TeachMeet at BETT 09, January 16th

Last night I went along to TeachMeet an unconference for teachers, held upstairs at BETT. At first I thought I’d stumbled into an awards ceremony as I entered a huge room filled with round, clothed tables filled with chattering cheery people. Within 5 minutes someone has given me some LOLcat inspired drinks vouchers and I have a glass of red wine. I joined a table with some equally friendly people, the first person I chat to is an ex-headteacher who is smiling and nodding to people as they pass. Other people are wandering about taking photos and filming the event – generally being very organised and enthusiastic.

This is a very grown-up unconference – the drinks and nibbles are sorted, the venue is very comfortable and the 150 or so people are saying their hellos – there’s a lot of friends and colleagues here.

On one large screen is projected Monitter – which allows you to search for tweets by subject and the three columns are displaying three different twitter hashtag streams on TeachMeet. On the stage screen, a large one arm bandit is projected filled with names – this turns out to be a random generator for picking who talks – basically far too many people than possible presentation slots have signed up during the weeks before the event and their names were entered into the random generator to be picked. This is a little different to the unconference format I know because I’m used to lots of rooms or areas to breakout in and having many talks running simultaneously. There’s also a camel – there’s a time limit on the talks and if you go over the camel gets thrown at the speaker (which it did several times as people had a lot to say)!

I have to mention that the most talked about thing all evening was Twitter, people were evangelising about it all night as something that was revolutionalising their lives and their teaching experience. The backchannels were chocka!

Some quick highlights then…

* Twitter was being used in lessons to help students understand Google Earth better – the teacher presenting challenged them to find their classroom and then others on Google Earth by chatting and asking questions of people of Twitter – they then found school locations for example by finding the name of a school on a football pitch.

* Teachers from all over the country were tuning in via FlashMeeting one of the presentations was shown on the stage screen in this way.

* Greg Hodgson uses threaded stories created in Photoshop to illustrate news stories. Students used their Photoshop creations to illustrate their work and to generate new stories.

* “Hi I’m Drew and I’m a Twitter addict” is how one teacher introduced himself – he teaches GCSE IT and used Twitter to create a personal learning network and encourages people to join in. He went on to say that “Twitter is my Google” – he says that he doesn’t use Google unless he can’t find an answer on Twitter – he follows 2000 people.

* We heard about a band who publish their music under Creative Commons licence and invite students to remix it.

* Another interesting project was how graphic novels were being re-written in textspeak.

* It was announced that the hashtag #tmbett09 was no 8 on Twitter subjects at the time of the unconference. I don’t doubt it as the backchannel was full of chatter – I was finding it hard to keep up!

* This site was shown in another presentation http://mathtrain.com

The evening was followed by a sponsored meal at Pizza Express – overall it was a great night and really good to hear peoples stories and experiences.