Nick JacksonFriday evening is upon us. For me it is the final day of my leave and I return to the classroom on Monday. The last couple of weeks in Singapore have been productive and inspirational. Switched off for a bit today and I shall disconnect for a bit this weekend as well.

Of course It is time for the Friday Follow Twitter Interview and tonight’s guest comes from a truly beautiful part of the world, Yorkshire, in England. Our guest this evening is Nick Jackson, a highly experienced and passionate educator. Let’s begin…

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

My name is Nick Jackson. I am also known as @largerama in the social media sphere particularly Twitter where I am most active. I am a 40 year old currently residing in my birthplace, Yorkshire, England, husband to a bundle of Zumba-energy and Dad to 2 little cheeky girls.

I spend my working life and a great amount of my personal life engrossed in technology but away from this I enjoy travelling, football (watching Leeds and playing badly), half-killing myself at Squash, reading, music, eating (usually way too much) and drinking (usually not enough).

For the past 5 years I have been employed as Head of ICT at a high performing secondary school in York. This role involves me in not only leading a department, managing the staff, teaching 11 to 18 year old students in the study of ICT and Computing but I also have responsibilities whole school and to feeder primary schools. Across the whole of the school, I am actively engaged in advising, enhancing and promoting the use of technology. This has led to many examples of the use of technology developing in the school such as a student Digital Leaders scheme, involvement in the Microsoft Learning Partners network, netbook loans, widespread VLE use and the setting up of a parental portal. In feeder primary schools I have run digital video, control and programming, social networking and e-safety projects to name but a few.

In my development as an educator, I have tried to get as wide a range of experience as possible. I have worked in a range of secondary schools from the challenging to the high performing, FE, adult learners and in the independent sector. Amongst other things, I have worked as a Lead Practitioner for SSAT, co-authored revision guides, led seminars, trained staff, examined and moderated for most of the exam boards in the UK. I have also taught in a special needs school in the US and in a slum camp in Northern India. Recently, I passed an MSc in Multimedia & E-learning and am currently studying for an MA in Education. So, I suppose you could say I like to keep myself occupied!

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

Most of education in the under 18’s sector is really missing a trick at the moment, to put it bluntly. Surely, there cannot be a revolution in youth culture that has been for the most part ignored and/or shunned to the degree that social media is currently. Social media offers vast collaboration and communication opportunities to those involved. It is a great medium for sharing, contributing to and advancing information sources, the essence of accessibility and community albeit online. Such a rich, wide-reaching medium with power and depth has the potential to revolutionise education. If education continues to ignore this media, how can we honestly say we are teaching our students to be digital citizens?

As far as teachers connecting with each other, teacher-to-teacher collaboration, it still seems to be a small percentage of the profession utilising social media to enhance their professional practice. In my view, this is nothing short of tragic. Regardless of the subject you teach, the age group, the sector, etc etc, there are others out there working in a similar environment. Surely, sharing with others can only lead to greater understanding, better practice i.e. many hands make light work.

Overall, certainly in UK schools, rather than embracing social media, the message still seems to be to warn of its dangers rather than see the potentials. I am seeing this view gradually changing but the degree and pace of change seems painfully slow.

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

As an active Twitter user who has built up connections predominantly related to education during the past few years, I still marvel at the ideas, opinions and experience that can be accessed 24/7. As has been eluded to many times before, Twitter provides a global staffroom that cannot be rivalled in any educational institute on a daily basis. I feel that I have grown into use of the network and this journey became far more involved with the launch of the #ictcurric hashtag.

From this, so many avenues have opened such as and I have further changed my practice as a result, immersing myself in the ethic of true sharing. I firmly believe that ‘whatever resources you create, just give it away’. The more this happens, the greater the resource bank will become for all those involved in education. Coupled with the communication and sharing of best practice that using media such as Twitter promotes, not only will this resource bank be greater in quantity but also in quality.

As for other social networks, I am developing my Linkedin profile. I find this a very interesting medium for professional, career connections. I am also increasingly using Google+. This has opened a different twist on social media especially with the way content appears and the Hangout possibilities. I am currently using G+ with a class of A Level Computing students. As for Facebook, despite the considerable popularity, I only use it for connections with friends and family although I can see the benefits of this medium in respect of the groups and promotion/information that can be provided from institutes.

4. What do you feel are you strengths?

I would describe myself as a forthright, honest, hardworking ‘doer’. Yet, in recent years I have found myself increasingly thinking and discussing. I feel that studying for a Masters and constant exposure to the think-tank that I have as a PLN on Twitter have led to this. How these features of my personality come together can hopefully be seen on my blog. (However, there are those who may say that getting old and fatherhood are leading to more thinking and less doing)

In a classroom environment, I am a lively character. I like to share my own experiences with those I teach and empower them to do the same. I have always felt that by establishing a culture where both teacher and student can express themselves, the atmosphere allows for a more in-depth learning experience. This may not be directly related to the subject being taught but education, to my mind, runs deeper than simply the topic covered in a lesson. I also love to experiment with technology and pedagogy, diversify and vary lessons to stimulate engagement.

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

If you are going to enter the teaching profession then try to embrace the idea that being a teacher brings with it a responsibility to keep your mind open as much as possible for as long as possible. Invite observation and accept criticism. Never believe you know everything and that you have learned everything you need to know.

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

How do some people keep their desk permanently tidy?

My answer: DropBox. See below*.

Thank you Nck. An excellent set of responses. You are quite correct in your observations regarding social media. It is a neglected collaborative medium and by and large it is generally feared rather than embraced.

*Curiously, I am one of those educators with a tidy desk. There is absolutely nothing on my desk. A single bookshelf above. I keep the absolute minimum at my desk in terms of textbooks and other resources. I trash 90+% of the communications sent to the staff. If I have not used a teaching aid or guide in two or so years I distribute it to others. I keep my desk mean and clean. Clutter constrains. Space frees.

When I arrive in the morning I open my school laptop (which stays at school) and it has my digitized education life organized upon it courtesy of DropBox and then I place my cup of coffee on the table. Done.