Our projects feed us. When it comes to innovating within a qualification syllabus we are as bold as we dare be, but sometimes we need the freedoms and focus that projects bring to us. We do plenty of unfunded innovative work but a little project funding is often what brings a great idea off the back-burner and turns creativity into innovation.
Here you’ll find projects at different stages, fitting around our three themes of professionalism: digital, dialogic, democratic (source).
Educators who navigate and exploit the affordances of the digital age, to enhance critical education. And now we get to the crux of the matter. Not the philosophical crux, that’s our old Marxist friend, hegemony, us unthinkingly colluding in our own exploitation as our profession implodes around us. This is the practical crux. The resistance right here right
now to digital pedagogies. (I’m guessing that, by the way. I’d love you to prove me wrong). I am no longer apologetic about what I am going to say next. If you don’t go digital, you shouldn’t be teaching. And this is not about laptops in classrooms and state-of-the-art whiteboards. It’s not about lending iPads. It is about broadband reach and the digital divide, but there’s a lot of smoke and mirrors about the latter which is really just about educator/institutional resistance.
#FELTAG spelt it out and others since have clarified and refined the message. Jisc are really getting into their pedagogical groove, promoting the digital and physical blended together, helping us “…see the digital as a set of spaces, not just a set of tools.” We can work with this! Instead of sitting sulking with folded arms, because you think you’ve been asked to do something ‘extra’, get over your ego and get down with your students in figuring out new ways of learning and being. Why? Because they are leaving you behind and you are doing them an ethically unacceptable disservice by under-skilling them for life and work, particularly in terms of keeping themselves safe and effective online (4). And the bigger why? Read David Price‘s ‘Open’. Open education, open media, open research…this is how the world will transform.
Educators who open up new dialogic spaces in which to meet students as equal critical thinkers. Dialogic engagement, as described by Richard Sennett, is about equality and it’s about exploring the middle ground, rather than defending binary positions. It’s about thinking critically and differently. Yes, we enter a power relation with a student when we
mark their work, but we can be honest about that and still be equal as thinkers. I hear a tone, increasingly, when tutors talk about students (worse still when students are referred to as ‘learners’, but that could just be me). It’s an ‘othering’ tone. It’s a tone of oppression and inequality. It’s an ‘us’ and ‘them’. That has to stop.
Our Community of Praxis approach involves all of us – theorists (dead or alive), students, tutors, graduates, critical friends – in co-creation of learning environments, on and off line. We curate and transfer “content” – the stuff that inspires us – discuss it, pull it apart. I no longer have to be that ‘false expert’ who is expected to know everything about stuff that bores me, like behaviourism, just because it’s on a reading list. We seek out all the histories of our subject, as Trevor Gordon will exhort you to do tomorrow. We defy the #whitecurriculum, systematically constructed to maintain the status quo that Tait Coles wrote about (3).
And we talk. We talk endlessly and we process and we create our own ways of being, our own ontologies as social purpose educators. We use processes such as the Thinking Environment, Community Philosophy and Restorative Practice, to ensure that we continue to engage in every one of those spaces as equal thinkers, whatever our identities, starting points and places of pain. When we are scrutinised by the powers that be – and I’ve been through that twice in the last two years and may well go through it again this year – we come out like shining stars. Because they have stolen our words for their rhetoric, they can’t then claim that what we are doing is wrong. Our grades are the best, our behaviour superb, our widening-participation reach meaningful and enviable. This stuff works.
Educators who are committed to working critically and collaboratively to maintain the integrity of the profession. Education is produced for and by the white middle class to help maintain the social and economic status quo. It deliberately fails to consider the values and beliefs of any other particular race, class or gender. Young people who enter the educational system and don’t conform to this vision are immediately disadvantaged by
virtue of their race, income or chromosomes.You’ll note I’m talking about organising from the middle. Education’s future relies on a collective, distributed leadership, a leadership of new ideas and thinking. I’m certainly not leaving it to those fewer and fewer people who pop up everywhere, controlling things from the top to keep them just as they are. Teaching is leadership, teaching is research, teaching is social responsibility. The structures we work within don’t just happen to be that way, they are actively policed to keep us in our place and to keep our students in their place. I was very struck by something I saw in a TV thriller recently – anyone see The Night Manager? The work of a senior civil servant was described as, “…preserving the status quo, whatever it takes.” That is absolutely the case for education. Tait Coles, a hero of mine, wrote something profoundly important in The Guardian a couple of years back:
We can dismantle these structures by stubbornly, affirmatively, refusing to buy into them, in any safe way that we can. By subverting what we can. Of course, it’s safer when we do this collectively; organising nationally through our trade union to resist the extremes of Prevent, for example, or working as a team to worm critical pedagogies into our curricula. Making time for the collegiate critical friendship of a Twitter chat or other social media space. Drinking from the well, as our students call it, when they return as graduates to our Community of Praxis. Read too, for inspiration, but not the boring stuff, not the old farts. All dead white male psychologists can tell us is what dead white male psychologists think – and we already know that. Read bell hooks, Spinoza, Edward Said; read what excites you on Twitter (2), read what makes you cross and then talk to your networks about it.
Don’t put your faith in institutions, put it in each other. We have somehow acclimatised to the ‘fact’ that the world has to be about making a profit, that education is about the financial bottom line, but it’s institutions that demand that, not teachers and students.
Question everything. Some of the images you see here are inspired by my involvement in a book called ‘Further Education and the Twelve Dancing Princesses,” a book that has legs – 24 of them! – because the energy we generated there, writing collectively about
democratic professionalism, has translated into Tutor Voices, a rhizomatic network of campaigns, projects and people, all fighting for education to survive and transformationally thrive into 2020 and beyond. Join us. Join us on Facebook, on Twitter, on LinkedIn, over a cuppa, at a conference. But join us (we don’t cost anything :-)).