Saturday, 1 June 2013

The Brookfield Blogging Project Part 1: Developing a starting point for educational reading

Just over a year ago I was very subtly 'nudged' by Chris Fuller to get on and sign up to Twitter.  Now I feel quite savvy around technology but I had up to that point, never indulged myself into social media.  Chris did what he does best and explained to me the benefits of getting involved with this resource.  I have to say that what it did was revolutionised my thoughts around teaching.  I have always been very lucky through my responsibility role within school as it allowed me to investigate teaching and learning and speak with like minded individuals.  But with a school our size and so many of these people dotted around the site, having these conversations often was limited.  Researching and reading was (and still is) a big part of my job.  But Twitter offered something different.

I'm guessing most of you reading this already know what Twitter offers.  It offers the chance for you to speak to other educators almost 24/7 (watch out, Twitter can get slightly addictive!).  It allows you to bounce ideas off of each other.  Conversations about pedagogy and practice are always taking place.  Debates allow people to see a balanced argument and then make an informed decision about what they will take away to their classroom.  And out of all of this, one of the best parts for me, has been reading the numerous blog posts that get tweeted out on a daily basis.  These posts break down research articles, talk about best practice, commentate on educational matters, provoke discussion and thought.  They don't substitute in depth reading of a topic, but chunk down elements which you can then go off and follow up.  It is this which I want to share with interested staff at our school.

In a conversation with our Headteacher about various books and readings, it was discussed that with work load and other commitments, continual reading for professional development isn't always achievable among teachers.  Like myself, it's finding that time between marking, meetings, planning, paperwork and that all important work-life balance.  I read a lot but sometimes a book won't get finished for a good half term/term.    In our discussion, we talked about a way in which we could filter this reading in manageable chunks to staff who would read it if they wish.  This is where blogs came in.  Maybe, like in our GEMS idea, we could share an interesting blog with staff every week/fortnight which they could read.  This isn't a new idea.  In fact many teachers such as Shaun Allison and Jon Tait do this already with staff.  As always though I like to think bigger.  Is there a way in which I could catalogue these posts, storing them online so they are always a click away?  A central online library as such where you could click on a category and various thought provoking or inspirational posts would appear?  So with that thought, on 3rd May I set up the Twitter account and website named Edssential.

So what is Edssential?  Well, basically, it is an online blog post library.  It's idea is incredibly simple.  The site has various teaching categories such as feedback, planning and questioning.  In each of these sections, there are a list of articles that have been shared on Twitter and on peoples blogs.  Edssential simply gives you a teaser of an article upon which you then click 'read more'.  From here you are directed straight to the authors website or blog where you can continue to read it.  Edssential simply allows you to find what you want and then move you direct to the source.  It acts as a one stop library/search site/archive.  Because it's online, anyone is free to use it and follow.

Complimenting this is the Edssential Twitter account which shares various articles.  These cover a range of topics and aim to inspire or be thought provoking.  For the staff that sign up to Twitter, this will be an account that I will direct them towards to help them start their reading and network with the various authors.

So now it is set up, what will it do.  Well, for the many teachers at our school who are getting on board with Twitter, it will make finding blog posts an easy starting point.  Many teachers who are dabbling with Twitter in our school find the whole thing quite overwhelming.  A colleague even described it as a 'sensory explosion' for teaching and learning.  What Edssential aims to do is make this very user friendly.  If you need a starting point for a post on feedback, simply go to the relevant category on the site and begin reading through the relevant posts.  The site automatically redirects you to the author so you can read further, read the comments and discussions, follow the author if they wish, even read other posts from the author.  It aims to make the process of filtering educational reading to teachers a manageable experience.

And then what?  Well, with discussion of our L&T group, the ultimate idea would be to share the site with all staff at our school.  For many, the notion of blogging is something they are not familiar with.  It is something that I was only introduced to in the last 18 months.  But in terms of that discussion with my Headteacher about sharing readings, this could be a starting point.  Getting this as the initial source to start their blog reading journey is as simple as it gets.  Opening up the whole world of educational blogging may be (like myself) something that transforms a teachers thinking around education.  If all it does though is give just a tiny glimpse of some of the thought provoking material out there, I will feel the site has served its purpose.

If any other schools or T&L/CPD groups feel that this would be of use, please feel free to use and share with your staff/colleagues.  If any authors who I have linked to would like to be removed, please let me know through the @edssential account.  Please feel free to follow the account and use the site to find an array of thought provoking and inspirational articles.  It's there to be used, so please do.

Edssential site:
Edssential Twitter account: