A new book written by members of the UKFEchat offers expertise, advice and guidance for members of the further education community.
While conducting some light research as I was writing a TES column on the subject of unity in further education, I had a rummage through Twitter. I was exhilarated by how much I had learned on the site, hanging around with educational masters, accomplished schoolteachers and troublemakers. They debated furiously, discussed new practices and pointed each other towards relevant theorists.
I explored numerous search options but couldn’t locate a community of FE practitioners who connected in a similar way to professionals in the school sector. After much frustration, I posted an irritated tweet.
“Are there FE lecturers on Twitter that I haven’t found yet? So far have located about 15. In total. Surely there are more. Please help!”
Several popular names in education retweeted the call to arms to their thousands of followers and a small but happy band of FE enthusiasts gathered. We discussed how we could instigate a positive unity and begin FE-specific discourse. We settled on a regular weekly time to congregate and a hashtag to formalise our efforts. On that day, #UKFEchat was born.
Since those accidental beginnings in November 2012, the group has grown organically to become a valuable platform where contributors share expertise, learn, debate, collaborate and support one another. The group continues to meet weekly on Twitter, creating links between individuals or organisations, and working together to develop projects with benefit to the wider FE audience.
The hierarchy-free element of online discussion encourages the mutual understanding of roles and a deeper insight into work within the sector. It is not uncommon to see a student teacher in deep discussion with a college principal where each voice carries equal weight. Developing professional relationships outside of a single FE organisation leverages greater collective expertise and provides opportunities for a wider sharing of good practice.
Practitioners who are enthused about their work and committed to their own development create more successful, more efficient learning; students have a better, more productive time at college, leading to a wider range of opportunities. People want to be brilliant at their jobs. In FE, that means inspiring learners to develop, often beyond expectation, empowering lives through learning.
Sharing the good stuff – and what we’ve learned from the not so good – is a hugely valuable form of continuous professional development and gives us the tools to offer our students the best possible learning opportunities.
UKFEchat is but a Twitter hashtag; inside it is the sum of all its participants’ voices – their passions, good practice and collective experience, generously offering themselves up every week to try to make things better for everybody. With such a committed (and mouthy) community, it was a natural next step for those voices to come together into something a little longer than 140 characters.
This book is a collection of individual experiences, reflecting the diversity of expertise within FE. I am immensely proud to be part of this community and continually inspired by colleagues from around the country who have joined in the Twitter chats, attended the real- life gatherings and contributed to this book.
I hope that this first UKFEchat Guide provides you with some useful strategies to start the year well and inspires you to get involved with this ever-growing group of dynamic FE colleagues. We’re on Twitter every Thursday evening from 9-10pm. Just remember to use #UKFEchat in your tweet.
UKFEchat is a welcoming bunch where everyone has a voice. Why not join the conversation?
Get your FREE guidebook today. Download it the UKFEChat Guide: Getting off to a Good Start from: www.ukfechat.com
About the author:
Sarah Simons founded the UKFEchat Twitter community. Sarah is a lecturer in an FE College and writes about FE matters for IfL's InTuition Magazine and for the TES, as well as producing and presenting the TES FE Podcast.
You can follower her on Twitter @MrsSarahSimons or join in the conversation using the hashtag #UKFEchat.