Twitter Education and Its Influence on English Politics

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Twitter, Politics and Education


Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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How has Twitter influenced education politics in England?

If one begins to understand the forces at play across state school education, plus a macro view of the teaching community active on social media, we can learn why we can observe a teaching profession at odds with itself, and in some respects, no better off for it.

Learning to write, academically

My current doctoral focus has three themes: Twitter, teacher voice and its influence on education politics in England. This literature review builds upon two previous papers in my bid to develop an ability to read, critique and write academically: How does social media shape teacher voice? and the second, How do teachers use Twitter?

This third paper is a connection between my initial research enquiry, evaluating how teachers use social media and how this enables teacher’s voice, and what, if any of this activism online, influences teacher autonomy across England. The particular focus of this third paper is how this Twitter technology has bridged the gap between teacher agency and its influence on the political sphere in English, education politics and policy.

Teacher populism, narcissism and neoliberalism

This research looks closely at two published papers referenced throughout this review. 1) Re-Reading Education Policies by Maarten Simons et al. (2009), and 2) New Right 2.0: Teacher populism on social media in England (2019) by Steve Watson.

The first discusses politics and policy within English education from a variety of perspectives, highlighting that “research ethos can take different forms” and what critical education policy analysis is about, highlighting theories and methodologies. The second paper is “concerned with teacher populism on social media in England which has grown in the last ten years, facilitated by Twitter” and is “a digital ethnography which was carried out between 2014 and 2017 with one researcher engaged in discussion with [traditional teachers] and argued from the position of supporting progressive education.” (Watson, 2019)

Key questions

  1. How has education policy emerged?
  2. What is teacher-populism?
  3. How does populism manifest itself online?
  4. What forces have created a populist culture?
  5. How does politics appear on Twitter?

How has Twitter influenced education politics in England?Over the years, one example of how social media has supported [neoliberal] narcissism is where exhibitionism exposes itself within the teaching profession. The more distant we are from one another, the braver we become: This behaviour translates into selfies, blog post criticisms, book promotions and ‘follow and retweet me please!’ Rarely would you see a teacher perform any of these narcissistic behaviours on their school corridors. The key question, therefore, is what is at play: Neoliberal influences, social media or freedom of speech?

Concerns about pay, working conditions and education policy, as well as a wider deterioration in social and economic conditions in the UK, have been the basis of what Laclau refers to as a chain of equivalence (Laclau, 2005a). As a teacher, I share those grievances too.

Today, neoliberalism – alongside social media and the emergence of narcissism – has helped pitch the teaching profession against one another. Visit my profile on ResearchGate to read the full literature review.

Whilst I conduct my research, can anyone signpost me to some actual research which suggests that progressive or traditional education is better than the other, and is responsible for raising standards?

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