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[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 https://twitter.com/search?q=%23tmbett21&src=typed_query&f=live

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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congregation.ie

Next Saturday is a stay at home version of one of the best gatherings of the year, CongRegation. Third weekend of November, Cong, Co. Mayo, Ireland. This is the brainchild of Eoin Kennedy, an unconference where conversations are shared in ‘huddles’, people swap perspectives over the day, and there is a variety of social beforemath and aftermath. Entry is via blog post, pre-sharing the story you will bring for discussion on the day. As a Chair, I will spend the day in a virtual space, listening and learning in a series of huddles – experiencing how it transfers to the differently connected space, and adapting to weaving gracefully (I hope) thru it is something I am looking forward to. The theme this year is Society 3.0 – ready to beam up, Eoin!

A brief personal insight on ‘society’, which arose as part of another conversation with a dear colleague and friend this week. I am a member of CESI, the Computers in Education Society of Ireland, one of many ‘subject associations‘ in Ireland. It is unique in many ways – until this year it didn’t have any specific subject or curriculum, rather a focus on any or all possible use of computers in education; it is one of the oldest – founded in 1974; it is a mix of educators from all levels and sectors, active and retired; and it is the only one which is a Society in name (most other teacher professional networks in Ireland are associations, network or cooperative). Althought I have been a CESI member and volunteer for a long time, the uniqueness of word in our name only struck me recently. It makes sense however – CESI events have always had a focus on workshop / discussion / let’s ty it out / show and tell over, and was one of the first groups in my experience in which online frank discussions, open to everyone, featured. CESI was personal learning network and community of practice before we knew those as entities. The current use of ‘online’ is not at new to us, we have been using it for housekeeping, planning meetings, and remote connecting to events for a long time before it became the only way currently possible. For me and many others the most common reason to try and get to annual conference and occasional CESI TeachMeets is the society atmosphere built in, the reminder of the wonder of spending personal time in the company of professional colleagues who are a joy to be with. Up with this sort of Society 😉

[For those who prefer to listen]

The Story So Far

Ten years ago, I went to the annual conference of the ASE in the UK. One of the workshops I attended was by a Swedish teacher, Hans Perrson. He did a demonstration in which the population of the room became a connected electric circuit, using a cute toy, a fluffy chicken that chirped when the circuit was completed. He was demonstrating an exercise he used to try and deepen children’s understanding of difficult concepts. [In physics, from primary school to degree level and beyond, current elctricity is one of the most difficult concepts to grasp.] Luckily for eveyone who attended, there was “one for everyone in the audience” and as we left we each got presented with our own little chick. Probably the best present I ever recieved for the teaching of physics. If you live in Sweden and you know him, say thank you from me.

This is a flavour of how Hans uses the chicken in a primary science [this and other ideas of his are at http://www.hanper.se]

Over the years I have used this idea and evolved it slowly – many colleagues and students have added ideas to the mix. Now that we are physically distanced from each other and can’t actually do the circuit, perhaps the time has come to pause and jot it all down.

Hans’s orginial teaching sequence

  • demonstrate that the chicken has a battery inside, and cheeps if a conductor [eg human skin] joins the two electodes
  • invite people to form a circle in which they all join hands, except two people, and these two each place a finger on the electrodes
  • ask people what they think is happening. Take time to discuss and play.
  • place various materials (plastic, metal, wood, tap water) between the hands of two people in the circle (now called a circuit with older students) and agree that only some materials allow the chicken to cheep. Get to the agreement that materials may be conductors or non-conductors
  • Hans would then get the children to draw a picture of what they thought was happening
PieuPieu – join the electrodes with a conductor (human skin) to hear the cheeps

Ideas added over time

  • this is a great way to teach and remind of Scientific Method – always remind to check with a full human circuit before testing a new material
  • join pinkies in stead of hands (oh, for the days we could do this safely, may they return soon); some people do not like holding hands, pinkies seem less invasive. I credit the students of Lacken NS in Cavan and the young people of The Elementals Foróige Club in Lucan for this enhancement, which then led to a new name being bestowed on this learning game from the imaginitive students of Drogheda ETSS: “Pinky Linky“. The chicken itself was given the name Pieu Pieu by a group of teachers in Bordeaux.
  • take time over the graphite – draw some thick pencil lines on paper and see how thin a layer of carbon will conduct – I think the late great Bianca Ní Ghrógáin for that idea. [With older students, or science teachers this is a time to have a short side-bar about graphene]. this is also a chance to learn that it is NOT lead in a pencil, it is graphite, an form of carbon.
  • if you have some thermal paper, place it over the graphite as it conducts – some serious heat is released
  • My friend Diarmuid O’Leary gave me a present of a small beautiful shiny lump of silicon [pictured above, beside the scissors]. Being a close cousin of carbon, it is a conductor – this point can be a fork in the lesson to lead to computer science matters via talk of silicon chips, Silicon Valley …
  • My teaching colleague Michelle Rogan and her Transtion Year students in Loreto College Cavan gave me the greatest gift – the idea to place a diode between two people in the circuit. One way, it works; reverse the direction, no cheeps … the joy when seeing the first student’s realisation of what was happening and then hearing her explain it to the others! And even more delight when they thought to reverse the polarity of the little chicken. This leads to discussion of the way the diode works, the notion of a semi-conductor is introduced, and segues nicely into playing with LEDs
  • the first year students of Drogheda ETSS added the ‘alive or not’ outdoor test idea – gather some fresh leaves and some dead twigs – predict and see which were conducting; this gave a great link to the biology and chemistry of cells containing ionic fluids.
  • the same group also discovered that some paints can prevent some metals from conducting – modern material science to be expolored!
  • other toys can be used to do the same demonstration – the “energy stick” sold in toy stores, the “eyeball” sold in jokeshops at Hallowee’n. If the classroom has several of these toys, smaller groups can be challenged to do their own materials testing
Human circuit using Micro:bit
  • my CESI teamies John Hegarty and Richard Millwood have come up with some innovative ideas on how to use microprocessors eg Micro:bit in this space – ideal for small group in CS or physics class [more detail in .pdf]
  • a large human circuit was formed at the 2013 Scratch conference in Barcelona by Joek Von Montfort and oh, over one hundred friends, using Makey Makey and a laptop!
135 people in a human circuit

Moving closer to matters of electronics and computer science

Take a break from the human circuit, introduce the LED and some 3V button batteries – by trial and error, the diode effect can be found again in the making of some souvenier “glowies”. Try as many colours of LED as possible – it will be found they do not behave in the same way, as they semi-conducting materials vary. A fabulous group of teachers at the International School in Toulouse gave the workshop the name “Chicken ‘n Chips”; the term “feicin’ physics” may also have been born then.

LO & Behold – matters pedagogical

Although I have used this mostly in informal setting with very mixed aged groups, it can be adapted to almost any learning space. When using these ideas in formal science or CS lessons, here is a provocation from another late great educator, Tim Rylands. His brainwave was an idea about NOT sharing learning outcomes overtly at the start of a lesson. He called it LO & Behold, and it works well for this lesson. Write down some learning intentions on a piece of paper, ask a student to mind them for the lesson, and at the end of the lesson use them as a point of discussion – “so, did we …?” [ideas for some LO/s are in the attached .pdf]

Richard Millwood has gathered the main points of this learning cycle for both toy and for micro-processor in the ElectrChick document linked above – feel free to download, use adapt and enhance – tell us how you get on at #PieuPieu on Twitter! the very cheesy moral of this contunuing story is – many hands make Pieu Pieu work better and better.

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Thoughts this week are very much focussed on an aspect of the sudden pivot to online in education – in the move from face-to-face into screen-to-screen what would happen to the valued elements of unconference events – the interstitial chats, The Law Of Two Feet? Those conversations that happens before, after, in-between (or even during, if you are discreet enough) the scheduled program presenters are speaking. The permission to take yourself elsewhere, discreetly without presumption of judgement, if you are not thriving where you are. Both are important elements in the world I am currently observing for PhD field work, that of TeachMeet.

The last event I attended before Stay At Home / Fan Sa Bhaile began was a TeachMeet. The first ‘cancelled’ event I had in my calendar was a TeachMeet. However, when people caught their collective breath, it seems the desire to converse and share was strong, and ‘TeachMeet’ events began to take place online in a variety of platforms. Scroll back through the Twitter timeline for #teachmeet to see how many and how widespread. So how are events which were born of desire to meet face to face faring in the screen-to-screen world? Can we deploy the non-verbal gestures used during the “locked in syndrome” of being stuck in a CPD room – eyebrow raised, note passed, head nod of approval or dropped in horror, the discreet exit out the back of the hall, the wish to converse now with someone on the point just made … I could go on.

We can, it turns out. Here are the two emerging desire lines I have been been noticing …

Chat windows

Having spent time at several online events, some as an observer and some as an active participant, that space that is most compelling for me is the typed chat window in the events which offered it. The mix of social and professional conversation is as close to the convivial atmosphere of the round table and corridor conversations of a ‘real’ event as one could ask for via screens. Although the human voice is absent, the rapid fire sentences appearing, timestamped with an identity attached make for quite a dynamic atmosphere in an otherwise flat space. The chat window acts as a non-stop sidebar, which doesn’t interrupt the flow of the speaker, but can be woven into the event by an agile MC or curator, picking up on cues in the mood of the sentences typed, and also in the emojis and symbols used in the chat window. This reflects the way that social media backchannels, often used at unconference events, have been used heretofore to help connect those not in the room of the event – in the current state of affairs, that is everybody. It can get a little frantic, as the asynchronous timeline gets garbled – so appointing a separate curator/moderator for this space (and another for each separate social media channel) struck me as a really useful good idea (meaning I wish I had thought of it myself. Deep bow to you, Tom Farrelly).


The Law of Two Feet

The originator of the Open Space philosophy that has informed most unconference thinking, Harrison Owen, espoused one ‘law of mobility’, usually referred to as The Law Of Two Feet:  If at any time during our time together you find yourself in any situation where you are neither learning nor contributing, use your two feet, go someplace else. Permission is implicit for each participant to move from a space in which they are not thriving (the painful inability to do this at formal professional development affairs is one of the most stated reasons for becoming involved in self-organised meetings). It is one of the elements that puts the ‘un’ in unconference. Can it be facilitated in this new online world? From what I have observed so far, seems it can:

  • breakout rooms can be configured so that participants can ‘apparate’ (the move is so sudden that is what it seems like) from room to room
  • there may also be a facility to signal that “I am stepping out, will be  back”
  • choices can be offered for how deeply embedded in the meet the participant wants to be –  active within the chosen platform, or passively following on a live stream
  • choices can be made be part of the chat window or just watch a feed streaming in the background
  • and there is of course the stark Leave The Meeting button!

Most platforms show the number logged in at any given time; it has been interesting to watch these numbers change over an event, particularly if time is not managed well. And what to call the digital version of this? The Law of Two Fingers has a cheeky flow to it for those at a keyboard meeting, but might sound a tad rude. Owen’s original inclusive version, The Law of Mobility, could be the best solution to cover ALL meetings.

The One Law - The Law Of Mobility

Owen, Harrison (2008). Open Space Technology: A User’s Guide, p.95. Berrett-Koehler.


Note of thanks – this week I am concluding the observation phase of my field work researching TeachMeet. In the very unexpected turn of world’s axis, half of the events were face to face and half online. I am grateful to all who gave their blessing to my passive presence at their TeachMeet events in both formats: Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.
Next phase up will be a survey open to all TeachMeet participants. Be ready – bígí réidh!

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Chat Windows and The Law of Two Feet – desire lines forming in unconference spaces by mags amond is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

March was an unpredictable month, when it was never clear what might happen.
[Tracy Chevalier, Girl With A Pearl Earring]


March 1st >>> Driving home after the annual recharge that is the CESI conference weekend. Skin on hands raw and sore from the industrial strength hand sanitisers in The Sheraton Hotel and Athlone Institute of Technology, provided out of watchfulness against this new virus. A watchfulness which had prompted a return to long abandoned daytime talk radio for Covid-19 news updates, and a return to the more controlled atmosphere of the car from the lottery that is dense public commuter transport. Head full of thoughts about the delights of the weekend just spent with wonderful people…

  • Friday night’s TeachMeet, #tmCESI curated by Sarah Jayne Carey and Mary Jo Bell, which I spent as an observer as part of my PhD field work.open asynchronous professional development
  • Saturday’s #cesicon action included a morning TurtleStitch workshop co-hosted with John Hegarty; a midday panel discussion about Open Asynchronous Professional Development with Catherine Cronin, Rebecca O’Neill, Pat Seaver, me and a theatre full of educators from all over Ireland who engaged in debate, a debate which continued into Bryan Mathers’ compelling ‘Visual Thinkery’-fuelled afternoon address, a good summary of which is here in CESI Secretary and panel convenor Kate Molloy’s reflective post-conference blog post.

March 2nd – March 30th>>> Ch-ch-ch-changes. Mostly unexpected.

  • change for hashtag #edchatie – came unexpectedly when curator Fred Boss announced that the Monday night chats would cease, leaving the # as a 24/7 timeline for tagging education matters. At the suggestion of Eoghan Evesson, we had ‘For One Night Only’ a final Monday night valedictory #FredChatIE to say thank you to Fred.
  • change of pace – increasing isolation leading to instinctive then instructed cocooning – staying home instead of going to college lab or local library, private St Patrick’s Day parade in the backyard, watching as our caretaker government moves to take more and more care but worrying it might not be timely enough for the most vulnerable, marvelling at the ingenuity and generosity of those getting on with helping us get over this as a population, and rewriting the entire list of what is important or necessary.
  • change of language – a sobering morning reading ‘the’ research paper by Neil Ferguson & co at Imperial College – mitigation, suppression, surge, rebound, social distancing, cocooning – and realising that the only variable that will matter until a vaccine is deployed is capacity of the ICUs across the country / the world
  • change of ‘venue’ – conversations and meetings in Skype, Zoom, Blackboard, Teams, Meet, Hangout, Jitsi (btw, for me it is a big ‘ugh’ to the word virtual as in VLE; and as for incorporeal to describe meetings, it is a louder ‘ugh squared’).
  • change in education infrastructure – a totally ‘flipped’ system, not even over a weekend but over a single Thursday night began with the 12yo granddaughter arrived home with all her books – all 22kg of them. The new hashtag-du-jour becomes #EdShareIE, suggested by Amanda Joliffe, a place where the suddenly-displaced teachers, teacher-trainers, and providers could point ideas and resources at. Frazzled and frantic for the unprepared, even a bit so for the prepared, but generous sharing from those for whom this was not a new experience; proud of my teaching colleagues who are triaging their way into a new situations simultaneously at home and at work.
  • change in pedagogy – and so a month that had begun with a relaxed discussion about emerging Open Asynchronous Professional Development became a global rollercoaster of urgent talk of how to ‘deliver’ school through a screen. It seemed to only worry about how to quickly change teacher’s ‘stand and deliver’ from a podium to ‘sit and deliver’ from home office chair. It was a little dizzying – one of the reasons I considered OAPD to be important is that it can be “in your own time, in your own space, in your own way, at your own pace”. Couldn’t it / shouldn’t it be the same for teachers and their learners? The way Catherine Cronin describes open education practice – allowing that it is ‘complex, personal, contextual, continually negotiated’ – seems to me to be a very fair way to proceed for all education, whether it is situated online or offline. And reading other who have been “at this” for a long time who share their wisdom … of the many, these are four that resonated with me:
    > Leigh Graves Wolf A reflection on teaching in online EdD enviroments
    > Donald Clark Ton of tools and 10 things to do if you’re new to online learning…
    > Nick Jackson The Dawn of New eLearning
    > Steve Wheeler Face-to-face at a distance
    And so to stop my head either exploding or imploding, the calm genius that is Bryan Mathers drew another ‘think’, this time for Open Asynchronous Pedagogy. I like it. The idea, and the image. And it arrived on my screen with five minutes of a posting of the poem by one of my favourite educators. And that made me very happy.open asynchronous pedagogy

“a stirring
of power
to go on
towards the space
of sharing.”
[Michael D. Higgins, Take Care]


March 31st > and so cocooning continues until further notice. Holed up, on hold, holding on. Ding dong – special doorstep deliveries. Chats through the window. Washing hands and washing windows!

But it won’t be forever. ‘Til we get to the other side, do as Miggledy says, tabhair aire, take care.


audacity

7 minute listen, ums & ahs, mistakes and all


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long march towards a place of sharing by mags amond is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.



 

Teachmeet reports front cover

TeachMeet10Report as PDF

An IPA analysis of findings of an open survey which invited global participants to share examples of impact in the first ten years of TeachMeet.
Email any errors you spot to amondm@tcd.ie 😉

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This work by TeachMeet Collective is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

 



Selected data TeachMeets UK & IE 2013-2019

TeachMeetsSelectedData2013-2019 as Excel

TeachMeetSelectedData2013-2019 as CVS

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Selected Teachmeet data 2013-2019 by Mags Amond and Richard Millwood is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

 



TeachMeet[AUS} report cover

TeachMeet[AUS} report cover

TeachMeetAustraliaAnalysis2014

© Reproduced with permission – Matt Esterman on behalf of TeachMeet[Aus}

 



The length and breadth of TeachMeet experience in the 60 respondents to the ‘TeachMeet 10’ survey is both wide and deep, as can be seen when it is mapped placing length on a Rogers diffusion scale, and breadth on a Wenger Trayner deLatt levels of experience scale:

Temporal and experiential profile of "TeachMeet is 10"survey respondents.

Temporal and experiential profile of “TeachMeet is 10″survey respondents.

My eye caught a recent call from #femedtech for contributions to a Quilt of Care and Justice to be put together and displayed in April at OER20

I made a decision to stitch a square at home; and as it happened an opportunity arose during a special workshop to stitch another. Both have been dispatched to and received by Frances Bell who is coordinating the project.

Square 1 is an homage to a Logo icon Cynthia Solomon, who has been a computer science educator for many decades. I love to listen to her tell the story of developing turtle Logo and introducing it to children, and I appreciate the fact that she puts education value before everything else. The circle of hearts in the centre is a Turtlestitch design by Cynthia who nowadays collaborates with another awesome teacher, Susan Klimczac, at the South Boston Technology Centre. The turtles are a wave to Andrea Mayr-Stalder, the creator of the open source programming tool Turtlestitch.
The red and gold fabric fabric was sitting, already cut in to a pinked circle, with the sewing machine of my late mother Angela, whose machine sewing was my first introduction to technology and first lesson in watching a woman doing it for herself. I have no idea what her plans for the swatch were, but I think she would approve of where it is going to end up.

Square 2 evolved during a collaborative exercise which evolved during a visit to Nano Nagle Place in Cork Ireland, a centre dedicated to social justice, having been invited to bring them a Turtlestitch atelier. Led by Richard Millwood, a group of us – Debbie, Danielle, Sorcha, Naomi and me – took the Nano Nagle logo and worked out the maths together in order to code the design, and watched together as it stitched out. The black-on-black french knots, hidden in plain sight, were added by me later to represent the fact that due to Penal Laws in 18th century Ireland, Nano (who grew up to be the founder of the Presentation sisters) had to be sent for her own education in France, and when she first began educating the youngsters of Cork it was in secret.

I am following the story of this #fenedtechquilt with delight and look forward to seeing it finished and displayed later in the year.

Definition of community (merriam-webster.com)

1a unified body of individuals: such as
athe people with common interests living in a particular area …
ba group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together …
ca body of persons of common and especially professional interests
da body of persons or nations having a common history or common social, economic, and political interestsea group linked by a common policy
fan interacting population of various kinds of individuals (such as species) in a common location

2 aa social state or condition; bjoint ownership or participation; ccommon character ; dsocial activity; 3society at large


Community was the theme of the CongRegation unconference in Cong, Mayo, Ireland over the weekend of November 23rd. A hundred or so gathered to discuss  “all of the above” and bringing to the table concerns they had for their community, local and global.
The format of this unconference is simple – blog your way to attend, join the four sequential huddles randomly assigned to you over the day, tell your story in turn, and get talking togethers.
(More details on rules of engagement are here, and the 2019 submissions are here).
I have been chairing these huddles now for several years, and the conversations run wide, deep, and rich – here is a snapshot of the day in Danaghers …

Huddle 1 – In the first huddle, discussion ranged across ideas for investing in knowing the community before the bad times, so we are ready for those bad times. Can we gamify community formation? How do we connect people in remote areas, deal with local issues? is there a connection between the life cycle and the deployment of social media? A theme which recurred throughout the day was the importance of the ‘after worship’ chats in a community, the decline of the Mass / after Mass chats at the church gate was mentioned as a variable. The strongest theme point emerging early in the day was that there are very many meaning for the word community (as seen by reading the blog posts submitted by attendees on that topic).
Huddle 2 – this discussion centred on communities working towards a purpose –  ranging from agile use of online communities for education, social justice and activism, journalism, the ‘Overton Window’ concept leading to a discussion of the contrast between being a customer and a citizen. The importance of being clear about purpose was deemed as the most important need for a community, but the one most often missing or skipped over.
Huddle 3 – this discussion ranged from rural Africa to rural Ireland. We listened to the story of the growing of a community of computer science educators across rural Africa, supported initially by philanthropy but increasingly being left in supported local hands; a success story centred on obvious need . This contrasted with the description of the visible decline in many rural Irish towns. Examples of how some communities have countered this were cited  – communities, many helped in their transformation by the energy of some “blow-in” volunteers, who leverage the energy of the school-gate community, communities who carry out an appreciative inquiry as a starter activity upon which to make a plan.
Huddle 4 – this huddle centred at first on the story of the bee colony – we learned a lot about life of the queen, workers, and drones in the community of the hive! We also spoke of the difference between face to face and online communities, and how they differ. Stepping back from the ‘milestone validated’ community was also a topic; and it took us into discussion of the importance of learning to develop self-acceptance and prioritise it above acceptance by others in our community – something which was agreed can take many of us a lifetime.

In summary

The recurring theme of the four talks around community that I experienced can be summed up thus:
community is contextual, it is important that the purpose of each community is clearly defined and declared.
Throwing my chairing notes into a word cloud generator returned this talk bubble … problems and solutions swapped, cares and concerns shared, over a hundred people gone back to their home communities richer in spirit than when they left. It can only be a good thing.

Cong19 - threads of four huddle conversations

Threads of conversation from four huddle conversations in Danaghers Hotel at CongRegation 2019

Aprés-Huddle – the social aspect of CongRegation is a very important part of the value it offers participants – sharing breakfast, lunch, dinner and “afters” together, joining in the maker meeting, the poetry slam, the tin whistle lessons, the daftness walk in the forest, the strange quiet post-pub musical shenanigans – all of these activities which ‘unconference the unconference’, injecting opportunity for unpredictable mayhem and fun into the weekend.
Thanks to Eoin Kennedy for curating and evolving this unique gathering.
See you next November, whatever the topic.
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#Cong2019 Goodbye picture at the Cross

#Cong2019 Goodbye picture at the Cross

I’ve had ethics on the brain for a while – building and submitting the ethics submission for my PhD research has been done and delivered. Awaiting approval is providing a short period of slacking off relative calm and a chance to catch up with the real world.

So when on November 12 I read a tweet (which quickly grew to be a long thread) from someone I really admire, the banlaoch* that is UK researcher and senior academic Trisha Greenhalgh, both the content and the context stopped me in my tracks. I had time to react and reflect on the fact that this had happened, that it had happened to someone at the top of her profession, and that it had been done before her professional peers. Ugh.
[*banlaoch = the Irish term for a female warrior or heroine]

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A couple of weeks later, this subject of ‘conduct unbecoming’ during post-presentation discussions arose again for me, as it became part of the exit conversation among researchers attending an IPA (Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis) colloqium at the Technological University of Dublin. I recounted the recent experience of Prof. Dr. Greenhalgh, and my dismay at the unethical behaviour towards her of the Chair who should have been steering everyone’s behaviour by example. It also brought to my mind the times the exact opposite was in place, and and the rules of engagement are declared openly at the beginning of a meeting, conference, or seminar. I am now thinking that declaring the rules of engagement should be the formal opening action of every meeting, providing a point of reference to anyone at the meeting who may need to to call out inappropriate behaviour by anyone (including the Chair!). Hopefully it would be like one of those ‘break glass in case of emergency’ things, never needed but unambiguously available if necessary.

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

Reflecting on all of this, here is my personal appreciation of the upfront declaration of expected ethical behaviour … an important part of my research journey is being in the company of others working in the same sphere as me – my supervisors, my fellow PhDs, and special interest groups – formal and informal – that form around a topic of interest to me. One such SIG is the Network for Educational Action Research in Ireland. I attend meetings of this group several times a year. Each meeting starts with display of the same slide – a summary of the ethical stance of the group and the agreed standards for procedures and protocols. These are also openly declared on the NEARI website, and combine the particular values of the group with the universal values espoused in the Teaching Council of Ireland. I find this practice offers a professional reminder to all present of the expectations we have of each other, and infuses the meeting from the start with a collegiate atmosphere. The ritual aspect of the practice acts as a subtle personal safety blanket for me – I am assured that the meeting will be steered by a Chair guided by a moral compass visible to all. It is a practice I would like to see more widely adopted at the meeting of other special interest groups in academia and education.


The NEARI statement that is displayed at the beginning of each NEARImeet is online at
http://www.eari.ie/neari-network-for-educational-action-research-in-ireland/neari-ethical-statement/

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