Thank you very much, Carl Wieman, for all the PhET materials designed and shared over the years. It has made a big difference to teaching and learning difficult-to-understand science concepts. Top of my list, often declared in my “if the internet goes on fire what will I save?” list, is the current electricity interactive widget. Priceless.
TeachMeet at BETT 2010. [Pic. courtesy Martin Burrett @ictmagic]
There is an MC, a Fear a’ Tí or Bean a’ Tí, working the room, keeping order on events with relaxed vigilance and a light touch. Attendees (numbers may be anything between a few and a crowd) are seated around tables arranged to maximise chatter and exchange. The atmosphere is light, the audience is good humoured and appreciative of colleagues who have volunteered to share their stories. The presentations are short and snappy; timekeepers may subtly show an agreed ‘yellow card’ signal when allotted time is almost up; if the speaker goes over time, or off topic, there may be seen a soft toy flying towards the speaker. Some of the presentations may be live online, or a video sent by a teacher who cannot attend in person. The order of speakers is chosen by an online lottery system overseen by the MC (who has in most cases been the curator of the programme for this TeachMeet), who has a prepared list of volunteer speakers who’ve answered an open call made and responded to on the internet and promoted through social media. The presentations almost always feature a simple classroom intervention that has worked for the teacher presenting. Attendees are encouraged to use social media with a designated hashtag, posting a flavour of the TeachMeet to those who cannot attend but may be following online. In some cases, there’s a tripod with a device live streaming or recording the event. After the first few speakers have presented, the MC will organise a breakout time during which several pre-arranged volunteers will each lead a particular conversation, or do a demonstration for the small group. The Law of Two Feet is evident here – each attendee is free to visit one, all – or indeed none – of the ‘soap box’ corners during the breakout. After this, the MC gathers the attendees back for the rest of the random order short presentations. At some stage of the evening you will have been offered refreshments (‘TeachEat’) and perhaps been awarded a raffle prize, or asked to partake in a team challenge. If you looked around the room and saw most of the above – that’s how you know you’ve been at a TeachMeet.