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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.

Have a Glow @ IMS – The Staff Feed Back….
Feb 22nd, 2010 by H-Blog

Got to look over the evaluation forms from the Glow training I delivered recently and it made pretty good reading. Here’s a Wordle of the key terms lifted from the staff forms.

A Wordle of the Glow session feedback

Everyone seemed very positive in their feedback, both in the forms and in the surveys that were part of the group itself. As I had said at the time,  I felt having a chance to have time set aside to explore/play with Glow was as important as anything we were going to ask the staff to actually do, and they seemed to appreciate this as well. Reading the comments, it seemed that everyone enjoyed the interactivity and guidance of the ‘challenge’ approach and welcomed the chance to work with colleagues on them.

Overall, although I have come up with a few changes to the group that I would make myself, you have to be pretty happy with that kind of feedback. Let’s hope we see the use of Glow increases as a result of the training!

Come and have a Glow if you think you’re hard enough….
Feb 12th, 2010 by H-Blog

How does your classroom Glow?

So, today I was mainly responsible for the in-service training of all our teachers and SMT on Glow. I had decided, in discussions with Katie Barrowman at LTS to follow the model we had seenCon Morris use in his CPD Challenges, and so I set about constructing (with a LOT of help from Katie) a brand new Glow group called “Have a Glow @IMS” which was based round a set of challenges ranging from signing in to Glow all the way up to creating their own Glow Groups.

Often I find Glow confusing and almost too much information. For this reason, and based on the very sexy new National Site, I decided to go a different way:

The front page of the Glow National Site
The front page of the Glow National Site

As well as looking very nice, the new National Site utilised a graphical interface – clicking on various ‘objects’ on screen would take you to different places in Glow. I really liked the idea of using a visual menu, and Katie came up with a good way to put one together, utilising tables in a text editor web part. Over about a day and a half, I managed to build the whole group and its ten challenges from scratch, and without an iota of coding ability. I finally worked out about 10 minutes before I was due in school how to do the one picture, multiple links trick but by then it was too late and I had to go with what I had. Working collaboratively with Katie and Alan Hamilton (of Stirling High School) I managed to troubleshoot the group whilst taking part in the morning INSET activities.

Come the afternoon, we were ready to go. The teachers in my school are not, it is fair to say, Glow enthusiasts, so it was looking like a big ask. When I mucked up typing my password in on the first attempt, they all had a hearty laugh. Second time was better and we were in, and I pointed out the side menu links to the school page, and how to get to the group we were going to be working in. They were sent off then to find a computer in pairs or on their own and to work through the challenges. I was to ‘troubleshoot’ along with my DHT and one of the Instructors.

We spent a good bit of the first hour resetting passwords and helping people log in. The chat as I moved round was slightly negative – all the usual Glow Aunt Sallys; clunky interface, unintuitive, hard to get in to, etc, etc – but as the afternoon went on and they had a look round Glow the chat started to become a bit brighter. Once the challenges were getting completed, there was laughter and hilarity ringing round the school (in a good way I hope). There was even a decent number of (fairly simple) Glow Groups set up by the end of the day!

So what did I learn from this experience of setting up a Glow group and running it in this way?

The Glow Group with the 10 challenges
The Glow Group with the 10 challenges

First of all, I learnt A LOT about using Glow to create. Katie and  Alan were a huge help in keeping me on the straight and narrow, but I did all the graft myself, meaning I became more comfortable and proficient using the interface. I even managed to work out the National Site trick, and changed my own Glow Group front page to utilise the same trick.

Passwords should maybe be done as a separate, perhaps preceding session, as this would have saved a lot of time at the start of this session.

I decided that as well as a home button at the bottom of each page, there should have been a “Previous Challenge” and “Next Challenge” button.

I learnt that if you give people time to ‘play’ on Glow, along with adequate support, they will begin to see the benefits of using it.

User account issues were another thing that should have been done in advance of the session, to prevent troubleshooting in the middle, or people missing out on a challenge.

I was also reminded of the power of Twitter – I had a number of people looking to join the group even before it was finished

Finally, I decided that what Katie Barrowman doesn’t know about Glow just isn’t worth knowing! Also, thanks again to both Katie and Alan for their help and support

The way forward
Jan 25th, 2010 by H-Blog

So, shamed into action by Alan Hamilton and his bright shiny new blog (and this post in particular) I thought I would have a bit of blog reflection myself.

Whilst I have to confess that it all seems a bit of a whirlwind now, 2009 was a big year for me professionally. I finished the Postgraduate Certificate in Educational Support from Strathclyde University and began the Postgraduate Diploma. My confidence in class had grown with my first year in the sector under my belt, and I felt I was just starting to get a handle on my class when it was time to move class again! This time I found myself in our ‘integration unit’ at the local high school, with the older pupils from our school who can handle that kind of an environment. This meant more SQA Access 1, 2 and Core Skills units, more college days or the pupils, and more organisational challenges for me. The addition of the ASDAN Transition Challenge to our repertoire was also to provide challenges. I contributed in a small way to organising at least 3 TeachMeets (and a very successful BeerMeet) and also presented at 2 TeachMeets, one virtual and one actual. I also managed to find myself on the school ICT Quality Team, tagged as the school Glow expert and on some Glow training. Phew.

Nevertheless……

I managed to write 13 blog posts last year – in reverse chronological order:

Multitouch mayhem – finding our way around a SMART Table
SLF09 Post 2: TeachMeet – is there a time to break the the rules?
SLF09 Post 1 – Presenting on the SMART Table
Building Glow Communities – Social Studies
Overprotected?
Catch Up Post – Part 2 – #weather_me
Catch Up Post – Part 1 – Teachmeet Student Edition
And now, in a break from your scheduled programming….
Smart Table Activity Toolkit – Hot Spotting!
Introducing our Smart Table
TeachMeet hits the Borders
The Impact of Academia
New Year’s Resolution

While that’s an average of more than one a month, in reality there were months with nothing doing on the blog. Plus, there was a lot of good stuff that never made it to the blog either. Put that together with long blog posts, and it might just be a recipe for disaster.

So this year it’s going to be different. Answering Alan’s challenge, this post was to outline my ambitions for the year ahead.

1) Write a post on this blog at the very least once a month. I’m also going to embrace shorter, snappier posts for the issues which don’t need to be too indepth, and try and widen out what I post about.
2) Related to the above, I am going to try and publish a ‘phlog’/podcast/audioboo on the EDUTalk website at least once a month as part of the EDUTalk365 project. I already have one for January under my belt, and have spoken to David Noble about theming this round my adoption of the ASDAN programme into our practice, and linking it with ACfe.
3) Continue to get actively involved in real, quality CPD. As a TeachMeet and Twitter evangelist, I am hugely excited about the amount of opportunities they continue to offer me through the network of contacts I have built, and the support and help they offer each other.
4) Not really education related, but if I put it up here then I’ll have to stick to it or live with the shame. Now the sciataca is gone and the tendons are back in shape, build my fitness back up with the first two targets being a Sport Relief mile and a 5k. The “Couch to 5k” iPhone app and BMF should help with this.
5) Complete and pass the Diploma in Educational Support. A great opportunity that has been given to me, I am determined to pass it, despite the difficulties it can cause with regards to free time, etc. My first module is complete and the essay in (although I fear a resubmission may be on the cards :-s ) the second one is proving even more challenging, but I’m learning so much too.

That’ll probably do for just now – I’ll maybe look back after 3 months and see how I’m getting on.

SLF09 Post 2: TeachMeet – is there a time to break the the rules?
Sep 27th, 2009 by H-Blog

This is a post which I was saving for later, because it seemed to make sense to talk about the Scottish Learning Festival and TeachMeet before doing any kind of analysis. However, as we all know, best laid plans gang aft a-gley; in this instance because I went to read this post on John Connell’s blog, which directed me to read this other post first. As it turns out, I felt a need to comment on the first post, and the responses from Neil Winton and Ewan McIntosh, but instead of a short response to a blog post, I found myself writing and writing, and wandering further and further from the original point. So much so, that not only did I decide to turn it into a blog post in its own right, but I also still haven’t managed to read the post I went to read in the first place! (I’ll get to it later!!!). Who knew I had so much to say???

For those of you who might not know about TeachMeet, here’s a quick explanation for you by Tim and Moby as premiered at TMSLF09 (the TeachMeet fringe event of the Scottish Learning Festival this year).


Tim and Moby explain about TeachMeet

Now, it’s fair to say that I am a huge TeachMeet fan – and evangelist too – and have been since my first one at the Glasgow Science Centre. They are an amazing thing to witness; events put together and attended by enthusiastic and committed members of the education community, and I have learned so much from each and every one I have attended. It’s easy to see why TeachMeet continues to expand. The format is really something – short, snappy presentations mean that even if the presentation that’s on has absolutely zero relevance for you, something else will be along in about 6 and a half minutes, and you can talk to the person next to you while you’re waiting anyway. Learning conversations, round tables, breakouts, distance presentations – all help to mix it up a bit and of course the ‘intervals’ are good too.

While this all might seem easy and obvious to come up with, it clearly wasn’t. The innovation and imagination to come up with the TeachMeet model is something we should all be very grateful to its architects for. It is an unconference – meant to be subversive and a bit ramshackle as Ewan points out in his comment on John’s post. Something that is a bit different to the conferences or talks that we are all sent along to on a fairly regular basis. All in all, TeachMeet creates a very special atmosphere or spirit amongst those attending (and even some of those who aren’t).

And it is this spirit, surely, that is TeachMeet’s strength. Whilst rules have been put in place to create the event and indeed this atmosphere, clearly an evolution has now occurred. Is there a point at which the rules stop being part of the solution and start becoming part of the problem?

I watched the other night as 2 different presentations ran close to their allotted 7 minutes. Both presentations had clearly struck a chord with the audience and had everyone engaged. They weren’t going to last 15 minutes, or even 10, but both needed perhaps 7 and a half or 8 minutes to come to their natural, elegant and effective conclusions. So, decision time: do we allow these brilliant presentations to over run slightly, or do we cut them off in an abrupt manner citing the Jobsworth Mantra (“Them’s the rules……”)?

My own feeling would be that we can be flexible, and afford them that little bit of extra time – it is, after all, our time we are giving – and indeed this seemed to be the prevalent attitude on the night. However, I know that there are those who think that a rule is there to be enforced. Is this what the original organisers of TeachMeet intended? Somehow I doubt it (although I am willing to hear that I am wrong on that issue).

On top of all that, at the moment, we (inadvertently?) put up a number of barriers to participation for the non-tech-savvy classroom practitioner. Apart from the fact that the TeachMeet blurb – and indeed the logo – have a strong focus on technology, there is the way we market and administrate the event itself to consider. How do you know when the next TeachMeet is coming up? Check the wiki? Keep an eye on Twitter? Read blogs? And if you want to go? Easy – sign up on the wiki. All this when there are still teachers – and good teachers at that – who through no fault of their own may struggle to access an e-mail.

A related Twitter conversation has been going on recently regarding the subject matter of TeachMeet presentations. The model has proven successful so far, but are we currently ‘preaching to the choir’ by focussing on technology? We have asked how we can widen the TeachMeet audience, and perhaps opening up the subject matter is a way to go? A sustainable ‘family’ of TeachMeets after all, do not need to have the same people attending. We have seen a number of distinct TeachMeets evolve already: TeachMeet ASN, TeachMeet Physics, TeachMeet Student Edition and even TeachMeet Mac!   Surely a mix of Primary TeachMeets, Subject-based TeachMeets (I have heard rumours of a Techie TeachMeet for months, and I would also have thought Geography would have been right in there….) and local authority based TeachMeets such as that suggested by some teachers in Falkirk would be a good and sustainable way to move forward. Add in the ‘spinoff’ events like LeadMeet, GregMeet and even BeerMeet, and that adds up to a pretty healthy  and varied scene.

So, is it time to relax the rules a bit? Throw things open to a bit more innovation and adaptation, in the TeachMeet tradition? Perhaps if we do this, the TeachMeet alternative that John talks about may just show up itself. But to do this, the enthusiasts and forward thinkers need to know that it’s ok to try things out and to make mistakes, and that by doing so they are not going to annoy, upset or even offend others in the education community, particularly those who came up with the original concept and those who have helped build it into what it is today. After all, we don’t want TeachMeet to turn into the precious crockery that’s never used and just for looking at.

Building Glow Communities – Social Studies
Sep 3rd, 2009 by H-Blog

A very quick post about what I have been up to for the last 2 days!

I was lucky enough to be sent by my school on a 2 day Glow training course to build communities, and decided that the Social Studies group was the one to go for. It was held at the Stirling Management Centre, first time I have visited there and was very impressed. All the staff were very friendly and helpful, and the venue itself is second to none. The catering is more than impressive also!

Martin Brown, Katie Barrowman and Sat (whose surname I don’t know – how bad is that?) from LTS had a fantastic programme of events lined up for us to give us the necessary skills and information to set about creating our own custom built Glow groups. And by the end of Day 2, when the groups were all showing what they had come up with, I was so impressed with the ‘products’.

Two massive benefits I noticed of doing this course were these:

1 – Looking at what other people were already doing with Glow, and how they were using it. Also, seeing what they chose to do with their new-build group.

2 – Having all that Glow expertise ‘on tap’. Sat, Katie and Martin were all on hand to help us all with queries rather than having to struggle on and try and work it out for yourselves. What a difference it made.

Twitter was, as always, being used at the event, search for the hashtag #bgcss to see the tweets.

The Glow group I was working on with Frances is here
and I know that Alan Hamilton’s Fair Trade Glow Group is proving very popular too – check here

All feedback gratefully received!

Catch Up Post – Part 1 – Teachmeet Student Edition
Jul 24th, 2009 by H-Blog

Going to try and catch up with some blog posts that never made it out of the ‘good intentions’ stage of development whilst I have some elusive “spare time”. Thought I would start with the student version of TeachMeet organised by David Muir on 9th June in the University of Strathclyde.

teachmeet09se

First of all, I need to talk about the organisation of this particular event, which I was very impressed with. After his initial mooting, David had some rather more pressing issues to deal with and found himself up against it in the time to event/amount of work to do ratio. And that’s when the magic happened. Within days, there was an almighty collaborative effort to organise the event. Educators from across Scotland came together to help – publicising the event on websites, booking the Flashmeeting, sourcing sponsorship and – the bit that most impressed me – organising themselves to get in touch with all the local authorities asking if they could forward an e-mail on to their NQTs. This involved collaborative Google Documents being created, accessed and updated and really gave me an insight into the potential for their use. In the end, it all came together nicely, and a more than respectable number of people turned up to a very nice venue in the McCance building. Crowd-sourcing at it’s finest.

Then came the day itself. Far from managing to arrive early to help David with set-up, events at school transpired to make me late, and as a result I was about an hour late arriving. All was not lost however, as I was able to communicate and keep track of what was going on by following Twitter on my mobile (yes, yes, a mobile, not an iPhone…). Naturally the mischievous Fruit Machine had picked me to speak before I arrived, but I was kindly given time to gather my thoughts (and a couple of beers) whilst David Noble and Gordon Brown (no, not that one) gave their presentations. When it was my turn to speak, (I’ll give a quick summary of what I said at the end of this post) I clattered through my ramblings in a reasonable fashion although watching my performance on the FM replay I’m sad to say that whilst I had improved since the last presentation I gave, I still suffered from a mild dose of the ’emmmmm’s. Another problem was that I experienced a wardrobe malfunction during my presentation, where my shirt ended up looking like a tent from side on (the problem’s with the shirt, not my gut – did you see that? ;-p) Nevertheless, my experiences seemed to be well received and I even managed to survive a dose of virtual heckling from Ollie Bray and Andrew Brown (when I say survive, it was more like a complete lack of awareness….).

I managed to miss most of John Daly‘s presentation whilst calming myself back down from all the excitement, but a convenient refreshment break helped me regain my focus for the other presenters, and was suitably impressed by all the contributions I saw. I particularly liked Krysia Smyth ‘s comment during her talk that “it worked, and that’s what mattered” echoing many of my own classroom sentiments!

A special mention has to go to the students and probationers who gave presentations during the evening. I don’t know that I would have had the bottle to stand up and do it at that stage in my career – I nearly didn’t have the bottle at this stage in my career! I also got the feeling that there may have been a three-line whip operating somewhere up in Glasgow University judging by the attendance, and it certainly helped make the night such a success having so many attendees from the ‘target demographic’! Good work whoever!

The evening finished with the now-obligatory TeachEat at Khublai Khan’s which was an overwhelming success for everyone in social if not culinary terms (you choose the ingredients, so you only have yourself to blame…).

The Presentation

Creating my presentation was actually a really worthwhile experience, allowing me the chance to look back at my probationary year with the luxury of having a bit of detachment from it. I soon found that 7 minutes isn’t a long time – I could have spoken for 77 minutes on the subject, although probably nobody would have been listening! – and had to think carefully about what I was going to say and what I would have to cut out. I eventually settled on 5 things and thought with a minute on each and a bit of intro/outro that’d be the 7 minutes done. Some themes quickly emerged and, as a result I called my presentation “Rolling with the Punches, and Seizing the Day”. If you were there, I hope you enjoyed it.

Roll with the Punches

1 – YOU WILL MAKE MISTAKES – Accept this now. Some of them will be small, and some of them will be big. Don’t try and hide them – everyone makes mistakes – but do make sure that you learn from them. Try not to repeat my gaffe of sending all your p7s home with a piece of journalism with the word ‘b@5t@rds’ in it to read for homework. Oops.

2 – DO NOT PANIC ABOUT JOBS – First of all, shouldn’t you worry about getting through probation first? And take some time to appreciate what you do have – a guaranteed post for a year. It’s not so long ago everyone was doing probation via the alternative route, it just wasn’t called that then! Make the most of your probation year, which you won’t if you are constantly stressing about what happens next. There’s not really anything concrete you can do until after Easter anyway, so just enjoy what you are doing for a while.  That said, jobs aren’t easy to come by, although they’re not as hard to find as the doom-mongers in the press would have you believe. Don’t apply for evey vacancy you see unless you absolutely have to – what if you end up with a job you don’t want, and have missed out on one that you do want as a result? Don’t waste your time sending out a ‘standard’ application for jobs – have a template by all means, but you need to tailor each application to the particular  job you are applying for.  Focus on facts and give examples from your experience for each thing you say.

Seize the Day

1 – YOU WILL NOT NEED TO SEEK OUT OPPORTUNITIES – Just through being in post, opportunities will come along. You will however need to recognise them. Offer your skills by all means, but don’t try and steamroller your way in or take over things that are already happening – ‘gradient in’ your assistance. Look for areas where there are gaps that you could help fill whether they are in your field of expertise or not. See opportunities not problems – if you can do something, do it; if you have to do something, make the most of it.

2 – INVEST IN YOUR CAREER – It’s your career after all, so take some control. It could be money (paying for a course yourself, buying some resources you need or subscribing to some tool that you want to use) or it could be time ( after school coaching, lunchtime club). Think of it as an investment – although you are giving something back, you will benefit from it. Apart from anything else, pupils know the enthusiastic teachers and the ones who care and those are the ones they like. Getting them onside can make things way easier for yourself in the classroom. Also, these kinds of things are noticed by SMT, and will be remembered when it’s time to write your report!

Also, invest patience in your career – it is a career after all! You don’t need to do everything today, this week, this month or even this year! Keep some of your tinder dry, plus focussing on a few things at a time will help you get most benefit from them

3 – LEARN TO SAY “ENOUGH” (AND MEAN IT) – Teaching is a job that is never ‘finished’ – how can anyone be ‘finished’ learning? As a result of this, you could teach for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 (.25) days a year, and you still wouldn’t ‘get it all done’. With the pressures of deadlines, tests, assignments, profiles it can be too easy to let your job take over your life and turn you into a 24-7 teacher (in a bad way). Keep time for yourself, and listen to your friends (particularly non-teaching friends) and your family if they are telling you to rein it in a bit – you won’t make it through without their support. Remember – you won’t perform to your best ability if you are too wound up.

Think that covers the main points.

TeachMeet hits the Borders
Feb 25th, 2009 by H-Blog

Last Friday, I was lucky enough to attend my 3rd TeachMeet. This particular TeachMeet was different from my first two – both of which had been at the Scottish Learning Festival – in that it was a smaller event and was held in Galashiels. Organised by Stuart Meldrum (primarily in response to a dare from Ewan McIntosh at TeachMeet@SLF08) it proved to be no less engaging and exciting than its two bigger brothers.

Having cadged a lift down from David Muir (along with Andrew Brown of Glow fame and a rather large bag of beers), we fought our way through misguided directions, traffic, RTAs and grumpy SatNav personas towards Galashiels following the build up to, and latterly the beginning of, TeachMeetBorders on intermittent mobile coverage.

As predicted in the car 3 miles outside Gala, one of us HAD to be drawn out of the hat first and after being covered for, poor David was selected again as soon as he walked in the door. Ian King took over for him so he could grab a sandwich and told us all about Scratch, a useful free tool that I already have a ton of ideas about using. David Noble (of Hillside School and The Access Network) then gave us a Pecha-Kucha style run through the possibilities he sees for his class having their own iPhone, which seemed to hit a chord with many of the audience. Next, Jim Black ran us all through some open-source software he uses with the pupils and gave us some food for thought about how these pupils are likely to be engaging with software in the future – is it likely to be in their chosen field of employment where industry-standard software is important? For many, perhaps not.

Pretty sure there was a break for food/drink/general chat then. I got yarning to a few folk, including Stuart Meldrum and Liz Marroni who has to get a special mention for securing the venue, helping with arrangements & hosting and also for managing to de-secure the wifi access for the night.

After the break we were treated to Doug Hawkshaw telling us about how he was using Wikis to work with children of a range of abilities, giving him the ability to use the same materials with everyone whilst stretching the more able children and supporting those who needed it whilst still allowing them to access the same materials. Stuart Meldrum told us about using Comic Life and Animoto in Craft & Design with a pupil who had injured both his arms, Andy McSwan told us how he has hijacked the Top Gear cool wall with his ICT pupils (and of course, where else would an R2 D2 projector system end up but in the DB-9 fridge…?). Lorna Fraser and Nikki MacArthur from the Borders claimed to have been had been ‘bullied’ into presenting, but their talk on the Girls of Ambition/Students of Ambition programmes were excellent and showed just how well a properly planned and implemented intervention can work for the benefit of pupils.

As the evening began to wind down, David Muir spoke about iRiddles, a great idea which a lot of people liked the sound of, but it all came crashing down around him as he tried to construct one on the spot in 1m 40s! After that, Theo Kuechel gave us some insights into the benefits being gained and some great uses for images from Flickr Commons, and brought us up to date with the developments in countries uploading image archives folowing the lead of the US. David Gilmour brought the Meet part of the evening to a close sharing some thoughts on the East Lothian “One Netbook for Every Child” initiative. Fascinating stuff. After a quick clean up, it was off to TeachEat, where I had the pleasure to meet face to face some of the individuals I had previously only encountered electronically.

The long drive back to Glasgow was enlivened by a DJ duel in the car as Andrew and I waged musical war using David “The Stig” Muir’s iPod as our weapon of choice.

A most enjoyable end to a great evening. TeachMeet, it would appear, still belongs in the DB-9 fridge of CPD.

The Impact of Academia
Jan 28th, 2009 by H-Blog

So, as of Monday this week, I have completed 2 out of 4 – that’s exactly 50% folks – of the assignments for the PGCE I am sitting this year as part of my CPD. Although it has been hard graft – studying at the same time as working as a teacher is waaaaaaay different from studying at the same time as working in a shop or behind a bar! – I think on the whole it has been a worthwhile and beneficial experience. It has allowed me to take a bit of a step back from the coalface to analyze and reflect on what I am doing, which has turned out to be a pretty satisfying experience.

Another experience, which turned out to be equally enlightening, was when I took part in a final year student’s research project. Whilst it was interesting on many levels to be a participant in someone else’s research, the real surprise came at the end of it all, when I was lucky enough to read the final draft of the dissertation (which was, I must say, remarkably good!). I was interviewed as part of the project, as were a number of my colleagues, and I was surprised to read a fair amount of what I had said in the dissertation. I was even more pleasantly surprised by how open, honest and positive what I had to say was. Sometimes in the midst of the daily maelstrom that is education we forget exactly why we do what we do. It’s nice to be reminded from time to time. J.X. – thank you!

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