Sunday, March 09, 2008

Bottom Up does it work ?

Part of the frustration that I believe has persuaded myself and others to either leave the education sphere or radically change their roles within it is linked to the nature of the bottom up/ top down issue of the use of web 2.0 technology in schools in England and Wales..... I exclude Scotland as I believe that in Scotland the movers and shakers 'get it'.
Pretty well all of the developments in using web 2.0 tools to assist in global collaborative projects have come from teachers not administrators. There has been some stirling work done by a growing group of teachers right across the country( Sharon Toner's voices of the world, Linda Hartley's Flickr Group on Classroom displays, and many school podcasts across the country) and indeed some teachers are being recognised by the developers of the applications that they have been using and asked to contribute to the knowledge base of these organisations. The spin off of this is that these teachers have shown new ways that the technology can be made relevant to the classroom, however this is still isolated teachers acting on their own initiative to develop an approach to teaching and learning.
Until we have the ear of those who shape the curriculum we are whispering in the dark( a clean version!), and even risk believing that the group who appear to be inside the goldfish bowl are representative of the majority of teachers, when we know that this is certainly not the case.
So, how do we break out of this and reach a tipping point for the use of the technology in England and Wales? An interesting question the answer to some of which we have in our own hands, leading practitioners such as Joe Dale who has developed his reputation firmly in the area of Second Language teaching, Tom Barrett in the use of web 2.0 tools in the Primary Sector and Doug Belshaw in the use of technology in the Secondary sector would be ideal as advocates of the technology to the QCA et al - but how do you achieve this without taking those teachers away from their first love, which is of course teaching children?
It is difficult, and actually what seems to be happening is that some of the early adopters of the technology in the classroom become frustrated with the painfully slow process of change and actively seek an alternative, be it becoming an independent supplier of web 2.0 solutions to schools or switching professions..... we in the rest of the UK need to adopt a system akin to the Scottish model where the use of collaborative applications is actively encouraged from above. If you want to read more about community building from top down or bottom up take a look at a recent post on the topic from Ewan McIntosh.
My firm hope is that all of the effort that has been put into projects using an array of excellent 'free' tools will some day become the norm rather than the interesting oddity that it appears to be at the moment.
I am speaking now from a position where this style of communication and use of tools is seen as vital to the development of teachers and pupils in our schools, where the international/collaborative ethic is a key component of all of the programmes, which is why I opted into this as a system which is working top down, rather than opting out of the state system!
I would like to hear if this view is only my contorted wrangling or if it is felt in similar ways in education systems in other parts of the world..... or as Terry Wogan would say....'Is it me?'

1 comment:

Ewan McIntosh said...

Thanks for your fascinating insight, which reveals that there is a benefit in some degree of top-down in getting the bottom-up to be valued (I wonder if it helps make it even more "of value", too - one for another day).

I've had a rough time with that post, and a lot of the rough comes from from the belief that lots of powerful small groups have more power than those which are, to some degree, united. I don't buy that, but need to find the words to express why.

Thanks again. Hope you're doing well.