Social networks arrived in Spain at a time of professional maturity for many teachers at the beginning of the 2010s: confidence in the transformative capacity of technology as well as a significant growth phase in educational investment seemed to suggest a promising future for social networks. information and communication technologies at school.
In this sense, it is interesting to see the confluence in Spain of three factors around the year 2009: the appearance of the School 2.0 Program , the arrival of Twitter in Spanish and the rise of research on social networks and teachers , as observed in the following graph:
From blogs to threads
Thus, from 2009 onwards, an important part of the educational discourse generated by teachers is transferred to social networks to the detriment of educational or scientific outreach magazines, which until then were the main speakers for debate and innovative educational proposals.
Moreover, although at the beginning of the 2010s the educational discourse had the support of websites and blogs, gradually the discourse began to be created and disseminated directly on social networks, either through Twitter “threads”, messages on the walls of Facebook, memes and images on Instagram and even TikTok videos in recent years.
This process of digitization of educational discourse is parallel to the incursion of social networks into the life of the population in Spain: 93% of the population considers themselves an Internet user and 85% of these Internet users are users of social networks, with a significant presence of WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instragram, followed by YouTube, Twitter and, with strong growth, TikTok. Teachers, therefore, are not oblivious to these new communication practices.
Uses of networks in education
We can detect different uses of social networks by teachers in relation to the educational debate. Specifically, we can distinguish four profiles of teachers’ communicative practices in social networks: reading, narration, argumentation and “bridging”.
- The reading profile avoids publishing and prefers to participate in the networks only as a reader, sometimes showing concern about the possible image that he could offer of himself on the networks or even rejecting a certain perception of tension on these platforms.
- The teacher narrator of experiences uses the networks to show what situations he generates in his classroom, what materials he uses and what productions his students make. This profile avoids confrontation and shows an intentionally neutral ideological profile, focused on educational practice but without necessarily entering into debates on educational policies or the organization of the educational system.
- The creator of opinion on educational issues exercises his argumentative capacity and tries to persuade or convince other teachers or people interested in education about the validity of his positions. To do this, it mainly evokes his teaching experience as an argument of authority – without this meaning having to resort, as the narrator profile does, to showing evidence of his own teaching practice or analysis of his reality to support his arguments. In many cases, moreover, this profile of opinion creator has jumped to the general media, which use it to reduce the rich educational debate to a confrontation between extreme positions.
- The transfer agent is characterized as an experienced professional, an agent of educational innovation and methodological experimentation, and a promoter of the use of educational technology in their environments. On social networks, these “bridge teachers” look for other colleagues willing to progress, generous, positive and optimistic with whom they are willing to learn, generate new ideas and share projects.
The four collaborative keys
This fourth profile also meets four key features so that teacher collaboration through social networks generates improvements in the educational institution:
- Collaboration should be focused on the development of educational concepts that lead to further changes in teaching.
- Among the participants there must be a perception of expertise , that is, of professional competence.
- There must be affinity between the participants, often promoted by a certain homophily (similarities in age, years of experience, level where classes are taught or areas of knowledge, among other factors).
- It is necessary to reinforce the three previous keys with the physical proximity between the participants, after the online contact that takes place through social networks.
In this sense, these four collaborative keys of the “bridge teachers” were reinforced, throughout the 2009-2019 decade and until the appearance of COVID-19, with the holding of meetings that guaranteed the principle of proximity.
These meetings were organized horizontally by structures such as Aulablog , Novadors or EABE and allowed these teachers to carry out in person the conversations they generated through social networks.
In other words, in a certain sense, these groups and meetings functioned as decentralized (social) networks to support “bridge teachers” who came together to seek advice, resolve concerns and design common projects.
In the same way, the public Administration uses the institutional structure to promote objectives similar to decentralized networks with institutional networks, such as the Xarxa de Competències of the Department of Education of the Generalitat de Catalunya.
A real local network
Thus, social networks allow different communicative and professional development practices for teachers: reading, narration, argumentation or “bridging”.
However, social networks by themselves are not enough for the educational transformation generated by “bridge teachers”: we need a more local network of contacts, more focused on the debate that generates change projects and that is based on trust and Respect for fellow teachers with whom we interact.
If this is not the case, social networks become only mirrors of our egos and our problems, and not bridges for the collective improvement of education.
Author Bio: Fernando Trujillo Saez is a University Professor at the Faculty of Education, Economics and Technology of Ceuta at the University of Granada