Saturday, 14 May 2011

TeachMeet - Just Add H2O

On Thursday night, I was planning on attending and presenting at #tmaquarium, an event that an enormous amount of effort went into planning courtesy of just a handful of third year BEd students and a particularly supportive lecturer. Becy Allen (@trainieteacher) and Katie O'Reilly (@kforeilly) were the students most involved, really putting their heart into trying to make this the most exciting TeachMeet ever and it truly showed, so I want to congratulate these guys on a job very well done. Thanks must also go to Pete Yeomans (@ethinking), a lecturer in ICT at the University of Plymouth, who was instrumental in helping organise the venue and secure sponsorship. Unfortunately, Becy could not chair the meeting due to a last minute emergency, so she asked me if I could step in and chair. Now, my confidence may have grown considerably in the past year, but chairing only my second TeachMeet... Oh, who am I kidding? I couldn't say no! 

Again, Twitter was in full effect

This is very much the moment where, though I'm trying to set up various aspects of student support at uni, I mention how incredible the support network already in place at the University is. Alex Gingell (@alexgingell) and Katie O'Reilly (@kforeilly) were instrumental in helping me get some last-minute preparation done and thanks also to Alex Meiklejohn (@ameiklejohn) for helping us get set up and ready. Really goes to show the community feeling that is present in the faculty of education - no matter what year or specialism you are in, there is someone there ready to jump in and help out. One of the aims of the Student Teacher Resource in the future is to try and develop this sense of community amongst the students, but it is only when I needed the help that I realised just how important this aim is.

The venue for the TeachMeet was the National Marine Aquarium's brand new Just Add H2O Learning Zone. When I visited just a few weeks ago with Pete, the building work was still ongoing, but the venue looked fantastic. Arriving on Thursday evening to see the finished article was incredible - the staff at the NMA have done an amazing job, the facilities they have designed look to have amazing potential So again, a massive thank you to everyone there for your support! They have a TV studio with a green screen, breakout spaces and seminar rooms deigned to give children a range of learning experiences within their marine-based curriculum enrichment. The TeachMeet took place at their AquaLab, a stage playing host to crab and starfish filled tanks and strange bubbling tubes of water in front of a space capable of supporting an audience of around 60-70 people seated.

The AquaLab - photo courtesy of Alex Gingell

A few of the comments about the lab
The one thing that struck me about this TeachMeet above all others that I have seen is the number of attendees. We didn't have an exact count, but the 60-70 capacity of the AquaLab was almost full. It was incredible to see such a turnout and a large proportion of the audience were students from the BEd course in Plymouth. I think this goes to show the passion for education that has been developed in the students by the staff at the Uni. As I keep on mentioning, I think that sharing and collaboration is key to Continuing Professional Development (CPD), so it was great to see that not only were a lot of the students being enthusiastic audience members but many of the presenters too! I think that the future of education in the South-West is headed firmly in the right direction if the teachers being produced already have this attitude of supporting each other.
The enthusiastic audience - Photo courtesy of Alex Gingell
Taking the stage was quite a daunting feeling. The lights are shining on you, the audience is watching you. You are front and centre of everybody's attention. I'm not sure how much I enjoyed it at the time, but the adrenaline rush was great. Maybe with some more preparation, I would have been more comfortable in this role, but I guess with experience comes confidence. I am very much someone that learns through evaluation and reflection of my experiences and this, in essence, is one of the driving forces behind my blogging. If there is anything that I have learned  over the past year it is that confidence builds confidence, so I implore any of my readership not to shy away from opportunities -  take them. We teach our children that failure is perfectly acceptable, it's the fact they gave it a go that matters, yet we are hesitant to fail ourselves. But success is a driving force behind anybody's confidence and the feedback I got was fantastic, so thank you for everybody's kind words.

Speaking of confidence, one of the things we included in the TeachMeet was inspired by Dan Roberts (@chickensaltash) who created 'Chicken Nuggets' - a selection on the random generator whereby anyone from the audience that hasn't signed up can take the stage and talk unprepared about anything they'd like. Seeing as though there were no chickens there, and we were in an aquarium, we created the 'Fish Finger' presentation. Again, it goes to show the level of enthusiasm generated in the audience when the fish finger came up and Grant Taylor (@createach) took the stage to present. Very well done, I hope that in the future I can exude such an air of confidence!

One thing that I found particularly interesting about this TeachMeet was the fact it was being streamed and broadcast live for the entire world to see. Thanks to Ed Bolton (@eddbolton) for setting up this fantastic resource. Not only was it broadcast live, but recorded too. As much as I may hate seeing myself on stage, it was really interesting to watch as a spectator. I did want to talk about all the presentations I saw or made, but seeing how long this blog post is already has made me decide to put the stream here and record my thoughts on presentations in separate posts in more detail.

Thanks to Pete Yeomans (@ethinking), Katie O'Reilly (@kforeilly), Alex Meiklejohn (@ameiklejohn), Alex Gingell (@alexgingell), James Edwards (@jimmy_edwards), Gareth Excell (@garethjxl), Chris Taylor (@forestmanct) and Grant Taylor (@createach) for presenting. Everyone had some fantastic ideas to share and judging by the audience's applause and feedback, you all did brilliantly, big well done!

This TeachMeet gave me so much in terms of my professional development. Not only did I have the opportunity to see what all the other teachers brought to the table, but the support and feedback I was given has pushed me even further along the path of my development. Where this path is going, I do not know, but one thing is for sure, I'm very much enjoying the journey. I'll end with two of my favourite tweets from the #tmaquarium hashtag. I look forward to seeing a TeachMeet audience from a stage again!

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