The #Glaikit Lurkers Debate

This was the most interesting part of the last two days for me. If you’ve been following the #glaikit twitterstream, you don’t need any further explanation. If not, I’ve spent the last two days in a sort of creative hothouse for online CPD communities, orchestrated by my wonderful and  indefatiguable colleague, Con Morris with back up from the fab Glow -team ( Alan, Sarah & Katy – so patient, so skilled, so lovely and so not patronising to non-IT savvy folks).

One of our operational principles in the National CPD team is building collegiality; i.e building wisdom from within existing structures because we believe the power to make change happen lies within,(Fullan, Elmore) , and because of this we need to liberate ourselves from feeling the need to seek it elsewhere or rely on outside help. To be successful, this relies on professionals engaging with each other, having focussed  professional conversations and  sharing their experiences and expertise to try to make learning better for the young people involved. 

Our interest in this, is that this understanding of collegiality is a massively powerful CPD OPPORTUNITY in its own right, and one that can bring about transformational change within organisations. We have seen this in Learning Rounds, as I’m sure many people have, through this and other processes and practice. For me, collegiality relies on reciprocity, and this is where the big debate all started.

As we were working on online communities, we were talking about principles of participation in these communities. Collegiality is core to their function and success, butby and large,  hasn’t been hugely evident up until now. One response to this from the team is to close down membership to only active participants who are prepared to take two simple steps to gain entry to these communities. First step is to introduce yourself and upload a photo of yourself, and secondly, make a commitment to contributing in one of a number of ways to the community.  A number of issues arose out of this in a debate that followed:

Effectively, we are excluding lurkers from our communities

Lurkers might have a place and function in these communities (not sure what)

If  lurkers are allowed, and continue to lurk, active members generate the content and stimulus within the community for lurkers to consume – is this fair?

If this small number of active members are the only ones to provide the source of  content with no sounding board; feedback; analysis or critique, the source will eventually dry up  as a pot empties itself

everyone learns in different ways, so why bar people who don’t actively engage but perhaps reflect on the contributions of others and then use this to develop their practice into something potentially stunning and transformational in private? If all passengers get to the same place in the end, whether they were driving the professional learning or not, is there a  problem? [the assumption  is that this development might be happening  in isolation, but does isolation online equate to to isolation in F2F encounters? Not necessarily but who knows ? Is personal and private (i.e unshared) development and learning  as valuable as shared, collective and contested professional development?]

ultimately closing down our online communities and enforcing active engagement is another form of coercion

personal professional development vs collective professional development: what matters most?

why are we setting a bar? Is it to evidence impact? if so, what other ways might this be achieved?

in my wholly personal opinion the notion of “good practice” is flawed for several reasons ( see earlier posts)

If sharing things isn’t really important or valuable amongst professionals, why do HMIE and LTS spend quite a lot of time and energy disseminating their idea of “good practice”  in various guises?

Last thought  – for me what we were working on in #glaikit were  authentic CPD opportunities: stuff that makes you grow and makes a difference because you’ve helped make it, not just  had a taste, consumed, and  moved on to the next  drive-by CPD experience that may or may not whet your professional appetite. Compost, as opposed to candy. Mmm… not sure that’s exactly what I wanted to finish up on, but its been a hard couple of days…….:-) comments please???!

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About catrionao

I'm a PhD student at Stirling University, studying a school based practice of teacher professional learning. I also do online facilitation for various organisations such as SELMAS and the Strategic Leadership Development Programme.
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