Thursday, May 26, 2011

Twitter as a Professional Learning Tool

Part of my 7 minute contribution to TeachMeet with extra resources


We've just had our first TeachMeet and it was simply
amazing! 50+ teachers and educators giving up their own time after work on a cold, wet afternoon to come together and share ideas in an informal, friendly and energised atmosphere.

When Stephen Heppell visited us a few weeks ago he mentioned the massive success of TeachMeets in the UK as a contemporary teacher professional development model. Upon further research, particularly through Tom Barrett's blog and contacting Tom himself, we came across the TeachMeet wiki and how to organise one and suggested rules.

To quote Tom:

“A TeachMeet is an unconference; there is no organising committee and anyone can arrange one or attend – all it takes is a date on the wiki. People sign up to talk about technology in classrooms and it’s free. It is driven by the passion and enthusiasm of those participating."

So after a simple tweet to canvas interest we chose a venue, date and set up our own wiki. (Setting up a Google Site was a great learning in itself). With word-of-mouth, tweets and emails soon we had 57 down to attend with 21 presenting (including one from the UK via Skype).

The afternoon itself was sensational. This was all the more incredible with the wireless falling over (fortunately we were able to pick up the school's next door) and people delayed by traffic. That is the beauty of the informal style, less pressure on hosts and attendees alike, a solution can be found and you can walk in late, grab a cake and people are just happy to see you.

We had primary and secondary teachers in the room, mingling and sharing ideas. Presenters only had 2 or 7 minutes which allowed for the upbeat pace of the session. Half of the presenters simply hooked up their nice shiny new iPad2s, so much more informal and blasé than Laptops. People talked about everything from Google Public Data to Weebly, Goodreader on the iPad, Qwiki and Bee-bots amongst others. The energy in the room was simply palpable! (All presentations should appear here shortly). We had Primary teachers wanting to try Secondary activities, Secondary teachers wanting to visit Primary schools and sure enough teachers and schools connecting.

It may sound somewhat cliché but several teachers left saying it was the best PD they had ever had.

To help the smooth running of the event we had a couple of soft camels to throw at people who ran over time (a technique borrowed from the UK), a Twitter back-channel #ceotm on another screen plus a random selector for the presenters. You can view photos of the event here.

So where to from here? Importantly, no one owns TeachMeet. It is not the providence of myself, my Region or sector. Anyone can set one up anytime. We discussed at the end how often to run these and who wants to do the next one. A school volunteered and we'll probably go every 6 weeks or so.

Learnings for next time:
- provide more food - were eaten out of house and home! (probably have a proper 'TeachEat' meal next time)
- stream it live e.g. on USTREAM (this was going to happen but a bridge too far in this instance)
- make name badges including Twitter IDs (helps put a face to a name or Tweet)
- if you're MCing the night, give yourself a table to work at in between presentations

Other suggestions are actively welcomed.

Many thanks must go out to people behind the scenes, in particular @jpilearn, @artprintmedia, @pvlies and @jeffpalmer2.

If you've never been to a TeachMeet go to one, better still organise one!

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Getting Started with Twitter (How To)

A quick and easy guide to getting started with Twitter. (Screen-capture animations obtained using 'Jing' - Jing creates SWFs which Prezi loves).