Last week I had the honour of chairing the first ever TeachMeet Ayrshire, on the campus of UWS (University of the West of Scotland) in beautiful Craigie Park. It was only the second TM I had ever attended, but as we approach the fifth anniversay of the first ever event from an original idea of Ewan McIntosh, the appetite for such meetings shows no sign of diminishing. A capacity crowd packed into a computer lab in the former Craigie College – soon to be abandoned in favour of a state-of-the-art building on the banks of the River Ayr – and they were joined by many others who couldn’t be there in person, via the live video stream. Topics ranged from ‘Geocaching In and Out of the Classroom’ to ‘How to Motivate the Demotivated’ with a strong emphasis on active and outdoor learning. Discussion was lively and animated, the emphasis very much on the fun of learning. Especially pleasing was the wide demographic of the audience as well as the presenters, from students and newly-qualified teachers to those with many years of experience behind them, representing primary, secondary, further and higher education, youth work and outdoor education.
For teachers and others who are unfamiliar with TeachMeet, it is a structured but informal gathering of teachers, coming together to share ideas and classroom practice; teachmeets often take place alongside more formal conferences as ‘fringe’ events, are slightly anarchic in nature, and encourage the belief that the best professional development for teachers comes from listening and talking to fellow professionals. Originally the emphasis was on the innovative use of technology, but increasingly the discussion is about general pedagogy. Participants may volunteer beforehand to make a standard 7-minute presentation or a 2-minute nano-presentation, and presenters are chosen randomly during the event, meaning that there is no guarantee that anyone will ‘make the cut’, no matter who they are or what their background is. TeachMeet is not about being lectured to by experts, and therein lies its main attraction.
Let Tim and Moby of BrainPop explain it better than I do!