TeachMeets are a type of ‘unconference’ where teachers can share ideas with other teachers. The #tmblakes13 TeachMeet took place at Blakes Coffee House on the beautiful Grey Street in Newcastle ( @Blakescafes ).
TeachMeets are quite informal but usually have a loose structure of 2 minute and 7 minute presentations – for the latest events see http://www.teachmeet.org.uk/
While TeachMeets are informal, they do require organisation and the duo behind this event were Steve Bunce @stevebunce and Simon Finch @simfin. There was a mixed audience: teachers now working in consultancy, trainees teachers, special educational needs teachers, primary, secondary teachers… oh and a librarian. Just under 50 people signed up and around 30 attended, par for the course for a free event I think. I didn’t catch everyone’s name so I’ve used twitter names here.
It turns out that if I wanted to see how a TeachMeet was run, I was told this was probably a bad one to come to (or maybe a good one?). Steve and Simon are exploring a different style of TeachMeet, even more informal and less structured – an experiment with an illicit style of ‘speakeasy’ TeachMeet, to use Simon’s analogy.
The programme was relaxed – something was obviously going on because there was a laptop and projector in the corner, but the enjoyment of chat, coffee, wine and good food continued until someone stood up at the front and rang a bell to get attention.
Some of the activities and presentations included:
- @simfin tested our listening and origami skills by talking us through how to create a folding book – this can then be used in a range of ways in your teaching session.
- Questions / problems were written on large envelopes and passed round the tables for everyone to add their answer. As the envelopes moved from one table to the next, answers and solutions could be shared.
- As a sponsor, I got to promote the Teachers’ Toolkit at Newcastle University and highlight the outreach work we do with local schools
- A raffle with prizes provided (I think!) by Filmclub @filmclubuk one of the sponsors – an educational charity helping schools to set up their own film clubs. Attendees were given a raffle ticket on arrival.
- @chriswilde78 talking about Lego models & programming. Pupils create their own model robot and then have to learn how to program them – it sounds a fun way to learn. He also mentioned Scratch to create and share interactive stories, which I’ll have to investigate more.
- @beetlebug1 introducing Pedagoo.org ( @pedagoo) – an online community for teachers, that also runs face to face events such as the upcoming #PedagooSunshine. I loved the idea of their #PedagooFriday hashtag where teachers can share their achievements each week and a selection compiled for blog posts on the web site.
- @RachelOrr singing about her favourite blogs – amazing voice, amazing shoes!
- @dominic_mcg (“the go-to guy for differentiation”) boiled down his advice to the following questions: ‘what do you want kids to do and how are you going to help them get there?’
I’m a librarian working in a university, so why did I attend #tmblakes13 – a TeachMeet aimed at teachers in schools – and what did I get out of it?
Ideas & inspiration. Librarians do teach and some of them teach a lot – I’m one of them and I enjoy it. Like many librarians however, much of my knowledge is picked up ‘on the job’, although most end up pursuing some type of teaching qualification. I wanted to get ideas to improve my teaching and I also wanted ideas about how to run a TeachMeet. I first came across the concept of a TeachMeet when it was adapted by some librarians in Cambridge to become a ‘LibTeachMeet’. I organised ToonLibTeachMeet back in May 2011 and have another planned for this July, so I was looking for inspiration.
I did get ideas and learned a few new tips for teaching – obviously I do have to be selective as not everything can be transferred to a university or library environment (ClassDojo sounded a great classroom management tool, but not that appropriate for my context).
I do find those working in the schools sector to be quite creative and many of the more game-style techniques work well, but to a certain extent I feel weighed down by my perception of student expectations – are more formal, traditional types of teaching expected in a Russell Group university? But I will be certainly be trying out some of the ideas I picked up to test whether my perception has any truth to it!
Reassurance. Over the years I’ve run ‘train the trainer’ workshops, I’ve worked with a lot of librarians in universities, colleges, public libraries and schools who are involved in some kind of teaching. I often encountered librarians who were lacking in confidence about how they compared to the ‘proper’ teachers. Also, after years of training staff in the education sector, I still feel a relative novice at teaching students, so I was hoping to learn from those used to teaching younger age groups.
However, dipping my toe into a TeachMeet for ‘proper’ teachers, I think many librarians could hold their own, both in terms of innovation and knowledge of pedagogy. One difference I did find was that most attendees at #tmblakes13 had come prepared to say something, whether in a more formal mini ‘presentation’ or just an impromptu contribution. I think many library staff are still building their confidence and might find this daunting.
Breaking out of the echo chamber. I like to meet people from different sectors – probably a hangover from my days at JISC Netskills where I worked on projects with all sorts of people. I find it fascinating to see how different sectors address the same issues and explore the issues that are unique to particular sectors. While I love to share with librarians, it’s always good to see what else is going on and I wanted to meet some new people to be inspired by.
I’ve now managed to create a nice core of local teachers/educationalists to follow on Twitter, which I can build on.
Sharing. It wasn’t all ‘take, take, take’ on my part though – I did bring along some freebies to promote the Teachers’ Toolkit – a set of (mainly) free resources that the Newcastle University offers to schools, including some resources based on the Library’s Special Collections. I hope at some point to share more about what I do in the hope it might be useful from a teaching perspective.
I did get ideas for activities for running TeachMeets, but I think it also reassured me that what I’ve done in the past is fine – there are no set rules! I like the more informal idea of #tmblakes13 and it would be great to start something similar for librarians. What would also be interesting would be a joint librarian/teacher TeachMeet…
I really enjoyed the event and felt welcomed there despite not being a teacher. I’ve already signed up for the next #tmblakes13. I also went home with a new friend after winning Web Cam Man in the raffle! (He’s settling in with the office penguins nicely.)
For an alternative view on the event, see Rachel Orr’s storify http://storify.com/RachelOrr/teachmeet-tmblakes13-21-3-13
And to sign up for the next #tmblakes13 on 25th April see the TeachMeet wiki:
I’ll finish with a picture of the food – if that doesn’t tempt you to come along, nothing will!