This week’s host is Penny Bentley @penpln

Please tell us a little about your background in education. Why did you decide to become involved in education?

I became a secondary maths and science teacher in the 1980’s after working in medical research for several years. Talking science with teens seemed way more appealing than doing research with rats.

What are some of the roles you’ve had and what does your current role involve?

Throughout my 25 years on the frontline of classroom teaching I had many roles, some more suited to my skills and knowledge than others. Teaching maths and science from years 7 to 10, along with senior chemistry, formed most of my teaching load from year to year. Thinking back now, was it that year 8 home economics class, the year 10 PE class or the year 9 Outward Bound camp that almost put an end to my teaching career long before I was ready?  I had leadership roles too, but much preferred to co-ordinate my busy science classes than hundreds of students in year level assemblies.

Six years ago I left the classroom, once described by Schon (1995) as a place where ‘the turbulent world of practice’ occurs. I’d had enough of practice, but not of learning more about it. Now I’m writing up my PhD thesis on how Australian teachers experience professional learning on the open Web.

Who or what keeps you inspired and motivated in your work?

I guess it’s all the wonderful teachers I interact with on the open Web who share their experiences of ‘the turbulent world of practice’. The willingness of teachers to be there for each other, to share resources and ideas and participate in conversations. That keeps me inspired and motivated. Also, I love exploring archives in the public domain. To read the original words of Bacon, Darwin, Dewey, Pierce, Curie and so on…that’s truly amazing.

What do you see as some of the biggest rewards and challenges for people working in education today?

I’ll never forget the day I first connected to the internet. Back in those days it was the small image of a moving globe that signified a connection, and it sent shivers down my spine. Being able to access information from home was transformative for me, as was the ability to communicate with others and create digital artefacts as the interactive Web evolved. I believe one of the biggest rewards for teachers today is the amazing connectivity and openness of the Web as a means of opening our eyes and the eyes of our students. Of course, this biggest reward brings with it many challenges.

If you had the ability to make changes to the education system in Australia, what would you do?

Ever since I’ve been in the education system people have been making changes to ‘fix’ something that’s broken rather than support the system to evolve. Change takes time and more than the ability of one, so I’d be looking to connect with others to come on board for the long haul. That’s what we’re doing here on social media. Having ongoing conversations with people from diverse backgrounds related to education, and it’s a good place to start. Change lies in the willingness of people to listen to and learn from each other. To respectfully engage with teacher educators, with educational researchers, with teachers on the frontline of practice, with politicians, parents, students and a whole range of experts.  In answering this question, I’d encourage everyone to think more about what it is that needs changing and how we can bridge the gap between the different kinds of knowledge everyone brings to the conversation. I’d also ask everyone to take a critical look at what’s happening right now. Should our professional learning and our children’s education be directed and controlled by multinational edtech companies? Should we be giving our student’s learning history (data) away for these companies to use as they wish? Should STEM education focus on coding and robotics or global problems as climate change, disease and poverty.

What role do you see EduTweetOz playing on the education scene in Australia and what are your hopes for the account this week?

EduTweetOz enables the conversations I mentioned above and I hope to chat about all of these issues. Thank’s for giving me this opportunity.

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