I have used the above slide in a number of presentations to make the point that British Columbia is leading Canada (perhaps even the world) in the professional use of social media in K-12 education. I freely admit I don’t have the statistics to back up the claim — there are simply more teachers, administrators, parents, trustees, and others here, who are logging into their blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube accounts in the name of professional learning, than any other jurisdiction.
In the past year we have moved from several dozen blogs around K-12 education, to numbers in the hundreds, with representation in every area of the education system. The #bced tag on Twitter is one of the most engaged with conversations about the ever-changing education profession, and there are many other social sites having these conversations as well.
The conversations around the profession itself are very interesting. In social media, ‘role’ becomes less important; there is a flattening of society and it is ‘ideas’ that have increased value. There are also incredible opportunities to reflect, share, and learn without the limitations of geography. I could go on, and there have been many others who have covered the ground about the value of social media for educators, and how Twitter and blogging can be extremely powerful in professional development. This is true for those interested in education in BC, but it is also true of other professionals around the world.
So why has BC moved so quickly and taken such leadership in this area? As mentioned, I have no statistical proof, but a series of ideas as to why BC is the leading jurisdiction using social media to engage in the profession of education.
1) It is not as “new” here as it is in many places: Five years ago, as a principal in the Coquitlam School District, I was seeing for my colleagues, blogs were already becoming routine including: Brian Kuhn (district), David Truss (school administrator) and James McConville (teacher), all engaging in social media. We have a long history of models to look at and are in a much deeper place with this type of learning than other jurisdictions. So, it is no longer a novelty here that it is in some other areas and is a much more mature and developed.
2) Networking is a core element of BC’s education scene: Since 2000, Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser have been working with teachers, administrators and other educators through The Network of Performance Based Schools. This network (which I blogged about here) has been a model for jurisdictions around the world. The culture of face-to-face networking moves naturally to social media networking, and connects the interest around learning ideas. This social media networking is an extension of the face-to-face conversations that Halbert and Kaser have long sponsored.
3) The traditional media “plays” in social media: Most notable is Vancouver Sun Education Reporter, Janet Steffenhagen, who has the popular Report Card blog and is a regular tweeter. She is not the only one. From The Globe and Mail, to CKNW, to most local newspaper reporters covering education, they regularly engage in social media. Often, we now see what will be “news” on a nightly newscast or morning newspaper make news first on Twitter or in a blog. Social media has become fertile ground for education reporters researching their next story; it is seen as a place to break and make news.
4) Organizations and government “play” in social media: I knew Twitter was part of the establishment and no longer on the fringe when I saw the education minister join a debate online one night. Of course, that is not the only example. Almost every organization involved in education is on Twitter including the BCTF, BCPVPA, CUPE, BCSTA and BCPSEA. Not only are these organizations out there in a corporate sense, but many in their leadership have their own accounts. One can look at examples like the recent Facebook campaign by BC principals, or the revamped and expanded BCSTA social media presence on the value being placed on social media.
5) There are some regular and thoughtful voices: There are a number of individuals with a profile well beyond our borders. From Bruce Beairsto who blogs on the Canadian Education Association site, to well-known edu-bloggers including Chris Wejr from Agassiz, David Wees from Vancouver, Cale Birk from Kamloops and many more, there are some regular contributors who are seen as “go to” people for interesting reflections and ideas.
6) We are at a time when we are examining the profession: Even before the BC Education Plan, the last several years have been full of discussions within the system about how a high-performing system should evolve. With some high-level direction from the province, but not a lot of prescription, the time is ripe for sharing ideas and innovations within and across jurisdictions.
7) We have an amazingly dedicated profession: Even in challenging times, it is stunning to see the number of teachers, school administrators and other educators spending time in their evenings and weekends to reflect and share through their blogs, Twitter and other venues. The reason why we have one of the highest performing jurisdictions in the world is because it is accompanied by an equally talented and dedicated group of educators. As social media has grown, so has our educators’ need to harness it for professional growth.
This is far from an exhaustive list. But, I am often asked by other jurisdictions why those who are involved in the BC education system have taken to social media at such a greater rate than anywhere else? I believe it is our ability to see around the corner to where we need to go next that is part of our success story, and that is what we have done by engaging in social media.