Education's regulatory body: Blogging Briefing
The General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) is the
independent regulatory body which aims to maintain and enhance teaching
standards and promote the teaching profession in Scotland.
I was delighted at the enthusiasm and open minds of the many members of its management teams who cleared their afternoon for some in-depth discussion of the opportunities social media has to offer the organisation.
I tried to centre the conversation around three mains areas:
- Is there really a change in the information landscape?
One of the first things many people have said to me (though no-one, in fact, in this group) is that what happens in the world 'out there' with YouTube and blogs and podcasts really doesn't change anything that they are likely to do. I estimate there to be around 500 teacher bloggers in Scotland today (those contributing in posts, comments, Flickr accounts and so on) and I wanted to examine the role of the work some are contributing to their own professional development and how that might feed into some of the professionalisation the GTCS has been so successful in implementing thus far.
- Understanding where in the network the GTCS might be
This was based on the presentation I gave to the Maths Advisory Group of Scotland, trying to see where different individuals or organisations stand in relation to others in local, regional, national and international networks. Does the GTCS straddle all these networks? Probably. And some tools will be better at others than communicating with these stakeholders.
The role of publishing material in new ways was clear for all to see. Their Directors of Research, Policy and Planning have an enviable understanding of current research, action research and policy around the world, yet the Teacher In The Street may not be aware of the sometimes hefty tomes that could help them in their job. Even if they are aware of it, how could the GTCS join in their staffroom discussion, offline or on their blogs, and provide a meaningful debate around their high quality knowledge? I, for one, would love to know where to start.
What was even more difficult to see was how wide the net should be cast to pick up on the signals coming from such a large number of sources, with such a varied range of interests and expertise. Crucial, as always, in feeling one's way around these networks and finding one's niche amongst it all is creating watchlists on Technorati and adding these feeds to your Netvibes page (I put up some instructions on this before).
- Just because you can blog doesn't mean you should
This was a quick rundown of some of the issues I summed up in this link-heavy, resource-rich blog post back in November. We enjoyed going over some of the painfully poor examples of where organisations have got it horribly wrong, or have come across as 'fake' or stilted. Press releases do, of course, have their place in providing the information stakeholders need to make their next moves, but blogging requires a different approach. The importance of good writing (and for podcasts or vodcasts, good speaking abilities) was clear for all to see in these examples where that somewhat lacked (Walmart-ing Across America rose a wee chuckle). I was keen to point out that this is not necessarily a natural skill, and that organisations have to kick things off first with some positive guidelines like these which not only underline what really can't be said online but what proactive action employees should take when they see a conversation developing around their own area of work.
The GTCS website is actually packed through of regularly updated material with more, apparently, on its way, and simply by using the technology (the word 'blog' needn't apply) the content would have more power to work its way through to those who, without realising it now, perhaps, really want it. I wish I had had time to show this video, which would explain in an easy way the small but vital difference between the traditional websites constructed by public organisations like mine and the GTCS, and what social media has to offer. Well, at least they can now ;-)
All too often we think of the GTCS as the group who let us into the profession, to whom we pay money once a year in subscriptions and who, if we've done something wrong, will put us through the inquiry. In fact, it's a group of teachers, great teachers, who see the potential in social media to share their huge experience, expertise and passion for the profession.
I hope that social media, whether it's a blog, podcast, wiki, vodcast, or whatever comes next, will help make the GTCS more human to you and me, and provide us with many more ways to understand more about our highly complex profession.