Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Teachers' Show and Tell: Professional Learning Unplugged

TeachMeet Skolforum
TeachMeet Skolforum (Photo credit: Lärarnas Nyheter)
by Dr Tony Loughland, Senior Lecturer in Education at University of Sydney, The Conversation:

It’s been a long time since I have been in a pub at 10.30am but that’s where you would have found me last Saturday at the Great Northern Hotel in Chatswood, Sydney.

I wasn’t there to get on the punt or have a middy of black to settle the hippy shakes but to be part of a teacher professional learning phenomena called TeachMeet.

Twenty teachers turned up on a cold, wet Saturday morning to learn from each other in a convivial atmosphere in the back room of a pub in front of the fire.

TeachMeet is a great example of the professional learning networks that teachers are establishing for themselves using online social media applications such as Twitter. These networks are unfunded and a parallel universe away from the mandatory professional development on pupil-free days that most people associate with teacher professional learning.

So what did we talk about in front of that cozy fire? We heard practical and very precise seven minute or two minute nano presentations from teachers on teacher coaching, new technological tools like Rubistar and cargo bot, as well as the work of Harvard academic Marshall Ganz. Then TeachMeet segued into TeachEat and we shared a meal and talked about teaching.

We had teachers from government and non-government primary and secondary schools. My presence as an academic was tolerated so long as I listened more than I spoke (quite a novelty for me).

You cannot buy professional learning that is as practical and credible as the kind where interested professionals come to share information voluntarily. The first TeachMeet was organised in Scotland in 2005 and it has migrated through the professional learning networks enabled by Twitter and Facebook.

It is part of a larger movement called “unconferences” formed in reaction to audiences bored by the traditional keynote and presentation format of conferences.

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