In my research prior to coming to Oxford, I happened upon Culham-St Gabriel’s. CSTG (an easier way of referring to this organisation) was founded after “the union of two trusts, Culham Educational Foundation and St Gabriel’s Trust. These trusts were themselves formed after the closure of two Church of England teacher training colleges, Culham College in Oxfordshire and St Gabriel’s College in Southwark, London” (quoted from their website). This happened in the late 1970s as a result of changes in Government policy regarding tertiary education.
My email to the secretary of CSTG, yielded a response from James Robson, who monitors the research carried out through CSTG and manages their online presence, particularly their RE:Online project. It was this aspect of their work that interested me and so I was happy to accept an invitation to meet with him for lunch at Kellogg College, one of the 39 colleges comprising the University of Oxford.
In the course of our conversation about the work that he does, he revealed that he had been carrying out ethnographic research into RE teachers’ use of social media to help them with their teaching of RE. One outcome of his research was the significance of Facebook as a way of disseminating ideas about pedagogy and content/resources for teaching RE well.
He alerted me to the existence of a Facebook group, known as “Save RE”, which has 2,399 members (when I last checked). It was set up to protest about the removal of RE from the E-Bacc (English Baccalaureate). This change in the national curriculum lowers the status of some “cultural” subjects, including RE, by not including them in the English equivalent of our ATAR. The Facebook group, which started out at a protest about the changes in the curriculum, has evolved into a voice for those who want to be better at teaching RE. It has become a lifeline for some and an avenue for others to reach out and help those who are struggling with teaching well a curriculum that is undervalued by the government.
I had not considered using social media as a way of promoting effective pedagogy, even though I do make use of Edmodo, which has a Facebook feel about it. There is also Google Circles, which like Edmodo, can be targeted towards specific groups, such as RE teachers.