So, it’s been a long time between posts, I know. My new role, on top of my regular teaching addiction, has been consuming my life, and my blogging mission has slipped down the agenda a little bit. Woops.
However, I have to record and share my inspirational experience from last night.
Last night, I joined a LOT (200+? Not sure what the final numbers were, and probably more involved via ustream) of public and private school teachers who voluntarily committed 3 hours after school on a Friday to professional learning at a fantastic TeachMeet event. If you’re not familiar with what a TeachMeet is, it’s essentially an event where teachers share things that they’ve been doing with technology in their classroom in short 7 or 2 minute presentations. So in one evening or afternoon, you’re exposed to a whole lot of bite-sized bits of inspiration and come away with a head full of ideas and a peek into other people’s classrooms and schools.
As I sat in the theatre listening to the early presentations, I looked around me and realised that this was what teacher professional learning should look like and feel like. I was swimming in a sea of teachers connecting via phones, tablets or laptops, making notes, clicking on links or tweeting responses to presentations. Unlike traditional TPL, I didn’t have to sit there as a solitary, passive recipient of information, with my seedlings of thought stunted in their growth. Instead, my thought seedlings were allowed to grow rapidly as I tweeted them, got responses, instantly checked out links being spruiked and Googled ideas that sprung to mind when inspired by what others were saying. As a result, I was highly engaged for the entire three hours, because I could essentially self-differentiate my PL, as well as participate in social learning.
The interesting thing about this high engagement factor is that I was already quite familiar with a lot of the tech stuff that was being presented, so there wasn’t a lot of ‘new’ knowledge on that front. But the engagement factor came from seeing how this technology was being used in different ways, and also seeing technology use validated by such a large number of inspiring teachers. I don’t know about other people, but I sometimes get to a point at school where I start to doubt myself and my use of technology, because quite often it feels like you’re a bit of a lone wolf. Despite seeing results and high engagement, I sometimes fall prey to the Am I Doing the Right Thing? mindset. Well, thank god for TeachMeets, because they remind me that I am.
I would have loved to have seen all the presentations in all the rooms, but my little batch of presenters gave me insight into:
- An international shared history learning journey between students at SHORE school and a school in Turkey, examining World War 1 and the ANZAC tradition. Plenty of evidence that kids were grappling with problematic knowledge and using global connections in a meaningful way. (From Cameron Patterson at SHORE School)
- How to turn your IWB into a giant on-the-wall iPad. The most awesome thing about this presentation was that it was delivered by a Year 9 student. (From Nick@nickstechspace.net)
- A fantastic new collaborative K-6 resource-sharing site called teachertime.com.au. The concept is similar to what I was trying to achieve with The Sharespace, but done far less clunkily. I just hope that it’s fuelled purely by love and not eventually for money (though I do wonder why it’s easy for a teacher to come up with a simple, manageable interface for resource-sharing in their spare time, whilst some nameless government organisation invests oodles of dollars into creating resource-sharing infrastructure that doesn’t work. An argument for ground-up development, perhaps?). (From Jesse Black @ TeacherTime)
- The folk over at Northern Beaches Christian School gave us a peek into their Audacious Classroom (here’s a great blog post by HappySteve with videos and descriptions). Essentially game-based learning in a flexible learning environment. I have my questions about this approach (particularly in terms of how kids with particularly disabilities would function in this environment) but it was so inspiring to see a group of teachers willing to throw out the rule book and do something so innovative.
- Stanley Yip, over at PLANE took us into his 3D virtual world learning environments. One of his slides alluded to a virtual world called Action Research Project Island, which sounds particularly interesting to me, given that I’m keen to embark on an ARP.
There were many other excellent presentations, but these ones stood out for me the most.
During the night, I tweeted that I wished the Luddites at my school would come along to an event like TeachMeet. I am sure that the enthusiasm would be contagious and they’d find at least one thing that makes them think “I’d love to do that with my kids!”. It really is a fantastic feeling to be in a room with a whole bunch of other people who have the same passion for education, the same excitement about integrating technology and the same willingness to share. It reminds you that it really is great to be a nerdy teacher
To read the Twitter feed, search for the #TMWR2012 hashtag.