Some challenges for #pstn

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:

  1. 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?

  2. 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.
  3. Pragmatism.
    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.
  4. 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.
  5. No answers yet, just identifying some challenges.

8 thoughts on “Some challenges for #pstn

  1. Quick reflection on the issues:

    1. Facebook intertia. My guess is that only a handful of students have a professional context to their facebook presence. Having a learning network that actually helps you learn is different from a news gathering or socialising site. I don’t expect most will get that until way further down the track when the habit starts reaping rewards. It took me about 6 months to internalise the use of PLNs, even though I was dead keen on them at the beginning. Maybe having twitter as a separate network can help make that distinction? That said, my stream has many people outside professional circles, but I still follow my golden rule: Follow smart people (http://www.vrbones.com/2009/04/follow-smart-people.html).

    2. Seeing the issue: Sounds like you need to wheel out some war stories.

    3. Pragmatism: I found that setting up a PLN is more about the right frame of mind rather than going through the motions. They have to WANT to learn. Enough that they are prepared to do something about it.
    Modelling seems the most appropriate response, or perhaps even some stories about how different people got their PLN set up?

    4. Culture: Good luck with that. Out of all the different types of uni students, I would have expected pre-service teachers to be the most keyed in about analysing their own learning path. If the hunger is there, then all sorts of shadow systems (?) are possible. This seems a little more official than most.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts Tony. I’m not sure the war stories would help. It’s a bit like all how having reformed smokers telling stories about the changes they’ve been through don’t necessarily change the habits of heavy smokers.

      It’s still early days yet, but I’m not sure PSTs are all that different from other students. Even some/many of the GDLT students – who were much older & wiser? – I studied with last year were pragmatic.

      There are of course always exceptions.

      Am wondering how much of this is created by the nature of the education system….more on this later.

    1. Peter, thanks for the comment. I saw the link mentioned in your tweet stream, but have to wait to go home before I can easily follow it. This post helps. Not surprising that there are other folk – with big pockets – getting into this. There’s an ARC linkage project finishing up out of UniSA around resilience and early service teachers that is looking at social media. Appears to be more an evaluation of what is happening than an intervention.

  2. I agree that it would make more sense to simply meet people where they are in existing online social spaces. There are some caveats on that such as wanting to be able to control access to allow some privacy and not wanting to deal with services that dies.

  3. I feel same way, Peter, meet face to face a good opportunity, but can miss out on interesting knowledge resources which are geopgraphically impossible to contact. We still rely on location info – even iphone wants to know where we are all the time. So was the case when the first mobile phones came out. We always thought big brother was following us – no need to ponder these days. Privacy is main issue for stalling, for me. But students are full steam ahead – and we have to catch that train! hahaha

  4. sorry dismis my comment above – just got bogged down with no feedback from emails, or chat or phone messages – so networking only happens if the person on the other end wants to brave up and get online.Perhaps thats why ‘twitter’ and ‘facebook’ are popular; anyone steps in and puts their own unrelated agenda after you, and it can appear funny and detached . my previous comment referred to ‘physical location’ when those networking still want someone who has a common attachment to either their state, their suburb,their friends, so can have a back up location to contact each other, if all technology ceases to be! Like McDonalds, with free wifi and coffee!

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