The Teachmeet that never wasn’t

TMLogoILWLast week was the University of Edinburgh’s Innovative Learning Week (ILW). As part of  my contribution to the range of activities and events that make up this amazing opportunity for staff, learners and the wider community, I thought I’d run a Teachmeet. I was delighted when very quickly, I got some big names signed up to share a bit of good practice and ideas to inform and enthuse: Colin Webster of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (@co1inwebster); John Connell, the EdTech guru, creator of “I am Learner” and innovator behind the CommonLearn concept; and Ian Stuart, formerly @IslayIan, now on secondment to the Scottish Executive and an authority on 1-to-1.

rp

It was with some regret that I had to cancel the event, like many others, due to (I think) the large number of events and the impact on registrations. I decided that 20 wasn’t enough for a viable teachmeet in the context of the University, so called it off. By way of compensation, I switched the venue and the context to a pub in Leith, the Teuchters Landing.

SD

I don’t propose to detail the entire event: what is worth recording here is that it was a brilliant night, with some amazing stories, tech demonstrations, masterclasses, debate over current policy and the curriculum, great ideas and something very characteristic of almost every teachmeet I’ve ever been to – the “buzz” of having shared some truly refreshing perspectives. Some of the ideas I picked up included were Microsoft’s Physics Illustrator (which evidently has been around for years); information about the new BBC Bitesize for National 5 Physics and others; and the SQA’s unconference site on what education will look like in 2020 at http://education2020.wikispaces.com which outlines what Education 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 look like – “a bit of brick and a bit of click”.

SS

I’ll leave you with a little quote from Sharon Somerville, a Canadian teacher just back from teaching in the Falkland Islands. This struck a chord with me:

People don’t have problems, they have needs. Meet a need to enable them.

 

WordPress network domain mapping fix

I’ve just been on an interesting little journey that started last September when I discovered that some of the sites on one of my WordPress networks had stopped working.

You might enjoy a little schadenfreude if I admit now that it was because I had a brilliant idea and did something stupid. I’ve posted details here in the hope that (a) if I do it again, I can find out how to fix it, and (b) if you’ve done it too, you’re closer to the solution than I have been for the past six months. I’ve ‘genericed’ the details to help you map it to your own setup. Read More

The Wind of Opportunity Blows

Mandela and another African Democracy

What will schools be like in 2023?

What will education look like in 2023?

Yesterday I attended the SELMAS Annual Conference at Stirling University. The tagline for the conference was, “What will education look like in 2023?” The day was chaired by Dr. Dee Torrance. These are my notes and thoughts from the conference and I should warn you, they are quite long, certainly for a blog post.

The event took the form of four keynotes spread across the day, with opportunity to network over coffee and lunch, followed by a (too) short panel discussion. The planned “group tasks” were ditched as minor technology gremlins conspired to eat the available time (is this the future?). We were also given a presentation by senior girls from Ross High on leadership and a “bonus” session from Terry Wrigley and Danny Murphy on Terry and John Smyth’s new book: Living on the Edge: Rethinking Poverty, Class and Schooling. The keynotes were at first sight eclectic but themes emerged from the four very distinct perspectives shared by our speakers: Donna Manson, Matthew Syed, Ollie Bray and Tommy Boyle. Read More

Never…

… a crossword. One of the interesting things about being a producer of online material – whether that be blogs, learning resources, online community sites or crosswords, is that sometimes you get no direct response. Feedback is important so that you can gauge whether or not what you’re doing is any good. If it’s rubbish, you can consider whether it’s worth the effort doing it again. If it’s brilliant, you can be encouraged to keep doing it. If it’s in between, you can find out how to improve it.

Pixie Puzzle No8

Click the puzzle.

Some of the things I do online yield positive responses: the physics resources site I run over at sptr.net gets little response online but when I meet users or engage in one-on-one email exchanges, I often get positive comments about how useful it is, and this encourages me to keep working at it. It’s a nice feeling to be making lives easier.

Sometimes, though, you can work hard to put something “out there” and get little to nothing back. Two examples: one, is the audio commentaries and reflections I publish through iTunes and AudioBoo. Although most of these get thousands of listeners, which itself is gratifying, I almost never get a response. It’s a bit like shouting at the radio. I know how that feels, I do it often enough.

The other example is the cryptic crosswords I have been publishing over the past year – 7 in total. As any cruciverbalist will tell you, these take quite a bit of effort to put together, even with the aid of the brilliant tool that I use, John Stevens’ Magnum Opus program. Despite a couple of thousand downloads, I have only ever received a handful of comments or solutions.

So. I saw a guy in Costa yesterday, settling down with the Saturday Times Crossword. He’d finished a substantial chunk of it by the time he got up to leave, so I wrote the web address of my most recent puzzle on a receipt and pressed it upon him and asked him to take a look and let me know what he thought. Bless his heart, he did so, posting the magic words, “Enjoyed the crossword…”.

You have no idea how good that made me feel. Click the puzzle if you’d like to try one.

It’s Teachmeet, Jim, but…

…not as I know it.

This evening I attended Teachmeet Fife 2013 at the brand new (I almost wrote “brand spanking new” but thought better of it in light of current educational thinking on discipline) Auchmuty High School in Glenrothes, Fife. I knew the format of the evening was going to be a little different to previous teachmeets I have attended so was a little unsure, but I had some business to do at the school anyway, so signed myself up as a lurker.

The school building and facilities are absolutely beautiful. I was given a wee cook’s tour of the place and was impressed at the thinking in the design, the huge investment in new equipment and security, and the quality of the teaching environment the local authority have created in the school. I can’t deny I felt a little envious of my friend and guide, who was evidently appreciative of his good fortune to be teaching in such a school.

TMFThe teachmeet itself was kicked off by Gemma Sanderson, who also took the first presentation on “Using Twitter in the Classroom”. As with all three sessions I attended, this was not a workshop as billed, but rather a traditional direct-teaching presentation complete with slides and no interaction. Gemma’s presentation was interesting, as were all three sessions I attended, but I was more than a little disappointed to realise that this was a very standard CPD event and not what I have come to know as a Teachmeet™.

This was brought home to me sharply when I incurred “discipline” from Paul Murray when caught using my phone during his presentation. At a proper teachmeet, the use of backchannels and concurrent conversation, often over social media channels, is positively encouraged if not demanded. I was trying to do this as is the custom and practice.

It is unfortunate that for many delegates this evening, this was their first teachmeet and I fear they will have an unfair impression of what a teachmeet is. For me, although the presentations were mostly useful and interesting, the lack of the usual pace, dynamics and interactivity left me without the usual teachmeet buzz which often lasts for days and always has some impact on my practice.

Have I gained anything from this evening? Well, yes, of course. I was able to converse with friends and colleagues old and new, to reflect on the things I had heard and to consider how I ought to revise and adapt my own practice in light of these. I am grateful to Gemma and her team for organising the evening, to Auchmuty for hosting us and to BrainPop for sponsoring the event.

Readings

invictusSo, why am I publishing poetry readings? Simply because I was listening to BBC Radio 4’s Poetry Please and heard a rendering of Blake’s The Tyger that I thought – well, not very good. I love Blake’s verse and found myself shouting at the radio (I’m the kind of guy that shouts at inanimate objects) at the failure of the reader to make any real attempt to put a little passion into it. As is a common occurrence for a man with my over-inflated sense of his own capabilities, I thought I could do better.

So here are a few attempts to do better. Not being objective about how my own voice sounds to others, I wonder if they are any good. I’m not seeking flattery, but would appreciate your thoughts as to whether I should do any more, or stop now before I make other people shout at their computers.

If you don’t comment, don’t complain if I post more.

Keen The Eye – N. R. Hood