Passion sitting under our noses
Shel has beat me to the blogosphere with the account of an excellent evening in the Scottish Borders where we hooked up with Don Ledingham and talked social media, education and making things better.
Walking around Dryburgh Abbey (pics on Flickr) with a pint of 80” in hand I was constantly reminded of how our past really leaves a lot under our noses when it comes to thinking about creating a new product, nurturing it and releasing it to the wild. Example: I would have thought the large number of oak trees around the ruined abbey might, in fact, have been a reason in its downfall. This thought comes more from the weeds currently undermining the foundations of my block than anything else. But, in fact, these trees were created because the builders knew that in 300 years there would be a need for good, strong oak to replace the beams of the abbey. When we talk about sustainability in projects we often get sidetracked into details far too complex and contrived when in fact our own oak trees are sitting under our noses.
The other thing that really impressed me is the way that Rick was able to push Don and me into explaining the hows and whys behind the social software movement in education without coming close to putting backs up or making people defensive. Impressed because so often when Directors or senior managers in the education business do so they come across more Dragons’ Den than Critical Friend.
One of these things affects us all – how do you know that social media is going to make a difference? Our immediate answer might be motivation and improved student/teacher experience in and outside school. But quantifying this has, in the past, been really difficult. This is where East Lothian’s SELS package (Student Evaluation of Learning Software) comes into its own. Don has collected four years’ worth of data on what students in one year group think of their education in different subjects. This data has been fed back to teachers in one school. Now we are carrying out this online anonymous surveying of ‘customer’ views over three points in their school career before feeding back the information to individual departments and teachers, providing support to those teachers to help them improve the experience for their learners.
This raises eyebrows because for so long teachers have had lifelong tenure and schools haven’t had the ability to move on unengaging unengaged teachers. But deep down, does every teacher not want to improve? If we scratch the cynicism we find do we not find passion?