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Spelling? How hard can it be?
Dec 15th, 2011 by H-Blog

In my new job, and on the course I’m currently doing, I spend a considerable amount of time working on spelling. Forming strong phoneme-grapheme links is a vital part of this, but once that’s done the hard part is over – right?

I had never considered just how irregular a language English is before. Take the word ghoti – looks like a nonsense word, or the start of the well-known Glasgwegian phrase suggesting the listener moves to France. Phonetically speaking however, it could mean something far different – and much more common!

I came across this poem (can’t remember where I saw the original link), which illustrates these things superbly. See what you think.

The Chaos by Gerard Nolst Trenité

Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.
I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.
Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it’s written.)
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as plaque and ague.
But be careful how you speak:
Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;
Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, show, poem, and toe.
Hear me say, devoid of trickery,
Daughter, laughter, and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles,
Exiles, similes, and reviles;
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far;
One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel;
Gertrude, German, wind and mind,
Scene, Melpomene, mankind.
Billet does not rhyme with ballet,
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
Viscous, viscount, load and broad,
Toward, to forward, to reward.
And your pronunciation’s OK
When you correctly say croquet,
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live.
Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
And enamour rhyme with hammer.
River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.
Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Souls but foul, haunt but aunt,
Font, front, wont, want, grand, and grant,
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger,
And then singer, ginger, linger,
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, gouge and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, and age.
Query does not rhyme with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth.
Job, nob, bosom, transom, oath.
Though the differences seem little,
We say actual but victual.
Refer does not rhyme with deafer.
Foeffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Mint, pint, senate and sedate;
Dull, bull, and George ate late.
Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific.
Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
Mark the differences, moreover,
Between mover, cover, clover;
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police and lice;
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label.
Petal, panel, and canal,
Wait, surprise, plait, promise, pal.
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor.
Tour, but our and succour, four.
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Sea, idea, Korea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean.
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.
Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion and battalion.
Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, and key.
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.
Heron, granary, canary.
Crevice and device and aerie.
Face, but preface, not efface.
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust and scour, scourging.
Ear, but earn and wear and tear
Do not rhyme with here but ere.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, Turk and jerk,
Ask, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.
Pronunciation (think of Psyche!)
Is a paling stout and spikey?
Won’t it make you lose your wits,
Writing groats and saying grits?
It’s a dark abyss or tunnel:
Strewn with stones, stowed, solace, gunwale,
Islington and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict and indict.
Finally, which rhymes with enough,
Though, through, plough, or dough, or cough?
Hiccough has the sound of cup.
My advice is to give up!!!

Manage that all okay first time with no mistakes? Yeah, me too……

Seriously though, having read that perhapsyour opinion on  how hard spelling can be may have changed slightly?

PS – ghoti, as you have no doubt worked out (or Googled!) is a phonetically consistent representation of the word fish using grapheme/phoneme links already found in the English language

gh as in laugh (f)
o as in women (i)
ti as in nation (sh)

TeachMeet 365
Sep 23rd, 2011 by H-Blog

EDIT – 20:13, 25th September

Just back in to the house after a long day out, and catching up on Twitter, emails, etc.  I have reading a number of posts and comments about TMSLF11, and while I am always an advocate of reflective practice, constructive criticism and striving for improvement, I think it is important to remember that people invest a lot in these events that they organise or contribute to; in terms of time, of effort and emotionally as well. When we are reflecting on such events, I think it is important to remember the emotional, personal and human aspect to it all and to exercise a degree of empathy, tact and respect – apart from anything else this is vital to ensure people continue to be willing to put themselves forward to organise or help to organise any event, TeachMeet or otherwise. For any of our critical reflections to cause genuine emotional upset to anyone means that this principle has gone wrong somewhere – as well as being counterproductive (in that it won’t help to improve things), I would hope that it must be unintentional as I would hate to think that anyone would wish to cause any such upset intentionally.

My post below, as mentioned within it, is an expression of feelings that have been growing for a while. They are not a response to TMSLF11 – it may have helped crystallize my thinking and given me a bit of a prod, acting as a catalyst for the post, but they are not intended to be a criticism of it – and if they have been taken that way I would like to apologise for the misunderstanding.

For what it’s worth, I would like to say that I thought the organisation of TMSLF11 was amazingly well done and that the evening itself was among the slickest and best-run TeachMeets I have been to. I would like to publicly thank those who organised and ran it – they made it look effortless, which I know it is not.

 

I now return you to the original post……

 

So, we’ve reached the September weekend again, which means that once more the Scottish Learning Festival is over and with it TMSLF11. The TeachMeet at the Scottish Learning Festival has a special place in the hearts and minds of many – including myself. For me, it was the first TeachMeet I attended – at the Glasgow Science Centre in 2007 – and I have been to every one since. They are different each year, and I’m always excited, amazed or enthused by something (or everything!) I see.

But.

I have mentioned before how great I think it would be for TeachMeet to grow and develop beyond the techie focus it is perceived to have just now, and how brilliant I think it would be to get more teachers involved in TeachMeets. Not just big ones and national ones, but small ones and local ones. I also think it is time to remind people (or let new people know?) that while the big ones are great and that obviously they need venues that are booked in advance, audio visual/tech support, sponsors and whatever else, just because a TeachMeet has none of that doesn’t mean it’s not a TeachMeet, or that there is nothing of value going on! Apart from being easier to organise, such a TeachMeet would hopefully be less scary – less scary to organise, less scary to attend, and less scary to speak at.

Because that was my other thought. The SLF Teachmeet in 2007 had 24 people volunteering to speak with 47 lurkers. Last night’s TeachMeet SLF11 had 13 speakers and about 100 lurkers. That’s a much smaller proportion. Whilst obviously there were round table discussions as well as the presentations, I can imagine that standing up in front of 100 people to give a presentation could be absolutely terrifying, particularly if it’s the first time you’ve done it.

So, I had a Big Idea. The last one of those I had turned out okay, although it had the potential to be a complete disaster. This one has the same capacity for disaster. And here it is……

 

 

So here’s the idea – 12 TeachMeets in one year, one every month. But small scale – no venue bookings (well, maybe a table booking…), no ICT setup, no sponsors to deal with. Just some people getting together willing to share something to do with what’s going on in classrooms right now; something they have seen or done, something they want to discuss or even something that they want to ask. Maybe in a pub, maybe in a cafe. Maybe in some woods, or in a garden. Maybe a meal, maybe a picnic. Or maybe, just maybe, in a school? And it wouldn’t matter if it was 2 people, or 12 people or 22 people or (any number in between) that showed up, because there would be no costs involved, or sponsors to deal with, or venues complaining about numbers.

So what do you think? Like I said – it has a capacity for disaster. But it might work. Is it worth trying?

Symmetry with letters
Sep 15th, 2011 by H-Blog

Quick blog post about a nice site I found today whilst working with some pupils on symmetry – we were finding some of the letters a bit tricky to work out, so I went looking for an online resource that would let us see exactly what we were doing. I  had a quick trawl through a few different sites, but Symmetry Artist suited us best, allowing us to change the axis of symmetry from horizontal to vertical and also to write in the parts of the letters we already had and see what happened. Below you can see us trying out the letter ‘M’!

We try out the letter 'M' with a vertical axis of symmetry

 

The site lets you selct x-axis or y-axis symmetry, diagonal symmetry (x=y or x=-y), symmetry about the origin or even up to 9-point rotational symmetry. You can choose from a variety of pens (including some exploding dots!), adjust the thickness of the line and choose the colour of the ink, allowing more creative types to be artistic as well as symmetrical. It  also allows you to choose whether to see the line of symmetry, to select either a circle or a square canvas, or to add a grid of dots to help illustrate your points. Very versatile.

The pupils really enjoyed it, and said it was a big help. Worth a look, definitely.

Golden Time
Jun 17th, 2011 by H-Blog

 

 

Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed from niassembly under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic License.

Original available at http://www.flickr.com/photos/niassembly/4078083446/

 

The exams are finished for another year, and the timetables have changed in the secondary schools round my neck of the woods, with all the pupils moving up a year group. This means that last year’s 6th Years (or senior class) are no longer school pupils, and most of them are now enjoying that sweetest of long summers between school and university – a real golden time for them.

But it’s the new 6th Years I want to talk about. Now at the top of the secondary ‘tree’, new 6th Years across the country will be finding themselves facing a range of new experiences and emotions. I have been working for the last 4 years in a school which is in the same cluster as the high school I went to myself; a high school that  is recognised as being amongst the very best that Scotland has to offer. Having worked over these last 4 years with the remarkable young people who are the 6th Years at this school, I have found myself amazed by their talents, enthusiasm, workrate and attitude. I hope their futures are as bright as they surely deserve.

Talking to them, each yeargroup has echoed the experience I had during my own 6th Year. Having made our way through school together for the previous five or even twelve years, the end of 5th Year saw a large group of our former classmates leave school to move on to new experiences – be it training, employment, further or higher education. This had what was at the time a most unexpected effect. The social or peer groups – dare I say cliques? – that had existed impervious and indestructible throughout our schooling and the rigid, elaborate and often unfathomable social etiquette that went along with them just suddenly ceased to be, virtually overnight. There was a recognition by virtually every one of us that we had shared a unique experience and formed a very special bond – indeed that these people, these classmates who had undoubtedly seen both the very best and the absolute worst of us would be among those who knew us the best throughout our lives.

Looking around and marking those who had already left us, we found ourselves experiencing a profound sense of camaraderie or  kinship amongst those of us who were left. No longer was there anyone you couldn’t talk to, or who wouldn’t talk to you because you wore the wrong clothes, listened to the wrong music or just weren’t cool enough. A sense of realism or perhaps mortality had washed over us, as we began to realise that we weren’t going to be at school for ever and that real life was beginning to rear its ugly head. The sense of community, the sense of togetherness was almost palpable, and I know that 6th Year was for many of us amongst the very best experiences of our school lives.

At the time, it seemed to go on forever. I always had money in my pocket, there was always something exciting going on and the sun was always shining. Yeah, there was hard work and exams but there was also day trips and holidays, parties and pub visits, football and friends. We were becoming young adults and experiencing all that meant, but at the same time still had the enthusiasm and joy of youth on our side. I often think back, and my only regrets are that it took us so long to reach that place and that we didn’t all get to experience it together.

And now I know that it wasn’t just us. I have now listened to 3 consecutive lots of 6th Years sit and tell me the exact same story, as well as reading about another group of (not-quite) fictitious schoolmates who went through the same thing. In a way, it’s sad that they all made the same mistakes we did by leaving it so late, but on the other hand it’s brilliant that they managed to realise in time. And perhaps it took that unique set of circumstances to help us all realise the things that really matter and the things that don’t – to help us mature and grow up just enough to appreciate each other.

And so I watch this latest crop of 6th Years beginning to experience the same transformation themselves. Their year ahead is likely to be over in a hearbeat in one sense, and to go on forever in another. Regardless of how it feels at the time, I would advise them to savour each moment and enjoy them to the fullest.

This is your Golden Time. Make the most of it.

IWBs – the eternal battle continues….
Jun 8th, 2011 by H-Blog

Last week, I read this interesting blog post from Kevin McLaughlin Entitled “Switching off the interactive whiteboard for good”. It revisited the argument that IWBs have been a huge waste of taxpayers money, and should be replaced with alternative technologies. The post generated a large number of comments, and even caused Kevin to go over his bandwidth allocation, reminding me of an earlier IWB-related post to this blog, which remains to this day my most commented upon blog post ever! Matthew Pearson then posted a robust defence of IWBs, which again provoked debate in the comments and on Twitter – including the (rather amusing) retitling of Matt’s post as “Interactive Whiteboards Are Awesome, It’s Just People That Suck”.

Whilst I find myself agreeing with some of the concerns other educators may have about the (over?) hasty roll out of IWBs in UK schools, and have no issue with their listing of alternative tools that they could have spent the money used to purchase IWBs on, I feel that this is a different debate to the one that they say they are having. If people want to have a theoretical, philosophical or even ideological debate about whether there should have been such hefty investment to put IWB hardware into UK schools, then I am quite happy to sit back and listen to that debate – I might even bring popcorn. My own views on that issue are not fully developed and probably rather ill-informed, and I think I could probably learn quite a lot from sitting back and listening to people who do know what they are talking about debating it.

However.

That is not the debate that people are having, although it seems to be the debate that they think they are meant to be having. The money for the IWB hardware has been spent, and the hardware is hanging on a wall, being wheeled round on a stand or carried round in a bag. At this point, whether such large investments should have been made or not becomes irrelevant, or at the very least stops being part of this debate and becomes part of the other debate described above. From a pragmatic point of view at least, where the investment came from for the boards or if it should have done so or not doesn’t matter one iota. The boards are here, so should we be learning to use them more effectively or turning them off for good as Kevin suggests?

Having read both his post and Matthew’s as well as the accompanying comments on both blogs, I find it hard to reach the same conclusions that are being drawn by many of the people involved regarding the use of IWBs in classrooms – namely that they have no future in classrooms, have had no impact on attainment and should be turned off for good to be replaced by a ‘better’ way of doing things, using different technology. Apart from anything else, the logic behind this argument is flawed – the money that has been spent on IWBs is gone, we cannot go back in time and ‘unspend’ it and choose something else instead. And even if we could, should we? Kevin mentions in his post that

Occasionally you will meet those in teaching who use their boards as an interactive learning tool, creating content that engages their class. But this is not the norm

Surely then what we are saying here is that a tool has been provided with which teachers are able to create engaging content for their classes, and that they are simply not doing so? Why, therefore, should taxpayers be willing to provide these same teachers with a different tool? A blanket rollout of IWBs has not worked, why would a blanket rollout of iPads or slates or netbooks fare any differently? From a purely financial point of view, it makes no sense. Why waste – and let’s make no mistake here, that is what we are talking about – a perfectly good resource? Surely you owe it to your pupils to find ways to make good use of  all the available resources, including IWBs? Looking at the comments made by pupils in Kevin’s post (the ones used as a reason for ditching the IWBs), it strikes me that they are not criticisms of the IWBs themselves as much as criticisms of how teachers are using the boards, so surely just finding better ways to use the IWBs is the answer?

And there are better ways to use IWBs. Bill Ferriter argued in a comment on my previous post  that it is not necessary to buy an IWB to achieve some of them, and that is true as far as it goes. But here’s the point – if the board and the accompanying software has already been bought and provided for you, why would you want to use something else to achieve the same aims? And perhaps more importantly, if the hardware and software had been provided for you, why aren’t you using them? If you have a pedagogical reason, then I’m going to be okay with that, but if it’s because you don’t know how to use them? Shouldn’t you be finding out? And to suggest you want to replace the IWB with a new piece of technology instead?  If a maths scheme or a set of books had been bought and the teachers were not using them to best effect, would the answer be to buy a new maths scheme or different books? Of course not – the answer would be to provide training for the teachers so that they can utilise the tools and equipment they have to best effect.

And so it is with IWBs. Teachers need to be given the opportunity to see and show what IWBs are capable of, and perhaps more importantly need to be given time to generate ideas and content that are relevant and useful in their classrooms. Having been working in a school which uses SMART Boards, I know for a fact that SMART are very good in this regard, having trainers who can come to your school and help deliver training for your staff and answer questions that are directly related to the resources they are wanting to make. As far as I am aware, there is no cost to the school involved for this above the purchase of equipment. There is also no cost involved in downloading Notebook to your computer at home to create resources there, providing you have your SMART product key. SMART also run content creation seminars, where teachers who know a trick or eight using Notebook will create content that can be tailored to (in our case) the Scottish curriculum and made available on their website to download for free.

In these times of shrinking budgets and cost-cutting, it seems to me that these services would make a lot of sense to schools that were trying to find savings. The equipment is already there – we’ve all seen it hanging on walls, often not being used properly (or at all?). The expertise is there – you only have to look around classrooms, trade shows or the internet to see that. Perhaps it is the inclination that is missing – the drive to share and the willingness to allow yourself be shared with?

But there are signs that things are changing. The increasing popularity of TeachMeets and similar CPD events where educators are learning from other educators is encouraging, as is the continued activity in CPDMeets. Perhaps if there were opportunities to learn from colleagues who were already using IWBs effectively (TeachMeet IWB anyone?), and perhaps the chance to work collaboratively on resources that enabled the IWB to be used as was intended  – interactively with engaging content – then the desire to rip out all the IWBs and throw the on the scrapheap would be somewhat lessened? After all, just because they shouldn’t be used for everything doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be used for anything…..

#TM5 – TeachMeet Beyond
Feb 25th, 2011 by H-Blog

You may be familiar with the TeachMeet concept, but did you know it was coming up for its fifth birthday? To celebrate, Ewan McIntosh has issued the #tm5 challenge –  Ian Guest (@ianinsheffield) has a good post on it here: http://ianinsheffield.wordpress.com/2011/01/16/tm5/ .

This challenge kind of merged with some thoughts I had had during the TeachMeet research I undertook last year – and during the #tmfuture discussion – about trying to extend the reach of TeachMeets beyond the predominantly  ‘niche’ market of technophiles it had. I had heard people talking about how TeachMeets were just for those heavily into ICT, and whilst at the TeachMeets I have attended or heard of  this is to a certain extent true, I felt that if  this was allowed to continue it could become a hindrance.  At the same time, I would not have wanted to risk upsetting anyone in the TeachMeet community – especially those who created the concept – and did not feel I could go ‘trampling’ over the conventions and guidelines they had set down for TeachMeets. However, when the opportunity presented itself to interview Ewan McIntosh about TeachMeet, it became clear that there was a recognition that TeachMeet had to change to evolve, and that far from discouraging this the TeachMeet community were ready and willing to engage with it.

A number of changes began to show in various TeachMeets, including my own non-techie presentation at TMSEG10 (for which I was branded a ‘rebel’ by David Muir!) and slowly the idea of trying to organise a TeachMeet themed around outdoor learning started to grow legs and dance around my head. When the #tm5 challenge was thrown down by Ewan, and chatter started again about widening the TeachMeet ‘audience’, it seemed like an opportune moment to try it.

So here we are!

I approached four colleagues to moot the idea, and was so encouraged by their positive responses I got to work on a wiki to help plan the event, which by this time had been christened ‘TeachMeet Beyond’ as it is about learning beyond the classroom. The wiki is a bit short on concrete details at the moment, but it has a number of suggestions and space to discuss them.

So is this do-able? If it is to work, as with any TeachMeet, this event will need to be crowdsourced. Do you have something to offer? Could you get involved? Do you have any other ideas for venues/speakers/dates/sponsors(?), or any suggestions at all? Please head over to the wiki and join in the discussion.

TeachMeet – The Story So Far…..
May 25th, 2010 by H-Blog

I was recently invited to write an article on TeachMeets for the School Leaders Scotland “Scottish Leader” magazine, and it was fascinating to do. I learned so much doing it, and promised to post the article on my blog (the article was produced under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share-Alike license). With the #tmfuture debate starting off tonight, I felt it may be an opportune moment to post it – so here goes!

TeachMeet – the story so far.

Have you ever heard of TeachMeet? Realistically speaking, unless you are a bit of a technophile or have attended either the Scottish Learning Festival or the BETT conferences and kept your ear to the ground then the answer is probably “No.”

But the signs are clear – that’s all likely to change, and probably very soon. There’s a revolution coming, and its name is TeachMeet.

But what exactly is TeachMeet?

Tim and Moby show off the range of TeachMeets currently on the wiki

Tim and Moby appear courtesy of BrainPop UK, all rights reserved.

Tim and Moby show off the range of TeachMeets currently on the wiki

Image courtesy of Iain Hallahan http://h-blog.me.uk and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share-Alike license

The best – and simplest – explanation I have heard of TeachMeet is the one given by Tim and Moby of BrainPop in their movie explaining what TeachMeet is: “It’s like Show and Tell for teachers.” That is to say, it is a model of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) which involves those attending as participants in delivering the training as well as receiving it. When signing up for the event, those who are willing to do so volunteer to give a short presentation on something they have been doing or finding out about, and at the event talks are selected totally at random. Generally at a TeachMeet, these presentations come in two lengths – 7 minute ‘micro’ presentations or two minute ‘nano’ presentations. This allows for short, dynamic delivery meaning that a greater number of presentations can be delivered in a short time, as well as reducing the likelihood of spectator disengagement; should a topic not be of interest to them, it is only a matter of minutes till something else is being discussed.

Of course, if there is a presentation that doesn’t interest you or apply to you, there are loads of things you could do instead – you can always talk to the person next to you, check out the online tool the last presenter was talking about, tweet or blog your thoughts about the event so far or even grab yourself a beer and some nibbles. Perhaps you could even join the virtual participants of the TeachMeet in the FlashMeeting or video conference and say hello? All of these things are actively encouraged at TeachMeets – whilst somewhat less formalised than many other CPD events, TeachMeets aim to be equally effective, if not more so.

From humble beginnings in Scotland during 2005, TeachMeet has both grown and spread very quickly. Originally running twice yearly (once in Edinburgh, once in Glasgow) there are now numerous TeachMeets each year; 2009 saw at least 20 TeachMeets , whilst there are already 20 TeachMeets run or planned for this year – and it’s only March.

Similarly, whilst Glasgow and Edinburgh were the original venues, TeachMeets have now taken part in (amongst other places) Yorkshire & Humber, Sussex & Kent, Moosejaw in Canada, Galashiels, Stockholm, Orlando, Newcastle, London, Nottingham, Cheltenham, Falkirk, Wrexham, Blackpool, East Lothian, Stirling, Perth, Oxford…… the list goes on and on. There have also been TeachMeets run purely online, and also using mobile devices. There is even a virtual TeachMeet planned to run in Second Life.

TeachMeet feedback from Twitter

Image courtesy of Iain Hallahan http://h-blog.me.uk and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share-Alike license

Looking at the number and range of TeachMeets, it is fair to say that the concept has truly established itself in the world of twenty first century education, and when you examine the feedback from those who have attended TeachMeets, you can see the effect they have on people. Sinclair Mackenzie, a Physics teacher from Thurso, writes “Have attended three TeachMeets in person, and many by FlashMeeting. TeachMeets promote long-range collegiality beyond your local goldfish bowl”, whilst Neil Winton of Perth Academy says that Teachmeets are “proof that we always have something new to learn, and something new to teach……and that not all teachers are cynical!!!” A recently qualified teacher from Falkirk, Cassie Law, states that the first TeachMeet she attended was “the best CPD experience of my probationary year. Great to hear about other people’s experiences, and it put my mind at rest”, whilst Jim Maloney from Blackpool recounts the effect that their first TeachMeet had on a Head Teacher from his authority, who said “The greatest impact on teaching and learning in my school in the shortest space of time. We are now reaping the rewards and our learners are more engaged in the learning process, and this has impacted on engaging parents too”. Jim goes on to say that the HT is now “TeachMeet’s biggest advocate in the borough. She raves about it.”

So where did TeachMeet come from? The idea originated with three Scottish educators – Ewan McIntosh, David Noble and John Johnston – who knew each other online, but had never met face to face until SETT (the precursor to the Scottish Learning Festival) in 2005. After their initial meeting, there was a desire to meet up again regularly to catch up on what they had been up to, particularly with regards to how they were using new technologies in education. When the eLive conference was going to be in Edinburgh in May 2006, another meeting was proposed and this time 10 people signed up (with another 8 sending apologies!) and in the Jolly Judge pub in Edinburgh a legend was born – although the name TeachMeet didn’t arrive till later.

In the Jolly Judge, for what has come to be regarded as the first TeachMeet

Image courtesy of Ewan McIntosh http://edu.blogs.com and is licensed under a Creative Commons Non Commercial license

Identified by many as the driving energy behind TeachMeet, Ewan recalls how the first meeting of these online colleagues led to the desire to come back and discuss what they had been up to since. “What we ended up with was a kind of regular event that we could have where people were sharing stories and trying to share some practice as well, but in a really laid-back, informal environment”. John backs this feeling up, recollecting an optimism among the attendees and a connection that was hard to achieve at the time – “It brought about a very powerful feeling of togetherness, especially as there was little networking about technology, very few Bloggers and no Twitter, so one could feel quite isolated.” David remembers the early TeachMeets being cosy affairs, but that they were still pushing the boundaries even back then “We were having presentations on Skype, and that was four years ago!!!”

Spot the difference? TeachMeet BETT 2010

Image courtesy of Ian Usher http://www.flickr.com/photos/ush/ and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike license

Although much of this will sound familiar to TeachMeeteers today, there are many differences as well. As has been discussed, there are now many more TeachMeets and they are spread out nationwide, internationally and even globally. But beyond that, the TeachMeet model is evolving; over the last year or two, educators have begun to put their own stamp on it in a number of ways. Perth hosted the first stand-alone TeachMeet (the others all having been fringe events of something or other) as well as the first subject based TeachMeet (Physics, if you’re interested). Since then there have been Student TeachMeets, online TeachMeets, TeachMeets for Mac users, GregMeet and even TreeMeet! “The evolutions of it are essential to continuing to survive, otherwise it becomes irrelevant,” says Ewan, continuing “TeachMeet was never about technology 100%, it was about the Teach first of all, and the tech was instrumental to achieving what we wanted to achieve pedagogically and never the other way around.”

Both John and David are also keen advocates of the evolution of TeachMeet. “I think they are already becoming less techy and more about teaching,” says John. “Evolution needs different models to choose survivors from. I think the Islay conference sounded great, while TeachMeet Falkirk and TeachMeet East Lothian brought in a new local audience. I very much enjoyed Con’s LeadMeet.” David agrees. “I think anyone who is interested in the evolution of the TeachMeet idea should really go back and look at the LeadMeet which was organised in the middle of last year by Con Morris, around the Scottish International Summer School on School Leadership. Various things were tried out there which I found put a smile on the face of every participant for the entire night, just trying out some great new ideas for involving you, particularly in getting conversations going.” Given the success of LeadMeet09, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for LeadMeet10!

The famous LeadMeet “Lego Leader” task and Leadership Wordl

Images courtesy of Mike Coulter http://mikecoulter.com/ and licensed under a Creative Commons Non Commercial license

Wordle image courtesy of http://www.wordle.net/ and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License

And so the TeachMeet story continues. But there are challenges. John feels there is a danger that TeachMeet might be in danger of becoming too mainstream, not different enough, or too dependent on sponsorship. “There’s also the possibility that it might become too self congratulatory, self-satisfied and less innocent.” Ewan agrees. “When I’ve been running events it’s been as irreverent as possible, in a bid to distance itself from the hierarchies we’re used to, and the reason for doing that is to try and generate alternative discussion to what we’re used to.” He also feels that the TeachMeet ‘brand’ may need some protection from commercial exploitation, and is instead investigating ways to use the revenue generating potential of TeachMeet to further the model elsewhere in the world, places where having a TeachMeet would not be so easy, but that the benefits of such an event could be massive.

“I think my main concern is that it needs to diversify beyond the very large, but still very ‘niche’ group that attend it.” says Ewan. He suggests a Jamie Oliver-esque ‘Pass it On’ approach, where anyone who has attended a TeachMeet has to bring three of their non-TeachMeet friends along to the next one. “If we all did that twenty five times over, we would have the whole of Europe having been to a TeachMeet, and that could be a very powerful thing for education.” Of course, if the leaders of schools were to take up the cause and organise school-level, cluster-level or authority level TeachMeets, that target could become a lot easier to achieve, so why not take up the challenge and help shape the future?

Links

The TeachMeet wiki where you can find out all about upcoming TeachMeets, previous TeachMeets (and even how to organise one of your own!) is here – http://teachmeet.pbworks.com/

John Johnston gives a potted, personal history of TeachMeet at the beginning of this video – http://johnjohnston.info/blog/archive/2009/11/24/teachmeet-falkirk-09-video

The full audio of the Ewan McIntosh TeachMeet interview is available here –

http://edutalk.cc/edutalk365-66-iain-hallahan-speaks-to-ewan-mc

David Noble reflects on TeachMeet here –

http://audioboo.fm/boos/110917-david-noble-reflects-on-teachmeet

The LeadMeet Wordle of leadership characteristics is here –

http://www.wordle.net/show/wrdl/1022729/Leadmeet_09_Final

Iain’s TeachMeet weblinks can be found here – http://delicious.com/IainH/teachmeet

Iain would like to thank the following people for their help with writing this article:

Eylan Ezekiel, Chris Bradford, Tim, Moby and everyone at BrainPop UK for the Tim & Moby image, as well as their TeachMeet movie.

Stuart Meldrum, Alan Hamilton, Pete Mulvey, Danny Nicholson, Chris Ratcliffe, Kevin McLaughlin, Sarah Brownsword, Sinclair Mackenzie, Neil Winton, Cassie Law, Jim Maloney and everyone else on Twitter who responded to the #tmtwt appeal

Ewan McIntosh, Ian Usher and Mike Coulter for the use of their images, as well as David Muir, Robert Hill and Andrew Brown for saying it was OK to use the photo with them in it!

Con Morris and Margaret Alcorn for the opportunity to write this.

And of course, the original Three TeachMeeteers – John Johnston, David Noble and Ewan McIntosh – for not only bringing us what became TeachMeet in the first place but for the amazing help they gave me in writing this article

Due to licensing conditions, this article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share-Alike license

TeachMeet research – part 2
Mar 7th, 2010 by H-Blog

The logo for TeachMeet Student Edition Glasgow 2010

The logo for one of the latest incarnations of TeachMeet: TeachMeet Student Edition Glasgow 2010

As you will know from my previous blog post or from following the #tmtwt responses on Twitter I have been doing a bit of research into TeachMeet, the model of CPD where teachers learn from other teachers. To begin, this involved having a trawl round the internet looking at the history of TeachMeet which proved fascinating (I even found it has its own Wikipedia page!).

One thing that became clear as I was looking at the history was the pivotal role played in the development of TeachMeet by Ewan McIntosh. In a moment of gallus bravado on Twitter, I asked Ewan if he would be willing to have a bit of a chat about TeachMeet, and to my delight he agreed. I tried to come up with a way to record the call, for notetaking purposes and perhaps to put online somewhere, but as anyone who knows me will testify, my tech skills are not the best. However, by enlisting David Noble‘s help we managed to come up with a solution using iPadio to record the audio from the telephone call. Despite me being in Glasgow, David being in Fife and Ewan being in London (plus the additional complication of Ewan being on a train rushing to Luton airport to catch a flight!) David managed to record the interview and save the audio in a way that meant Ewan’s contribution was audible. The interview is up on the EDUTalk website here, and Ewan’s contributions are easy to hear, even above the trains and planes. My questions are a bit quieter however, and while they are somewhat less important than hearing Ewan’s contribution, I thought I would list them here and they could be read whilst listening to the interview by anyone who wished to:

  1. Where did the germ of the idea that grew into TeachMeet come from?
  2. At the start, how much of the organisation were you doing yourself and how much was crowdsourced?
  3. When it became clear you were going to be moving away from TeachMeet, at least for a while, was there a worry there that it might disappear, or did you feel it had become sustainable?
  4. TeachMeet has continued to grow and evolve – there’s been LeadMeet, GregMeet, small local ones, big national ones, international ones, subject based, changing rules and even BeerMeet – how do you feel about the current evolutions of the TeachMeet model?
  5. What do you think made TeachMeet so successful, and when did you realise that you’d managed to come up with something really quite special?
  6. Are there any other challenges that TeachMeet faces now?
  7. You have spoken briefly before about DreamMeet, how would you see that happening?
  8. Where is the missing 8th edition of TeachMeet?

Ewan was inspiring to listen to, and addressed many of the TeachMeet questions that have been getting talked about recently here and elsewhere (for instance, on John Connell’s blog here and here, during TreeMeet and by those organising TeachMeet Falkirk and TeachMeet Northwest) including the two big issues of the echo-chamber effect and the tech-focus question. No spoilers on here though, you’ll need to listen to the interview on EDUTalk to find out what he had to say.

Once again, I need to say a big thanks to Ewan for taking time out of a busy and less than tranquil day to talk to me, as well as thanking David for his audio-techno wizardry in getting the whole thing sorted out.

#tmtwt – TeachMeet feedback from teachers
Mar 5th, 2010 by H-Blog

This is intended to qualify as my quickest blog post ever.

Recently on Twitter I have been collecting people’s feedback and thoughts about TeachMeet using hashtag #tmtwt. It has made fascinating – and inspiring – reading. Tonight I got a chance to gather it all together to make it accessible for those not on Twitter (and to make sure I can keep it!). I have saved a draft version to Slideshare, and am going to embed it below.

All comments gratefully received. 😀

Do you own your own resources? The continuing struggle for IPR.
Feb 25th, 2010 by H-Blog

Last night I spent some time (too much time?) trawling round the internet looking at the law on copyright and intellectual property rights. I ended up with a headache. Again.

It’s all Julie Arrol’s fault really. Having been caught up in the IPR/Copyright whirlwind stoked up by Neil Winton here and here last year, I had managed to get myself distracted by many, many other things and had kind of let my IPR detective work slide. I had done a bit of half-hearted investigation, but hadn’t really got anywhere very fast. Julie re-ignited the whole thing on Twitter yesterday with a very simple question about ownership of resources. Having had a right good rummage through my terms & conditions of employment and drawn a blank on the IPR issue, I was intrigued by a response Julie got from Katie Barrowman suggesting that because the IPR issue was a fact of employment law, it didn’t need to be written into your contract. I asked Katie if she had a reference to back that up, and she pointed me towards this webpage from JISC Legal Information offering an overview of IPR law . In the Copyright Ownership section, they write:

Copyright ownership in an employer-employee relationship: Under s 11.2 of the CPDA, the basic legal position is that copyright of works created during the course of employment will be owned by the employer unless an agreement to the contrary is in place.

Now, as anyone who knows me will testify, that is just a bit too vague and wooly for me, so I went hunting down the exact law that was being referenced. Turns out, as anyone who knows anything about copyright could tell you, that copyright law in the UK is governed by the Copyrights, Designs and Patents Act of 1988. JISC had kindly offered the location of the offending clause, 11.2, and so I went straight to it. It tells us that:

Where a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work is made by an employee in the course of his employment, his employer is the first owner of any copyright in the work subject to any agreement to the contrary.

In situations where this is not the case, the Act is equally clear (in section 11.1):

The author of a work is the first owner of any copyright in it

The language used in the Act did not convince me that the issue was as clear cut as was suggested to Katie, so I did what any self-respecting 21st Century citizen would do – I Googled it.

That’s when things got a bit more complicated.

The Intellectual Property Office certainly don’t think it is as black and white as we have been led to believe. They point out that:

In the course of employment is not defined by the Act but in settling disputes the courts have typically had to decide whether the employee was working under ‘contract of service’.

The law firm Ashby Cohen also challenge the straightforward “Employer owns everything” assumption. They write that:

If an employee wishes to retain the ownership of their intellectual property themselves, they should create the work in their own time and away from the workplace in order to avoid any future disputes. If an employee creates something in their own time which they later go on to use in the course of their employment to benefit their employer, it would be prudent for them to agree up front (and preferably in writing) with their employer that they will retain the copyright on their creation.

They go on to suggest that it may be advisable for an employee to negotiate a contractual clause allowing them to retain the ownership of all intellectual property that they create, unless it is specifically created at the behest of their employer for the purposes of their business. The Employment Tribunal Claims website suggests a similar tactic to ‘avoid’ confrontation, but there is some debate as to how willing employers would be to allow this. Ashby Cohen also have concerns regarding this, stating that:

Employers may sometimes attempt to insert much more comprehensive terms into employment contracts regarding intellectual copyright, sometimes even attempting to claim ownership over everything the employee produces while they are employed by that organisation, regardless of where or when it was created. Such needlessly restrictive clauses should be challenged before the contract is signed in order to prevent any future legal wranglings.

Of course, they do have a vested interest, which becomes plain as they go on to state that in such situations, specialist legal advice is essential (and no doubt expensive). Guess who can provide such advice (no prize available).

The issue is also examined here by Paul Bicknell. He highlights the inconsistencies in the law, citing contradictory case law backing up both sides of the dispute before again suggesting that:

The issues above can be solved by an agreement whether oral, express or implied can between employer and employee, which vests first ownership in the employee.

The Creative Commons solution suggested by both Ewan McIntosh (in a comment on Neil’s blog) and Theo Kuchel is a decent work around. Although Julie had questioned whether you were able to attribute a CC licence to a piece of work that you didn’t actually own the IPR for the work in the first place, my understanding is that if you use a Share Alike CC resource (picture, animation, video, sound clip…) in creating your own work, then you are bound to make your work available under the same licence:

Share Alike — If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a licence identical to this one.

Whilst I am sure for many teachers in many situations that is a perfectly acceptable solution, it still fails to address the fundamentals of the IPR question. What if you choose to make a resource in your own time, lets say a textbook, producing all your own copy and examples and taking all your own pictures to put in it. The way things are at the moment, in the absence of a clear, formal, written agreement you are caught between surrendering much of your IPR altogether via Creative Commons or risking getting into a legal battle with your employer over who owns the IPR. Not much of a choice, really.

And don’t think it doesn’t happen – the comments on Neil’s post illustrate that it most certainly can and does.

I think Neil’s idea of building a clearer picture of the situation across the country is a good one. This issue isn’t going to go away, if anything it’s just going to get bigger, and we need to find a solution, and it would be easier if the solution applied to every teacher rather than each individual teacher fighting their own case. If people are willing to take the issue to the SNCT, Unions or the Scottish Government then let’s get them all the information they need.

Anyone know a good lawyer?

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