image: Twitter pic by Gill Berry @fahyberry, showing particpants at an unconference in Cong, Ireland, Nov 2021

Conferencing and unconferencing online is the only way at the moment, and I have been reminded severals times recently of how critical ‘the chat’ space is to both the formal and informal aspects of the events.

I first noticed this early in the ‘pivot’ at an event I attended online, hosted from Australia. The hosts were using Jitsi and braodcasting on YouTube. So while we were listening to the speakers (it was a TeachMeet, the nanopresentation format meant it was a fast rolling affair) there was a chat window in Jitsi and another in YouTube – which gave it an atmosphere of a social event at which you could join in any conversation. And the conversations ranged from content to method to context, depending on that the presentation was prompting. And the refeshing thing was that because the online chat window uses names to tag the typed entries, which meant although partcipants were quite removed from each other, socialisation began quite swiftly. [At the time it reminded me of the in-person events which displayed a Twitter wall using hashtags to channel chat, but this had a more connected conversational feel.]

That experience was so dynamic that I unconsciously began to measure subsequent events against it.

For the first year or so, it seemed that the more ‘official’ an event was the more locked out the audience was – during the ‘delivery’ or ‘presentation’ part of the event, the hosts switched off acess to the chat window, and hid the Q&A. (At one professional network event in 2021, when asked about this, the chair responded “it would distract the speakers”). This turns the event into a broadcast – like just another channel on tv.

When the Q&A and chat windows are enabled, it adds a whole different and dynamic dimension to the interactions – questions are answered by partcipants (or the speaker if they are so inclined), links are shared, suggestions are offered, discussions take off … the whole thing happening without disturbing the audio or visual feed of the presentation. It can work both ways too – from a presenter point of view, it offers a chance to get immediate feedback to a prompt or a question by using a ‘chat cascade’ approach, and dispel that discturbing feeling of ‘speaking into the void’! And the fact that the chat can be saved is a real bonus for speakers who value what the listeners may have to say. It also allows a side bar conversation to continue among some attendees, without breaking the flow of the main conversation.

The chat window reached peak effect for me during a ‘huddle’ at the recent CongRegation unconference – during a compelling and lively conversation taking place on screen, where only one person can speak at a time through the chair, (at the speed of sound literally), a compelling and even more lively sidebar erupted in the chat window, adding a rollercoaster effect to proceedings as we listened and read and responded (by trying to type at the speed of light!!!).

So I hope this becomes one ‘ill-wind’ benefit of The Pivot or whatever we eventually call it, that whatever we do for (un)conferencing is in a spirit of all available channels for a sidebar or caucus are opened. … if we want it to be as much about the partcipant as the presenter … the chat is where it’s at.

Every year, in November, CongregationTM is hosted by Eoin Kennedy in Cong, in County Mayo, in Ireland.
It is an unconference. There is a theme. The cost of a ticket to take part is writing a blog post on that theme.
On the day of the event, participants are randomly assigned to huddles of about eight people for about an hour. They rotate thru four huddles across the day. Each huddle is overseen by a chair, stories (which may or may not reflect the blog post submitted) are shared and discussed. In pre- and hopefully post-plague times, there is a strong social element warmly wrapped around the event.
In 2021 the theme is Leadership, and this is my 600 word ticket application.

Huddle in Danaghers during CongreationTM 2019. Photograph by @magsamond

When I was young, I heard the elders around me (in person and on tv) grumble with deep disapproval when Tommy Smith and John Carlos used their medal ceremony at the 1968 Olympics to protest as part of their Olympic Project for Human Rights campaign. As a teenager, me and my girlfriends heard (but didn’t listen to) the same grumbled disapproval as we cheered Billie Jean King as she went out on the court in 1973 and won the Battle of The Sexes challenge match. I found these events, and others, compelling at the time and they resonate still – they woke me up to the fact that leaders could lead from the very spot they occupied, which might not necessarily be an appointed leadership role. My favourite quote has always been the advice attributed to another icon, Arthur Ashe – start where you are, use what you have, do what you can. To that I’d add ‘lead if there’s need’. To appropriate a term Irish grammar, it is a sort of Modh Díreach [direct path] leadership. It is all around us (although it still meets with grumbling disapproval, and worse, from many). I don’t always acknowledge it, but I appreciate it.

I see it grow from one gesture by one person into global movements from which we all benefit – in 2012 when Malala Yousafzai spoke from her hospital bed having been shot for attending school; in 2018 when Greta Thunberg sat with a sign outside the Swedish Parliament, skipping school each Friday to protest climate change; in 2016, Colin Kaepernik first sitting then kneeling during the Anthem played before his football game, continuing the protest signal begun by Smith and Carlos more than fifty years ago.

I see it online in those who take time to share their expert information and experience with others in a time of crisis – there are many but my shout out of pandemic gratitude is to those who take the time to care and share their expert information (professors Trish Greenhalgh, Orla Hegarty), recount their daily reality (school principals Simon Lewis, Caitriona Hand, Trina Golden), and advocate for those otherwise without a voice (union official Linda Kelly). With this list, as Beckett said, I could go on …

I see enacted in many I have encountered in education networks and communities (looking at you, people in, and open non-hierarchical systems especially TeachMeet). My experience participating in and now researching informal self-organised gatherings has introduced me again and again to the person who takes that first step when they see the need – allowing others to join in and ‘make the road by walking’, to tread a desire line shortcut from where they are now to where they know they need to be. It is servant leadership, voluntary, humble but very powerful – the meeting leadership that facilitates democratic agenda setting and ensures that voices are heard organically in a convivial setting; and the practice leadership that ensures teachers benefit by being both audience and presenter, sharing with peer practitioners. It is leadership that begets leadership.

I have seen it here each November at the Congregation unconference – individuals who takes turns leading from a chair in a huddle in the pub or the shop in a small village in the west of Ireland – simply by telling their story.

To sum up in a practical way, I borrow a quote from (one who is a role model for what I am describing) Ewan McIntosh’s crowdsourced and very useful Middle Leadership Manifesto – “Leadership is what you achieve by trying something out”.

Instead of a direct blog post, I tried out a Twitter thread to point out some great features at Snap!Con last week. It took no less time to check links and do Alt-Txt for images, but might allow people to pick and mix what they want to read or reply to in a shorter time. Still, I need to store it here, so I tried out @threadreaderapp for the first time – very efficient and polite, that bot!

The thread is here, or if that dissoves, it begins here …

a yellow conference logo with text which reads Snap!Con2021 July29-Aug01
Snap!Con2021 July29-Aug01

It was a delight to be part of Dr Shelli Ann Garland’s podcast series A Dash of SaLT. Shelli is someone I admire, regard, and love. We met when we both began PhD study in the School of Education, Trinity College, Dublin. Shelli was on the fast track full-time, I am still meandering the slow path, but one advantage is that I can learn from the work Shelli did for her PhD. In particular her representation of the dispositions of volunteers, which helped me greatly get my thinking straight about what TeachMeet particpants have telling me about their involvement.

Zooming out from that part of our shared exeriences, in doing this podcast, I realised and appreciated the care and delicacy with which Shelli curated this process from start to finish. I had noticed when listening her other podcasts to date that she is a Big Picture interviewer with a sharp ear and an empathic x-ray vision. For me, big picture viewpoint is a good thing at two levels – the topic within the PhD, and the PhD itself within real life. The topic (for me, TeachMeet, whose niche I am trying to tease out) is central, but it has to be viewed as part of a broader space-time contiuum. And the PhD, which can attempt to become central to the life in which it has embedded itself, is only one part of that life. In the five years to date of this PhD (with one more to go), real life for me has included many of the ‘momentous events’ happening in parallel. Shelli gets all this woven together, not an easy task.

So if you listen and enjoy, send a hat tip tweet to @shelli_garland

ps – I have not blogged much lately, WordPress is evolving so fast it is making me dizzy.

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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

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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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]

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 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 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.


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.

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