The Echo Chamber grew out of a realisation that there were a good number of teacher bloggers who were blogging to express opinions that simply didn’t fit in with the opinions the media attributed to teachers but did seem to fit in with those views I heard regularly in the staffroom from classroom teachers. I, personally, was expressing the opinion that discipline is too often weak in our schools, that exams were too easy and fashionable teaching methods were actually ineffective, but when I looked to see who was expressing those views in the media, it was usually those outside of the teaching professions such as journalists and politicians. These people would raise them and somebody claiming to speak for teachers would deny they existed. Other issues such as school management, school ethos, cheating in exams were very difficult for teachers to talk about publicly. Often issues that teachers cared about were raised in the media only to be dismissed as an attempt by non-teachers to “attack” teachers.
In the blogosphere things were different. Sometimes this was due to anonymity. Sometimes this was due to the way in which you needed only the recognition of your readers, and not the education establishment, in order to be prominent in the debate. The Echo Chamber is intended to help with this. It will be used to reblog and share blogposts from the education world. I will be attempting to include enough of a range of views to allow debate, so reblogging should not be taken to indicate endorsement. However, I will attempt to keep a particular sensibility. While there are no hard and fast rules (ultimately my subjective opinion matters) the Echo Chamber will be looking to share blogposts that fit as many (but not necessarily all) of these criteria as possible.
- Written by classroom teachers. The more junior they are in the hierarchy, the better.
- Expressing opinions you cannot easily find anywhere else.
- From writers who do not have easy access to national media, although I am willing to make exceptions if their access to the media was earned through writing about being a teacher.
- Contain views that are of interest to ordinary classroom teachers.
- Written by people who have done their time supporting and promoting teacher bloggers.
- Provoke debate. Sometimes something will be worth reblogging just to get people going.
- Are from new bloggers. We will try to encourage people to blog by giving particular consideration to somebody’s first post, or first contribution after a hiatus from blogging.
- Are from the two most interesting blogging academics in education. Special regard will be given to posts from Daniel Willingham and Larry Cuban, despite being US based academics, because they consistently produce well-researched material that is of interest to teachers which does not resemble what can easily be found elsewhere.
By contrast, blogposts will be avoided if they meet too many of the following:
- Are written by politicians.
- Are written by journalists. (I realise I did share a Toby Young piece recently, but that was mainly because I was experimenting with how the site worked).
- Are written by those who don’t teach, but claim to speak for teachers.
- Use jargon or cliché. We all take shortcuts on Twitter, and I am sure I overuse the phrase “dumbing-down” but beyond this some education writing is horrendous. I know this letter was criticised for its grammar, but did anyone notice that it used the phrase “develop children’s ability to think, including problem-solving, critical understanding and creativity” and the phrase “emphasise cognitive development, critical understanding and creativity, not rote learning”? If in doubt, refer to Orwell.
- Argue against having an open, public debate about education issues. If some, or all, of the important, ideologically-charged and value-based decisions in education were to be taken by unelected “experts” then there would little point having this forum, we could all just write to the experts instead. Similarly, condemnations of anonymous blogging, or teachers expressing opinions in public, have no place here. To condemn these things are to condemn the very point of this site.
- Contain efforts to promote the writer, gimmickry or pseudo-science. Brain Gym, consultancy services or phonics denialism have no place here.
Finally, there are some practical aspects that will make a difference to the content.
- Blogs on the WordPress site can be reblogged easily, even on a mobile phone. This will increase the chances of inclusion.
- If you are not on WordPress, having a reasonable choice of “sharing” options on your blog will also help.
- Those who have consistently produced blogposts fitting the criteria, or who I know well enough to trust, will be invited to be authors on the site and be able to reblog themselves.
- I will not have time to spend hours deliberating or discuss decisions with a committee, so some decisions made will probably still be a bit random. I take responsibility, but if I get it wrong, so be it. I won’t be justifying every decision at length.
- Sometimes there may be too many good blogs in a day, sometimes too few. This will inevitably affect decisions.
I hope this will help clarify the principles behind this blog. Comment welcome.
One final point: please follow The Echo Chamber on Twitter.
Update 26/5/2013: The words “or cliché” have been added to the text above to clarify the original point more clearly.
Update 8/6/2013: Addition of “Are from new bloggers. We will try to encourage people to blog by giving particular consideration to somebody’s first post, or first contribution after a hiatus from blogging” and “Are from the two most interesting blogging academics in education. Special regard will be given to posts from Daniel Willingham and Larry Cuban despite being US based academics, because they consistently produce well-researched material that is of interest to teachers which does not resemble what can be found elsewhere”.