Discourses on teacher professionalism illustrate its contested nature, and professional traits or paradigms are heavily influenced by ongoing tensions between managerialism and teacher autonomy. Yet, a singular class teacher habitus commonly features across discourses, which directly links the mindset of teachers to paid work in physical locations, for example sites of schooling, with notions of professional autonomy clearly constructed in terms of the relationship between teacher and student. In recent years, many teachers have engaged extensively with new work, online, away from sites of schooling. The literature relies on the computer network metaphor to explain the new relationships, spaces and data arising from what some connectivists and others have termed ‘personal learning networks’ (PLNs). In identifying themselves as teachers and working around selected educational key words and concepts, these professionals are creating knowledge, identities, and social and other capital. However, online PLNs are not sites of public discourse, as access and participation are restricted by cultural codes and methods of artifact creation. Teachers online may find that, similar to their work in sites of schooling, performativity may offer them individual rewards, at the same time drawing them from micro-level generativity, to macro-level envisioning of change. The existence of PLNs raises two questions. Firstly, should we broaden teacher habitus to recognise new professional values, actions, commitments, capacities, skills, impact and collaboration, where activity in PLNs does not involve clients, stakeholders and colleagues from physical work locations? Secondly, how might we reconceptualise online work so that in future, discourses on teacher professionalism recognise teachers’ work across multiple sites, yet retain a singular teacher habitus? The lack of criticality and empirical grounding in the literature on PLNs must also be addressed, in order for
our conceptualisations of the varied work of teachers to move beyond narrow theories of e-learning.
Via Paulo Simões