Sermonising on Twitter (or Don’t Believe the Hype)

During the recent Education Festival down in the grandiose settings of Wellington College, I chuckled at A.C. Grayling’s suggestion that Twitter acted primarily as a less than salubrious toilet wall for all our opinions to adorn. In a great many ways I can totally agree with this perspective and am more than aware that the reach of this blog will only be a few of my close professional contacts rather than the educational community as a whole. There may be a couple of interesting responses to it or debates to had as a result of what is written, but I can see that it won’t have much more impact beyond my immediate world.

I just wish someone would tell the Twitter Preachers that. Those guys that get a bit of a following going and start spouting supposed aphorisms that seem less about the day to day practise of helping learning and more about promoting his or her own profile. I say this because I’m starting to see this more and more. Education professionals from all walks of life and varied areas of the system shout from the rooftops about newly invented pedagogy, tech, and / or personal experience as if everyone will hear it and will suddenly change up their practise to match their way of thinking.

I wrote in collaboration with @rlj1981 recently about the tech evangelists and atheists. To push that theological theme further, I’m suppose I’m finding myself thinking of Twitter as less of a forum for inventive CPD practise and ideas and more akin to a high street where you find yourself sidestepping any number of people telling us all to repent our worldly sins through megaphones and placards. My problem with this is that sermonising in this manner only makes us cross the street to avoid being stuck in conversation with these types. If you ever were going to engage them in conversation, you either already agree with the message or you’re intent on trolling them in order to prioritise your opinion over theirs. Surely, this isn’t what it should be about. If we are intent on being the truly understanding and reflective role models we need to be as teachers it seems at odds that there are those who are so self-aggrandising in so public a forum.

I get why this happens though; Twitter is, after all, a place that forces a short response to concerns that really require far more thought than 140 characters often allow. It’s just that when I see helpful and interesting collaborative projects being undertaken on it (@ukedchat@HeutagogyCoP, and @NtlSTEMCentre to name but three) it can be upsetting to see so many more people and groups so brazenly attempt to sell you snake oil and call it the answer to all ills. Wading through examples of the rather privileged essentially patronising the rest of us by telling us how we should teach our learners is all the more distasteful when you can see through the offering as much as the individual.

Maybe it’s the summer. Maybe when we’re all back in school, people will have more pressing concerns than just firing off such missives. I may have issues with how the “Educating Yorkshire/Essex/Cardiff” series might be narrativising and therefore trivialising and fetishising the profession as a whole (another story, mind) but I do also see that it can bring something positive to the table. As such, in the meantime, I’m going to do my best to only say things that might be constructive from now on. I’m more than willing to offer any small amount of ideas or advice I can but trust me when I say it’s only ever ‘a’ way rather than ‘the’ way. I’ll bite my tongue long before I get involved in any sermonising on Twitter.

(Image taken from – A good example of someone explaining how Twitter can be used helpfully!)


2 thoughts on “Sermonising on Twitter (or Don’t Believe the Hype)

  1. An interesting post although I don’t exactly get your entire point. I guess what you’re trying to say is that there are some kind of elite who preach about education?

    With your choice to talk about evangelism and that kind of being the hook in my Twitter handle, I thought it only fair to respond. From my point of view there are two main types on Twitter; those who walk the walk and talk the talk and those who don’t. I haven’t read your post with Rachel, but I would hope she would confirm that I am a very sharing practitioner and fall in to the former part of that sentence than the latter.

    Having spoken at many teachmeets and helped lots of people set up their own too; shared more than 500 posts on various platforms with ideas to help teachers and written free books too to help educators; and helped probably hundreds more via social media, I guess I’m in a position where I can honestly say (without hopefully sounding arrogant – if I do, I apologise), that I have made and do make a bit of a difference.

    The evangelism bit – well yes, I believe that technology can make a difference to the learning outcomes of students. I wouldn’t do what I do if I didn’t. Thing is though; I’m just as happy to see people in their classrooms not using technology as I am using it when there has been an informed choice. As a teacher we have many pedagogies, tools, tricks, activities, techniques, whatever you want to call it, at our disposal to support the learning of our students; technology is just one of them. Whether you choose to use it or not is up to you; I’d never impose that on you or any one. I would however suggest that it is our duty to the best by our kids and as such our CPD should focus on the things which enable us to do that for our pupils and purposeful use of technology can be one of them. Now that doesn’t mean using technology to make something all-singing or all-dancing – there is a balance to be found, particularly given how long some things can take! But a well positioned use of an AFL tool in a lesson or a cracking video from YouTube, or simply taking a photo of a kids work and sharing that via the projector in your room, can have a massive impact upon learning.

    I don’t think anyone would argue with the idea of PCK. The teacher being the master of both pedagogy and content knowledge, knowing when it is right to and how to blend different TnL techniques to best put across our specialist subject knowledge. Where TPACK is so important is that it brings technology in to the mix. And it’s there, where as they rightly say, it’s about knowing when to or not to use technology that’s important.

    Maybe I’m the one that’s rambling, but I hope I’ve made some sense. Cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. No, I agree. Self promotion from relevant accomplishments is vastly different to self aggrandisement. I’m the same; I’m a tech consultant who writes curricula and helps schools and whatever for money. I have to get reach so I use twitter. I think my concerns are with those who use twitter to state ‘facts’ but as its 140 characters, they don’t give the far more detailed nuance. Take my current investigation into Teach First. It’s for research so that I can offer greater help but some take it as an affront and carry on with fingers in ears diatribes. It bores me is all and I query the worth. But no, I value your posts, Mark!

    Liked by 1 person

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