I was mulling this over during the 2 hour drive home from TeachMeet East in Norwich last night. There were over 50 teachers who had given up their Saturday afternoon to take part in a CPD event. There were over 150 who had also watched/listened to the event from home via a live stream. All the people speaking at the event had given their time for free. I came away buzzing with a stack of ideas that had been shared.

Over the last two years the number of Teachmeets has exploded. For those who have yet to go to one, the ideas is that the speakers are teachers or educators who have no more than 7 minutes to share ideas on anything they want to, hopefully from their own teaching. Speakers are chosen in a random order. This unconference approach means that the sessions are slightly random – you don’t know what you are going to get. But this scattergun approach works. Yesterday was my 5th Teachmeet, and every one hasn’t failed to give me at least a few new ideas to consider working into the things I do.

One of the benefits is the short amount of time given to each speaker. You know that if the person speaking is a bit boring, or the topic is not interesting, they’ll soon be done and someone else will have the stage. I’ve been on training days where you heart sinks at the thought of several hours with the person droning on at the front of the room…

As someone that organises CPD events for teachers, the success of the Teachmeet model really interests me. I can’t see any teacher agreeing to be sent on a whole-day training course on a Saturday, however good it claims to be. Yet they turned up yesterday.

My TeachMeet Takeover Presentation

It’d be great to see schools adopting this model for their own in-school training days. There is usually a wealth of great stuff going on in schools, but teachers often don’t share what they are doing. How about a local Teachmeet where every member of staff gets 5 minutes to share something great they’ve been doing with their class? I think that would be a great thing for a school to try. Has anyone tried it yet? I’d love to hear how it went.

In a similar way, it got me thinking about the different between the two conferences I attended at the start of 2011, namely the ASE Annual Conference and BETT.

At the ASE (Association for Science Education) the focus is predominantly on the talks and the workshops. All the talks were by advisors, consultants and the odd teacher. But they were all sharing ideas for things to do in the classroom. There were other types of talk available, some more commercial, but I always try and go for the concrete classroom ideas because I can then pass those on to my students.

There’s also an exhibition at the ASE, but that’s secondary to the talks. Again I come home from three days at the ASE brimming with ideas to incorporate into my teaching.

Compare that to BETT which is almost entirely the exhibition and the selling of kit. Teachers, and teaching, are marginalised to some extent. It’s all about the shiny. In the last three years there has been an increasing push to get more teachers involved – and the Teachmeet Takeover event has been the best example of that. I know there are some talks and workshops at BETT, but these seem to be a minor part of the exhibition.

Location is important. Events like the ASE are held on a university campus, which has lots of lecture theatres and rooms all within easy access. The exhibition takes place in a large marquee. I appreciate that for BETT it’s harder. There are only a few other rooms in the main halls, and there’s not a lot of suitable spaces close by that could be used. I’d like to see a growing range of BETT fringe events taking place in and around Olympia – is that possible? What would it look like?

I hope we can continue to get more TeachMeet Takeover style events at BETT. And I hope the Teachmeet revolution continues. For me personally I still hope that schools will want to book the odd bit of whiteboard training, but that’s just because that’s how I make a living!

The Teachmeet format increasingly looks like the best CPD you can get, and long may it continue!