The recent Pedagoo event in Ayrshire was the first of it’s kind that I’ve been to, first TeachMeet of any kind. I am currently studying on the PGDE (Primary) at Strathclyde and was directed towards Pedagoo by the lecturing staff, who seem keen to promote collaboration between teachers and the use of social media to share good practice. Here I have to admit a certain level of personal inexperience with using and sharing internet-based resources for teaching and with social media in general. It was during the same talk where Pedagoo was mentioned that I decided to venture into this new world and create a Twitter account. I’ve always been fairly averse to creating public profiles online, or even profiles that I know only people I know would see; I don’t have a Facebook and still enjoying keeping in touch with people by calling them up or actually meeting them. Twitter has seemed even more of an alien concept to me, but probably because I couldn’t imagine why I’d be interested in what celebrities are doing or saying at any given time and – even more unfathomable – why anyone would be interested in the mundane thoughts in my own head. Now I’m not saying these things to make a point about the unnaturalness of social media, and please know that I do see the positives, but rather I’m trying to illustrate my own ignorance and inexperience.
Very quickly after I created my Twitter account, I instructed it to follow Pedagoo and started receiving updates and posts from other users. I could immediately see how easily people were sharing examples of their own good practice, with an obvious passion for their work while trying to give ideas to their fellow professionals. It was here I heard about the Takeover event and decided to sign up for my local Pedagoo meeting. I was curious about what the event would look like and what kind of discussions would take place. Being from Ayrshire myself, it made sense to attend my local event being held at the University of the West of Scotland in Ayr. On top of my curiosity about Pedagoo and TeachMeets in general, I guess a felt that attending would be good for my studies and a change from the reading and writing of the PDGE course.
So I drove to Ayr on Saturday morning, something which I can imagine would feel like being above and beyond the call of duty for many teachers after having worked all week in class, not to mention any other extra-curricular commitments and professional development. It was the first time I’d been to the UWS campus and was definitely impressed, very modern facilities in pleasant surroundings. It’s very different to a city campus like Strathclyde, but that’s not to be critical of either. I parked my car and went into the building, following the clearly marked signs for the Pedagoo event. The campus was quiet and I walked in alone, despite having arrived around 5 minutes before the scheduled start time. When I got upstairs to the lecture room, I reached a sign-in desk with a Pedagoo poster and a few people hanging around, chatting and holding paper cups. I went inside and was pleased to find a refreshments table with hot coffee, tea and a plethora of chocolate biscuits. One of the organisers had even brought homemade brownies which I could see were a popular choice, so I made sure to get in early…
The first thing that struck me was that there were less people than I expected to find, probably around 20-30 people present, which I was pleased about. I’d been concerned that I’d just end up in a lecture theatre full of strangers, being talked at by presenters with a point to make about their own views on teaching. It was quickly apparent that this wasn’t going to be the case. People were talking and introducing themselves in a friendly manner before we were invited to sit down for a brief introduction. The format for the event was explained and we were asked to indicate our preferences for the conversations we would like to take part in. This language of “conversations” was comforting and set the tone for the relaxed discussions which we were to be taking part in. A timetable of four sessions was drawn up and we were given the choice to join in the conversations in three different rooms, each with a dedicated topic and hosted by a nominated attendee.
Over the course of the morning I took part in 4 conversations, each lasting between 30 and 40 minutes. I chose the conversations that dealt with Learning without Limits, Literacy, Inclusion and Online Learning Platforms. I enjoyed each one of these and feel I can take a lot away from what was said. It was clear that the leader of each discussion was passionate about the subject they had chosen, as were the people in the room. I was certainly the only student present but it seemed a mixed group, from different teaching backgrounds. This made for healthy debate of the issues at hand and I appreciated the fact that no-one was pushing an agenda and were weren’t striving for any particular conclusions; we just wanted to hear each other’s views and explore some ideas. Each of the discussions that I attended could have easily stretched on and time always ran out, more than once the phrase “We could talk about this all day…” was used. For me, it was just great to be around people who really care about the job they do and the teaching profession in general. I guess that’s the great thing about a voluntary event where people are giving up their own free time to come along. At the same time, I think it’s individually rewarding for teachers to sit together and talk through, outwit their workplace and with people other than their day-to-day colleagues. During our discussions we talked about the concept of emotional literacy and how this applies to teachers, and I can certainly see how a TeachMeet style event can have a therapeutic “get this off my chest” element.
Once the conversations were over, we had a brief roundup of the day and said goodbye. We were asked to give our views on what went well with the event and what could be improved. The chocolate brownies were finished by that point but I was given a thermal mug as a freebie to take home. Personally it had been really valuable in terms offering the views of teachers who are living and working in my local area, something which I probably don’t get from my course. It provided a good complement to what I’ve been learning about since the start of term, provided some food for thought about current issues in Scottish education and introduced me to some new people and teaching practices. So my experiment with social media has not only proven to be valuable in terms of what it can offer to me online, but also in how it can lead to enjoyable and useful “real life” experiences. Pedagoo Ayrshire was a success and I’m looking forward to the next one.