Reflexions on Week Two – Speaking Out
If week one was ‘Finding a Voice’, week two has been about projecting and amplifying our voices. How do we ‘speak out’ – on- and off-line? What do we want to speak out about? Following a brilliant discussion in the TDReflex14 Facebook Group (open to everyone, just send a joining request), when is a Thinking Environment not a Thinking Environment? And what part does the written word play in all of this?
This week’s blogging group was generative of some great thinking. I loved last week’s too, but there’s something cumulatively special about the excitement of feeling people gather while you’re writing, the anticipation of waiting until the 30 minutes are up, to check out who’s online. I’m already thinking, “But we’re halfway through #TDReflex14!” and wondering what will happen to the Writing Room when it’s all over. I’m an all or nothing person, the Wednesday 8pm sessions do come round quickly but there’s a momentum about them which is…inspiring (an overused word maybe but sometimes nothing else will do). I’ve written four blog posts in a week, plus a talk about the whole rhizomatic thing for #PGCEUCO on Tuesday (find it here) – that’s some workrate and I know that the writing focus of #TDReflex14 is what’s brought that voice out in me. It’s helped me prioritise doing what I love.
There were events in Week 2 also – alongside the Wednesday Writing Room session, we had a live tweet session on Tuesday evening (Kay is currently storifying this but find it by searching #TDReflex14). Then on Friday evening, the first of our #tdtalks seminars, as feminist speaker and activist Dr Finn Mackay (@finn_mackay) visited Northern College to give her talk, The Politics of Gender. Over on the Yammer group there’s a deeply thoughtful thread of discussion developing which is challenging thinking in all sorts of ways – we’re talking intersectionality (which I can now, finally, define), the honesty and messiness of a self-reflexive process, getting beyond the ego’s defensiveness to appreciate different points of view. The audience mix was special too, with a range of age and experience which, over a drink afterwards, created an environment of mutual listening and learning.
At the start of the week, I perhaps assumed that the question, ‘What do we want to speak out about?’ might lead to the expression of frustration and anger about the policies of successive Governments around education. I’ve always imagined that the Community of Praxis provided somewhere to vent (though, when that does happen, it does tend to be an intensely personalised call for support). But there is something in the rhizome metaphor which is about growth, not destruction – or maybe, in a week where Michael Gove has diverted £400million from elsewhere in education to shore up his free schools project, we’re all just silently agreed about how rubbish it all is.
This fundamentally challenges what politics is about, something I was also reflecting on last night when I saw several frustrated tweets about how people will vote in Eurovision but not in their local elections. I have to say, though I will carry out my democratic responsibility, have you met my local councillor? I do feel rather more hopeful that the bearded, befrocked Conchita will do more to challenge prejudice by her very presence in our media, than Councillor X will do to change the world. And given that my only voting alternatives to Councillor X are UKIP and the BNP it’s a case of “I want ’em all to lose.” This is the political reality of working class communities.
Naive? Maybe Conchita Wurst is not the new Ghandi. But I increasingly believe that we need to find new ways of challenging the political status quo, maybe even its structure, as long as it’s this hard to find anyone I respect to vote for. This means not wasting energy in negatively focused diatribes that won’t change anything. I still like to have the occasional rant (it’s a leisure activity for me) but there’s plenty of funny stuff on Twitter that can keep fuelling the flames of my anti-Gove wrath and mean I don’t deplete my world-changing energies because I’m having a laugh at the same time – and feeling I’m doing a little something to get my point across. I’ve not given up on the old ways. But they seem unshiftable. By organising ourselves to keep developing, challenging our organisations, changing what education is to what it should be…maybe that will work. We do have a choice about whether we give into the negativity I think. I have to believe it and I take strength from you all.
So, digital campaigning and activism was discussed this week and the potential for what Brookfield called ‘cultural suicide’ when we step outside the norms. I’d love to think of our Community of Praxis as a Samaritans for courageous educators, now there’s a thought 🙂 We talked about shifting perceptions of digital inclusion in the UK and always – always – positive strategies for how to proceed. It was timely that UFI’s survey of educators who might participate in an online learning ‘VOOC” (vocational) to improve their digital skills and conference was published this week too (check it out here.) And whilst on the subject of various ‘OOC’ (open online course) acronyms, some exciting potential for future work with@shukieone’s ‘COOC’ (community) and the Ragged University…
Exciting. Because #TDReflex14 isn’t about navel-gazing, it’s about what happens when lots of people get together and start to discuss stuff that’s important to them. It’s about where the rhizome will go, when this ‘uncourse’ comes to an end in a couple of weeks. Rhizo14 is still going, and growing! Some thoughts emerging…digital mini-projects (maybe built into Teacher Education programmes), peer reviewed blogging movement, #tdtalks becoming Ragged University lectures…each idea sparked by an individual after a process of reflexive thinking generated by the online attention of critical friends.
Over on Facebook and in the collective space of the Writing Room, we were thinking about finding space to disagree, without losing the mutual respect that had made it possible to speak out bravely in the first place. We wondered how quiet voices speak up, and whether our personalities were different when we spoke in different languages. We talked about personal (online) learning networks and the dangers of unthinkingly surrounding ourselves with a PLN made up of people ‘just like us’. We continued to share books we are reading and can recommend, drawing strength and inspiration from other thinkers. We reconnected with the thinkers of #rhizo14 and revisited that experience via @davecormier’s Q&A (here) which raised some interesting questions around assessment and honesty, amongst other things. We continued to delve into the values we connect with in social purpose education: fairness was one of those up for discussion this week. And in our meta moments, we thought about how to map what’s happening in #TDReflex14, to tell the world about how we kick-started a rhizome.
We hope you will join us/stay with us for Week Three (I’m just disappearing to put some slap on, regular for my weekly appearance :-)) This time, we’re bringing in the absent identities of our learners, with the topic ‘Students’ Voices’. To find out how to join in, check out the Unguided Tour, here, and have a happy week.
Week Two – Speaking Out (5th – 11th May)
How can we strengthen ourselves to ‘speak up’ on- and off-line? What part does the written word play? Where can we speak up, if not in the written word? When must we interrupt to stop abuses of power? When is a Thinking Environment not a Thinking Environment?
(For an unguided tour of #TDReflex14 check here).
Thoughts of power and equality were never far away from the minds of #TDReflex14 thinkers last week. From the very first Facebook Group post – “How can I make my online voice louder?” to the courage and openness of the Writing Room bloggers, power relationships hovered, more or less unspoken.
Time was when it was safe to assume that the teacher had all the power, compared to the student. Rightly so, that’s no longer the case. In fact, as teachers we sometimes find ourselves squeezed into that middle ground, between the two moving walls, like Indiana Jones in the Temple of Doom. I learned years ago that it’s possible to oppress upwards in a hierarchy, as well as downwards. Sometimes equality stops as soon as the Thinking Environment rules relax. Looking at the bigger picture of inequalities and abuses of power humanity-wide is devastating. So what can we do?
It’s going to be fascinating to see what comes out of #TDReflex14 this week. Please join us wherever you feel most comfortable:
Twitter – this week we’re hijacking the monthly #teachdifferent live-time chat for #TDReflex14, with the question, ‘How can you get your voice heard?’ Twitter chat is exciting stuff, best managed with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine to hand (not too near to the computer keyboard though :-0) The idea is to come online at 8pm on Tuesday 6th May and use the #TDReflex14 hashtag in all your tweets – or just follow the conversation. Lurking is allowed! (Though it would be great to hear your voice). Any problems, just tweet @kaysoclearn or @teachnorthern and we’ll hold your hand. It’s fast and furious! We’ll Storify the thread afterwards, so that you can see what was said.
Facebook – we’ll pose the questions above and see what comes out of it all! Not everyone loves Facebook, so don’t force it if it’s not for you, but the TDReflex14 group is a friendly community if you do want to get involved.
Writing Room – our small and growing community of bloggers meet in a Google+ site at 8pm on Wednesday 7th May (and the following two Wednesdays). We spend 30 minutes writing on our own page and then the next 30 minutes commenting appreciatively on one another’s blogs. If you can’t make that time, fear not, email firstname.lastname@example.org and she’ll set you up with a page to use whenever you wish. You can write more or less publicly, according to your preference (all group members can see but not all the world, if you don’t want them to). And we can publish your blog on the website here if you’d like!
We also meet on Yammer which is a closed ‘Facebook-type’ space, by invitation only. The people chatting there in the TDReflex14 group are those who have attended our Education and Training Foundation Reflexion Days (details here) but uncourse participants are very welcome too.
Have a wonderful, productive, thinking week.