An East Lothian teacher I met tonight mentioned how odd it seemed that, in her few years teaching here, she felt that she knew so many staff in the other authority schools, and so much of what was going on.
She’d been in a city school in a previous life, and had felt much less in touch with what was going on despite the relatively short distances between them.
She didn’t put forward any reason for this, but went on to mention how her class had been:
- using blog stats from other school’s blogs for data handling exercises
- stealing ideas from other class and school blogs to use in class
- enjoying publishing their own blog and getting comments back
She had been actively involved, too, in publishing the work of a project for others to share, and enjoyed browsing staff blogs.
Of course, this doesn’t in any way prove cause and effect, but more and more of this kind of anecdotal evidence is emerging to suggest that this spider’s web of connections between schools, classes, students and staff is gradually creating a strong sense of a single learning community.
This week’s Times Education Supplement Scotland (Friday, April 6th 2007) includes a feature we’ve been awaiting with interest on the use of social software in schools. Sue Leonard, the author, set out to investigate recent events where public web sites had been used to post anonymous comments on teachers. As part of her research, she contacted East Lothian to hear how we were using these tools.
You can read a cut-down version of the article on the Times Ed site. It’s in two parts, and the on-line version provides about 3/4 of each:
- THE BAD – a discussion of problems arising from the use of a US-based site by students to make comments on teachers in Scottish schools. Perhaps inevitably, and despite inclusion of supportive arguments from the site’s founder, it paints a dark picture.
- THE GOOD – a review of Exc-el, based on interviews with Don Ledingham, Lynne Lewis and Barry Smith. In addition to the on-line text, there’s coverage in the full article of the Pencaitland Primary blog and Preston Lodge High School’s Active Learning Partnerships (ALPs) programme and the student learning logs.
I’d been a bit worried that the article could so easily have painted a negative picture. It’s a relief to find that Sue’s interviews with some of the Exc-el community have provided more than just an abstract sense of balance: they’ve provided a tangible example of an alternative, positive way to view, and use, social software. I hope that’s helpful to people making decisions elsewhere.
It does make me think, though, we’ve got a much stronger story to tell, though, than can be covered in just a couple of pages. Although we’re trying to share what we’re doing via blogs, for example, we know that – by their nature – they’re preaching to the converted. They also tend to focus on a short time period; what we’ve done today, or this week, rather than what we’ve achieved over 6 months or a year.
There’s a gap here. We need to find ways of making it easy for people new to Exc-el to quickly get their heads round not just what it’s all about, but to find stories about successful examples they can build on.