The concept of a network is an interesting, and changing one. We each have very different perceptions and experiences of networks and their usefulness, whether they be social or professional, face to face or ‘virtual’.

Key to all networks is a sense of common interest. How these networks function and develop will often depend upon the needs and motivations of members and the communication technology at their disposal. For those of us involved in education, networks offer an increasingly valuable source of support. The internet and e-mail in particular have revolutionised the potential for communication and dialogue with colleagues about issues that concern us as teachers.

Tide~ as a teacher network was launched in 1992 ... in an age when ICT potential was barely emerging. The common interest for members of this network continues to be a desire to enable learning in a global context. In 2004 this seems easy to say - and an almost obvious educational aspiration - the challenge for us as teachers though is in making it happen.

As teachers in a rapidly changing and increasingly complex world, the easy option is to stick with the known ... the well tried and tested ... particularly in a climate of measures and league tables. It takes some confidence and energy to begin to move beyond this. The world out there is confusing and uncertain. If we don’t understand what’s going on in the Middle East, in Rwanda or in our own local area, how can we even begin to support students in finding out?

Recognition of the essential need for learning which ‘opens-up’ rather than ‘closes-down’ debate and enquiry has been a starting point for many of us involved in Tide~. The network has sought to provide opportunities for teachers to share and develop creative teaching ideas and approaches linked to key stages, curriculum areas and a range of global issues.

Photographs from Tide~ network conference, 2003

One of the key challenges for the future growth and development of this network is how we best utilise the many communication tools at our disposal, to aid and support our own professional development. The Tide~ web-site for example offers exciting possibilities for supporting inter-action and debate ... and sharing ideas from the network with others here in the UK and elsewhere.

The possibilities for creative work are almost endless. How we prioritise opportunities, share and celebrate results and continue to engage new members will be key to future success. Looking ahead I can see the exciting potential that such a network has to offer all of us as educators, if we choose to get involved and take a risk or two.