VTM Room set up for BCSI StaffThis evening I felt privileged to be a Hub school for #TMSydney’s first Virtual TeachMeet. Hosted by @townsey77, @m_Bennett and @pipcleaves it was yet another example of how teachers who have a passion for learning are leading the pack in demonstrating effective professional learning. 

Some questioned the purpose of a virtual (online) TeachMeet. Indeed, one of the key components of a TeachMeet is to be face-to-face and thus able to interact with other educators in the breaks and afterwards. This allows to the genuine building of relationships and meaningful connections rather than random online ‘friends’ that are useful for a momentary chat but less sustainable in the long term. I have to say, having experienced webinars which turn out just like traditional PD made digital, I was keen to see the Virtual TeachMeet be something different. Thanks to the creativity and talent of the two Megans and Pip, we were able to provide a dynamic environment for participants to be actively involved in the event rather than just passive observers. Polls, chat rooms, Q&A, music and breakout sessions featured and enabled participants to connect and collaborate throughout the event. 

The presentations themselves were interesting and, as usual, challenging to teachers to reflect on their practice. The point is not to be overly critical of the way we teach but to consider alternatives and possibilities. For example, some participants will have taken to heart Henrietta’s (@HenriettaMi) presentation on the benefits of Edmodo and seek to embed them not just next term but next week. Others will try to integrate media into their classes to create content thanks to Rolfe’s (@rolfek) fantastic student-centred ideas. Will all ideas transform to innovation? No. Teachers will still adapt and improve their practice in their own context and in line with their own aspirations, abilities and interests. Again, the point is that we open our eyes for but a fleeting moment to what COULD be. It’s scary and amazing at the same time.

The TeachMeet also reached into a new area for the movement: engaging rural and remote communities outside the major cities. Not only were educators from major centres like Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide on board but we had a wonderful presentation on Video Conferencing from Trundle, NSW. I’ve been to Gulgong (4 hours from Sydney) but Trundle is ANOTHER couple of hours south-west. I’m so impressed by the innovations used by our rural/regional brethren to connect students to rich learning experiences and their commitment to professional development despite being physically separated from where so much PD is provided. I hope we can explore this area more often and build our #TMAus community to include ALL teachers and therefore benefit all students.

As usual, I leave a TeachMeet energised for what I could try and what new and exciting challenges abound behind the curtain of tomorrow. I hope you come on board too.

For more information on TeachMeets, go to http://www.teachmeet.net or http://tmsydney.wikispaces.com or contact me through Twitter – @mesterman