Mark O'Meara

Mark O'Meara

Yes, It is Friday night and you know what that means. The end of the week has well and truly arrived and the wonders of the weekend beckon. Before you knock back a cool drink, dive into the pool or crawl into something more comfortable sit back and take in this week’s Friday Follow Interview.

This week we are coming all the way from Geelong in Victoria, Australia. I am pleased to share that Mark O’Meara is this week’s special guest and without any further adieu let’s begin…

1. Please share a little about yourself with the readers.

My name is Mark O’Meara and I teach English to senior students at Western Heights College, a government secondary school in Geelong. This is my fifth year teaching. In many ways, it is a terrific school and I really enjoy working with our students. The staff have a wealth of knowledge, something that is incredibly useful to a relatively new teacher like me. Prior to retraining, I worked in a large company developing internet and mobile phone products.

2. Describe the role played by social media in education.

Broadly, I see teachers using social media, especially twitter, to share resources and ideas and this is terrific. I admire the enthusiasm on show and applaud all discussions of education. If I have a concern, it is that these discussions often stand uncritically in awe of new technology. By comparison , on-the-ground, practical teaching strategies and achievements are discussed much less often than iPads.

My own school in subject to a range of rules about what sites we can access, and the end result is that students and teachers alike are not able to access most social media resources at school. Some students attempt to circumvent this digital prohibition, which creates some ongoing tensions between teachers and students. I certainly understand that we need to provide a safe online environment for the students in our care, but feel that it is hard to get the balance right. At the moment,  sadly, many teachers that I encounter on the ground largely work as if social media is the “bad part of town”.

3. Tell me about your relationship with social media. How do you feel about social media?

I would describe myself as a basic user of social media, both as a teacher and a civilian, separately. As a teacher I used wikis, maintain a blog for my students, and have a presence on facebook, which almost 300 hundred students “like”. As a civilian, I have been blogging since 2001 and have account on the major social media sites. I don’t post a lot, perhaps one or twice a day to Twitter or my blog. Most of my thoughts throughout the day are in the process of becoming coherent and I share them once they get into some kind of sensible shape.

As for my feelings about social media, social media just is. It is not inherently good or bad, useful or useless. It is what you make or it. I see it as part of how I communicate with people, just like the telephone or my voice. It doesn’t replace personal interaction; it is one of the avenues for personal interaction.

I hope that my confident use of social media helps me appear competent to my students. When teachers openly shun new technologies or write them off, we sometimes just manage to make ourselves look out of date and, sometimes, foolish.

4. What do you feel are you strengths?

I work well on my feet in the classroom. I feel enthusiastic about teaching and I hope that this is obvious to my students. I’m sorry to say that there are plenty of role models, for boys especially, who glorify the stupid and the selfish. I try to model being excited about learning and knowing things. I don’t kid myself that I am always successful, but I know that it really helps some of my students.

I’m a good learner and I am not scared of technology. These things help, I am sure.

5. What advice do you like to share with people?

When it comes to general teaching, be purposeful and bold. Don’t wait for someone else to drive you into innovation and change. Keep what works AND try new things.

As for technology and social media, the same advice applies. The only think that I would add is that social media is not inherently educational or good. It is what you make of it. Use it to build connection and rapport. Use it to share useful habits and knowledge. Use it with a clear purpose.

6. Are there any questions you would like to ask?

  • What is the best way to help students become keen readers?
  • How do we realistically provide internet access in schools which is both useful and safe?

Thank you very much Mark. I totally agree about trying new things as well as keeping what works. Excellent. Mark has provided some links to resources for all of you as well. Please check out Mark’s blogs and do not forget to add Mark to your Twitter list as well as participating in the conversations on his blogs. Cheers.