Extract: Talk for Teaching – Paul Garvey writes about the value of TeachMeets and Twitter

In this extract from Talk for Teaching, Paul Garvey writes about the value of TeachMeets and Twitter

Talk for Teaching is all about collaborating with colleagues to tap into the wider collective intelligence in your school. It also about teachers taking control of their own PPD. To extend the value of what you learn from Talk for Teaching, there are ways to pursue ideas that didn’t exist a decade ago. This involves extending your real and virtual networks – extending the collective intelligence into which you can tap. I’ll talk about two, but there are others, of course.

TeachMeets.

I’ve attended several #TeachMeets recently, to one of which I contributed an idea, I’ll mention two of those TeachMeets as examples. The first was at Heanor Gate Science College (@heanorgate) in Derbyshire. I’ve chosen this one as an illustration, as it was an in-school TeachMeet, organised and attended by staff at the college. I’d been modelling Talk for Teaching during the day and I was kindly invited to attend the TeachMeet after school. Around 10 ideas were presented, by staff, to staff, in 2-minute slots. The audience sat entertained and enthralled. Attendance from college staff was excellent, as they knew they’d get something good out of it and perhaps see ideas they could use immediately. I particularly loved the idea, presented by an MFL teacher, of breaking down the title/question for the pupils, to begin learning. In doing so, it is possible to bring in prior learning, increase vocabulary and do sorts of other clever things. As a teacher, it then makes you think about the content of your title, to promote pupil awareness of the learning, rather than it just being something you put at the top of the board. It is an approach that would be applicable in any subject. The short presentation was just the kind of thing that demonstrates the use of the huge collective intelligence in a large school. I took away an idea that I’ve passed on to other schools and teachers; SLT, Teachers, TAs and HLTAs at Heanor Gate will have done the same.

The second example of a Teach Meet was at Torquay Academy. This event had been advertised widely and attracted around 100 people who came from both locally and across Devon. As well as staff from the Academy, attendees and presenters included representatives from state secondary and primary schools, universities, grammar schools, an international school, independent consultants and even Dartmoor Zoo. All gave up their own time to attend and present. I collaborated with Denise Smith, lead practitioner, who organised the excellent event, to show the advantages of using lead learners. Others, such as Toby French (@MrHistoire) and Nina Elliott (@senoraelliott) also presented. Feedback was excellent and the watching of, listening to and partaking in, the widening of the teacher’s collaborative nets was so interesting. It was great to meet a TA there, great to hear her enthusiasm for the teaching and learning ideas on display and even better to hear about her ambition to go on to teach. The difference between TeachMeets and conferences is that TeachMeets are always free. How many schools would release and pay for a TA to attend a conference? By creating the time to attend, participants were doing what the entrepreneurs of my introduction did. They were engaging in activities that allowed them to extend their own networks and cement in another potentially useful building block for their unknown futures.

A list of upcoming TeachMeets can be found here: teachmeet.pbworks.com/w/page/19975349/FrontPage

Twitter.

Twitter opens doors. Doors to people and ideas that a classroom teacher would find very difficult to access without using social media of some kind. For me, Twitter has proved to be invaluable. I’m independent. I don’t have access to external funding and any professional development I undertake, I have to pay for myself. If I didn’t have Twitter from which to glean (steal?) my research and contacts, it could cost me thousands of pounds per year in conference fees to stay current – as it often does cost schools those kinds of amounts. I can’t afford to do that, but unknown to me, three years ago, I wasn’t quite as current as I hope I am now and sometimes, you just don’t realise you are not as up to date as you could be. The situation for teachers is more acute and I’ll use my experience to exemplify how social media can help us all.

Two fine ‘twitterati’ I’ve worked with in the flesh are Ross McGill (@TeacherToolkit) and Mark Anderson (@ICTEvangelist) and they are Twitter legends to me. You won’t regret following them both. Their blogs are full of educational information and links to sources, waiting to be tapped by anyone. It’s the free access to people and to the knowledge that grabs me about Twitter. Both Ross and Mark have written about how best to use Twitter and if you are starting off, these are two good places to go.

In addition, both bloggers have much more to say about the power of Twitter in education today.

By shamelessly using good people such as these via my PLN (it is well worth taking time to build a large Personal Learning Network), I’ve been able to stay where a consultant must be; on top of developments in education. Indeed, there is little that will slip by teachers and leaders, if you regularly check your Twitter timeline and take time to read the new material to which the links from others send you. It takes effort and time, but it is easier than researching by other means, keeps you bang up to date, lets you sample opinion, is hugely enjoyable and the community is very supportive and entertaining. As a teacher, TA, school leader, governor, educationalist or consultant (or any combination of those six), Twitter can transform your learning, as it has for me. If you’ve picked up this book and are wondering why I’m extolling Twitter, all I can say is join the community and use (as I and everyone else there does and in those nicest of ways) the people you’ll find there. You’ll be able to display a different side to your talents and show wider knowledge in the next interview you attend.

What is currently lacking, is research around the extent of the effects of social media on teachers’ practice. There are studies investigating the use of social media in self-determined learning, or ‘Heutagogy’, a term first defined by Stewart Hase and Chris Kenyon of Southern Cross University in Australia35 but the number of such studies are, as yet, limited and research here is not concurrent with the recent burgeoning use of social media by sections of the school teaching community.

Talk for Teaching, together with other collaborative networks, such as TeachMeets and Twitter, provides a powerful alternative to traditional CPD. School leaders can now use the collective intelligence that already exists in their school and bolster this with explicit promotion of Twitter Ed, TeachMeets, webinars, other social media platforms and as many other types of opportunities for networking and learning from each other as are available in their area. In doing so, leaders will have to relinquish some control, but staff will respond readily to that increased level of trust, by taking control of their own PPD and improving in their roles. Talk for Teaching can be the catalyst for radically changing your school’s approach to CPD. The next chapter encourages schools to use the phrase; ‘PPD, not CPD!’ as their new school professional development mantra! Staff will thank you for it.

Paul Garvey has worked as a teacher, inspector and a National Strategies consultant. He now runs education consultancy company, QA South-West, which has worked with MATS, academy chains, co-operative trusts, learning communities and over 100 individual schools, colleges and Academies. His book, Talk for Teaching, is due to be released next week.

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