The Access Network
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Last weekend, I took part in the Pedagoo event #tmlovelibraries. It was a fantastic day, and I learned loads. At the pub session afterwards, there was a sort of TeachMeet Unplugged event, similar in feel to the TeachMeet 365 events or, as Fearghal testified, to the very early TeachMeets themselves. Fearghal had asked us all to come with something we were prepared to share; as I have been doing a bit of work with OpenBadges and have been very impressed with them, I decided that this was what I was going to talk about.
Then I hit the problem. 2 minutes is not a very long time, particularly to talk about something you have been working on for months and have found out so much about. So, to keep things short, I decided to create an OpenBadge for all the participants of tmlovelibraries and then give it to them as a present. By claiming it, they could find out a bit about Openbadges themselves.
This idea seemed to work well in the keeping things short arena, as well as the engaging the audience area – the word ‘gift’ seemed to be the important one in achieving this! As Fearghal commented on the night, my talk also had the effect of taking his carefully honed structure and blasting it into a million pieces as people went scurrying to the internet to find their badge. The badge is shown below, together with its claim code for anyone who was there. To claim it, navigate to the badg.us site and insert the claim code ‘kapyua’ into the “Claim award from code” box. This will prompt you to either sign in to your Mozilla Backpack if you already have one, or sign up with an email address to create one before awarding you the tmlovelibraries – Participant badge, which you can then display on your blog, Facebook profile or Twitter feed.
In the impromptu break that followed my talk, I was talking to a few different people, and realised that there was a real appetite for finding out more about using OpenBadges. Quite a few people had looked at the concept themselves, before deciding that the project was too technical for them to use effectively. This, of course, is exactly the same decision I came to myself when I first started looking into digital badges. I had been impressed with the ease of creating badges for recognising various achievements on Edmodo, but had hoped for some way to display them in fronter, our school’s virtual learning environment. When I had approached the extremely helpful people at Edmodo asking if this was possible, they said that whilst they were happy for the badges to be displayed elsewhere, but it would need to be purely a case of copying them as an image and uploading them elsewhere.
I felt sure that there had to be a more efficient way of doing this, and went off doing a bit of digital badge research. It soon became clear that OpenBadges were exactly what I was looking for, but despite the fact that there were plentiful resources available for those with an ability to code, there was nothing I could find that was very user-friendly for a class teacher.
Until I chanced across the ForAllBadges site that is. Straight from the off, ForAllBadges allowed me to create an OpenBadge simply by uploading an image to the site and filling in the information fields to attach to it. Perfect for what I wanted. But ForAllBadges had far more to offer than I had been looking for. It gave me a whole badge-management system, allowing me to upload classes and add staff, create and issue badges and – most crucially given the age of my pupils – a way to display the badges earned without needing a Mozilla Backpack (currently, a Mozilla Backpack is only available to learners over the age of 13).
I soon had a pilot badge system up and running and a fronter page created with links to the pupil’s individual Trophy Rooms; here their badges could be seen through viewing their ForAllBadges badge journal. After an email exchange with the amazing people at ForAllBadges, the ability for the student to add a reflective comment to their badge journal was quickly added. This setup now allowed for a badge to be created, issued, displayed and reflected upon as well as having the advantage of being part of the OpenBadge system allowing a great degree of portability for the badges once the pupil reaches the age of 13 (or Mozilla update their terms & conditions to allow under 13s to have a Backpack with permission from their parent/carer – a change that is on the cards very soon I believe).
This was perfect for what I was looking to use it for in school, but perhaps a bit too complicated to use in ‘open play’. I had been thinking that OpenBadges could be a great way to document CPD activities such as TeachMeets or MOOCs for example, but how could an event organiser award a badge to someone whose details they didn’t know? Would they have to do all the data-inputting themselves? This sounded like a prohibitive amount of work.
Fortunately, a site that David Muir had pointed me towards had the answer. Badg.us allows a user to create badges very simply, and in much the same way as ForAllBadges. However, the badg.us site interfaces drectly with the Mozilla Backpack and Persona sign-in service, making it a far more user-friendly solution when you will be issuing badges to people from outwith your organisation or whose details you are unaware of in advance. It also lightens the administrative burden of issuing badges, as the onus is on the claimant to provide their details. The site allows you to set up reusable codes (like the one above) for large-scale issuing, or one-use codes when you are looking to target your badge claimants more precisely (I used this to create “Presenter” and “Organiser” badges for tmlovelibraries, printed up claim codes for these and gave them to Fearghal to distribute).
In my opinion, these tools make the whole process of creating and awarding badges far more accessible to the typical classroom practitioner; teachers who, much like myself and Fearghal, would previously have found the process too technical can use these services to gain the benefits of OpenBadges without having to become coding wizards. Other tools have been developed that can do a similar job – for instance, WPBadger and WPBadgeDisplay allow you to utilise WordPress blogs to issue and display badges whilst OpenBadges.me provides a very useful badge designer for either online use or as a WordPress plugin . Recently, the ForAllBadges site has joined together with its sister site ForAllRubrics, and you can set things up so that once a rubric has been com pleted, an OpenBadge can be awarded automatically. After some late-night Twitter conversations between myself and the founder of ForAllSystems, ForAllRubrics also has built-in links to the CfE Experiences & Outcomes. A very handy teacher toolkit!
So, now it begins to get exciting. The badges are no longer a concept. Now that a teacher – or a student? - can create and award these badges, what might they do with them? I have a number of ideas that I’ll be trying in my school, and I know Fearghal had an inclination to use them as part of a programme he delivers at his school (this provoked a very interesting side discussion with David Gilmour about extrinsic/intrinsic motivation). I know that other organisations (including the Scout Association and – believe it or not – the SQA) have been looking at introducing them too.
What would you do with OpenBadges?
K325- The venue for TMStrathclyde – image from University of Strathclyde
I recently attended my third(?) TeachMeet Strathclyde event; the first hosted by CPD Strathclyde – the Next Generation, and the first since the big move from Jordanhill to the John Anderson campus in Glasgow’s city centre. It was a bit of a strange TeachMeet for me, as it was held in K325 in the John Anderson building – a room that I spent much of my Undergraduate time in while I was at Strathclyde studying for my BA; most notably listening to Brian Bett delivering the Basic Psychology lectures. It was certainly a bit strange to be presenting in there, and just to heighten the tension my name was last out of the fruit machine, so I had the whole evening to work myself up into a frenzy. A bit of tech trauma as I tried to get my Prezi up and running added to the anxiety levels, and as I began talking I was very close to having an actual freakout. Added to that, the evening was running a wee bit late, so I felt that I rushed a bit and the presentation suffered as a result. I thought I might be able to fix this with the video, but the 5 minute recording limit on Jing mean that what I’ve ended up with is a real gallop through some of what I said. The screencast didn’t pick up the subtleties of the animation as the Prezi advanced either, so it can look a wee bit jerky, but here it is anyway.
Despite my anxiety, the TeachMeet was a great event. I saw some really great presentations, and thought the panel discussion was pretty good too – with some controversial questions and some even braver answers! The new CPD Strathclyde committee did themselves proud, and it was nice to catch up with some of the old guard too, like Morven, Susan and Paul, as well as BEd course leaderAmanda Corrigan who was telling me how proud she is of her students for organising such events (and rightly so!).
In the end up, I got quite a nice round of applause, Omar told me my presentation was inspiring and Graham Donaldson gave me a mention in his summing up, so I must have been at least adequate! Have a look below and see what you think.
(original Prezi is available here)
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.
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?
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.
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…..
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.
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 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
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?
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 –
David Noble reflects on TeachMeet here –
The LeadMeet Wordle of leadership characteristics is here –
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
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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:
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.