ECV2020-156

The benefits of an educator-led digital community

Submitted on behalf of the members of the United Workers Union [UWU] Big Steps Digital Leadership Team

Gwendolyn Alcock, United Workers Union(Official), Australia (gwen.alcock@unitedworkers.org.au)

Background: Educators connecting en masse can be challenging due to the nature of early childhood education. Factors such as (but not limited too) small educator teams or centre size, along with the location of centres (e.g., regional, remote, and metro) impact this. As such, educators can struggle to build a strong, positive, national educator community to combat professional isolation. This has been amplified during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Aim: To create an online community of educators that provides an organic platform for educators to network with other educators.

Method: A national online educator-only Facebook community was established in 2018. This group is supported by an educator reference group, comprised of educators from varying service types. This group provides informative updates to the community, presents surveys on sector issues, and engages in live streams. This content is planned in response to the topics that educators naturally discuss in the group (e.g. policy, workplace rights, pedagogy, and curriculum development).

Results: By engaging in this community (specifically, during the pandemic), educators reported that: they feel belonging to their profession; they feel secure in asking questions about their workplace rights, early childhood policy, frameworks and standards; that the group authentically and constructively supports educator focused conversation; that they feel knowledgeable about their profession and can make informed decisions about engaging in advocacy.  

Conclusions: Educators need to feel connected with their profession, and supported during times of crisis. Educators deserve and flock to communities that are educator-centric, and feel validated when their voices are heard. It is paramount that professionals in the early childhood sector have genuine opportunities for educator-to-educator consultation.

Implications for children: When your educators feel connected with each other and learn from each other, they can help you reach your potential.

Implications for families: When the educators at your centre are connected with their profession, this increases the quality of your centre.

Implications for practitioners: When you are connected with your profession, you have the opportunity to have your voice heard and feel included in the national narrative around early childhood education.

Key words: professionals’ voices, workforce issues, digital technologies, advocacy

This presentation relates to the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals:

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