ACT TeachMeet: Fast, Dynamic, Networked Professional Development

TeachMeets have been around since a group of teacher friends in Scotland got together in their local pub to talk kids and good teaching strategies. Over the years they have evolved to become amazing professional learning and networking opportunities in almost every country in the world. They are fast-paced, informal, and free to attend.
On Thursday March 31, the first ACT TeachMeet for 2016 was held at the HBCTL, with around 90 teachers from across the ACT in attendance. Here’s a summary of the parts that I was able to see.

Prue and Laura kicked off the TeachMeet two rounds of “7 Strategies in 7 Minutes”. They showcased a heap of cool tools and strategies for the classroom, including Google Cardboard, Kahoot, Pear Deck, Twitter Exit Slips, Reading Maps, and a heap more. The best thing about hearing from people like Prue and Laura is that they are able to share real-life, tried and tested activities that they’ve done in their own classrooms.
Next up, Shannon talked about her action research project based on formative feedback.
Shannon told a very compelling story about how she’s been using “feedback rounds” in the high school classroom, which have been very effective, particularly around peer feedback. Establishing the routines around providing different kinds of feedback (including verbal, comments in Google docs, and written forms) has turned her classroom into a rich environment where students are constantly providing feedback for each other.

Using the comments function in Google Docs has given Shannon a good ‘paper trail’ of comments that she can refer back to when reporting or looking for other ways to support students.  

A nice example here was that of Grace, who according to Shannon “produced the best assignment ever - hands down” when she sought feedback from her friends on her assignment - including a friend that doesn’t even attend the school any more - despite the assignment not being one in which the teacher had asked them to do peer feedback.
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Shannon asked her students about the impact peer feedback using Docs has had on their work.
As we’ve talked about before in this blog, Google Docs makes the feedback process absolutely transparent. Teachers and students can see who’s providing feedback, and even when it’s happening. Shannon commented that it’s interesting to see who they choose to seek feedback from. Sometimes they choose the peer you might not expect them to choose.
Heather talked about inquiry learning in maths and science. She leads her students through some project-based learning and scaffolds their learning by encouraging them to and how her students have been using Google Docs to create Digital notebooks to record the process.

Dot talked about how she's been using Twitter to share learning and doing formative and peer feedback. In her year 5 class, she uses photos and video to encourage her students to reflect on their learning (and identify errors in their work) and to share what they’re doing with their followers.
The students in Dot’s class create content to share on Twitter, but at this stage, they don’t actually post it to Twitter. They pop it onto post notes (or a device), and Dot posts it at the end of the day. She’s working towards letting them post, but she’s working with them on what’s quality content before she does. So far, the kids’ families and some teachers are following their Tweets, but they’re always looking for more followers to interact with.

Dot’s thinking about how her class will use Twitter in the future, and she’s got lots of ideas: contactin primary sources via Twitter for an authentic connection to their reading or research, working more globally, using it as a platform to encourage student action and perhaps connecting with other classes on Twitter. We look forward to seeing how it goes.

I wasn’t able to see all of the presentations, but the TeachMeet was a definite success, with lots of people attending and some fantastic presentations that really showcased the high-quality and innovative work going on in a few Canberra schools.

You can access the presentations here. But of course the best way to learn more about these things is to attend a TeachMeet yourself. Keep an eye on our Google+ Community or the TeachMeet site for more information about the next one.