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I’m reading a lot of TeachMeet ‘stuff’ these days. This is one my favourite bits, and I’m keeping it close by to keep me grounded. I don’t receive the TESS magazine, so belated thanks to journalist Adi Bloom for putting this snippet from Ewan McIntosh into a ‘TeachMeet 10th birthday’ page last June, and thanks to Ian Stuart from tweeting a pic of p14 of that issue.

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I couldn’t resist ‘slidifying’ it to use myself (didn’t use PowerPoint, I promise!):

TeachMeet4pillars

Q: “So how do I know I am at a TeachMeet?”

A: Look around the room…

TeachMeet at BETT 2010

TeachMeet at BETT 2010. [Pic. courtesy Martin Burrett @ictmagic]

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

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1 Makermeet
Evolving the ICTEDU Teachmeet into a Makermeet was a chance we took, because somehow we knew the folk who would turn up would be up for it. And hey, we were right!
From the moment we made our Glowies to wear as badges it was obvious the creativity in the room could light up the town of Thurles for a year. We were a motley crew including primary and secondary school students, teachers from all sectors both formal and informal, Coderdojo mentors, and assorted Keynote Speakers not too lofty to get down and dirty with the proletariat (cheers Steve Bunce, Mary Loftus, Paul Hopkins and Stephen Howell). And down and dirty it actually was, with most projects ending on a floor at some stage.

The first session saw teams taking on randomly selected challenges – mini pan pipes were made, bridges were built, balloon propellors constructed, water was split, hovercrafts hovered, and – in pride of place in the centre of the auditorium – our first ever Rube Goldberg machine was born. As marble runs go, it may have been humble, but the rollercoaster built by Susan, John and Kevin will go down in Teachmeet history. Pam literally almost exploded with delight!

We then split up into three camps for the Three Steve Soap Box Smackdown, wherein Steve Bunce, Steve Holmes and Stephen Howell each ran us through some exciting ideas for the world of Making.

After this we were greeted online by “The Godfather”, Ira Socol, from the US. He is leading and supporting maker culture in Virginia classrooms, alongside Pam Moran. It was great to hear his grizzly ol’ voice encouraging us onwards. He also reminded us we had a challenge to answer from Mike Thornton’s students…so we got to work on the 20 sheet paper tower challenge.

20 sheets of paper, that is all a team gets. Build a tower as tall as possible with same, that’s all a team has to do. Competition was really fierce, with all sorts of skullduggery detected. With last year’s Marshmallow / Spaghetti tower champions – Catherine Cronin and Conor Galvin – absent, the field was wide open. Winners were Hassan, Neil and Emer…

The auditorium was awash with trash and laughter of happy people by 9pm – when the trash was sorted, the happy people retired to the Anner Hotel for refreshments and – Kahoot! Thanks Bianca for leading this – it was the most fun Apres Meet I can remember.

2 ICTEDU
For me this year, ICTEDU started early on the Friday morning, working with Kevin and Ciaran from Bridge21, and the TY students of Presentation and Colaiste Mhuire Thurles. The groups, tasks, fire drill, momentum, engagement, investment, fun, ideas, and respect were all amazing for me. Watching the students meeting the public and stepping up to explain their work during the W@lk, and making friends, was a joy.
No adventure is complete without a selfie, so here we all are with Kevin precariously but confidently poised on the windowsill…

The ICTEDU keynotes and workshops I got to were great. First of all it was all the Steve’s again…
I just loved meeting the crowd humming and giggling out of Steve Bunce’s session, I also LOVED the Creative Computer Lab workshop with @Seafoam – his incredible energy and goodwill , Stephen Howell’s support for him both there and in the Keynote later, working with the truly brilliant-but-so-humble Steve Bunce as my learning buddie – it was all beyond good.
Once again I watched the Youth Media Team work with Conor Galvin. The only word for this team is AWEsome.
At 3pm I had such a dilemma – so many wonderful folk to choose from, but this time I got it right and followed my instincts to a lightbulb moment with @MrNeilButler when he showed us his JC Key Skills Twine Games Framework. What.A.Takeaway.
By the final Keynote session, I found myself (almost maternally nervous for, but) so proud of Mary Loftus as she calmly challenged us to channel our creativity as educators.
There was a little tear listening to Pam’s words about the late Rita Clohessy. There has evolved a huge overlap between our CESI tribe, and what @topgold calls the ICTEDU family, and Rita was good to us all.

A very favourite and very happy moment of the day came when I found myself sitting with both Ban Ryan and Bianca Ní Ghrógáin – two giant shining stars, two peas in a pod. It was fun to see @lismiss greeted, like the CESI royalty she is, by all and sundry. It was cool to have the pair of them meet at last, because they are both such powerhouses of ideas, and enthusiasm and both are role models for other educators. I can’t imagine how we’d contain the two of them if they were ever presenting together…we’ll have to work that out before next year!

For a flavour of the whole weekend, have a look at the Twitter timeline for #ictedu

Thanks and kudos to @pamelaaobrien and her team in LIT Thurles for a wonderful weekend. The rumours that next year is already being planned are VERY true. See you there.

bett2014teeThere’s me wearing my cool TeachMeet Bett T-shirt (love it, thanks organisers and sponsors TES – though sorry to see no TES at this BETT show). I won’t list the presenters as others have done so in great blog posts already – see super posts from Pamela O’Brien,  Helen Bullock, or Kate Murray (& Larry Leprechaun!) for details. 

The front two rows of the BETT arena contained the Irish delegation, or the Fellowship of the CESI ring as Bianca Grogan calls it – Nigel Lane, Pam, Hellie, Bianca, John Heffernan, Sarah Jane Carey, Kate, Kathleen Buckley, Pat Seaver, Rory McGann and Fred Boss were spotted tweeting and hooting. (Hellie was taking note of everything in detail – watch out for some fireworks at TeachMeet CESI in the Clayton Hotel in Galway on February 28th! I know that feeling, Hellie, watching another TeachMeet is like looking in another teacher’s room for helpful ideas).
It was strange to be in rows instead of in the round – very little wriggle room – very little cross table eye contact – I missed those. Still, the audience was very receptive to all the presenters, and we had some great, thought provoking, presentations for sure.

I loved the presenter Bingo that ran though the evening, made for good fun, prompts to remember who was who, and was handy to jot down notes when the phone battery died. I loved the cartoonist team who ‘live graffiti-d’ the entire evening for us – the final wall is here at Fred Boss’s Vine.
I like Russel Tarr’s new version of the Classtools random name picker, and the idea of lining up some speakers in advance is a keeper also. It was a treat to see presenters whose work and ideas I follow and use all the time – thank you over and over Mark Anderson, Julian Wood, Steve Bunce, Miles Berry. As ever with a TM, it is not the new ‘stuff’ shown I find myself pondering days later (although I am loving Moodstream, and where oh where is the Algorithm Alligator anyone?), but more the ‘big ideas’ behind them – it is all about being Julian’s ‘purple cow’. That image of a purple and white fresian, btw, is my transformative take away from this TM! (Here is Pam’s picture of same.)purplecow

What did I found myself noticing after about the first hour however? I was feeling a little uncomfortable. Physically – sitting squished between two other people, no matter how much I love them, is not my idea of a learning space. Professionally – as a TM junkie, and an erstwhile TM organiser this side of the pond, what I love about TM most of all is the ever-so-slight-anarchy that can reign, especially during break-out sessions which I guess were not possible in this TM. I appreciate the amazing work put in by volunteer organisers Drew Buddie, Ian Usher and team; but I just couldn’t keep away the thought that with a TM this big, it was always going to be what it turned out to be – a very linear bunch of macro presentations followed by a very linear bunch of nano presentations. The quality of each presentation was top notch, as was the calibre of those in the audience; I just couldn’t help thinking each presenter deserved a less jaded arena.

The idea to have a gigantic TM is still a great one, but the format will need upsizing. And though the above sounds like a rant or a moan, it truly isn’t – I am still glad I went, I totally appreciate everyone’s contribution, and for me TeachMeet still rocks!!!

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