I have been watching PE Twitter recently with the jaundiced eye of a seven year user. (I don’t want this to become a “back in the day” rant, so I promise to watch my step). I still find enough joy in my stream to keep me hanging around, but I’ve noticed something happening that disturbs me. And it’s growing. To frame the issue, consider these questions.
How do you know what makes legitimate and sound Physical Education professional learning, based on referrals from Twitter? Where is the filter that screens out the dross and lets the quality through? Do we have a responsibility to rate and review social media promoted professional learning so that others may benefit from our successes or failures?
We are so often reminded by some that evidenced based practice is the holy grail for which we search in improving our practice, but how much of the professional learning and practice we see spruiked on social media (in particular Twitter) would stand the test of being evidence based, or valid, or reliable? I see Physical Education tweets selling Youtube channels starring “elites” of practice, with no credentials offered that they are. What are “elites of practice” anyway? And who decided that they were elite? The same goes for websites, chats and “masterclasses” hosted by and starring “legends”, “doyens” and “experts”.
I’ll use a favourite pop culture reference that supplies me with teaching ideas – MasterChef Australia – to complement this view, and to also offer a potential solution.
When people cook on MasterChef Australia, they are judged and reviewed by a panel of experts in the field. These experts have runs on the board – they run successful restaurants or have worked in the the field of critique for many years and have a industry reputation.
When they review contestants, I contend that their evaluation and feedback is based on accepted practice, their expert assessment of quality and how well the contestant’s work met the brief that they gave at the beginning of the challenge. Objectives, expected outcomes, best practice, quality feedback. If you asked them to write a rule book for MasterChef Australia, I’m sure that would be the framework. Along with a bit of emotion wrangling for the cameras. Everyone that buys into the MasterChef Australia experience (competitors and viewers) accept that this is the way it is. It wouldn’t work without it. Although it can be seen to be subjective, the experts and their experience and reputation are the bedrock of the concept.
Not so on PE Twitter. I don’t see the review, judgement and feedback on what people put forward as quality professional learning, just because they say it is. Andy Vasily observed this too in a recent conversation we had
So, what’s the solution? I have toyed with a Physical Education membership website that allows the community to review, judge and give feedback on professional learning that they have experienced. I thought about designing it so it included members ratings, comments and recommendations Like anything that runs like a popular vote, it could be subject to distortion. I also had a brainsplosion about an international review team of Physical Education experts that could be charged with official endorsement of professional learning. But who would want to do that? And how would we assemble this Justice League of PE?
So I guess that puts it back on all of us to be responsible online professional learning consumers to call out the charlatans, the self aggrandisers and reward the quality evidence based practitioners and researchers that will ultimate improve our practice, not cheapen it. What do you think?
2 thoughts on “Cavete ergo discipulus – let the Professional learner beware”
(This comment came from Andy Vasily) I’m not in the habit of commenting on my own work 🙂
Brendan, you bring up many good points in this blog post. In moving forward, I think it is necessary to understand that people often times have the best of intentions when posting or retweeting resources and ideas that they feel are ‘quality’ in nature. However, in saying this, the reality is that anyone with a device can post anything that they want. As these tweets are not vetted in any way, who knows to what extent what is being posted is actually ‘quality’ stuff.
Instead of blindly retweeting the work of others and assuming that the content of what is being posted promotes authentic professional growth and learning, it is important to maintain a healthy degree of skepticism in order to evaluate to what extent it is of a quality nature.
I’m as guilty as anyone in believing that what I post is well thought out and will help teachers to truly develop their practice. Despite aligning my teaching practice with the most current evidence-based research, what I post on Twitter is not vetted by anyone and subject to that same degree of healthy skepticism that all Tweets should be. I don’t expect nor want anyone who follows my Tweets to blindly accept that what I’m posting is best.
What I do want is people to engage with my work, ask questions, seek clarification, then ultimately decide upon whether or not it is useful to them. In going through this process, it is critically important to understand that there are multiple perspectives to consider before deciding upon what forms the basis for true professional growth and learning. If that means that someone going through this process will not find my work useful to them, no problem. Move on and apply the same process to other resources, links, ideas, and approaches being posted on Twitter and do the same. Take the time to evaluate what is being posted before assuming that it falls under ‘expert’ level stuff.
Maintaining a high degree of skepticism about everything that is posted is our professional responsibility. Blindly retweeting without truly taking the time to look at the link or resource does nothing to move our profession forward. Using social media as a platform to connect and to professionally develop ourselves is a noble pursuit worth exploring and CAN lead to authentic growth. I still believe that Twitter can be used to further our development as educators, but raising awareness about what is quality and what isn’t must be discussed within our #physed network.
I couldn’t agree with both you of more. When I see activities posted, my first question is “What is the purpose of this activity?” Quite often, the activity looks like a lot of fun, but that seems to be the only point of it. We all have limited time with our students and need to make the most of every moment. Reviewing ideas, concepts, activities with a critical eye is our professional responsibility. Both of you express these thoughts much more articulately than I am, but I just wanted to chime in with my two cents.