Opinion: Social media's supporting role in uncertain times

Lucy Bellingham
Saturday, May 1, 2021

Lucy Bellingham, the founder and director of We Teach Drama Ltd, discusses the role of social media in drama education

As teachers, we are like magpies. As drama teachers, even more so, due to the breadth and depth of knowledge, and the range of resources needed, to teach our subject effectively. We know that this is one of the greatest challenges for early career drama teachers – to build a bank of resources which become an enduring part of your toolkit. Over the last year, the toolkit has changed considerably in response to the challenges of online learning, and how we acquire new skills and resources has changed considerably too.

So, what has social media's role been during the pandemic? A poll on Twitter, asking if social media had been a positive force during Covid, resulted in nearly 90% of teachers saying that it had indeed helped them professionally in terms of acquiring resources and discovering new CPD. On Facebook groups I asked how social media had helped during the pandemic, with nearly 70% of teachers saying it had helped them to acquire new resources, with nearly 30% citing ‘finding new CPD’ as a main factor for engaging with platforms. These were only small polls and are in no way conclusive studies, but perhaps give a snapshot of the reliance of drama teachers on #edutwitter and Facebook Groups – a totally understandable shift during such challenging times.

However, these are not merely platforms to share resources. Alison Chaplin from Arts on the Move set up her Facebook group Drama Teaching Resources and has seen it grow to over 2000 members from all over the world in less than 12 months. As well as the free and paid resources being shared, she says that ‘teachers are now feeling confident enough to ask questions and request support’. With many teachers working in isolation in one-person departments she says, ‘having a community to turn to is important.’ The Facebook group Drama Department Staff Room – Drama Matters, founded by Tracy Dorrington in 2015, has been an enormous support over the last year, connecting drama teachers with professional theatre-makers through innovative CPD such as Talk Theatre Thursday, or #TTT. Scott Graham reflects on the impact of Drama Matters, saying: ‘At a time when so much could be overwhelming, it has provided a dynamic place of support and learning, a place of inspiring positivity for teachers and theatre-makers alike.’

So even though we all suffer from social media fatigue from time to time, it has undeniably played a crucial role during the pandemic, becoming a place for drama teachers to acquire ideas and resources, and discover new CPD. This has helped to fill the void left by the lack of face-to-face training. Beyond that, it has provided a safe, virtual space where innovative approaches to networking, training, and learning can emanate.

Lucy Bellingham is the founder and director of We Teach Drama Ltd, which creates innovative resources and CPD for drama teachers. Follow her on Twitter @weteachdrama.