Connecting islands of innovation – by digital journey

First thing’s first:

Now that’s the selfie done, let’s talk about the teaching tool.  I used ‘my life elsewhere‘ today with my Year 10 class as we were talking about using economic and social measures of development. Before you read much further, visit the site and have an explore.  

This wonderful nugget of a site came from Matt Podders, general legend of a geographer.  I’ve chosen to use this as an illustration of how connected teaching is beacuse I came across it on the SLN Geography Forum.  To me, one of the appeals of the ‘chalk’ face has always been that you’re basically left and trusted to get on with it on a day to day basis.  That means that teachers can subvert.  At least, that has always been the case for me.
However, that really becomes a bit of a mission, especially when the educational landscape is shifted so much.  Geography, in particular, is a dynamic subject that changes each week.  That’s when being on ones own becomes a bit of a drag. Islands of innovation are difficult to maintain and the internet connects them into archipelagos and continents, heading to a Pangaea that is self-sustaining.
Imagine a world before Twitter.  I was sat in a room at the University oif Durham, ready to learn as an eager PGCE student, when Chris Durbin entered the room.  It was a great session that covered many great ICT related ideas, but the main takeaway was his introduction to the world of the SLN Geography Forum.
This wonderful place was a source of inspiration and late night banter and I am still connected to truly legendary geography teachers from that time in 2003 onward.  It was, and is, a place to share ideas and debate change.  Of course, it became a little feral and twitter came along, but SLN’s forum introduced me to blogging.  I started that in 2006 thanks to Ollie Bray, now a Headteacher in the Cairngorms when I visited the Scottish Association of Geography Teachers’ annual conference in Dundee.
Twitter has become a frustrating place for some, but like any online space, it’s easy to ignore and turn off.  
What struck me was the willingness to share and the kindness of strangers.  Just step back for a moment and tune out the white noise of rubbish (perhaps around the progressive/traditionalist or college of teaching tosh), and reflect. People who have never met each other are willing to help.  
Over the years I’ve received CD-Roms trhough the post, met up with strangers in barns and been saved from the brink of insanity before an inspection, all through simple posts on sites such as SLN Geography and twitter. Receiving help from people with no interest or care other than to assist a fellow teacher and try to ensure young people are getting the best deal, even if that’s not in their own school. Taking time out of planning and marking their own lessons in order to help.
That all causes spectacular goosebumps and an overwhelming sense of well-being and pride.
Sure, there are muppets. Sure, there are disagreements. But the very fact that they show up in the first place is what I love about teaching.

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