Sunday 25 September 2011

TeachMeet at Scottish Learning Festival


Last week was the Scottish Learning Festival (SLF). I wasn’t able to attend.

A major part of SLF is now TeachMeet. I think it one of the largest and highest profile TeachMeet kicking around.

A huge congratulations to the individuals who gave lots time and a huge effort to get everything in place…………..but……

As an online observer I had several problems:

- lack online participation

- Talk selection

- Ad breaks


Lack online participation

Over the last 18 months more and more teachmeets have been using ustream. This is a great broadcast service but is not very good with the back channel. Previously FlashMeeting was used. This was not as good for the broadcasting as you had limited numbers but the interaction was very good. During breakouts the online session could have one of the topics.

During the tmslf11 the broadcast was switched off during the roundtable discussions. I understand that the pressure is for the faces infront of you but please remember upto 100 people are following online.

Would it be possible to have the webcam feed both uStream and flashmeeting. Then those who want to just watch can do so and those who want t get more involved can also do so.


Talk selection

When was it decided to reduce the number of people who want to share down to the number of spaces that are available?

This means that those who are confident get there names down first and no one else gets a chance to even take a chance.

Yes this does mean that someone doesn’t get selected. I have been the victim of this many times but I think its important that someone who isn’t too sure about speaking can step up and we all get to hear something new.


Ad breaks

All the way through sponsors were mentioned. This, to me, is against the ethos of classroom practitioners sharing.

I won’t mention the one that has been talked about in Twitter with the sales person getting 2 mins.

I think large teachmeets need financial support. This has been talked about at length previously by lots of people.

Its how much positioning this support gets is very important. Personally they should have stuff about and logos online but not mentioned during the event.

I see a place for lots of teachmeets. Large like the tmslf11 but even more important are small, less structured, ones where topics are discussed over a beer. Its a full spectrum inbetween.

Teachmeets are an ethos not a fixed structure.


John Johnston said...

Hi Ian,
I was quite surprised to see uStream being used, I guess it might be down to quality. In future for large TM it would be an idea to run FM alongside at least. I wonder if it is possible to do both out of one camera & mic.

I think there was a disappointing number of folk who put their names down to talk. I know Olivia tweeted about the idea of going back to all who turn up being willing to present. I left it late put my name down and there was still room. Certainly there has been a formalisation of the SLF TMs over time. I wonder if the size of the event is off putting for some, there was certainly less classroom folk talking than usual. I completely agree it is best to have too many speakers, like you I have been disappointed .
The breakout sessions, are I think, good in larger TMs giving more folk a voice. It it would be good to have a FM topic too, perhaps with some feedback at the end? I recall the Islay 2020 had a good FM despite being unable to see the conference;-)

Like you I an for the logos being online but little else, was glad to see we didn't have the BrainPop video. (I moved all the logos to the bottom of the wiki when editing, although important I think that is the right place for them). I did talk to a commercial person (who had sponsored other TMs not SLF11) who was disappointed by the delivery of the sponsor mentions, they though they should have been more +ve I think.

Interesting to see TM evolving and changing a bit like the fringe it may eventually be necessary to break out further. I guess with some many about it is possible to experiment and play with different forms. Personally I feel an important aspect of TM is that they should feel subversive.

Kenny O'Donnell said...

I don't know if this goes against the grain or not, but having been to two teachmeets after hearing so much positivity about the events, I am not sure that they have been any more beneficial to my practice than formal CPD, development opportunities presented through work or networking every day through twitter and other platforms. I think there are a number of reasons for this. First of all, while they were enjoyable, they were largely populated by people from the above forums that I've already had some involvement with. As a result, much of the content was not new to me and I wonder truly how new it was to many others who attended from a similar grounding as myself. I had heard some people talk about the idea of preaching to the converted and I'd say there was much of this about both events, well run and interesting as they were.
Secondly, as much as there is a dilemma with regards to sponsorship, I think there is a little bit of selling ones self rather than an idea at times as well. The number of advertised events where the same speakers appear over and over may well be evangelistic, but I think there is a bit of profile building going on too. This is not neccessarily bad, but it is something which personally puts me off. I think it might be an idea to name a venue for an informal meet and ditch the sign up, just see what happens- nice and informal.
Thirdly, I say they are like formal cpd because parts of them are very formal. They seem to follow a structure which doesn't seem in keeping with a spirit of free sharing and informality that the very first meeting seemed to espouse. Teachmeet Beyond was quite free in its organisation but, and I hope Iain won't mind me saying, the part I got least from was the campfire which replicated the short presentation format, while I got a lot from the beers and blether after it with many people I'd never met before and who might not have contributed as m uch at the campfire. Hope this doesn't read as negative. As I said, the events have been enjoyable enough, just some observations.


fearghal said...

Interesting comments Ian,

I think there are many reasons for your observations. Primarily, TeachMeets have become so big that the format has had to change accordingly. Not many folk are confident signing up to present to 100 people. And this is compounded by the fact that if you're going to present to 100 people many are naturally going to want to put in quite a bit of prep - it's then hard to have a system whereby some folk don't get to present having put in so much effort.

The size element also naturally brings in the sponsorship problem too.

I personally think that TMSLF has become too institutionalised. It's now an integral part of the SLF calendar, which is a good thing, but is increasingly struggling to meet what should be it's core essence - a fringe event where teachers really do some sharing.

I floated an idea earlier this year, but wasn't able to follow it up due to family commitments. I think one of TMSLF's biggest issues is that it runs during SLF and [for the large part] in the style of SLF (i.e. big room, presenters etc). However, many teachers across Scotland can't make SLF as it's during the week. I think we should stop catering TMSLF to those teachers who are able to make SLF...but instead aim for those who cannot. And change the format to boot so that's it's a much smaller series of seminar type sessions, in which everyone is expected to be able to contribute.

My idea is that it runs on the Saturday following SLF for a whole day (well, 10-3 type thing) and could involve an optional social element on the Friday or Saturday night.

It's quite a big change, and it didn't go down that well on twitter...but I personally think it's the way forward for TMSLF...

Ms. Deyenberg said...

I understand the importance of critical reflection, and that it was mentioned that no offense was intended, but I have spent the entire afternoon completely upset.

I was a very small part of the team that organized the event and a post with no positive feedback that is meant to take things forward is just going to turn people away. I feel bad for the other organizers who put way more into this that I did to have their event picked apart. They have been working at it for months. It is very good to critically reflect, it really is, but just be careful.

I first got involved with teachmeets to try and meet teachers, and I thought I might have something to offer. I love it because I found a community of people who thought like I did and made friends. This was a really big deal moving to a new country, especially when other things were very negative. I loved going to teachmeets, and loved that people encouraged me to share.

Now its a matter of get called out for being negative or promoting oneself. I was just so happy to be a part of something positive. I thought people really liked my ideas, and enjoyed sharing passion. I had friends. I had a place where I could see people who asked me how things were in my classroom when many other teachers didn't really understand or agree with ideas I was using.

I wanted to give back to the process that helped be understand a lot about Scottish education, I wanted to help others gain that spirit, support, community, and circle of friends. Maybe I picked the wrong time to share unplug'd - but I just wanted to share, the enthusiasm that made me want to stay in Scotland for an extra year, and teachmeets where a huge part of that.

It's not positive anymore.

Now I realize I'm taking things quite personally, but it is people who take on the task, and if others are going to be so critical, please be positive as well or no one is every going to want to take on organizing anything.

islayian said...

Hi Jen
I am sorry you have taken it personally.
I think all of the organisers have worked very well and done excellent things.
I had hoped that had come across.
Having organiised something where not everything with within your control even though you are working your very hardest, I understand the personal ownership.
I really do.
As for you you have had a wonderfully positive input in the Scottish Education Community. A real breath of fresh air and I am sorry for upsetting you.

Drew said...

Started a comment, but it was running on a bit, so it became a blog post of my own....

Charlene Brannan said...

Hi Ian,

I agree that everyone should come prepared to contribute. I contributed to tmfalkirk organised by @mvass small scale but comfortable enough surroundings for me. I think for me sharing is a big deal, I still get nervous in front of children and other adults but want to be part of the tm experience. Early years is important but I don't know if a secondary teacher might take much from what I am able to talk about...

I wonder what the future of tmslf12 will be...

Charlene :) x

islayian said...

Hi Charlene
Personally I love hearing about early years and primary.
I think its vital as educators we get a idea of where pupils are coming from and where they may be going too.
personally I hope that if there is an slf then there will be a tmslf
I dearly hope that it will be run be educators and classroom teachers will put their names forward to speak

Kenny O'Donnell said...

Hi Iain,
Can I please make a detailed response to Jen here? Hi Jen. Sorry if you have taken issue with anything in my comment, perhaps I can clarify? You may remember that I asked of you would present at the teachmeet in Ayr. I'm genuinely glad you did and subsequently that you made a large contribution at Teachmeet beyond. I had previously watched video of you talking and had read your blog, but it was great to make face to face contact and be able to ask about GPS units over mobiles and to be able to do it in the relaxed atmosphere that Iain cultivated at TMBeyond. I am not saying I got nothing from the events, far from it, only that I got the most from the least formal and least structured parts of them. I also enjoyed the aspect of meeting people who I'd only talked to in virtual spaces. I read on twitter dozens of people who seemed enthused by SLF teachmeet and I'm sure there would be plenty of people who disagree with what I say, its just my experience and my opinion.
Regarding the idea of profile building, I tried to stress that I don't see anything wrong with this. For plenty of people, a teachmeet would be a good place to share practice, make connections and for people to have an interest sparked in your work. I was lucky enough to have opportunities presented to me off the back of blog readership, and some may argue that this was my way of promoting myself and my work. I feel less comfortable doing this in a physical setting than through the internet and this is why I feel slightly put off by presenting etc If other people choose to use for these purposes, I am not being critical of them for it. I also recognized that people are likely to be genuine in their wish to spread their own good news. I think my attitude is a very Scottish one to selling oneself.
Finally, I am not criticising those who organise such events and have been intrigued by Iain Hallahans latest idea to evolve teachmeet almost full circle to a stripped back format. It's purely personal preference. I'm more a small room beer in hand than a big hall type of person. Those who go out of their way to organize anything devote a lot of time and effort to doing it and maybe less organizing will mean more people willing to run small scale, relaxed teachmeets with less apprehension about sharing ideas - something which, in the long run, would probably benefit the larger ones such as SLF. I concur with Iain as regards your pedagogical contribution and have also enjoyed our verbal ping pong on twitter. I hope to have further inane conversations on brown sauce and pancakes, but its also quite nice to have a bit of healthy debate like this, no? ;-)

Fearghal said...

I understand where Jen is coming from. Organising a TM of this scale is not easy (I helped out a wee bit at TMSLF10) and any criticism is hard to bear after so much effort.

But I took Ian's post to more about TMSLF rather than TMSLF11...I suppose that might be because I a) wasn't there this year, and b) I didn't help organise this year.

It can be difficult to separate the individual events from the overall concept, but I think we need to try to ensure the best way forward for TMSLF...

Ms. Deyenberg said...

I had a good chat with Ian and all is good. I understand a discussion is good, but the negativity was just piling on a bit, without any of the good virtues of teachmeets coming through. Meeting people face to face - sending Kenny out to point at tents three times, bantering over brown sauce (I've since learned it's based around malt vinegar - I propose a name change to malt vinegar sauce - as brown is still not a flavour!), and having supportive, positive people to encourage you is one of the best part of teachmeets. I think that's why I was taking it hard when the most supportive people I've come across were being negative, and it was all piling on...thus the feeling very upset.

Teachmeets rule - in all shapes and forms - none are perfect - but all are fun and positive. Thanks for the responses.

Fearghal said...

Glad to hear things are better :)

TeachMeets do indeed rule. They will only continue to do so if the people who think so are willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that they continue to achieve what we know they can achieve...