Skip to content

A reflection on Social Networks

social networks for music teachers - teacher and musician

Browsing the articles in the most recent Music Mark newsletter, I saw an article from David Ashworth titled ‘Social networking for music teachers –where do we go from here?‘ where he discusses the impact of the TeachingMusic website, which closed earlier this year.  David discusses the impact of the site and ponders how the music education community should do their online networking in a post-TeachingMusic world.  Being the community manager for the site, David has the inside scoop on how the site evolved over time but, to my mind, he missed one of the key elements that made TeachingMusic such a success – real names.


Prior to the launch of TeachingMusic, pretty much the only site where teachers could network online was the TES Community forum.  TES was often the first place teachers would go when they needed advice, resources or just wanted to vent about a situation in their school.  One of the things that allowed teachers to feel safe doing this was that there was, and still is, a culture of having anonymous usernames on the site.  This left teachers free to communicate on pretty much any topic without fear of reprisal (assuming that they didn’t describe too much detail about their dilemmas).  Although there is a sense of community on the site, the anonymous nature of the forum limits the ability to create real-world connections.

This anonymity online was normal pre-TeachingMusic and not just for teachers.  Services such as AOL Messenger, MSN and the myriad of chatrooms on sites such as Lycos all encouraged anonymity for protection.

TeachingMusic, however, was different from the start.  It seemed the norm for users to register with their real name on public display and debates in the forum would be informed by the particular school setting of contributors.  Perhaps this is, at least in part, due to the timing of the launch of TeachingMusic, riding on the wave of Facebook’s growing popularity and it’s near universal use of real names.  I think it’s a distinct possibility that the slow but sure evolution of music teachers’ Twitter accounts from obscure usernames to real names may be, in part, down to the influence of TeachingMusic.

Real names

Why did this real name malarkey matter?  Put simply, it allowed for two things on the site:

  • a focus on discussion and debate
  • a sense of a real-world community

I first encountered many of the people I follow on Twitter through TeachingMusic.  I came to understand their perspectives and settings through the discussion on the TeachingMusic forum and their blog posts on their profile pages.  It led to me happily adding my name to this blog rather than hiding behind the name ‘Teacher and Musician’, which allowed me to write more specifically about my circumstances.

In this post-TeachingMusic world, David highlights a number of options for where the conversation can take place.  My personal preferences are Twitter and MusicMark’s Peer to Peer network.  The former having been the single biggest influence on my professional development and the latter replicating many of TeachingMusic’s best features but on a modern and efficient platform.

Music teacher social networks

The platform, however, isn’t the real issue.  In the same way that people will argue over iPhone vs Android, it’s not the tools that matter.  The important thing that we need to cultivate is the sense of real-world community.  Any network that rises to take the place of TeachingMusic should seek to support the community both online and offline.  TeachMeets, social gatherings and joint planning/moderation sessions all make sense to me and this is best facilitated by building on the culture of using real names.