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New ventures August 30, 2015

Posted by IaninSheffield in PhD, Twitter.
Tags: ,

flickr photo by colinjcampbell http://flickr.com/photos/cjc/3577600379 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

It was a strange feeling as I left school for the last time on Friday. Not sad at all; I’m moving on to something I’ve been keen to do for a while. Not with any sense of pleasure either though; I enjoyed my time both as ICT Development Manager and Head of eLearning at Sheffield High School, made some good friends and helped see through some substantial changes. Strange instead because the school was quiet, as it invariably is with staff and students on hols. There was no hullabaloo, no fanfare; thanks had largely been exchanged at the end of summer term (Some people had been really kind in expressing their gratitude for the help and advice I’d afforded them; very touching). So I finished my day’s work, handed in my laptop and ID card, said cheerio to a couple of people and left. Simple. Quiet. Bit like me really.

I’m minded to look back at the technology in the school when I was appointed at the start of 2005 and to consider some of the changes we embraced to exploit some of the affordances new technologies offered. But hey, if you too were in schools during that time, you’ll already be well aware. If not, by all means have a wander through the six year back catalogue of posts here which reflect on many of the issues we faced. I read a comment or quote recently which said something along the lines of ‘There’s no point looking over your shoulder at the past; you can’t go there.’ Whilst history scholars might baulk at that, I have to confess to subscribing to that view and prefer to look forward. I certainly reflect on and endeavour to learn from what has passed, but I’m energised more by a sense of agency and ability to effect what is to come.

So what is ‘to come?’ I’ve secured a studentship to undertake a PhD at Sheffield Hallam University, full-time, within which I’ll be researching teachers’ use of social media to support their professional learning. I was struck some while ago by the number of people on Twitter claiming how potent it was in addressing their professional developments needs. Could that be true? Each time I hear the sentiment repeated, I wonder how a 140 character medium can possibly do that, yet am well aware of the positive effect it has had on my learning. I intend then to tease apart the issues involved, establish significant factors and shed more light on if and how this is being achieved. There’s little question that a good many people feel that their professional learning is enhanced by Twitter and other social media; what I’m keen to find out is how.

This blog has always been a place to reflect on issues related the use of learning technologies in schools; I hope to continue to do that. I do however need a new place which focuses solely on my new area of interest, so to that end I’ve set up ‘Marginal Notes‘ where I’ll be reflecting on my research endeavours. I need to provide a little more background in order to set the context from which my research arose, but I’ve found the need to begin documenting my studies, even though officially, I’ve not yet begun. If you have any observations or comments, do please share them.

So the next three years of my life are in some ways mapped out, and yet I know I’ll be exploring (for me) completely new ground. ‘The way less trod’ has always appealed.


1. John Johnston - August 31, 2015

Hi Ian,
Exciting news, I look forward to following your new blog as well, the topic really needs a clear eye. Every time I dismiss twitter as ‘professional learning’ I then get a great conversation, link or lead from twitter.
But I do *feel* that twitter might be a stimulus, and the blogging, teachmeets and other more complex stuff is in the end more important. Hopefully you will clear this up a bit;-)

ianinsheffield - August 31, 2015

Thanks John. The interweaving between the online and offline, and indeed across various online platforms is particularly significant I feel. People have always traversed different communities, taking and sharing what they learn in one with another, so I’m hoping to explore whether Twitter and other social media bring something new to the table that we didn’t have before. If they do, then exactly how is that achieved?

I have to be really careful in bringing my experiences with Twitter to bear, I leave my preconceptions and presuppositions at the door, so that the findings are able to tell their story.

2. morethanmaths - September 14, 2015

That sounds really interesting. I have also found Twitter to be the catalyst for change and have often wondered at how that actually happened. I have never been sure how much was useful information gleaned online and how much was down to the way that it encouraged me to read, think and study more. Very best wishes for your new venture – I’ll be really interested in your findings!

IaninSheffield - September 16, 2015

Many thanks Lois.

You make a very important point. How precisely did Twitter do that for you; what part did it play? And equally, where else did your professional learning take place after the ‘encouragement’ from Twitter? These are the kinds of questions I want to explore further.

With observations like those, I might be seeking out your views in the future 😉

3. Catherine Elliott - September 22, 2015

Good luck with the new adventure, I look forwards to reading all about it 🙂

IaninSheffield - September 22, 2015

Many thanks Catherine. Very excited 🙂

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