched expectations of how and why we go about professional development.
Print technology – the thing most people are saying must shift in order to make room for screen technology has existed for a relatively short time in history. It has evolved through form and social-function to be seen as ‘the authority’ – where a few dictate truth and what is correct to the majority. Most people won’t write a book, let alone see it distributed to the far reaches of the world. Slightly below the book most people see newsprint as a secondary authority along with television media and magazine. Word of mouth was relegated to hear-say for much of recent history.
With lives in perpetual beta – Ryan (who is looking at militants online) point outs
the internet facilitates “amorphous communities but it has a culture of initiative that facilitates individual activism. This evolved from the “hackers” at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) from the late 1950s,and the rise of a community of phone phreaks that spread and evolved into network hackers and software pirates. By the 1980s a new breed of phreaks was so defined and self-aware that it had established norms and conventions to which its members loosely adhered.
So in many ways, this subversion began long before teacher’s started talking about reform on Twitter, and indeed started inside academia itself. In the ‘try but never buy culture’ of today’s online world, we play out life in perpetual beta – we are exposed to, show interest in, and try on networks, technology and other people’s identities, not though books – but through conversation. These online places continue to establish new norms in behaviour, method and expectation. A book doesn’t do that – it is forever set in immovable type. If you’re a gamer, you get gaming – if you have already learned that a PLN will teach you more in a month that you learned as an under-grad – then you probably don’t see ‘traditional PD’ as effective.
Matthew Salganik is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Princeton University. His interests include social networks, quantitative methods, and web-based social research. In his research he suggests
People look to others for cues because of the overload of choices available. “You could listen to music nonstop for the rest of your life without getting through it all,” he says. “The simplest shortcut is to listen to what other people are listening to.”
If I relate this to much of the way teachers are expected to learn (three ring binders etc.,) in PD sessions – it seems that few teacher educators either have, or are able to have – a social media strategy to carry out their ‘job’ -as well as they could with it.
I find it brain-missing that education – with all its incumbent power is unable to get someway close to Edublogs for example. Edublogs has a social media strategy – and has built a global community, essentially off conversation with one person – Sue Waters. Teachers could just use WordPress – but they don’t – they have build Edublogs on community and professional development of teachers as a core-value.
I knew Sue when she was still an avatar, struggling to deal with hamster-brains in her ‘full time’ job. And there is the problem – the really great teacher educators have sufficient agency to ‘teach us’ in amorphous communities. They ‘hack’ the system so to speak – while at the same time – the book-believers struggle to reconcile ‘social media’, let alone think maybe – just maybe, teacher education should be taken to the communities, should be facilitated online – and should be maintained by people like Sue, who clearly achieve what is only endless debated in rooms and committees. Edublogs didn’t do this by publishing a book.
Does your organisation have a social-media strategy in order to use online communities for effective professional development? If so, I’d love you to post the link from whatever portal it may reside.