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TeachMeetScot

As part of my current role I’ve had the privilege of driving (& flying) around the country and speaking to hundreds of Scotland’s teachers about teacher leadership and what is needed for it to be developed. A common theme that is coming up regularly is the need for more opportunities for classroom teachers to network and share practice. A conversation with someone earlier this week got me to thinking, we used to do that a lot more when we were organising many more TeachMeets than we currently are – hence the tweet above.

That’s not to say there aren’t any TeachMeets happening in Scotland, there are of course, but they used to occur much more frequently. This I feel is a real shame, especially given that TeachMeet originated in Scotland!

So, what could be getting in the way of more TeachMeets being organised? For me, I think the TeachMeet PBWorks site is a barrier to many. It’s now overwhelmed by TeachMeets outwith Scotland, and it’s not straightforward for people to use if they’re not familiar with Wikis – hence the rise of the use of EventBrite in the organisation of TeachMeets. I personally prefer to use Google Forms as this avoids the Wiki problem without going down the ‘Ticket’ route – but I can see why people do.

So, perhaps what would help would be a dedicated TeachMeet Scotland site? Perhaps along the lines of Australia’s version? teachmeet.scot maybe? The site could have a clear guide for how and why to organise a TeachMeet, it could have an organised structure for finding TeachMeets in your area and an open system for creating TeachMeet event pages with a way for teachers to sign up without the use of EventBrite.

What do you think?

If you’re not keen, why not? What would you do instead to help regrow the Scottish TeachMeet community?

If you think this is a good idea, how & who could do this? Perhaps it could be something Pedagoo could facilitate? The site could be hosted on a subdomain of pedagoo.org? pedagoo.org/tmscot perhaps? We could seek sponsorship to purchase teachmeet.scot and have that redirect? If you like the idea in principle but you’re not keen on it being a Pedagoo thing, what would you suggest instead? A separate site would be the obvious solution if you object to it being a Pedagoo thing, but that would bring extra cost and would therefore need extra sponsorship etc [I currently pay for all of Pedagoo’s hosting and domain name registration myself out of my own pocket, I’m not keen on increasing this expense!]

I’m just keen to explore ways of supporting the regrowth of the Scottish TeachMeet community and this is one idea I’ve had to help achieving this…I would welcome your thoughts on this possible approach, or possible alternative approaches!


21 Comments

  • Reply Drew |

    I’d go for teachmeet.scot domain, rather than do it inside pedagoo. It’d keep the two entities separate and avoid one looking like a sub-brand of the other.

    On funding – £1 a head via PayPal or similar to register would more than pay for domain and hosting for a year or two, if even just a couple hundred people signed up and paid up.

    On running the show – the Google Forms model used for #pedagoolocal events worked very well. As long as there are a few folk willing to take on the associated administration.

    In order for teachmeets to grow they need new blood to share their ideas. The recent ones I’ve attended have included a lot of well known faces (yes, mine too) doing their bits with the new faces in the audience. It used to be that they’d be up talking next time round, but that is rarely the case.

    Perhaps very local, cluster- or even school-based teachmeets, where people can share their ideas with their close colleagues would be a good place to start?

  • Reply John |

    Hi Fearghal,
    Some random thoughts on this made up as I type.

    A timely post.

    I think of pedagoo as a child of teachmeet that is smarter than mum:-)

    I do think that an important thing about TM was that teachers did it for themselves. I’ve become slighlty put off by sponsorship over time, it need to be handled carefully.

    I think a separate teachmeet.scot domain would be good too. I’d be happy enough to host this too, but I can’t do .scot on reclaim at the moment (I’ve got space for more domains there so cost would be minimal/just the domain). A redirect to pedagoo would be a fair compromise, a domain is pretty cheap

    Hosting an open to anyone Wiki can be problematic especially from the spam pov. PBwiki and wikispaces are simple to uses. Many open source Wikis are harder. Of course WordPress with an event plugin would do the job nicely. I know of a very good one indeed (The Glow Blogs dev wrote it)
    The Aus TeachMeet site is on WordPress but needs editors to post TM, I think there are bearer ways to do this, anyone add an event, quick approval for spam and posted to lower barrier. Possible include signing up on the Event on WP…

    Moving systems and getting folk to move with you can be tricky. Ewan had the teach meet.co.uk domain and a few years ago I spent some time creating a WordPress site to do TM, but no one used it, they kept on with the PB Wiki.

    Anyway be interested in discussing this more, throwing in my twopence worth, and leading a hand if needed.

    These are a bit random, but it would be good to get a few interested parties together, live or virtual, to discuss…

  • Reply fearghal |

    Thanks both,

    I would definitely go for the teachmeet.scot domain either way, I was just talking about using Pedagoo to host it – teachmeet.scot could redirect and mask. However, if you’ve got a multiple domain reclaim account John and you’re happy to host that’d probably be a better route. I’m imagining that it would be possible to purchase the .scot domain name from someone other than reclaim and than have the hosting with them? I buy Pedagoo.org from Easily.co.uk but it’s hosted with Reclaim.

    Regarding funding, I see what you mean Drew about crowdfunding. Normally I would just buy the domain, but the .scot is about £70. I personally though would probably struggle to be bothered with the faff of crowd funding. Also, I personally would be very keen on trying a sustainable long-term model for this. I reckon we could find a sponsor who we could live with and wouldn’t expect a pound of flesh in return.

    I agree John that an open wordpress solution would be best…I was thinking the same about the Oz one when I was looking at it. I also agree with both of you that this is about much more than just the website. I think that would be a good first step, but we’d then need to all commit to organising some TeachMeets and then supporting and encouraging new folk to present and then organise their own….

    It would definitely be good to arrange a get together of some form to take forward.

  • Reply Emma |

    I think it’s become an overcrowded market as local authorities try to organise and promote more and more teachmeets – or variations – each year and the demands on teachers to be working collegiately and taking part in professional dialogue grow. It’s becoming confusing. Some sort of focused re-launch might be all that’s needed to bring in teachers who missed the whole teachmeet thing first time round. I like the idea of local, cluster-based teachmeets as a starting point.

    • Reply fearghal |

      Thanks Emma! That’s a very good point you make and I’m glad you think that a refocus and relaunch might help clarify things.

  • Reply Susan Ward |

    I think there’s a huge variation across Scotland- where I am, events like this don’t happen; the idea of sharing practice in this way is only just getting a foothold, certainly in the primary sector. It’s a big and new and wonderful idea to many, but also a bit scary. PedagooLocal really helped me as an organiser- I felt part of a much bigger framework and knew where to get help if I needed it! It’s also great to have a pathway to show people what’s possible- after #PedagooPeebles we had teachers opening Twitter accounts for the first time and visiting Pedagoo and getting inspired. If it had just been a cluster-based event, that wouldn’t have happened. I think having a connection to a wider setup is really important for organisers and teachers alike. The model for PedagooLocal worked because we interspersed ‘presenters’ (who had a longer slot) with time for teachers to talk in smaller groups; this meant teachers not willing to share or present to a whole room got a taste for what it was like in a less threatening way, saw others present and live to tell the tale, heard about why it matters that we share…and hopefully gained a bit of confidence to take their turn at the front next time. I hope one day we get to the stage of teachmeets and longer events popping up all over the Borders- I’m currently working on getting #PedagooSelkirk and #PedagooGala off the ground.

    I am rambling on! My point is that a new Teachmeet site could be great, not just for places where they’ve been happening for years, but also for places where the concept of this is brand new information; a new site could be used to encourage and link up teachers giving all this a go for the first time, get them supporting each other across the country. Happy to be involved in any way- I think you guys are brilliant!

  • Reply fearghal |

    There seems to be general agreement on the following…
    – We need to do something to encourage and support more TeachMeets being organised by classroom teachers in Scotland.
    – A dedicated teachmeet.scot website which was easy to use would go some way to helping classroom teachers to organise their own TeachMeets.
    – It will take more than just a website to regrow the TeachMeet movement…we’ll need to be organising TeachMeets and actively supporting and encouraging others to do so also.

    Perhaps the best next step is some sort of get together to agree how best to proceed with all of this? We could maybe try and combine online and offline approaches to this get together? Perhaps we could arrange all of this to coincide with TeachMeet’s 10th birthday in May?

  • Reply Robert Jones |

    I’m just being an armchair critic here, because I was never involved in organising Teachmeets, although I did participate in some of the early ones, but…

    Couldn’t we take this opportunity to do something new that is better than Teachmeet? More impactful? I suspect that the conclusions of Joyce & Showers apply to Teachmeet: that the conversion rate from attendance at one-off events to sustained changes in pedagogy is very low, no matter how fired up and positive participants declare themselves to be at the time.

    Of course it may be that Teachmeet is not primarily about distributing good practice. It might be about nurturing a culture of innovation (and dare I say teacher leadership?). Maybe it does that well. I don’t know.

    Anyway, I suppose what I’m saying is that I would be very interested in participating in a research-informed discussion about how to design teacher-led conferences for maximum sustained impact on learners.

    • Reply john |

      Robert,
      I wonder if pedagoo would fit better with leading to sustained changes in pedagogy?

      For me TeachMeet felt as if it empowered me to have a voice and make PD/CPD less something that was done to me. I also found them good fun (important when it is folks own time). That might not be enough now?

    • Reply Fearghal Kelly |

      Cheers Robert,

      I know where you’re coming from. Interestingly, I said something similar to the person I was discussing this with and they had a good reply along the lines of ‘that sounds more like what you want, not what others need’.

      I’ve always been an advocate of developing the format to increase the variety, depth and impact, hence the Pedagoo variation and then EnquiryMeet, but I think there’s still a place for the original format which I at least gained so much from way back when.

      Loads of teachers in Scotland have never attended, or even heard of, TeachMeet and yet many have been telling me through my current role that they would really like more teacher-led opportunities to network and share. I think I at least could be doing more to help achieve that through the TeachMeet model, I just want to ensure whatever I do is in consensus with the TeachMeet community – I’d love to also participate in what you describe if someone where to organise it.

      There is totally a place for what you describe, and there plans afoot to develop the EnquiryMeet model and other contributions would be most welcome, but I don’t personally think it needs to be either or.

  • Reply Robert Jones |

    No it definitely doesn’t have to be either or. But I think it is worth asking the questions – what does Teachmeet aim to achieve, are those aims worthwhile and are they being achieved? In other words, we should apply the same curious, critical, enquiry-based approaches to Teachmeet that we hope teachers will apply to their own practice.

    • Reply fearghal |

      Totally. But we also need to be open to the possibility that the outcomes from attending a TeachMeet might be a feeling of positivity, being energised, more confident and less isolated. And if so, that’s not only ok, but awesome. In an ideal world, you could then progress to presenting yourself at a TeachMeet, to attending a longer format version, to organising your own event and engaging in enquiry and research to develop your own practice further. That’s not far off my own journey, but the existence of TeachMeets were a key part in that journey even if I never directly used too many of the ideas I heard. It’s about personal and community growth as much as it’s about the sharing ideas to me at least.

      • Reply Robert Jones |

        Teachmeets were part of helping me to feel connected too, strengthening online connections formed through the online world of blogging. Back in those days it felt unusual and special to be connecting with colleagues across Scotland off our own backs.

        Do teachers still experience the isolation that was pretty normal back then? I don’t know. I feel I should! I’ll ask in my school tomorrow.

        • Reply fearghal |

          I can tell you now, many of the teachers I’ve spoken to in the past few months do indeed still feel that way. That’s partly what has prompted me to raise this as an idea.

      • Reply Ciara Gibson |

        I think what you are describing Fearghal, a range of pathways that educators can access and be part of at whatever pace & level (attending/presenting/leading) is the way forward. While ultimately everything we do is about supporting and enhancing educational outcomes for the children and young people in our care we have to think about ourselves as learners. Sometimes the pressure (real or imagined! ) to immediately turn what we have experienced into impact in the classroom prevents teachers from attending any professional learning opportunities. As with all our classes it’s essential that the teaching profession feels “ready to learn” I think the networking, positivity and posibilities teach meets offer goes a long way to achieve this.
        I’m also imagining a visual/animation that illustrates what each kind of session (teachmeet/enquirymeet/pedagoo) offers

  • Reply Robert Jones |

    As for it being what you want rather than what others need, I assume you are like me – all you want is positive impacts on learners. If attendance at Teachmeets genuinely led to widespread improvements in practice, then we wouldn’t be having this conversation would we? If all it took to transform the practice of teachers was to gather them in a room and present them with examples of best practice, none of us would bother with professional enquiry, teacher learning communities, peer-coaching, teacher leadership initiatives etc.

  • Reply Iain Hallahan |

    First off, I like the idea of the dotscot domain, could solve a few of the issues around the wiki.

    With regards to the frequency or otherwise of TeachMeets in Scotland, I have far too many thoughts to write down. A sit down and chinwag with some others would probably be a good way forward.

    What I do think is that there are a few different issues at play. There are private or highly localised TeachMeets going on that most people will never be aware of. There are TeachMeet-like events that aren’t calling themselves TeachMeets. There are events that aren’t really like a TeachMeet, but that nonetheless have practitioners sharing practice at their heart. All of these reasons can contribute to there being ‘less TeachMeets’ whilst maintaining a level of activity.

    I also wonder if frequency is really the important issue here. More less effective events? Less more effective events? Which would you prefer?

    The last thing I’ll mention here is support. There are plenty of people who would like to organise a TeachMeet but who don’t think they’re up to it or who are daunted by the thought of trying. The thought of sponsorship, event management and the like can be fairly off-putting for people; perhaps providing access to advice and support from people who have done similar before could be a good way forward.

    I know I said that would be the last thing, but it also occurs to me that there are guys like Ewan McIntosh and David Cameron (no, the other one) who have been talking about TeachMeets, their impact and the 10 year anniversary. Might be worth trying to get them involved too?

  • Reply fearghal |

    Thanks Iain…

    I know what you mean about the tension between more/better TeachMeets, but I think there are less TeachMeets in general. I think it would be good to see more, but yes we need to keep an eye on how good they are at the same time.

    I totally agree with your point about support…I think that would be the key benefit of a dedicated site – it might make it easier for folk to organise their own TeachMeets – but it would also help “us” help influence what a “good” TeachMeet looks like.

    I’ve begun knocking up what this might look like to at least support the TeachMeets which are being mooted as a result of this discussion: https://tmscot.wordpress.com

So, what do you think ?