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TeachMeet North West – Expanding the Audience

I had a great time on Friday night at BBC 21CC in Salford at Teachmeet NW.  I presented briefly on Google Forms as per my previous blog post and listened to a wide variety of great presentations.  I’ve collected all the links and chats from the evening together on the wiki.  And, although it went against the ‘talk only on what you’ve done in the classroom’ Teachmeet rule, I did a very brief demo of Google Wave.  Let’s be honest, I knew the ever-so-slightly geeky audience would like to see it!

But this got me round to thinking, how do we expand Teachmeets beyond the geeks?  Almost every person in that room on Friday was on Twitter, had a blog etc etc..  I emailed all staff at my school on Monday about Teachmeet, a few took the proverbial out of me, a few said it sounded great, ‘but on a Friday night?’, in the end – nobody came.

If you’ve never attended a Teachmeet before, here’s a little Tim & Moby video that explains the concept:

The video itself mentions that each Teachmeet presentation tends to focus on the use of technology, and this is inevitable, based on the interests of those who first set up TMs and those who heard about them and took on the mantle themselves.
I think future TMs should look to lose the technology focus a little. I’d be just as interested to hear a teacher tell me of a great place they took a class to on a trip, a novel way of teaching Maths outdoors, or an interesting use of collaborative learning structures.  It’s the format of TMs that is the winner, real staff talking about real pedagogy that worked with real classes.
Friday night is an issue for many staff after a long week, I know it helps those who travel larger distances but perhaps a Thursday would be better.  I think that Thursdays, combined with an effort to promote events outside of Twitter would possibly mean you could get a more diverse, although probably more local group to meet.
I think that it’s also a format that should be promoted in school, I’ve sat through many a dreary hour of CPD in schools that would have been far more valuable had it been 15 micro-presentations from my own colleagues.  You could doa  whole/hald day where every member of staff is asked to bring a 2 minute presentation, and the fruit machine picked out enough at random to fill the time.
What are your thoughts?  Don’t get me wrong, I love TMs, I just feel it’s something that needs sharing to a wider audience.
PS: I’m WAY to busy for this to be me volunteering to organise the next Manchester event, I’m just throwing these thoughts out there 😉

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  1. Hi Dan, you are absolutely right. Friday night was a bad choice-only the dedicated Teachmeeters would go already knowing that they’d enjoy it. It still has a place in that it was great to meet some Twits I’ve not met prior to friday (@icpjones, @spanishsam, @simaonhaughton, @tomsale) but it’s really got to move beyond a cool linkswap session.
    If that sounds a bit negative, it was a great evening and some great learning ideas were showcased, yet as many have already stated, we were just preaching to the converted.
    How about next time making it “mandatory” to bring a friend?

    1. Hi, I had planned to come but what put me off was travelling from Holmfirth through busy Friday traffic on the motorways after a long week. I’ve done enough journeys in my life where I had no choice but to do just that and so that’s why I didn’t come. For me I’d come if it was more local to me. Sound’s like I missed a great evening though! I agree also about opening it up to the ‘anything that works/has worked well’ idea.

  2. I agree about it being a great night and also enjoyed meeting some of my Twitter friends IRL for the first time.
    I think the ‘bring a friend’ idea is a good one. I brought two teachers with me who are not on Twitter and brand new to Teachmeet and they were incredibly positive about the whole experience and in the car on the way back we were buzzing about the preceding proceedings.
    One thing we really agreed on was the success of the format and we resolved to try to develop more opportunities for TM style CPD events, whether they are at LA, pyramid, cluster or individual school level. So Nicola, watch this space. There may be a TM near you before too long.

  3. Hi Dan, I have to agree with you on this; even though I have not attended a Teachmeet in person I always get the impression that most of the attendees are advocates of the use of and further use of technology in the classroom. There are many teachers who might not go willingly due to the event held traditionally on a Friday but also because the event is aimed at the use of technology in the classroom, they would not be keen to be seen sitting alone or huddled in groups in a room of devotees.
    When I held my own Teachmeet in Gran Canaria the response was twofold – lots of interest for the event but minimal turn up for the night. There are many other avenues open for Teachmeets and the one factor that makes a it worthwhile is the speed of informative and illuminating presentations. As you have pointed out, many a CPD meeting would be better spent learning from your colleagues than sitting for one hour listening to one speaker.
    A possible format for future TeachMeets could be drawn up along the lines you have suggested and I’m quite certain more teachers would be willing to attend.

  4. I agree about the idea of widening the focus, I think it’s the format rather than the tech focus which is important.
    Personally I’m not sure that Thursday would be better than Friday – lots of teachers will have after school meetings/clubs/events on nights other than Friday, plus I know I wouldn’t have even contemplated driving from Sheffield to Manchester and back if I had to get up for school the next day!
    Mind you, that was the first time I’ve managed to attend a Teachmeet at all, Fridays seem to be fairly full of other commitments too. Really enjoyed it though, sure it won’t be my last.

  5. Thanks for all the replies.  Perhaps the day is not the answer, perhaps Dughall is on to something with it being organised at LA or cluster level.

    Is there a space for TM style events run as ‘official’ CPD events, maybe starting a bit earlier in the afternoon?  What if it was a Friday 2/3pm start?  Cover would be needed for some for an hour or so.  But the school could be reasonably confident they are sending staff on free high quality CPD event.

    .-= MrStucke´s last blog ..TeachMeet North West – Expanding the Audience =-.

  6. About 3 years ago I organised a free ICT conference on a Saturday. I’d not come across the unconference idea at that time so I had a couple of keynotes and some breakouts. I was amazed to get almost 50 teachers along. It was held in a school so overheads were minimal. S maybe trying one on a Saturday might be worth a go. There’s always a reason why one night rather than another might be wrong, but the traffic on Fridays in Manchester is always particularly bad.
    I think Dughall’s LA idea also has legs provided the usual LA tendency to “control” doesn’t take over – not that Dughall would be party to that. @skinnyboyevans has successfully run a couple on these lines in N London.

  7. Hi Dan – I enjoyed your post and your reflections about the NW event.
    I do think that Friday night is a good night for staff, as Lois says, getting up for school the next day may often deter people from fully relaxing and enjoying themselves. Whichever night is chosen some people will not be able to attend – in my opinion Friday is best so people can go on to a TeachEat. This has often been a great extension of the night as conversations continue.
    When I was at the SLF this year I caught up with Ewan McIntosh who, as you know is the founder of the original idea. We talked about TeachMeets this year and he reiterated how they were never meant to have a solely tech focus. They were always meant to be about sharing good examples of teaching and learning. I agree that the emphasis needs to return to this more clearly.
    I also agree that I would love to listen a 2 minute nano from a teacher talking about a great display they did in their classroom. We need to see more of that in future Teachmeets as it will encourage new people to talk about successes they have experienced outside technology.
    Often the current topics on the wiki for talks may deter people – as you may look down a speaker/topic list at a normal conference – exploring the wiki is the same thing. Hard to influence what people put down – but as I have already said I hope that other examples are shared in future events.
    I would recommend anyone setting up a TM to try and raise early sponsorship to use on emailing schools across a region. To get the message into staff rooms – to get the message outside of the echo chamber beyond the well trodden paths of communication we all use.
    Another important part of the event is that it is voluntary – would you get the same type of atmosphere if people were told they were having a TM? Just a thought.
    Thanks again for your reflections.

  8. There are lots of good points made here. I wondered whether TMSuKe should have been on a Friday night or not, but each day is going to have pros and cons attached to it.
    I am in the process of organising a TeachMeetMacro at school for our January Inset – the same TM concept, but just the staff at school. Voluntary attendance and free nibbles should hopefully be a good incentive!

  9. On reflection I think Fridays are probably right.  If it means you only get the really keen staff then that’s no bad thing.

    As Tom said, getting the message out of the echo chamber is the key point.  It shouldn’t take much funding to do so in the age of emails and websites.  A PDF poster emailed to school CPD coordinators to put up in the staff room only costs the time involved in making it.

    I’m going to encourage the idea of an internal Teachmeet at my school later this year.

    Thanks again to everyone for the great discussion 🙂

  10. Another difficulty that occurred to me is the freeness of it. Because it is free to attend, there is possibly an inherent suspicion that it is either (a) well-meaning but rubbish [“or they’d charge”], or (b) some form of secretive sales pitch.
    That being said, I think that the vast, VAST majority of people who have attended a TeachMeet would happily sing the praises of a hyper-productive evening. To that end, I think it’s as important to sell the concept as much as the event itself. As my friend Alan says all the time, it’s about selling the benefits rather than the features!
    I’m not suggesting for one moment that we charge for TeachMeets, more that we align ourselves as a benefit-filled opportunity for those attending, to avoid being misinterpreted, which is very possible.

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