What a week! It was a fantastic privilege to host EduTweetOz last week – I gained so much (in terms of conversations and connections), and can only hope that others got to benefit by coming along for the ride. Many thanks to the admins of the account – Corinne, Michelle, Donelle and Liz – for initiating such a fantastic community-building project and working tirelessly behind the scenes to make sure it’s valuable for everyone involved.
One of the things I loved most about my experience is that it confirmed something for me that I was hoping to be true but that I wasn’t sure of yet: namely, that there is a wonderful world of educators out there who I can connect touch with and form a mutually symbiotic relationship. There are many kinds of ecological relationships between species in the animal kingdom, the most common being predator/prey, competition and parasite/host. In each of these one group’s gain necessarily means the other’s loss. But in a mutually symbiotic relationship, everyone wins.
That’s what I was hoping to tap into when I first joined Twitter. My first tweet proves it. But it took me many months before I got in touch with anyone who could actually show me that this could become a reality. And seeing others get involved with Edutweetoz showed me it was possible – and outlined a path that I myself wanted to take and contribute to as well.
In the lead-up to my 7 days in the chair, I provided answers to some interview questions that each of the hosts gets given – and thought it would be nice if those were recorded here for posterity!
Please tell us a little about your background in education. Why did you decide to become involved in education? What are some of the roles you’ve had and what does your current role involve?
During high school, I found that I loved to explain things to my friends – I got a real kick out of seeing the light bulbs come on inside someone’s mind, so the idea of being a teacher and doing that all day every day seemed attractive to me. In addition, I was deeply drawn to the profession due to the massive personal impact that teachers can have on students.
I trained to teach mathematics and computing studies. Immediately out of university I got a position at Fort Street High School teaching Software Design & Development (among other ICT courses), till I landed a job at James Ruse Agricultural High School where I was given the opportunity to use both of my teaching methods. One of my highlights at James Ruse was overseeing many of the school’s technological resources and migrating the entire staff to an information ecosystem built off of Google Apps for Education (GAFE). My work in that area contributed to paving the way for the DEC to adopt GAFE as one of their officially endorsed software tools, with the goal of moving toward a state-wide implementation. That’s an exciting project that’s still very much in motion.
This year I just took up the role of Head Teacher Mathematics at Cherrybrook Technology High School.
Who or what keeps you inspired and motivated in your work?
There are a whole host of things that inspire me every day – from the elegant simplicity and profound insights of the subject matter I teach, to the piercing insight and unwavering dedication of my fellow teachers – but I think the main thing that keeps me motivated is the thing that got me into the profession in the first place. I constantly encounter powerful reminders of the enormous positive influence that teachers can have on students – it’s an unmatched opportunity, and it’s endlessly novel for me to see it happen in diverse ways for each unique student.
What do you see as some of the biggest rewards and challenges for people working in education today?
Having just become an executive member of staff, I’ve been exposed afresh to the reality of just how much people working in education are expected to devote their time to things that are quite peripheral to actual teaching and learning. To be sure, the vast majority of administrative tasks and extra responsibilities do make their own valuable contribution to the school environment and hence to the educational experience as a whole, but I still feel myself and the staff I lead being tugged away from focusing on that most wonderful privilege: engaging students in the classroom. I think that regaining and maintaining that focus is one of the primary challenges for teachers today.
As for rewards, sorry to keep banging on the same drum, but I feel that the most precious reward is seeing students succeed in life. For some students, it means a university scholarship. For others, it means getting their ROSA and starting that apprenticeship they’ve been eyeing for ages. For some, it means finally understanding the connection between the volume of a sphere and the process of integration. For others still, it means being able to sit with a group of peers at lunchtime and being able to have a conversation that isn’t awkward. Whatever it might be, seeing students overcome their fears or self-doubt and achieving something they had never dreamed of reaching – being able to participate in that moment is priceless.
If you had the ability to make changes to the education system in Australia, what would you do?
I don’t know how I would practically achieve this – if I did, I would already be doing it – but I somehow would want to work toward an education system that placed value on things even when they cannot be directly assessed or quantified. For instance, I’m convinced that whole generations have a bad attitude toward mathematics because the mathematics taught in schools is heavily skewed toward mastering a set of processes that can be applied to a relatively repetitive set of problems to produce desired answers. The reality, though, is that actual mathematics involves play, abstraction, imagination, exploration and the formation of unanswered questions – but none of these are easy to assess, so they fall by the wayside in the syllabus documents.
I’m sure mathematics isn’t the only KLA that suffers from this problem. I wish I could change this situation but I don’t know how yet!
What role do you see EduTweetOz playing on the education scene in Australia and what are your hopes for the account this week?
EduTweetOz, like the internet in general, is a disruptive technology. It takes something that ordinarily takes place in the “real world” (namely, professional relationships and dialogue) and disrupts the ordinary supply chain by providing a way to get it without any of the extraneous elements (e.g. a physical location, food, pre-existing networks of relationships). It lets people dive in and connect with people they might never cross paths with otherwise, and provides them with avenues for learning that they might never have encountered even if they availed themselves of all the real world opportunities that were available to them (that’s certainly been my experience!).
So I view EduTweetOz as accelerating the formation of those kinds of wonderful symbiotic professional relationships that you might only make one or two of during a conference for your professional association of choice – without all the stress and fuss of actually physically attending such a conference!
My hopes are pretty simple: (1) that together we’ll raise some interesting and valuable conversation, (2) that we’ll all be exposed to people and ideas in the educational world that we wouldn’t normally see, and (3) that I won’t drown in tweets!! (I can see the headline now: “Sydney teacher dies in horrific self-inflicted Twitter accident.”)