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Don’t believe the hype!

I Want To Believe The Hype I’ve been thinking about the whole topic of Twitter for some time. It’s a strange place, don’t get me wrong, Twitter has changed me on a professional level. Many of you will know that 3 years ago, I was trying to leave the profession but Heathfield and Twitter together changed me.

So… Twitter

Some boring facts for you:

I have about 5000 followers, I would guess roughly 3000 are UK teachers. In the UK there are 610,000 teachers, so as a result, roughly speaking, approximately 0.5% of UK teachers follow my predictable ramblings about audience, blogs and engagement.

For me, Twitter is a wonderful place where, for me, like-minded people collaborate, discuss and celebrate. There is indeed a lot of love out there, however, even more valuable than that, good honest feedback. Occasionally there are even highly entertaining heated discussions where disrupters test the quality of new /old ideas.

I do however feel that I need a reality check every now and then. 0.5% of teachers who on the whole have similar values to me is not a true reflection of what is out there. I received a phone call this week from a local school who had seen my name in Chris Quigley’s ‘Dangerous Curriculum’ and a reference to blogging. They phoned me up to ask me what on earth my name was doing in the back of this book and basically wanted to know ‘what on earth is this blogging thing?’ This illustrated to me that in the UK 99.5% of teachers or schools have NO IDEA what I or even you do. Are we the group of geeks who manage to find each other in this bubble just like new High School pupils tend to find there own in the first few weeks of High School? In our world of 0.5% we have influence, we have a voice and we have positive reinforcement. We rarely get challenge or challenging feedback!

When I decided not to go for the Headship at Heathfield, so many lovely people asked why, told me I’d be great at it and that I should reconsider. I found that really touching but equally interesting. There are a few of my followers that know what I am like as a leader. Many people on Twitter will rely on what I say about my leadership style but won’t have any other evidence to make a judgement from, this judgement will be formed from what I tweet or blog about.

I have been REALLY lucky! People like: Tony Parkin, Dughall McCormick, Jack Sloan, Tim Rylands, John Sutton, Andy Black, Paul Hynes, Julian Wood, John Bidder and Dianne Spencer plus MANY more have played pivotal parts in my development. Press attention for me, has been about being in the right place at the right time and my reputation has benefited massively from these fantastic moments – but I have been lucky!

My decision to not go for the Headship at Heathfield and Headship in general has been carefully considered. I have an uncontrollable desire to spread the power of an audience. As far as I can see, 99.5% of teachers have no idea about this incredible power. If that equates to 99.5% of pupils globally, then this is a feast for my soul!

There is so much work to do, for all of us… beware of the hype!

Picture: By Stallio

December 20, 2011

8 Comments

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  1. Nick Dennis
    December 22, 2011 at 9:39 am #

    David, interesting post about the power of twitter to create a reality distortion field about what happens on a daily basis. I remember talking to a student about social how social media can present (if you let it) this overwhelming need for instant gratification that is at kilter with daily interactions and it is sensible to take stock. I also think you are pointing to something important about leadership and I remember the #newleaders tag as showing the obvious issues with how we think about leaders in schools. What I would say is that to be a leader, you do not have to have a formal position of authority. I hope you have had a great experience and I look forward to hearing more about your next steps for blogging domination!

    • David Mitchell
      December 23, 2011 at 11:00 pm #

      Thanks for the comment Nick. ‘Reality distortion field’ is the term I was looking for!

      Taking stock and reflecting is what am doing at the minute as I change roles back too Deputy Head and plan which direction I go in the future.

  2. Pooky
    December 22, 2011 at 11:14 pm #

    Good luck David! I’m excited to see where the journey takes you and keen to be a companion along the way. After all, both you and I have jacked in our traditional, respectable jobs as a direct result of our extra-curricular lives on Twitter. It’s terrifying and exciting in equal measure. I’m pretty sure the one thing we can be sure of is that it will be fun!

    Hope to see you at BETT xxx

    • David Mitchell
      December 23, 2011 at 11:10 pm #

      Hi Pooky, I’m still at Heathfield but heading back into Deputy Headship. I have learned so much as Headteacher but I have that burning desire to spread the news about audience.

  3. Leon Cych
    December 23, 2011 at 11:17 am #

    I was at the Whole Education conference the other week and talking to a group of heads – they had never heard of TeachMeet or Blogs it’s something I encounter every day.

    Only a fraction of the teaching force know how to use Social Media effectively in a professional way and senior managers even less. I set up http://www.socialmediaforschools.org.uk yet I cannot get access to heads conferences or other organisations because it is too disruptive an idea at the present time. A lot of people agree that an expertise network between senior management teams would be a good thing but it is only being done piecemeal in a few places. Yet when you talk about the benefits for procurement, for other management issues and what I call the building of “Social Velcro”, people begin to see that it is going to be a long haul – there is no magic bullet – that you have to build a face to face community first and then augment it with your own media channels – we can do that now where we couldn’t before and it is a lot of extra work over and above the norm.A lot of extra work and that involves more honed management skills.

    I remember being in this position over six years ago when I tried with a number of people to start a register of English blogs http://engedublogs.wikispaces.com/ but of course it was an impossible task and without Twitter, TeachMeet and face to face meetups (which are the most important part) it couldn’t be done. It sits there as a skeleton still – the Quadblogging initiative works because it is interschool and more vibrant and alive. But it will only last for the value of those projects and for a certain time unless it is mainstreamed otherwise it will become just another fad that passes through a certain section of the networked community. I could point to similar projects developed on email by http://www.globalschoolnet.org/ going right back to 1984 (yes 1984) that have had many of the same elements and yet – and yet – it hasn’t progressed further.

    What needs to happen is for senior managers to come together to share expertise as well as the bottom up teacher stuff – only then will these social tools begin to have an effect. Now is the perfect storm for that to happen before big academy chains come in to depersonalise the whole business of education and how people interact with each other in meaningful learning contexts.

    But there does need to be an infrastructure that can help sustain these initiatives. If not they will be ignored and bypassed in time.

    • David Mitchell
      December 23, 2011 at 11:20 pm #

      Thanks for your comment Leo. We can’t underestimate the value of face to face communication. Most people on Twitter are already open minded and have a similar outlook to you and I. Your penultimate paragraph outlines what I believe to be the year of social media in 2012. I don’t think we have seen anything yet as to the power to change that social media possesses.

  4. Zoe Ross
    December 30, 2011 at 6:53 pm #

    Great, thought-provoking post, David and says much that you acknowledge the distorted reality of twitter..although a v powerful tool, twitter-induced egos are dangerous! Best of luck in your mission for 2012 🙂

  5. José Picardo
    December 30, 2011 at 7:37 pm #

    Thought-provoking post David. However, I have never – not for a moment – thought that Twitter provides an accurate reflection of reality. What it does do is offer me a glimpse of what the reality I would like to see in our schools looks like. You are making a difference. Although I can’t hold a candle to what you have achieved, I hope that, in time, I can look back and think I have helped make a small difference.

    Teachers like you are a huge inspiration to many, including me, which is why I think – if you don’t mind me saying so – that it is a shame that you are not going for headship, as I think that, although your opinion and views undoubtedly matter now, they would have their reach and influence widened beyond the Twitter bubble were you to express them as Head.

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