The #pstn project (#pstn – Pre-service Teacher Networking) is probably the most interesting project I’ve currently involved with (and one of many being starved of time as I get my head around a new institution). The project has a great team and is seeking to address a real problem – improving the transition of pre-service teachers into the profession and consequently retaining more of them – with an approach (social media, bottom up, emergent, connections, authentic practice etc.) that resonates strongly with my beliefs.
Now that I’m at the end of the 2nd week of teaching, I have a slightly better feel for the students I’m teaching and the students who I think can benefit most from #pstn. That growing familiarity is suggesting some challenges for #pstn. The following shares these challenges and some thinking about them. Of course, this is all based on my own ad hoc experience and filtered through my own prejudices.
The 5 challenges
I can currently see five challenges:
- Facebook inertia.
Almost all of them – especially those in the early 20s – are Facebook users, not Twitter.
This means they have a preference for one social media tool, but it also means they have an existing network and set of practices with that tool. I wonder if they have the room to allow Twitter and its different set of practices into their everyday practice? I also wonder if they can handle another different network of connections that is more professionally focused?
Is there work that’s been done about whether people can easily support both? Or what it takes for people to shift from one to the other? Most of the people I know are either Twitter or Facebook users. Is that common?
- Difficult of paying attention to long-term problems.
Not sure the students have really internalised that problem of up to 50% of the teaching profession leaving within 5 years as a big problem for them. Especially now, in the 3rd year of their degree. They are focused on more immediate problems and tasks.
While there are always exceptions, the majority of the students appear fairly pragmatic and focused on doing what they need to do to pass the courses. In some cases, they are simply very busy with work, families and studies. Adding something like #pstn will be difficult.
- The current culture they are swimming in.
Something like #pstn is essentially invisible to non-existent within the courses they are taking. The traditional approach to education doesn’t encourage this sort of practice. In fact there are a range of minor barriers even for my participation. But for the students, not seeing this modelled in their courses (combined with their pragmatism) means I doubt many will engage.
No answers yet, just identifying some challenges.