That’s the thing about most conferences isn’t it? You’re an “attendee”. Maybe you are a presenter or facilitator, you might even be an organiser or a sponsor. But, when all’s said and done, you don’t really “own” your learning experience at these events, most of the time. We might learn a lot (or a little) at professional development events, but time after time research is pointing to the fact that when learners – adults or children – aren’t actively engaged in what, how, why, when and where they are learning, it has little actual impact.

For professional learning, I love teachmeets. Sure, I still go to conferences and seminars and lectures. I still listen to podcasts and do professional reading. I still sit in meetings and listen to discussion panels. But where I really get the chance to test ideas, to converse and confer, is at a teachmeet.

In a tiny nutshell that does no justice to the value and impact of teachmeets, a teachmeet is an informal, “unconference” style event organise for and by teachers where they share ideas about teaching and learning. At their most informal, they can be a chat at a pub, though many use a basic structure to allow for teachers to know how long they will have to chat (usually no more than several minutes). Some teachmeets use an easy-to-edit online space such as a wiki. Some simply grow out of another event where several interested teachers get together at the bar after a session.

The beauty of teachmeets is their focus on ideas, not on egos or brands or products. By the end of a teachmeet, the participants will have heard several new ideas to take into their classroom, spoken to many new colleagues from all types of schools and institutions, and also – another special aspect of the teachmeet – is that the participants ARE the presenters. At the best teachmeets I’ve been to, the participants are tweeting, chatting and laughing their way through a series of excellent (but short and sharp) talks by their colleagues. On top of that, they get to speak to them in the breaks.

The idea has been floated that we need to get the teachmeet model out to more teachers around my country, Australia, and others. So I have a question for you – do you already love teachmeet and want to take part in some kind of global festival of informal professional learning? Or do you want to experience the buzz of a teachmeet in your area? Join the conversation on Twitter simply adding #teachmeet to your tweets and start chatting to your local (and not-so-local) colleagues about when, where and how this might be possible.

Ewan McIntosh (@ewanmcintosh) and I (@mesterman) will post a link soonish where you can add your ideas – but do start adding them by commenting below! Each teachmeet can be its own beast, but we do have to collectively decide a few little things like, you know, when it should happen.

The dream is to have perhaps a 24 hour festival of rolling teachmeets around the timezones of the world, or perhaps a whole week of scheduled teachmeets from every continent. Or perhaps something else?

So come on, you own #teachmeet too! What’s possible?

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