When is a TeachMeet not a TeachMeet?

  • When the TeachMeet is only open to participants from a particular organisation
  • When the TeachMeet is advertised as free to teachers from a particular organisation (implying that at other events teachers have to pay to attend TeachMeets which they never have and never will!).
  • When the TeachMeet does not allow anyone to sign up to deliver a presentation (subject to time constraints)
  • When it appears that the presenters for the TeachMeet have been decided in advance.
  • When the TeachMeet has not been added to the TeachMeet wiki at http://teachmeet.pbworks.com/w/page/19975349/FrontPage

 

QED

This is, most likely, NOT a TeachMeet!!

This is NOT a TeachMeet...

From http://www.affinitytsa.co.uk/sites/default/files/flyers/Affinity%20TSA%20Teachmeet%20Leaflet%2030.10.13.pdf

 

Twitter is not Professional Development

Teachers sometimes describe twitter as an excellent professional development tool and sometimes say that twitter is the best CPD they have ever had…

I think this is deeply problematic and here’s why.

Twitter is not professional development. It has neither the scope nor the flexibility to be anything other than a cute way of sharing stuff. And sharing things is not the same as thinking hard about your practice as a teacher and evolving new ways of working.  If you heard on the news that heart surgeons were taking to twitter to share tips about the latest operating techniques, what would you think? Chances are, like me, you’d be amused and horrified in equal measure. Amused that something as serious as heart surgery could be atomised into 140 character soundbites, and horrified that practitioners of such a complex scientific method could call such a truncated random process professional development. Heart surgeons may well be using twitter to find fellow practitioners, and to share links, but their strategy for CPD will not be built on twitter alone, of that I am pretty sure.

The people you follow on Twitter are not your Personal Learning Network (PLN), they are just people you follow on twitter. Some are amusing, some are random, a few may be inspirational. They may sometimes tweet interesting thoughts and links and so on; but you can’t rely on that to happen, or if they do you may just miss it.  Twitter is the epitome of random. If you are serious about professional development you need to move beyond twitter and engage in some structured activities to improve your practice as a teacher.  Get a book on educational theory or a related topic, read it, then critique it; enrol on a masters course; start writing a blog which deals with substantial educational issues;  or undertake some action research in your classroom and share these results. These forms of extended activity are real CPD. You may well want to take twitter to share what you have found out, to ask questions and seek help, and if you do this, then you will be using the real power of twitter as a social network, but it will be part of a wider overall strategy through which you develop your professionalism.

Twitter alone is not professional development.  Michael Gove does not believe teachers are professionals, many of his policies are designed to whittle away the professional status of teachers in England so his reforms won’t be held up by a well organised group of professionals who can argue their case with eloquence.  News reaching him that twitter *counts* as professional development will gladden his heart as the teaching profession play right into his hands and sign their own death-warrant of deskilling. Twitter may be very important to you in terms of connecting you with other educators, but think about the symbolism of raising this activity and labelling it ‘the best professional development’.  Gove believes that teachers in free schools and academies don’t need to be qualified (http://bbc.in/X9ZyMh), and has enacted laws to this effect.  The bus driver driving the kids to school needs to pass a specialised test before he is allowed to drive the bus.  Once through the school gates, if the management of the academy so choose, then they can let unqualified people loose with the education of young people.  This sends a very strong message that there is no professional basis to teaching; that there is no specific basis of skill and understanding developed by teachers as a direct result of their practice and through sustained reflection on that practice over many thousands of hours. Gove thinks that anyone who can talk, stand up for a bit, and sling a few bits of clip-art onto a PowerPoint presentation will make a great teacher.  We need to set the bar higher for entry into the community of practice of teachers, which means evolving CPD strategies which are a little more advanced than just mucking around on twitter (nice though that is sometimes).

Education, and the professional status of teachers is now politicised more than ever. If you think this politicisation is a shame, then recall that the Hobbits felt it was a bit of a shame when Sauron began the wars of Middle Earth and decided to wage war on ‘men’. But the Hobbits had to overcome their naturally reticent nature and come out and fight, and teachers need to do this too, finding as many ways as possible to show politicians, the media and everyone else that teaching is a highly specialised skill, requiring dedication, vision and application. The skills and dispositions of teaching are not learned overnight, nor are you borne with these or somehow magically possess them as a result of ‘rich life experiences’ or being charismatic or interesting.  You won’t become a brilliant teacher just because you shot at someone in a pointless war thousands of miles away (http://huff.to/YcTOm4). Teachers need to undertake professional development which signals clearly how seriously they take the responsibility of education young people, and in such a way which lifts their practice above the ‘honest journeyman’ nonsense peddled by Gove as he seeks to dismantle the professional basis for teachers and shred the state school system into a fragmented and chaotic pattern of provision.

Twitter alone is not professional development.

**Please share this blog post on twitter**

The different genres of CPD

The way that teachers ‘do’ professional development has probably changed more over the last 5 years than in the last 100.  The notion of Continuous Professional Development (CPD) is key to allowing teachers to evolve their practice within the classroom and develop new strategies to support their learners.  Teaching was once seen as a profession you trained for, but once you trained your skills did not need updating; the training college had equipped you with everything you needed to succeed. This notion has long disappeared and been replaced with the idea that teachers need to constantly adapt and evolve their practices in order to deliver the best for their learners.

The willingness and ability to engage in CPD is therefore not a by-product of a teacher’s professional identity, but a core component.

CPD has changed, so let’s look at the genres of CPD, and for a bit of fun, add a backstory comparing these with popular music fashions. So what options for you as a teacher for CPD in this new landscape?

LOCAL AUTHORITY DISCO

You used to get training and PD from your local authority. This was like going to a disco.

The music was accessible and easy to sing along to, without being too challenging. The atmosphere was friendly and everybody knew the words to the popuar songs.  The clothes were a bit naff but nobody minded. As Sister Sledge would have sung ‘V A K are family!’ But the discos are mostly closed down now owing to cuts at local authority level or your school becoming an academy.  But devotees of this genre may be able to console themselves at Gove’s newly invented ‘teaching school disco’ where you can bop along to the latest easy-listening tunes direct from the chalk face and with direct practical application,

THE UNIVERSITY PROG ROCK BAND

Of course you can go and do a course (an MA or MEd) at a university. The university is like a prog rock band. Musicality and intellectualism feature high on the list, as does hard work and dedication to producing an immaculate end result.

You have to be able to play your instruments and getting into this genre takes time and dedication. You have to learn lots of new terms as well and the personnel in the bands are really important (Emerson et. al 1973).  You may get impatient about whether all this careful theory and reviewing of ‘the literature’ is going to actually give you any real ideas to try in your classroom, but questioning this is bad form, a bit like asking why there is a 22 minute mandolin solo on the second LP of the triple album ‘the canticles of Nebandesser the 3rd’.

TWITTER – PUNK

If you find the university route just too tortuous, then you can always try punk. You don’t have to shave your head or spit on people though. Simply open a twitter account, follow some fellow teachers and plunge right in, there are no entry requirements. Like PUNK nobody will question your technical ability, the emphasis will be all on end result, and getting immediate results.  And it all happens quickly too, just like punk songs were short and sharp, the development you get from twitter is short and to the point. Nobody has to give you permission to get started with CPD on twitter, you don’t need to check with your HOD or head teacher, getting set up is easy and once started you can start strumming along with the best of them. Many of the tunes may sound the same, even get repetitive, but you’ll be in charge.

TEACHMEET –  THE RAVE
Finally you could go to a teachmeet.  This is a great opportunity to meet other teachers. Beware as you will certainly be offered free ‘Es’ at one of these events (free E-learning tools that is).

The atmosphere will be one of mutual respect, even love and teachers will be sharing their best tips for success and you won’t want the party to end.  Just like the illegal raves which were the inspiration for TeachMeets, you have to be ‘in the know’ to find out where they are. Secret instructions will appear on a web page about when and where the next event is.  Be careful when you make your way to these events, you may find representatives of Gove or Wilshaw following in their cars and trying to find out where the meeting is and breaking it up before anyone has any real fun.

So there you go, a quick whizz round the genres of CPD. Choose yours carefully…

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Massive thanks for @drrebekkakill for her ideas about social networks and music genres, her work on this is available here (http://bit.ly/OM1UiF). Without her originality of thought and imagination this post would not have happened.

This blog originated as a teachmeet presentation to a largely bemused audience at the IFIP conference July 2012 at Manchester Metropolitan University.

If you read any of this and got offended ( because perhaps you work/used to work in an LA or university), then apologies, but you did understand I was joking I hope. (Although I do know of one LA at least that regularly used to teach VAK (visual, audio and Kineasethiwhatever learning styles to teachers).