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Posts tagged with: TeachMeet

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!


TeachMeet

Mark wrote an interesting post the other day on TeachMeet which I commented upon briefly but thought I’d expand upon here.

When it comes to TeachMeet, as with many things, there are a range of views. Some see the lack of ownership as there being “no rules” and are therefore free to do as they wish – thankfully noone currently takes this to the extreme of making use of the name to organise massive conferences for profit as far as I’m aware. On the opposite extreme is the idea that because TeachMeet is owned by the community it must be protected in it’s most pure form and not tampered with. As with most things, I find myself somewhere in the middle.

Before I proceed any further, I must state that I write this as a massive supporter of the TeachMeet movement. I’ve attended, presented at and organised numerous TeachMeets and I think they’re fantastic. I do think however that we need to continually question and challenge what’s happening with TeachMeet, this is healthy for anything in education, but especially something which is so open to interpretation by the community. By setting out my views here, I in no way claim that I am right, or that my views are more important than anyone else’s. However, as a long-standing member of the community who has spent many an hour organising and attending TeachMeets, I do feel that my opinion is at least as important as anyone else’s.

For me there are two primary issues with TeachMeet today. The one which attracts the most comment and discussion is not the one I’m primarily concerned with ironically. Mark’s post and the subsequent comments was mainly concerned with scale and sponsorship and whether his event could continue to be called a TeachMeet. This brought out many an opinion, each of them as “right” as any of the others. Ultimately, I feel this is up to Mark to decide for himself following everyone’s feedback – and I applaud him for asking. Some feel that TeachMeets should involve no sponsorship. They should be small enough not to need it. While I appreciate this sentiment, I disagree. The reason is that, I enjoy a TeachMeet in a nice venue. I feel that we spend so much time in poorly designed buildings, and our CPD is often in the worst possible spaces, that if you’re giving up your own time to come along it adds a certain unquantifiable boost if the venue is of a certain quality. I actually feel that Society M played an integral part in the learning and collaboration that took place at the last TeachMeet I organised, which shouldn’t be a surprise. Many people spend a lot of time, money and energy designing spaces which bring out the best in people.

I would agree however that the sponsorship should be kept to a minimum. One of the many mistakes I made (believe me, the organisers of TeachMeets are very aware of the many mistakes they make when organising an event – they don’t actually need a lot of help from others highlighting those!) with the first TeachMeet I organised was accepting too much sponsorship. There was an embarrassing quantity of wine and food left at the end of the evening and I could certainly have had less sponsor presence had I realised this. But I’d been so nervous about not having enough, I overdid it a bit. My policy since then has been to have as little sponsorship as possible – just enough to host it in a nice venue.

If a TeachMeet is large and in a nice, heavily sponsored, venue is it still a TeachMeet? Possibly. For me a TeachMeet should be organised by teachers and allow ordinary teachers to share with each other. That’s the core of it for me. Charging people is obviously a grey area, but I think it’s up to the community to decide collectively if it’s ok. Obviously everyone would rather they were free. The event I feel should generate no profit to be a TeachMeet at least, but I think I might be open to a small charge if it removed sponsors from the equation. Ultimately, the movement is a form of activist professionalism but it’s limited in this sense by the hold the sponsors have over us. As my last TeachMeet was a whole day I asked for an optional £10 to cover the lunch and refreshments (which most paid) to avoid lots more sponsorship. It occurred to me after the event that if I made that £20 we could remove sponsors from the equation – not because I have anything against our sponsors I must say, but we might not have them next year. So, I included a question in the evaluation asking if people would be prepared to pay this next year if we can’t find a sponsor and the vast majority of respondents said they would. Would this mean it wasn’t a TeachMeet anymore, not in my eyes. But if there was a strong feedback from the community suggesting it wasn’t, then this might possibly persuade me to stop using the word – but not to cancel the event (which is ultimately the most important thing – actually organising these things for folk?)

So, if that’s not the issue I’m primarily concerned with, what is? It’s the format. Well, not the format as such, but the ubiquity of the format. I loved the 7 minute/2 minute format of the first TeachMeets I attended and used this in the first one I organised. It makes for a fast paced and engaging evening and it’s not very threatening as a first time presenter. There was a general realisation though over time that they were becoming a bit too “presenty”, which I agreed with. So in the second one I helped organise we added in round table discussions between presentation sessions like others at the time. Both of these events felt great and had fab feedback, but after a while I began to crave something different.

At the same time, I was completing an MEd which involved a lot of reading on professional learning. Given what we’ve been changing in our classrooms over recent years, it shouldn’t be a surprise to learn that the best form of professional learning is like any other learning – collaborative and dialogue based. And so, my third and most recent TeachMeet consisted of 40 minute workshops rather than 7 minute and 2 minute presentations. For me, although this is a radically different format, it was still a TeachMeet. The workshop ‘leaders’ were classroom teachers who signed up in the usual way. And we had just as many teachers sharing their practice as usual with 14 different workshops. The workshops involved the leader sharing their practice for about 20 minutes and then facilitating a discussion for the remainder, the idea being that the presenter can share how they changed their practice (not just the end product) and then everyone can work together to talk through and develop the idea as equal partners.

Now, I’m not arguing that we replace the normal format with this one. I just think there’s room for more of a variety of formats when it comes to TeachMeets. Few would recommend a one size fits all for learning in classrooms after all. TeachMeet should be a broad enough term to encompass 12 teachers in one school, to the event I described above and even Mark’s massive event. As long as it’s about teachers organising events for teachers to come together and learn from each other out of the goodness of their hearts, not for profit.

TeachMeet has been a phenomenal success and has evolved so much since my first one almost six years ago, and I hope it will continue to do so.


#teachmeet

TeachMeet is five years old! And it’s quite the five year old. It’s vibrant, full of energy and out of control.

My first TeachMeet was in the Jolly Judge in Edinburgh four years ago this month. The whole thing was incredibly different to what I’m helping to put together in Edinburgh next month. It was very informal indeed. There was noone standing up to present. There were no costs and no sponsors and it was very ‘techy’.

Somehow in the intervening period TeachMeet has exploded as an idea. Just now there seems to be one taking place almost every week and in many different countries, and I can see why. They’re just such a refreshing approach to CPD. I love their informal atmosphere, the relative lack of control and the fantastic sharing which results. The fact that these events seem to appear from nowhere, are strung together by loose collections of classroom teachers and encourage many folk to stand up and share who might not otherwise consider doing so, is very refreshing indeed.

There are lots of outstanding questions regarding the future of TeachMeets. They’re so appealing to some sponsors now, they’re actually approaching the organisers rather than the other way round. Coordinating the funds for a TeachMeet can be complicated. Anyone can organise a TeachMeet, so what’s to stop a business doing so? The popularity and spread of TeachMeet has caused them to become a little more traditional in their nature – i.e. most now sign up as lurkers and are presented to by a small minority – should/could we return to the idea of most who attend are prepared to present?

Despite all these outstanding questions, TeachMeet has really struck a chord with the profession and is clearly meeting a need – long may it continue.


TMLothians11

I’m helping to organise another TeachMeet. We had such a fantastic one last year in East Lothian, but this time I’ve teamed up with some non-East Lothian folk to put together a TeachMeet for Edinburgh, the Lothians & Borders…and anyone else!

We’re running this TeachMeet in partnership with the Scottish Book Trust and we have the theme of ‘creativeclassroomsedition’.

If you’ve got some creative practice you’d like to share, or you’d like to hear others share what they’ve been doing sign up now. Just get your name on the wiki:

http://teachmeet.pbworks.com/tmlothians11


ePLC

I’ve had this idea growing since TeachMeet the other night when I facilitated one of the World Cafe discussions around the following question.

How do we genuinely involve pupils in their learning and assessment?

You can see the outcomes of the discussion here.

The reason I asked this question is that I think that developing this aspect of our practice as teachers, particularly in the Secondary context, is a major challenge and the key to successfully implementing Curriculum for Excellence. I was very struck by the animated and rich discussion which occurred at TeachMeet…it would appear that I am not alone in pondering this question. In fact, I know of many others from twitter & blogs who have been not only considering this – but trying out ways to address this issue.

As well as giving some thought to this, I’m also currently doing a lot of reading around the notion of Collaborative Professional Enquiry / Collaborative Professional Learning / Professional Learning Communities / Group Action Research. This is primarily to aid me in my work towards my CTeach MEd which I’ve recently returned to after a year out.

So the idea that has arisen from these thought processes is –

Can we create an ePLC [electronic Professional Learning Community] to work together to develop our knowledge of this key issue?

I’m sure many would argue that many informal professional learning communities of sorts already exist through twitter and the blogosphere. But what I’m talking about here is setting up a much more formal group of 5/6 teachers to carry out a piece of collaborative professional enquiry. This could be around something like the following question?

What impact does involving pupils in planning their learning and assessment have?

I have a bit of a problem at the minute in that I don’t have a class just now, but I would be happy to facilitate the community – i.e. arrange meetings, share readings, administer file sharing, contribute to discussions etc.

What do you think? This may well be happening already elsewhere, but if so I haven’t encountered it. It could take our electronic professional interactions to a new level…? Can you imagine a more exciting form of CPD?


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