TeachMeet is entering its fifth year and the unconference for teachers, by teachers has helped hundreds - maybe thousands, in fact - to try out something new, alter the way they already teach and learn, join a community of innovative educators or completely transform their way of working.
The hope was that the model would spread. It has, but as those who have created and helped pull TeachMeet together over the past four years, we want to see it spread further, deeper and with increasing quality of input from practitioners. This post outlines how we think we might manage this. This is the beginnings of a conversation with those who care about TeachMeet. Add your views in the form of any blog post or comment or tweet - tag it #tmfuture
What are the goals of TeachMeet?
TeachMeet was originally designed to:
- Take thinking away from the formal, often commercialised conference floor, and provide a safe place for anyone to pitch their practice
- Provide a forum for more teachers to talk about real learning happening in real places, than one-hour conference seminar slots allow
- Showcase emerging practice that we could all aim to undertake; sales pitches not allowed
- Be all about the Teach, with only a nod towards tech that paved the way for new practice.
- Provoke new ways of sharing our stories: PowerPoint was banned. We wanted people to tell stories in ways that challenged them, and the audience
- Empower the audience to critique, ask questions and probe, all online, through SMS or, later, Twitter.
Over the years, these 'rules' have altered, leading to some great innovations, others less so. The answer to "What is a TeachMeet?" has become a myriad of meanings, some pretty far off the original goals. We need to help and support people to organise, run and contribute to events that build on previous ones. We need to make TeachMeet as accessible to newbies as it was in 2005. We need TeachMeet to once more find its focus.
Supporting the "infectiousness" of TeachMeets
Organising TeachMeets should not be easy. Taking part in them should be. But more support is needed for organisers:
- Sponsorship is hard if there's no bank account into which funds can be sent
- Without sponsorship, any event over 30 people becomes tricky to organise while also giving people a special night of learning, the time, space and mood that gets people over their self-conscious selves
- Paying for refreshments and venues is impossible if there's no organisation to pay them the precise sum.
- The best TeachMeets provide social space, social activity, entertaining MCs, good refreshments, good online coverage and some form of online 'conclusion' - this needs coordinating by the organiser(s), but it's not a skill everyone will have the first time around.
- We've got a superb opportunity to curate the best bits from all these TeachMeets that are happening weekly - this needs a degree of oversight.
A means to make TeachMeet more sustainable, easier to use for sponsors and organisers, and have the ability to do something spectacular
TeachMeet is owned by the community that shape it - but there needs to be a body to manage sponsorship and sponsors, and provide support for new organisers so that they maintain the TeachMeet goals. We assume that if someone is organising a 'TeachMeet' they would like to emulate the success of those popular early TeachMeets, and better-supported national conference ones (e.g. SLF and BETT).
What would support from the TeachMeet body look like?
- Seeking of sponsorship all year round - including ways and means to get your message to as many teachers as possible
- Brokerage of sponsorship - i.e. one place sponsors and those seeking sponsorship can come together, in a transparent manner
- Recommendation of onsite support (good venues at discounted rates/free, A/V, event organisation [for bigger venues], catering etc)
- Suggestions for various formats that have worked in the past
- Mentoring from previous TeachMeet leaders including on-the-night help
- Featuring of content and promotion of the event in a timely manner on an aggregated, higher profile TeachMeet site
- A group calendar so that events can be seen by geography and date
- Promotion of TeachMeet through international and national events, using contacts of existing TeachMeeters
- In-event publicity (e.g. if you plan an event at a regional ICT day or national event, then we can help broker paper materials for insertion into packs etc)
But, above all, TeachMeet is reaching a point of saturation in the UK - things are going really well in terms of enthusing teachers about their own learning. We have a great opportunity to carry over a small proportion of the sponsorship and contributions towards creating a TeachMeet culture in countries where teacher professional development in this way is still blocked by barriers physical, financial or cultural. This is just one idea, harboured for a long time but unable to realise in the current setup.
This body can take the form of:
- A Limited company (with a Director and shareholders)
- A Charitable Limited Company, with a board of directors and voting rights for fellow 'shareholders' (we could work out some way of people being 'awarded' shares based on [non-financial] involvement?)
- A Social Enterprise, perhaps formed as a Limited Company (see more information on what this means and how it might work (pdf))
- A Charity (this feels like a lot more red tape to pull through and perhaps not entirely necessary)
As we take things forward we invite you to contribute your ideas and thoughts to make things work smoothly. We want you to comment, probe and make your own suggestions before the end of June, using the tag #tmfuture