Visionary video in the massive red building


Over the past few years I’ve been on a whole load of varied and equally valuable development activities that aim to bring out specific management and / or leadership qualities. None of those has resulted in establishing a vision quite like that which I saw at TeachMeet Hants yesterday.

Yesterday’s meeting was a smaller and cozy group than I had experienced previously. I suppose there were about fifteen of us together in a single classroom at the Priory School in the centre of Portsmouth – amusingly described to me my David Rogers, our host, as “the massive red building”. You can check out David’s summary of the event over at his own blog.

So what was so special about the vision? For me, something I’ve picked up from a number of particularly enthusiastic teachers – most of whom are working closely with technology – is that they have particularly clear objectives for the integration of digital tools in building learner skills. Of particular importance are those that promote both creativity and innovation in the individual. You’ll get the idea if you check out a couple of these tools like IsleOfTune and Poisson Rouge (which is utterly and brilliantly bonkers, by the way).

David and his team have chosen to embody and communicate their vision – and their passion – in video. I’ve never seen a ‘vision statement‘ communicated in this way by a small group of teaching staff before. I have to say that I thought it was great. Video communicates so much about the abilities and ambition of the individuals to a far greater extend than any written counterpart might. In producing a video, it is clear just how much effort has been made not only to conceive the vision (hard enough on its own), but also to represent it in such a way that their creative skills and abilities can be demonstrated at the same time. During his presentation to the group, and in later conversation, David explained that he and his colleagues will refer to the video regularly; it keeps them on track, reminds them of their purpose, and offers some additional motivation when needed!

This team of geographers are so very keen, and ambitious too. They choose to challenge classroom convention with activities like Gorilla Geography – mapping out student opinion by chalking up their views around the school block, and then using this opinion to influence the development of their learning cohort. I applaud them for this, and look forward to visiting David and his team again someday. Why not check out the video:

TeachMeets in Hants


For a while now I’ve been interested in TeachMeets. My interest came about after attending one a few months ago in nearby Winchester. I didn’t think this sort of thing was going on much in the UK, so it was pleasantly surprising to find one close to home! The enthusiasm of everyone attending really struck me; the people I heard from were all truly dedicated to providing the very best education they can for their learners, and using technology to support this. I took away so much energy and inspiration from my first TeachMeet experience.

Thanks to some guidance and encouragement from Ian Addison, I’ve taken my interest further by agreeing to host a meeting. It’s new territory for me, but should provide opportunity to exercise some of the skills I’ve been gaining recently.

With a little persuasion, I’ve also found support from my management team to host an event. This will take place early next year in order to fit in with others around the county.

I really want to find a suitable sponsor for the event – nothing extravagant, but just enough to cover the cost of some coffee, and maybe have a little something for visitors to take away with them. We received some nice wristband memory sticks from LSIS recently… I wonder if they could provide a few more?

The next TeachMeet in Hampshire is on July 13 2011 at Priory School Specialist Sports College and you can find all the details here: As always, there’s lots of TeachMeet conversation happening on Twitter; just follow or use the hashtag #tmhants.

Teachmeet’s are cool (but the jokes are terrible)


Just a few days ago I wrote about my intention to visit a TeachMeet for the first time; today, together with Gayle Bicknell, I went along to the nearest event being held at University of Winchester. It took us a while to find, but thanks to a friendly lady in the not-very-secure car park belonging to the HQ of Hampshire Police we got there only a few minutes after kick off.

The whole thing was really impressive, right from the start. All TeachMeet activity is collated at the TeachMeet wiki hosted by PBWorks, and there’s a dedicated page for each event, including this one at Winchester. I’m looking forward to reviewing some of the recorded content when it’s published online, and continuing the conversation via Twitter.

The format isn’t quite un-conference; those wanting to present have already published their intention and subject on the wiki page, and therefore you have an idea of what to expect. This seems to work pretty well. There isn’t the ‘open space’ style effect for those conversations that nobody is interested in – the agenda is sequential. However, each of the presentations is either two minutes or seven minutes in length. This is just about right for the subject matter. You really don’t need to hear every last detail about the subject in question, but rather get enough of an overview that you can follow-up directly with the presenter, or take away enough inspiration to get on with some experimentation for yourself.

There were a couple of times during the event where I felt we could have done with a break – to pause and talk about some of the ideas we were hearing with the others around us. I didn’t stay until the end, so didn’t get to do this informally afterward. Having a few minutes periodically for some conversation, or a separate and clearly identified breakout room for more conversation would be handy. Maybe a presenter could leave the stage and head for a breakout room when finished for a further fifteen minute discussion with those who wanted to talk about their subject in a little more detail?

My first experience of TeachMeet is that it’s a fantastic opportunity for teachers, or ICT / ILT coordinators to gather and pass on some valuable knowledge. You really cannot afford to miss out on the valuable networking opportunity of a teachmeet – whether you attend in person, watch a live stream (something I hope other TeachMeet’s will be providing), or join the conversation via Twitter. I’m off to consider hosting the next one on our campus… with free wi-fi!

Wait! I didn’t mention the jokes, did I? No. Check out @gideonwilliams presentation to find out about a huge number of Web 2.0 tools, and how many people from many walks of life are needed to change a lightbulb. Be ready to groan at the punch lines – many, many times.