For the past couple of years, I’ve been following with interest the growing excitement about TeachMeets.
I’m pretty sure that if you’re an educator, you’ve heard of TeachMeet – a style of professional learning organised by teachers, for teachers, to do what we often don’t get time to do – share great ideas and resources with each other. Generally, it’s an informal gathering, where a bunch of teachers volunteer to deliver punchy presentations to their peers (presentations are just 7-minutes, or 2-minutes), after school, about cool stuff they have been doing in the classroom. A bunch of other teachers, there to be inspired, take notes about, or, more likely, Tweet the cool stuff being presented. TeachMeets bring together teachers from all sectors, from across the curriculum areas, and from both primary and secondary schools.
Many of the local educators who I follow on Twitter are involved in the organisation of various TeachMeets across Sydney and Australia, but, despite my intense curiosity and desire to get involved, I haven’t been able to get along to one to see what all the fuss is about… until now.
I can proudly say that I am no longer a TeachMeet virgin… and my TeachMeet initiation was at one of the biggest TeachMeets our fair city has hosted – TeachMeet AC English (#TMEng), held at the Sydney Theatre Company – TeachMeet at the Wharf, organised by Matt Esterman and a team of dedicated and innovative teachers.
There were about 200 attendees, and around thirty presentations took place in three venues inside the STC – on a Friday afternoon, after school! Well done to the organisers – what an amazing venue.
But it’s what goes on inside TeachMeets that makes them so powerful – teachers talking to teachers, inspiring other teachers, starting conversations, sharing ideas, and thinking in new ways. And boy, what an inspirational group of educators – there are some truly brilliant things taking place in English classrooms today!
What did I get from my first TeachMeet experience?
1. @karlao_dtn, Drama teacher from western Sydney, who blogs at Drama Teacher’s Network, shared her World Theatre Project. Karla uses Google Hangouts to connect her students with students in schools all over the world, and they have collaborated to create some cool videos. Check out worldtheatrevideo.com to see some. Karla’s drama students also performed for us via video, and were there in person to talk about their inspiration and the discipline needed to succeed in senior drama.
2. @AustralasianEdu, who blogs at Australasian Educator, shared her creative use of Japanese manga and anime. She spoke about manga’s characterisation based on gender, and how teachers can use these characters to engage boys and girls, including the strong girl heroes in anime, such as ‘Sailor Moon’.
3. @VivienTuckerman showed us a Minecraft set, created by one of her primary-school students, and spoke about using virtual worlds as settings for creative writing. She also presented on the features of Edmodo, allowing teachers to create small groups for online collaborative planning for creative writing tasks and character development.
4. @largerama (Nick Jackson, who blogs at Not Just a Teacher) followed Vivien’s theme, and videoed in from a southern state (Victoria? SA? – not important – he just wasn’t there in person, ok?) with a presentation about engaging students in reading and writing through games. Nick spoke about setting the imagination of students free using Quest to get kids INVOLVED in stories, not just reading them.
5. @henriettaMi, primary school teacher from Roseville College, shared her teaching of multimodal texts, using the Adobe suite and Photoshop to have students create picture books that are a mixture of hand-drawn and digital. Henrietta is also a member of the TeachMeet organising team, and blogs at Classroom Chronicles.
6. @AliceCaroDixon, who teaches English in a public school in Mt Druitt, gave us a snappy two-minute presentation on how she has engaged disinterested kids in debating through games, and succeeded in winning the local debating comp. The parachute game asks kids to take on a celebrity identity, and argue as that person why they deserve the one parachute when the plane they’re in is about to crash. Cluedo and Taboo, and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, assisted with language skills, speaking skills, and general knowledge. Amazing!
7. @jjash, Jenny Ashby from Bendigo, presented last, on a top idea for impromptu speaking in class, or professional development, called PechaFlickr. A Pecha Kucha is a six-minute presentation that typically has 20 slides, each for 20 seconds. PechaFlickr follows along this line, and allows you to select a topic, and randomly chooses 20 Flickr pictures tagged with that keyword. You can choose how long you want each picture to display, and voila! You have a fun impromptu talking activity.
Will I TeachMeet again?
Absolutely, yes! I had headed in to the TeachMeet with my Bossley English pal and HT Sam (@samalinda if you want to follow her on Twitter), and we didn’t regret our choice of Friday night activity. Minds. Blown.
Sam is Secretary of the English Teachers’ Association of NSW SWS branch, and we’re totally going to organise a SWS TeachMeet in 2014… English or otherwise.
Thanks to all of the organisers for putting on such a massive event, for no compensation other than seeing a bunch of teachers inspired to keep doing our jobs better and better, through collegial dialogue and sharing, benefitting students all over.
I think I’ll present at the next one… See you there!