Yesterday I travelled some eighty or so miles to Edinburgh to take part in a professional development event for teachers, organised by teachers. Yesterday was Saturday and almost forty teachers had signed up and travelled from as far as Shetland off the north Coast of Scotland to take part. It’s worth noting that there were other similar events happening elsewhere in Scotland yesterday but perhaps the uniqueness of this one was that it was organised and attended by teachers working in schools and because it’s what they wanted to do. No-one had told us we needed to attend, we weren’t being directed by others. We were there because, we wanted to learn, we wanted to collaborate and we wanted to contribute to the learning ‘conversations’. We weren’t sponsored, there were no keynotes and nobody was trying to sell us anything. The agenda was loose and various people had volunteered to lead conversations and to share experiences and practices. No-one was being paid to be there and there were no travelling expenses being met. In short, we were there because we wanted to be.
As we arrived at the venue, the buzz and excitement built as we met up with people we either knew already, virtual friends from Twitter, or met new ones for the first time. Our master of ceremonies was Aileen Kelly who had helped put the whole event together under the Pedgoo umbrella. Pedagoo have organised many such Teachmeets in the past, but it was felt these were heavily Secondary focused and attended, so it was decided to try and promote and develop a more Primary focused event to encourage more primary teachers to get involved.
The event had been loosely organised around a series of learning ‘conversations’. Each of these lasted half an hour and was led by someone who was willing to share and discuss some element of their successful practice in school. The first series of conversations featured outdoor learning, using superheroes to develop mindsets in early years, connecting learning through technology, 1+2 primary language teaching and making sense of practitioner enquiry. The biggest frustration was not being able to sit in on all of these. I was leading the discussion on practitioner enquiry and was able to share my own thoughts and experiences, whilst hopefully helping others to make sense of, and understand this better themselves, as an approach to professional and school development. I would have so liked to have been part of the other conversations as well, especially after hearing the positive reactions of other participants who had took part in these, but will have to content myself to hearing some parts of these as they become available on the pedagoo.org website soon.
The second round of conversations featured our superheroes to develop mindsets again, developing partnerships to support ITE students and NQTs, a look at the new-look GLOW digital network for schools, and one which looked at how we could encourage children to talk more to develop their learning in the early years. Again, a rich range of learning conversations and I took part in the one looking at the development of talk with Aileen Kelly, @aileendunbar. This work had arisen out of Aileen’s work in her school and her successful study for a Masters degree at Stirling University. She was able to explain how her work was underpinned by the work of Vygotsky and Barnes, as well as others, who recognised the importance of dialogue to learning, but also how often schools can stifle this in the learners. I have been looking at the work of Rupert Wegeriff and others to promote more dialogical approaches in classrooms, and Aileen’s work linked closely to this. Aileen said perhaps we should move away from asking so many questions and instead use carefully thought about comments to stimulate talk in our learners.
The final round of conversations looked at how we could better support pupils with English as an additional language in our schools and classrooms, developing creative thinking in learners, inspiring literacy at early level, using Blogs and social media in the classroom and how we might use Twitter in the classroom and as a professional development tool. I took part in the discussion on developing creativity with Ciara Gibson @ciaracreative who teaches a P1 to P7 class. We were all blown away with the level of creativity Ciara had been able to develop in all her children and the simple techniques she had used to facilitate this. Key was often the ability to step back and observe the learning develop and not wanting to control too much by the teacher. If only we could develop this confidence in all our teachers, and headteachers? She demonstrated some wonderful creative work produced by her pupils from the use of a simple macro-lense on an iPad, bought for £5 off Amazon, to take photos and stimulate writing.
Like any well structured learning experience, we had started the whole day with an introduction to the learning ahead and shared some recent successes with everyone. We finished with an opportunity to consider one thing we would take away from the day, and to identify what our next steps might be in attending further Pedagoo events and Teachmeets, and how we might share our thoughts and experiences. For myself, I am determined to attend more events like this and to contribute whenever I can, I may even try to organise one in the Borders where I work. I took so much from the day, and hopefully contributed as well. But perhaps the most important thing was the buzz, the excitement and the positivity generated by committed and professional educationalists when they came together for a common purpose, and an agenda they were in control of. I feel we all left invigorated by the experience, with lots to think about and with practical ideas to consider for how we might develop and improve our own practice. What a great way to spend a few hours on a Saturday afternoon?
So,thank you to the Pedagoo team for coming up with the concept and the idea, and a big thank you to the main organisers, Lynne Jones @MissJ0nes, Aileen Kelly @aileendunbar, David Gilmour @dgilmour, and Robert Drummond @robertd1981.
As Arnie might say, ‘I’ll be back!’
Cross-posted from School Leadership – A Scottish Perspective