A TeachMeet is an unconference, an informal event where those with classroom experience spend either two or seven minutes explaining something they’ve done that they’ve found useful or has enhanced student learning. I’ve been to many TeachMeets and they’re usually great events with lots of inspiring people and a real ‘buzz’ around the place. I’m really glad they’ve taken off in the way they have.
However, I think it’s important to dispel a couple of myths and misconceptions about TeachMeets:
- It’s not ‘amazing’ that teachers give up their time to go to such events. Teachers compress their working lives pretty much 24/7 into terms and half-terms, so an evening spent at a TeachMeet is an evening not planning or marking, not an evening’s less free time.
- TeachMeets are not ‘the future of CPD’. Two minute and seven minute presentations are not long enough to go into the required depth to effect change. Whilst such presentations are intensely valuable, it’s the conversations that happen as a result of them that are important. Some TeachMeets facilitate the latter better than others.
TeachMeet North East 2010 was the second one I’ve been to predominantly organized by staff at Cramlington Learning Village
. I’ve the utmost respect for the innovation and enthusiasm of staff at that school; they’re on the forefront of education in this country.
For an unconference it was a bit regimented in the wrong way. There was a drinks area. There was a presentations area. There were rows of un-moveable seats. There was a strict overall time limit. There was no ‘random’ picking of presenters.
On the other hand, the presentations almost all ran over two and seven minutes. This might not sound like it matters on the face of it, but there’s something to be said about getting your message across in a given time. The best TeachMeets are the ones where you’re not really sure who’s organized the whole thing and it seems like a collection of people who have just turned up at a given time and place.
Reflecting more widely, I realised that some presenters at TeachMeets really are uncritical users of ‘cool tools’. There were at least two presentations that explicitly stated that they weren’t too sure what the pedagogical use of the tool was, but that “kids love it”. I’m not so sure that’s what we should be aiming for. Whilst I’m all for trying new technologies and having them in your ‘toolkit’ there’s some tools (e.g. Second Life
) that weren’t ready for prime time in 2005 and still aren’t in 2010. We should stop beating a dead horse.
Overall, I’m a big fan of the TeachMeet format. I was glad to be there last night and appreciated the work the organizers put in. I just think we need to be a bit more reflective on what we’re trying to achieve here, that’s all.