Hosting a TeachMeet – The Noob’s Perspective

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Even though the idea of the TeachMeet seems to have been growing apace, with events being held all over the country, they had seemingly evaded my particular corner of the West Midlands, until the fantastic Dan Harvey organised TeachMeetBrum.  I went along with my good friend Mike Gunn, and in for a penny, in for a pound, we (sort-of) contributed to it and certainly both thoroughly enjoyed it.  By the time we returned home, we had both decided that TeachMeet had to come to Coventry. (Our planning on the car journey home reminded me of the over-excited and wildly far-fetched post-gig conversations the teenage me would have with friends about forming a band..)  We knew we would need some help so after convincing our brilliant Deputy Head @plestered that it was a good idea, #TMCov was green lit..

What follows is a short overview of what we did – our take on a TeachMeet – and how three TeachMeet-organising-noobs tackled it.   Hopefully there will be something here of use – even if it’s a what-not-to-do.   If you are thinking of running a TeachMeet of your own, I would certainly urge you to check out posts from ICT Evangelist and Teacher Toolkit who are both old hands at this sort of thing.  I have tried not to repeat the same points that they made – so here goes…

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1) Decide on a TM format that works for you

Most TeachMeets seem to work on the premise of people delivering short presentations (seemingly between 2 and 8 minutes)  We decided on a TaLK group format for our TeachMeet, on the basis that we have been running TaLK groups at our school since the start of the year and they have proved to be a fantastic way of sharing best – and next practice.  Since this is what TeachMeets are all about, it seemed the perfect way to do it.

I’m sure most of you are familiar with the TaLK group model and are nodding sagely, but for those of you aren’t, they are based on Dylan Wiliam’s idea of Teaching and Learning Communities  – basically teacher led CPD.

Looking back I am glad we did it this way  and my advice would be not to worry about whether you are doing it “right” or not – just think about what you can do to provide the best experience for those attending.

One of the best bits of advice I got was from Andy Knill..

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I like to think that we at last tried to think about this principle when we put our TeachMeet together

2) Ticketing 

If you’ve never used EventBrite I can recommend it as a really easy, stress free to manage your ticketing.  It’s free to use for events that don’t charge for tickets and it doesn’t take long to put an event page together.

3) TeachMeets are a great chance to work TOGETHER as a school

One of the nicest comments I received after the event from was one about how everyone seemed to “pull together” – admin and support staff, SLT, pupils and teachers.

From the standpoint of practical organisation, it is a really important to have someone to bounce ideas off and while there are a LOT of little (and a quite a few big) jobs involved in organising a TM, it is possible to lose focus and you find yourself drilling down to minute and not always important details that aren’t really going to impact the event.  Hopefully we succeeded in talking each other out of the more ridiculous ideas and keeping the “main thing the main thing”. SLT involvement was really important. @plestered (who has more contacts than a Specsavers Superstore) was able to find us a Keynote speaker and our equally supportive Head Teacher was able to find funding to pay for.. well everything really.  A large number of  SLT were there on the night and helped in a huge range of ways – it is fantastic to be able to draw on the expertise of your SLT for events like this.  I feel it sends the very important message that the key purpose and focus of the school is teaching and learning.

What I would say is that without the help we got from admin staff, site services, catering and ICT technicians we would not have had a Teach Meet.

The amazing TeachMeet Cov curry

The amazing TeachMeet Cov curry

As for the pupils bit…

4) TM’s are a fantastic Student Leadership opportunity

We would have liked to involve our students more than we did  (Having some proper digital leader involvement  is an EBI for next time)  but the students were SUPERB on the night.  The student leaders helped with ‘meet and greet of guests, showed people how to sign up to / get to sessions and even filmed the Keynote.  I think they did a great job..

5) Have an Ice breaker.. do what you can to ensure people have fun

We thought it would be fun to provide some “bell work” for people when they arrived – this served the dual purpose of giving folk something to do while others were arriving and getting people talking to each other, to hopefully make them feel more comfortable about sharing things in the sessions.  Mike and I have tried the same thing in our school TaLK group and it has worked really well.    If you’d like to see the thing we put together you can get it here.  We provided some fun prizes (which were awarded at the end of the evening) We went for large Thorntons chocolate bars with “TM Cov” iced on top and I think they went down (literally) very well.

Some lucky winners of #TMcov chocolate

Some lucky winners of #TMcov chocolate

6) Think about the best way of archiving the event that works for you

We decided against videoing/recording/streaming the actual sessions for a number of reasons (though we may look at this next time) but mainly to minimise the number of things that could go wrong on the night. We opted to use Linoit as our means of archiving what happened in each session.  (It ws a toss-up between Linoit and Padlet (née Wallwisher) but on the wise advice of Mike, the guaranteed stability of Linoit won the day.  We asked people to post their own “ideas/comments/pledges to try” at the end of each session to build up a permanent resource board for each of the different groups.  The beauty of this is that people were still adding to them after the event (as well as uploading resources) so Linoit boards have kept #TMCov alive after the event!)  Our aforementioned genuis technician put together a #TMCov website  where you can see all the boards.  We’ve now got this to use with our next event.   I’d also recommend using Storify to make a record of all tweets from the event.

7) Avoid Epic Tech Fails: Make your life as easy as possible

If you can, have technical rehearsals – check your WiFi, your PA – any tech that you’re going to use.  Do everything you can to minimise the chance of technical problems on the night.  For example we used one laptop with all presentations pre-loaded and set up in advance.  We trialled the open WiFi to see how it would cope.  All the Linoit boards had been set up and tested the week before.  Sounds obvious I know, but it does help to know that things are going to work!

8) Post Event Feedback

We are in the process of collecting WWW’s and EBI’s to help us plan next year’s event.  There are plenty of ways of doing this – SurveyMonkey or Google Forms would both work – our genius-tech-guy built ours into the TMCov website.

9) Just do it…

What I would say is DO IT.  The hard work is totally worth it, though someone may need to remind me that I said that when it comes to organising TMCov 2!

Some early EBI’s…

(Note: I will keep adding to this as more post-event feedback comes in, but initially..)

  • The ticketing worked well, but we had to put a link on the page to a Google Form to allow people to book sessions – the only problem was that if one person booked tickets on behalf of others, only one would see the link.. a bit of frantic emailing and tweeting was needed to get the forms filled in so I would like to look for a more elegant solution next time.
  • Organise the sessions so that every presenter gets at least one session off – several of us did three sessions and didn’t get to see any of the other sessions.
  • More student involvement – I will be taking my queues from Dan Harvey and Liz Allton who have their Digital Leaders presenting.  The DL’s at TMBrum were fantastic and I’d love to see our students doing it too.

I hope this hasn’t come across as an attempt to suggest the “right” way to do a TeachMeet  – all I have tried to do is share my perspectives as a first-time organiser.  I (and I’m sure, Mike and Russell) have learnt an enormous amount during this..and still have more to learn before the next one.  Any new perspectives, advice or comments would be most welcome.