[crossposting sections of this as a CESI Digiteach blog post]
It was my pleasure to represent CESI in Newcastle UK on June 8th and 9th for Martin Bailey’s inspiring conference Tech on the Tyne and unconference teachmeet Talk on the Tyne. Martin chooses his venues with care and imagination – the teachmeet was in a former warehouse now an open co-working space, and the conference was housed in The Tyneside Cinema, which itself is well worth a visit.
Talk on the Tyne >>> As with most good teachmeets, the variety of topics was wide, and the engagement was deep – there was a thread of awareness of our mental wellbeing and that of our students running gently through this evening. I got the job of timekeeper, and so had a birds’ eye view of both speaker and audience – the atmosphere was lovely, over eighty teachers chilling and sharing ideas for several hours. Great food too, delicious Hong Kong street food from Pop Up Wok at the interval break. The list of speakers and topics is appended below. Special mention to two presenters: Nigel from 2Simple spoke quietly and about advocating and supporting the late Jonny Zucker’s Striker Boy as a teaching resource, and presented each of us with a copy of the book. Read about it here, it is a special story; and Ruth Fox, the keynote for the evening, held us in thrall as she told here tale. Here’s what I noted at the time… “A natural storyteller, Ruth told us of the struggle with her own mental health which began in her teens, and the challenges she has faced – and overcome – in gaining and maintaining the upper hand in this ongoing struggle. She was blisteringly honest in describing the omnishambles she encountered in the professional care system when she needed help to counter seriously debilitating problems which threatened her very existence. The stand out part of the story, which Ruth stressed again and again, was the care and empathy offered to her by “that” teacher in her school, the one who went above and beyond the call of duty. [Thank you, Mr Donoghue; may there always be a teacher like you in every student’s life]. Ruth is now working hard at building her resilience, building her life, and advocating for others – it would be a good thing for students, as well as adults in the education and health sectors, to hear Ruth tell her story”.
It was good to spend time together with teaching colleagues from the UK after the meet, comparing notes and sharing stories – usually it can be about classroom practice, but prompted by the tales told at the teachmeet earlier, this late evening session’s conversations were mostly about dealing with stress, and dealing with dealing with stress. As the saying goes, it is good to talk. Thank you Joe, Sarah, Dughall, Cherise, Adam, Lee, Julian, Ruth, Steve, and Carol.
Tech on the Tyne >>> This day long conference featured a dozen short presentations – approx. 20 minutes. Each presenter was excellent; there was a fair mixture of experienced and novice speakers. The audience – about 150 people – was engaged throughout, and no one left early. Powerpoint and Prezi were both used very well – hardly a bullet point in sight. In one way it was like an extended TeachMeet – it was very practice oriented, and the theme of wellbeing in the classroom was stressed, and Martin as MC had a light touch and kept the day rolling gently along. I’m not a fan of sitting all day at a conference, but in this case the curation of the day gave me no bother with it. And I was sitting in a beautifully comfortable cinema theatre! Each presenter was brimming with passion, and there was humour and caring and fun.
Outstanding moment of the day for me… Dughall McCormack, in spite of being beset by tech gremlins, setting a warm reflective tone to the day in his opening keynote called Navigating the tech-related mental health minefield which was peppered with hugs offered to bemused late arrivals… Carol Allen was riveting and fierce on inclusion, accessibility and tech-mediated ‘special needs’ education (this was my first time to meet Carol, and hopefully not the last)… As ever Steve Bunce made us ‘think by doing’ about computational thinking by leading a finger knitting session… Julian Wood uses every presentation to showcase how best tech can be used with students, and although his style is that of a stand up comic, his passion shines through and he puts detailed thought into what he shares… One to watch for the future is Adam Chase – a young teacher with wise and wonderful ideas fermenting – watch that space. One point of discussion was the woeful gender (lack of) balance – Carol was the only female speaker. [I’ll place a bet that this will change next year.]
Kudos to Martin Bailey of Aninate2Educate for founding and nurturing this geordie conference for teachers anxious to improve their integration of tech into teaching and learning – it was “purely belta” this year, and each year gets only better.