Bravery comes in many forms. My moment came a week or so ago when I decided it was time to move everyone who had subscribed to Digital Education to a new version of the newsletter. The reason was simple: under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), newsletter publishers have to prove that the people on their list really do want to hear from them.
In my case, I've been using a double opt-in approach ever since I started the newsletter in the year 2000. By 'double opt-in' is meant the situation where you have to confirm your subscription after you've signed up. All my subscribers had gone through such a process, so they had all originally confirmed.
You might think it a bit odd that I would wish to start messing about with the list, but the key word in the previous paragraph is 'originally'. People change jobs, move on, or lose interest. In many cases, rather than unsubscribe, they just don't bother to open the emails.
Also, in many cases I wouldn't have been able to prove that they had confirmed their desire to subscribe, because I moved over to a different company and just clicked on 'Import'. This time, I chose the equivalent of 'Import, subject to confirmation'.
So where does the bravery bit come in? Well, chances are that a lot of people won't confirm. I read of one newsletter writer who had to delete 20,000 names from his list. I feel his pain. Fortunately (touch wood, fingers crossed etc), so far the number of people who have resubscribed (in effect) is very healthy. I don't like discussing actual numbers because I think that's a little crass, too close to bragging if the numbers are high, and somewhat embarrassing if they are low. Besides, the number of subscribers is not the only criterion of success.
Also, people still have until (I believe) the 15th April to confirm. After that, their details disappear automatically. (And if something goes wrong and that doesn't happen, I'll delete them manually).
If you are one of the not-yet-confirmed, or indeed a never-have-subscribed, allow me a few moments to try to convince you.
There are several features of the newsletter, such as news about professional development opportunities, book reviews, suggestions about how to use key issues in the classroom, and hints and tips, and prize draws. You can read more about the features on the newsletter page.
However, I think it important to talk about the benefits, which I see as the following:
- I've been involved in education for a long time (I started teaching in 1975), so I like to think I know about it. I think, as I am sure some of my contemporaries will agree, that the benefit of such longevity is a knowledge of history in educational terms. Put simply, when someone comes up with a new great idea, there is a pretty good chance that I can evaluate it from the point of view of remembering what was learnt from a similar initiative x years ago.
This is not about nostalgia, which I think is a waste of time and energy -- see my article Looking back in wonder (that we achieved anything at all). One or two of the links are dead, but the article itself has stood the test of time I think.
No, it's about the fact that in education we seem to have no institutional memory. A few months ago I was speaking to an adviser at the Department for Education. I asked him if he knew of the work of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. He said he had vaguely heard of it. Good grief! It was only demolished in 2012. Sooner or later, someone is going to come up with a brilliant curriculum-related idea, not realising they could draw on a wealth of experience from what has gone before.
- Another benefit of the newsletter is that I'm not usually that interested in being first with the news. I'd rather be last with the news, and then write something worth reading. I like to cogitate.
- A third benefit is that I am very much in favour of educational research in all its forms, so I report on research whose findings look like being useful to teachers of Computing and related subjects.
- That brings me on to a fourth benefit. It's very niche: if it doesn't have anything to do with education technology in some way, I don't include it.
- Fifthly, I do a lot of reading, which saves subscribers a lot of time.
- Sixthly, I do my best to keep my political opinions to myself. I don't like being lectured to on Facebook or Twitter or in other newsletters, so I don't do that to other people.
- Finally, I try to ensure that the newsletter reads nicely. I know that may not sound like much of a benefit, but just because something concerns technology doesn't mean it has to read like a computer program!
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