TeachMeet Cymru was the first of its kind and it was planned with great expectations and a great vision, that of bringing together teachers from two extremes of Wales, extremes in location, but very much likeminded in practice and innovation. It was an ambitious event that would have seen 7 and 2 minute presentations broadcast live from Cardiff over our NGfL Cymru Live channel on Livestream and then switch over to Wrexham where the other TeachMeet would have responded by broadcasting their set of presentations. We planned to have six waves of presentations, i.e. three in Cardiff and three in Wrexham and we were very excited about the idea of bringing together so many educators and sharing ideas on a national scale in the same evening. The aim was to facilitate a virtual (but perhaps not so virtual) Professional Learning Network that could connect through a variety of ways in order to share best practice and success stories.
So, it was in this spirit that we set up our stations in the North and in the South of Wales, but, unfortunately, we encountered some technical problems too near the beginning of the event and it became clear that we could not carry on broadcasting to each station effectively enough, so we changed our plans and carried on with the presentations we had planned in each centre without worrying about broadcasting to the other venue. The result was that we could broadcast (and have available on demand) parts of the meeting in Cardiff and parts of the meeting in Wrexham and that is what you can watch in the videos below.
Despite these technical problems, we were thrilled by the quality of the presentations, ideas and innovation that each educator was bringing to the attention of the audience, both in North and South Wales. There were, in fact, fantastic 2 and 7 minute sessions that generated great enthusiasm, questions and the willingness to network with each other beyond the event.
The Cardiff account!
In Cardiff Ceri Williams (@cerirwilliams) from Torfaen LEA kicked off the evening with the inspiring work he does with learners with severe Dislexia. From using NGfL Cymru resources on forming letters and the Alphabet, to using blogging and Kodu, he developed essential skills in learners who found great difficulty in reading and writing. What was most touching about Ceri’s presentation was the effect his innovative use of ICT had on his learners. In fact, his work transmitted the joy of reading and writing to these young learners.
Next, I (@asober) was showing some of our Developing Thinking resources and how easily they can be adapted by teachers to suit their needs and subjects. I also showed how these can be freely downloaded from our website on this webpage.
Then, Stuart Ball (@innovativeteach) from Microsoft Partners in Learning was showing what the Partners In Learning Network (PILN) can do to connect teachers together and how the network is very keen to engage with educators in their own networks and areas. You can download his presentation here Partners in Learning
Then, it was Karen Newby-Jones’ turn (@karencymru) to take the stage and she shared some great examples of uses of mobile devices in the classroom. The first Web 2.0 tool she showcased was Socrative, which allows you to create virtual rooms that learners can access on their mobile device by entering the code for that room. Once they have joined, the teacher can type a series of questions ranging from plain text response, to multiple choice answers. The whole session was really enjoyable because we could all join in and answer questions about biscuits Karen must have felt it was about time to grab a coffee and a biscuit for break, you see… and that’s exactly what we did after her session!
The presentations described above can be watched on demand in the videos below, but the presentations we had after the break we couldn’t broadcast, because we let our colleagues from Wrexham broadcast the second part of their event.
Gareth Ritter (@ritzertech) was up after break to show us some great stuff he has done with his learners and the innovative use he made of NGfL Cymru resources to teach composition to his pupils, who then used Songsmith (available free of charge to all teachers through PILN) to create their songs. Gareth is the Master of Human Interfaces and showed us how he uses a variety of tools to allow learners to control what’s happening on his board. We had pupils using a Kinect, a Wiimote, an iPad, an iPhone, etc… to control the whiteboard and the level of engagement was clear from the responses these learners gave on the videos Gareth prepared for us.
Then, Stuart was up again to show in two minutes some of the free tools Microsoft has to offer and you can download his inspiring presentation here Microsoft Free Tools.
Karen followed Stuart by showing even more tools that can more than justify the use of mobile devices in the classroom. This time she pulled Answer Garden out of her sleeve and it was another mind blowing tool. Basically, you can ask a question, or ask for feedback on a topic and the learners will input their thoughts into their device. As more and more responses come in, the answers that are more popular become bigger. Karen must have still had a craving for biscuits, because she asked us to type our favourite biscuit into Answer Garden, so as more and more Digestives (because that is the best biscuit obviously) were typed in, the word Digestive became bigger showing that more people preferred that brand. If this is not inspiring enough, you should have seen what Karen did when she exported the results to Tagxedo, which turned the responses we gave into a beautiful word cloud that you can save, publish and print.
I did the last 7 minutes slot on mind mapping, trying to explain why there are rules in mind mapping and why these rules are actually liberating rather than restricting people, because they increase the number and power of associations that can be created within a mind map. I also showed how iMindMap 5 (one of our sponsors) can be a great asset in the classroom for creating powerful mind maps in a very short time. You can see my presentation below. This video is not a broadcast of the event, but a video I had recorded for TeachMeet Think Big that happened in Pembroke Dock Primary on the 7th July.
At the end of the event the people who attended went home with a bag full of ideas and tools to try in their classes the day after and they were looking forward to attend the next TeachMeet.
We were dogged by technical difficulties at the beginning, and though we tried valiantly to sort the sound out so we could hear Cardiff, we had to admit defeat! Ah well, nothing was ever achieved by playing safe – and on a positive note we learnt a lot for the future.
The teachers who stuck with us at Wrexham were glad that they did, because after a rocky start, we switched to the ‘live’ presenters and they were awesome!
Jamie Tennant, Deputy Head from Pen-y-Cae in Wrexham,(@redjamiet) kicked off the evening by taking us through the new thematic resources for KS2 available on NGfL Cymru. Jamie was involved in the creation of the science part of the project, so he showed us some of the activities and explained how they addressed the needs of the skills framework and helped develop thinking.
Next up was Sarah Hurst, Head Teacher at Borras Park Infants. The school has recently achieved the ICT Mark and she shared her experiences of the self evaluative and reflective journey her school went on to achieve the award. She stressed that it wasn’t the badge that was important it was what they learned about themselves that was most valuable.
Our final presentation before break was from Gavin Browning, Head of English at Connah’s Quay High school who showed us some fantastic PowerPoints, which again are available on NGfL Cymru to develop literacy skills. He had the audience answering questions and offering suggestions – Teachers aren’t used to that! Certainly woke a few of them up!
Break saw some very happy teachers, as we had lots of freebies to offer as prizes from our very generous sponsors, including Paul Godding (@7puzzle) Epace (@epaceonline) Rising Stars (@andreacarr) & Scholastic (@chrisratcliffe)
We came back from break to a very thought provoking presentation from Colin Graham and his take on STEM – (Mates) Maths through the arts. He had some great ideas on how to develop maths through music and art, that certainly got us all thinking and the Director of NGfL cracking some very cheesey Origami jokes! (Don’t give up the day job Dafydd)
Next, Ray Wood (@vrwood) showed everyone how to create PowerPoint slides that develop thinking. I think everyone was amazed at how the simple use of triggers can change a PowerPoint into a really powerful teaching tool. There was lots of note taking going on, I’m sure a number of teachers would have been going back to school and trying these new ideas out.
I (@ngflblount) did the last seven minute presentation and looked at enhancing literacy using a range of Web 2.0 tools that are freely available on the web. My favourite tool at the moment has to be Voicethread as it’s so versatile. Great for Peer Assessment; Extended Learning; Parental Involvement or even Student Voice – well worth a look.
Colin Graham gave us a final quick two minutes on Any Questions (#anyqs). He showed us an image and asked us to call out the first question that sprung to mind. A great way to engender curiosity; generate discussion, and develop thinking.
Dafydd rounded the evening off with what he called web minus two technology. He gave us a quick demonstration of how an interactive whiteboard and simple techniques can be used to get the class engaged and thinking. The message? That you don’t always need fancy equipment or expensive software to produce and excellent lesson. At the end of the day, it’s about the pedagogy and not the technology. Sometimes it’s the simplest ideas that can be the most effective.
You can see this part of our TeachMeet Cymru in the on demand video below.