Monthly Archives: January 2021

[5 minute listen, ums & ahs, mistakes and all]

The last weekend in January is usually a visit to the east end of London, alternating time at the BETT expo with adventures and down time with friends. The highlight of BETT over recent years has been the TeachMeet evenings – a chance to catch up what other teachers are up to, and spend some time together in a social setting. Although the weather has often been wet, windy and cold, the weekend itself has always been a warm uplifting start to the year. This year, of course, was not to be like that – because nobody could travel to London, BETT was broadcast as @BettFest, and the TeachMeets took the leap to online.
(TeachMeet International is outlined in the previous post).

Friday evening’s TeachMeet was reimagined and curated as ‘a game of two halves’ – the first hour was a ‘tweetmeet’ chat at #TMBETT21. Question prompts appeared on @DawnHallybone’s timeline, and the Twitter banter scrolled along the screen. There was a nostalgic feel to it – being resigned to the fact we could not be together brought out memories of good times past. The questions, answers, other sundry comments and pictures can be found in reverse order at

The second hour took place in a ‘zoom room’. We were greeted on arrival by the dulcet anglo-hibernian tones of Alan O’Donohoe, and after some orientations and helloes with Alan, Dawn, and Ian Usher, we were whooshed off to breakout rooms for the chats. In breakout room no. 1 there were teachers from Ireland, England, Poland and Mexico, and we compared notes on how were were getting on nationally and professionally across the globe. It was a compelling conversation – although the degrees may vary across countries, in education we are under the same storm clouds at the moment. The time flew past; before we knew it we were whooshed back to reception for a re-centering break.
Next breakout room no. 2 had Scotland, Ireland, and England – it was a smaller group, and talk turned to TeachMeet itself. It was good. Blog posts were discussed and promised – you know who you are – ’nuff said 😉

So how did we fare with the change of format?
Some things were the very same – the care and geniality of the MCs and organisers shone out as usual, moving gently thru the breakout rooms, making for as convivial an atmosphere as one could reach at such a remove. Time given over to the central TeachMeet thing of spending time swapping stories with peers.
The down side of course – the lack of physical presence, the embrace – got summed up neatly by Tony Parkin …

a tweet that says "Aww... a reminder of what we are missing by only being virtual... annual hug with mags amond and countless others in this wonderful community teachmeet bett 2021"

On the flipside, being able to hear and speak to each other was much easier in this medium than in the pub! And definitely on the upside, the unexpected bonus of a more global participation; as Conor Power suggests, this is something to be held onto in whatever future we evolve into.
[AND one last upside just for me myself alone, sitting at home meant getting some more rows of knitting done!].

up close of some multicolored knitting, striped rows of garter stitch

what would you call a blanket knitted during COVID-19 pandemic isolation?

So whether #TMBett22 is together, apart or somewhere in between remains to be seen. In the meantime, thank you to Alan, Ian, Dawn, and all who steered us together thru #TMBett21.

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headshots ofthe presenters

Tonight me and the knitting that currently keeps me company during distanced meets are attending TeachMeet International at #BettFest – the first of two TeachMeets at this first online version of the BETT Show (there will be more about the second one in the next post). Teachers from all over Europe are sharing their practice, opening a window (or in this case is it opening a tab?) into their classroom. My offering is a nanopresentation snapshot of what partcipants say and think of TeachMeet, gathered as part of my PhD research. It is here, below the programme for the evening which has been curated by Arjana Blazic and Bart Verswijvel .

A slide with teaxt quotes about TeachMeet - there is a transcript of an explantory voice commentary below the slide

[approximate] transcript to the slide above:

2006 – I called this nanonpresentation ‘talk about TeachMeet’ because it is comprised of the words of those involved in TeachMeet over the years since 2006, and as you have just seen in the presentations from all over Europe, it is very much teachers sharing ideas for teachers, peer to peer. One thing I picked to highlight is that way back in 2006,even though TM was born of a desire to meet F2F and swap ideas, Ewan McIntosh [co-founder] was posting welcoming people to join in online via skype – always a man ahead of the posse! Quotes – “teachers sharing with teachers” and “Anyone in education is invited from around Scotland or beyond to this free event. If you are abroad and cannot make it in person but would like to join our live cast of​ ​the​ ​event​ ​then​ ​there’s​ ​space​ ​for​ ​you​ ​to“.

2009 – When I was scratching around the internet to outline the history of TM, one of the lightbulb moment was to see that even in a short 3 years, discussions among the TM community were reflective and self-evaluative, as in this comment by Tom Barrett in a conversation prompted by John Connell – the word that caught my eye was transformational, as this what is sought and held up as the highest award in the evaluation of professional development; quote – “I am not sure what the numbers are of people attending TeachMeets over the last few years but the ongoing success is surely an indication of grass roots change … real transformational change in the way that teachers perceive CPD that is very important – and not to be overlooked.”

2014 – In 2014, the TM community in Australia got together and did a workshop which led to them publishing a snapshot summary of where they were, and where they wanted to go in the future. They used the Starfish Versus Spider to examine TM as a leaderless organization. Pictured here is a list of features they reckoned would comprise the  “DNA” of TM; quote – “a voluntary community, open to all, free of charge, multi-disciplinary, flexible and ‘open source’, egalitarian, a safe positive fun place, honest and authentic”

2016 – In 2016, the tenth anniversary / birthday of TM, an open call was put out asking people to send in their tales of the impact TM had had in their lives. I ran the answer through a human analytical machine [ME!];

Woven through these stories were were the sharing, inspiring, connecting and passion valued by the participants. Impact reported ranged from the simplest practical exchange of ideas for the classroom to the complex transformation within a community. The summary can be downloaded – perhaps some of you here were contributors – if you were, thank you;

2020 – So, one effect TM had on my life is that I am now doing a PHD on it! This time last year I began my PhD field work among the TM community – began at this event in fact, BETT TMs were the first where I switched from enthusiastic participant to cool neutral observer, the woman in the corner with the clipboard. I went to 15 – and the global COVID ‘stay at home’ meant half of these were f2f, half online. I also invited folk to take a short anonymous survey [302 answered], and I had interviews with 15 TM organisers. I am now working through the data contributed – not a spoiler to say it is rich;

The blue post-it shows a flavour of reason WHY given by the survey participants. The yellow note is a work in progress – scanning the 300+ definitions offered shows that TM is VERY personal to each participant, but this gives an idea of how the community sees it. In the pink heart to the right is something that has stopped me up everytime I read thru the interviews – I should say I am the sloooowest analyst in the business – and having listened to the tales here this evening, I think that it gets, excuse the pun, to the heart of the matter of TM.

“One of the biggest challenges we have as a profession, all down the years – teachers have been incredibly self-effacing…inclined to say ‘it’s just what I do’ … some are doing magic, and to get someone to stand up and share what they’re doing with others is a profoundly important professional affirmation. To have the privilege of hearing others talk about their experience, and to put out to you for your consideration some of the ideas that they have been working on…that’s a wonderful form of learning…because it comes from the heart, it’s targeted on the heart. And it’s about pedagogy. It’s about learning, it’s about teaching, it’s about kids. And all of these things come together in a very special way in the TeachMeet setting.” [interview extract]

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