Some years ago, a non-teacher friend introduced me to Twitter. I am not a particularly “techy” person, but I took the invitation and have never looked back. I have often described my engagement with Twitter as being part of a massive resource and reference library. I have my areas of interest driven by my own expertise in the field of education, English and, more specifically, further education. I select, explore, research, connect, with a discerning eye – as I do in a library.
I interpret the intent behind the term “Edubabble” as dismissive. Such a reductive naming ignores, for example, Twitter, which sees communities involved in education forging connections, sharing expertise, understandings, experiences. Yes, very much outside of the parameters of institutions within which people may work. Teachers and educators are finding spaces and places within which to explore ingenuity and invention, and find and make connections that sustain, inspire, develop them as educators – beyond the confines of their classroom, departments, wider institutions. What could possibly be wrong with that?
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Communities have grown from the connections of all kinds of different groupings within education. This hashtag Twitter-handle dynamism engenders a new kind of vitality. Time-poor educators are immersed in the worlds of classrooms and teaching in all kinds of contexts and are able to articulate and test out their thinking and practice in these communities.
It all starts with a quick tweet, connecting with people. Here, outward thinking matters. I have arrived at institutions where my heart has sunk as I have seen and felt how energy has been sapped out of the potential dynamism due to a fossilisation process where colleagues have become stuck in rigid systems of “this is how we do things here”.
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When teachers step outside of that environment and participate in different educational communities out there, all kinds of energising can happen to keep them going, build confidence and help them find their voices and edge in positive shifts in workplaces. Finding others in the same boat is a massive help. Finding others with the same professional interests is massive. Finding others locally, nationally and internationally is massive. Having opportunities to connect with those in the power seats is also energising, and gives a real sense of agency where otherwise none may be felt.
Those in power can take for granted and enjoy the privilege their positions give them in terms of decision-making and access to others in power. They can become ignorant and detached from the real world in the classrooms – echo chambers can become decision-makers’ places and spaces if they are not careful to step outside. Those who dismiss the educational Twitter community, captured in the throwaway term "edubabble", I think, need to have a rethink and reflect.
Social media presents to education a rich seam of ideas, industry, promotion and possibility, and sustains those who work in this tough, demanding world. The many different communities that beaver away together, finding each other in a conveniently snatched 140 characters, connected by a shared hashtag, providing an essential fast track in a tweet-link to articles, events, writing opportunities, podcasts, CPD, research opportunities, jobs, teach-meets, research-meets, radio broadcasts.
All of this dynamism and energy is then brought back into the workplace. The educational world on social media – and, for me, it is especially Twitter – should be celebrated and encouraged. We are educators, after all. We have the capacity to be discerning, as in a library – we know what we want to look for and find. Yes, there is wonderful serendipity to boot. That is the magic that happens.
Elizabeth Draper is an English specialist, working in further education, advocating for a meaningful, relevant, enjoyable curriculum. She is a member of the OCR English Curriculum Consortium and trustee of the English Association, and she tweets @draperel