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What is a Teachmeet any more?

By January 12, 2013April 17th, 201747 Comments

TeachMeet Universal Logo?

I’m writing this as an addendum to my original post from June 2011 following my 2nd Teachmeet, having now organised and been involved with a lot more since. I’m updating this post following reading the synopsis of what is required for a teachmeet that Ross McGill has placed on the TES resources site here.

My original post here

I’ve organised and been involved with many Teachmeet events in recent years and so I have a fair idea of what a Teachmeet should be about and how to make it a good event for those that are attending.

The common definition of a TeachMeet can be found here: where it states:

“A TeachMeet is an organised but informal meeting (in the style of an unconference) for teachers to share good practice, practical innovations and personal insights in teaching with technology. These events are often organised to coincide with other educational events like the Scottish Learning Festival and the British Educational Technology and Training Show BETT.

Participants volunteer (via the TeachMeet website) to demonstrate good practice they’ve delivered over the past year, or discuss a product that enhances classroom practice.[1][2]

TeachMeet events are open to all and do not charge an entry fee.”

It was the case until recently that I really agreed with this statement, however with things being organic, Teachmeets have been pretty much developed over time to change from the events that they once were; teachers getting together and informally exchanging ideas and learning from each other, to some actually simply HUGE events which take on board the needs of a wide range of attendees offering world class teaching and learning professional development opportunities. Take for example the last Teachmeet Clevedon event: we had more than 200 people attending, from places as wide ranging as Swansea, London, Yorkshire, Isle of Wight and Jersey and we even had one speaker Skype in from Jakarta. Couple this with speakers who are world class in terms of their conference and delivery experience in the CPD world. Add in too that attendees were as wide ranging in their backgrounds as to be PGCE students, HeadTeachers, Governors, Primary teachers, Secondary teachers – the original idea of a Teachmeet with some people getting together to informally share some ideas, probably over a pint, has changed somewhat!

So what do we do? How has this happened? What’s the future of ‘Teachmeet’?

Certainly much of my original advice below still stands and I wholeheartedly concur that Teachmeets should NOT be discussions about purely technology. My original essential ingredients I have found to get a good TeachMeet are below (where I’ve added or changed things for 2013, check the red):

  1. The first rule of TeachMeet is TALK ABOUT TEACHMEET! << Still concur with this
  2. Get good speakers and find a good venue – anticipate numbers of delegates and book a location suitable for their needs. A massive hall might be nice, but if you can’t fill it, the speakers won’t feel too good. By the same token, a room that is full up isn’t going to be suitable as a venue either. Plan! << Still concur with this
  3. Have a good compere who ‘knows’ the speakers who can introduce them while they get set up << This is essential
  4. Don’t be too hung up on timings, but certainly don’t let people hog the stage << Disagree now. Keep people to their timings. These are professional teachers talking on stage. They should be able to keep to time!
  5. Get some sponsorship – despite these being brilliant events, teachers give up their spare time to attend TeachMeets and an incentive always help << Sponsorship really does help run the event, but as they become much larger events, sponsorship quite simply isn’t enough – more on this later
  6. Intersperse the event with time to network << this is so important. How often will this number of teachers be able to get together and share? One of the best bits of our Teachmeet is always the drink and chat down the pub afterwards. We try to intersperse the night with networking opportunities, but keeping the event to time and then ensuring it finishes in a timely fashion will ensure there is time afterwards for the chat, debrief and breaking down of ideas to happen. Perhaps rather that have drinks at the local afterwards, why not set up a bar for those discussions to happen in the same venue?
  7. Offer food and drink – most events are in the evening and delegates will appreciate this << some food is really important. Teachmeets are normally held on school days, so the opportunity to get some grub in, especially as many will have come to the event straight from school, is really important – this is where finances help immeasurably too. We manage to get some really good food sorted in house on £3-4 per head but when you have 200+ people turning up, this is not a cheap endeavour.
  8. Promote the event relentlessly on Twitter, email and posters in Staff rooms of local schools << word of mouth will spread the word of a good event. Use your networks to promote the event and get a good & concise hashtag. Tweet space is a premium!
  9. Get sponsors to pay for food / drink / promotion << but with large events – do you want lots of companies there, touting their wares, just to get some money in to pay for the event? Will attendees appreciate having lots of sponsors there?
  10. Give the event a ‘hook’ that will inspire delegates to attend but not limit speakers << certainly “Juicy Learning”, “Learning Rocks” etc have helped to give Teachmeet Clevedon a real focus in the way in which the event has been approached and the types of talks that have been given
  11. Get help – you can’t do it all yourself << yes, yes, YES! I couldn’t do everything that is required by myself. I am so lucky to have so many students and colleagues willing to give up their time to help the event run smoothly. Students in the car park, meeting and greeting, dealing with queries about wifi, tickets, collating names for the prize draw, filming talks and seminars, so forth and so on. I am so grateful for the massive support of the staff and students who give up their time to help out. Be mindful too that you will get slippage in terms of the numbers of people who sign up compared to those who turn up. Don’t let it upset you as you could lose upwards of 30%, just try to plan for that. 
  12. Use the Classtools random name generator to pick speakers << disagree with this now. I think, it is much more potent to actually marry up the speakers into an order which helps to break up the different types of talks being delivered and to ensure that the event has a broad section of talks. Again, keeping speakers to time is key in ensuring everyone who is talking, gets to talk. Involvement with the forthcoming Teachmeet BETT where anyone can get to put their name down, but not necessarily get the opportunity to speak is not something that I necessarily agree with. Giving the event a specific hook and making sure that the speakers marry their talks with that theme, is something that I think we’ll be looking to do further and definitely not being technology specific but more broad teaching and learning themes related to the hook of the event. In addition, taking inspiration from Teachmeet New York and other international events and in the vein of TLAB13 asking speakers to apply to speak at the event.
  13. Use the Twitter back channel and give the event a good hashtag prior to the event, e.g. #tmclevedon #tmbett #tmm11 << have I said this before?
  14. Show at intervals during the night what people are Tweeting about the event – this will help draw live feedback about the event and could promote discussion << a Twitter wall has proven to be reasonably popular in previous events, although to make space for more delegates at our most recent event, we decided to not have one. We didn’t miss it. No comment was made from delegates either. 
  15. Prepare the tech beforehand – have a decent machine for people to demonstrate via, decent projector, decent sound / mics if needed << tech support on hand at the event is key. Someone who has access to the administrator tools across the network of your chosen location and who has extensive skills is a massive bonus at the event and can problem solve issues on the fly, should they occur. We also have a lighting technician on hand to set up the event before hand and control the lights as the event takes place. This really help set the tone for the event to be extra special. WiFi is essential. 
  16. Have a wireless feed handy so delegates can tweet / blog, live from the event << decent wifi is absolutely 100% essential for a successful event. Delegates expect it, although normally blissfully unaware of what is required to actually have a seriously good wifi network in place. Make sure you have it.
  17. Stream the event via a service such as Webex so that people who cannot attend for reasons such as Geography, can. << Experience has proven that the live feeds simply do not work. They look awful for the viewer, often go down and require someone to be on the case with keeping an eye on it all the time for the whole night, it is not cost effective and is simply not worth the time (sometimes money) and effort. What we have found to be really worthwhile is to have colleagues film the presentations live using iPads and then for them to be uploaded straight to YouTube on to the Teachmeet YouTube channel. Great for watching back and great as a resource to refer to in the future. Recommended.
  18. Take time out as organiser to enjoy the night yourself << don’t put too much pressure on yourself; it’s good to talk if you want to, but don’t feel like you have to << I still love compering and I still love talking too – don’t feel compelled to talk however if you don’t want to. Being a good compere takes up a lot of focus and requires it too.
  19. Follow up the event by saving the Twitter hashtag feed from the event and blogging it yourself as a record of what delegates have said about the event. << I use a tool called ‘the archivist’ to archive Tweets from the event and I always follow up with a blog after the event and share this on this site.
  20. I would also say, make the very best use of the TeachMeet wiki to let people know what is happening at the event, what the rules are, show who is sponsoring the event, what to expect, so forth and so on. For great examples, just check the TeachMeet wiki and check some of the events that are already up there. A Google Map on there to help people find the location of the event (as well as the postcode for the location) is always VERY helpful too! Once you’ve created your Wiki page – get it promoted on Facebook too – visit this address and fill in the form:   –  thank you to @OliverQuinlan who does this to help everyone in his own time. Check his blog here. << Following on from something Ross has on his post that I’m working on at the moment is that rather than using my blog as the central place for recording things post event, I am working on developing a site which is specific to our Teachmeet. In future, this will be the central hub for our Teachmeet event and will contain all of the videos from all of our events.
  21. I would also recommend getting your TeachMeet event listed in the TES – you can do this either by emailing or tweeting details to @todayilike on Twitter

In addition to the above, we have moved our Teachmeet model on considerably. Last time we had a keynote speaker of national renown in the form of the brilliant Vic Goddard. We had seminars on offer from some of the best CPD leaders in the country with food prepared by students but led by a top chef and some fantastic Teachmeet style 5 and 2 minute presentations from some brilliant local speakers – evidence of which can be found on the TMClevedon YouTube channel.

This all leads me on to this question really. With all of the developments and progressions with Teachmeet events over the time frame from when they were first born. Are the proposals and elements discussed above still a Teachmeet? Many people I suspect would say no. I also want to ask the question about what you think about asking attendees to these events paying a nominal fee for their attendance. It’s been put to me, that putting on events such as Teachmeet Clevedon aren’t sustainable any more with some of the finances coming from the school. This would mean that we would have to seek further sponsorship, something which we haven’t done in the past. We’ve only sought sponsorship from two or three sources to keep it to a minimum. Previously, some of the costs of the event were soaked up by sponsorship of the event, primarily by very generous donations both from Crown House Publishing and Clevedon School. The ask from attendees wouldn’t be much, but with an event with more than 200 people attending, who also regularly chop and change their decision to attend, because it is seen as an informal event, makes the actual administration and organisation of it quite difficult. In organising our last Teachmeet I was regularly fixing and sorting upwards of 50 different queries related to attendance a week, across a 6 week period in the run up to the event. I feel that if I was to ask people to contribute a nominal amount to book their place for the event and to cover the costs of the food and other costs related to the event the chopping and the changing wouldn’t happen. Also, when people ‘cancel’ their ticket – it isn’t just a tweet saying I can’t come, they go through the full process of cancelling their ticket properly on the ticketing site to get back their x amount for the ticket, thus actually freeing it up for another attendee.  So, to finish off this post, coupling with the advice above I guess I’m asking a few questions….

Has the Teachmeet moved forward to where this is the model of what a modern Teachmeet is?

Does an event like I’m describing above still constitute a Teachmeet or does it need a different name?

Is it fair to ask a teacher to pay somewhere between £5-10 for a quality CPD event, with seminars, speakers and traditional Teachmeet sessions with food and drink or should this be free?

Would you be prepared to part with a bit of cash for a quality evening of CPD and networking?

I look forward to your thoughts and comments.



Mark Anderson

Mark Anderson, @ICTEvangelist. Click here to learn more.


  • Andy Knill says:

    Mark, I can understand you have a wider experience of TM hosting than many of us. I would be reluctant to charge but whereas you’ve held many TMs I’ve only been involved with one and developing a reputation helps to draw others in.

    The timing factor is crucial having been left and not doing a presentation I had prepared. Wary of volunteering one for #bett13 but luckily I have a key idea I want to reuse and it’s only a two minute presentation.

    I still like the random aspect but respect the idea of breaking up themes.

    • Thanks for commenting Andy. It’s a difficult one to master isn’t it? I realise it’s a different thing for different events, but with where we are at with ours at the moment, it’s difficult to know how to drive it forward. Thanks for your thoughts.

  • Hi

    Great list and some good pointers.

    Your final comment / question: “Is it fair to ask a teacher to pay somewhere between £5-10 for a quality CPD event, with seminars, speakers and traditional Teachmeet sessions with food and drink or should this be free?” is one that I am mid way through a blog about.

    Education is no longer a cash cow for businesses to sell to and expect some form of return. I am just about at tipping point over the excessive advertising on Twitter hashtags (#ukedchat seems to have been taken over as a vehicle for companies trying to sell me the chance to video my class – for example). Please, keep #UKEDCHAT for discussions / tips on teaching NOT free PR / Advertising.

    So, yes, I’d happily pay £5, £10 to contribute to the cost of a Teachmeet – especially if it prevented sponsor sales pitches. Social responsibility and subliminal adversing is great. XYZ Inc brings you TMNewport – I’m all for, but I don’t want to watch a sales pitch for anything, by anyone.

    If Teachmeets did cost £10, we could be creative with TMmiles – where contributors to #UKEDCHAT etc could accrue points to get into a TM for free; we could reward people with a free ticket.

    If things cost, we increase the perceived value of the event and TM’s evolve from a rag tag collection of Teachers, into a professional development network.

    Great point.


  • This is an excellent post mark. Really helpful as we’re about to plan TMEssex 2. My TM experience is limited to watching clips of #TMClevedon and following it online; organising #TMEssex at my school and speaking at #TMLondon.

    What has worked well..
    Making it free including food; I’d hold on to that for as long as possible
    Multiple presenters on a range of themes – some presentations are brilliant.
    Having good tech back-up and compere (ie you or @ICTMagic)
    Time limits.
    I’ve enjoyed the randomiser! I agree it has down-sides.
    The twitter buzz before,during and after.

    What would improve them?
    More focus on things to do in lessons… eg tech apps -but only if showing actual use in lessons.
    Better prep in relation to time – I agree on that. Get ready!
    Having 3 or 4 ‘headline slots’? Some people are worth a bit longer… and if everyone is there.. why not capitalise? eg Phil Beadle ad Chris Waugh (Edutronic_Net) just too big for 2 mins or even 5 mins.
    I’m not sure about 2 min slots? They need to be really punchy and that is tough. I wonder if, instead, TM’s could have a first half market-stall; lots of mini stands with teachers talking as people mill about, then a second half of micro-presentations.?
    Final thing is to plan more of a concrete opportunity making sure there is discussion around what has gone on so people leave with some plan to put it to use. Maybe.

    I agree about the BETT idea – how odd to prepare a talk if there is a chance you won’t give it.

    Anyway – lots to think about! It’s evolving. No harm in that.

  • Ian Addison says:

    I hadn’t seen the document on TES until you mentioned it, but it makes Teachmeet sound like a huge scary event but it doesn’t need to be. We had one last year with 15 people, turned into quite a nice discussion. Teachmeets in Hampshire are still fairly new and we have avoided the TM wiki as we found people couldn’t remember (didn’t want to learn) how to log-in. So we simply use Google forms to collate a list of people attending. We had 50-60 at the last event and the next step is to make a range of small events across the county rather than a larger one. We have a blog too:
    I totally agree about the live feed though! Alway a nightmare, much better to upload videos afterwards.
    Some interesting points raised here though.

    • Joe Burkmar says:

      Hi all.

      Firstly really helpful post, as I am arranging my first teach meet for Feb 2016.

      I understand the difficult balancing act with sponsors taking over, and I think that they should never be allowed to present. However I was wondering about stalls at the back that the teachers could approach if they wanted.

      I am also going to make this free to attend as think that this is key to success of all that I have attended.
      Ian Addison please feel free to attend as this will be in Dorset, another county new to the teachmeet revolution.

      Thanks again.

  • Fearghal says:

    Great post…I think it’s important to continually reflect on the format, and indeed the movement.

    I’ve organised three TeachMeets now. The first two followed the format which has become relatively common practice now (TeachMeet East Lothian 2010 & TeachMeet Lothians 2011). The third differed considerably in format in that it was a full day Saturday and consisted entirely of 40 minute workshops…no “presentations” (TeachMeet SLFringe 2012). This change in format is based on my own reflections of TeachMeets and feedback from attendees at previous events.

    I think the principle of CPD events run by and for teachers which are open to all still stands as a definition. I think the informal nature of the TeachMeet movement is what makes it great and will inevitably result in flexibility and variety. Ultimately, it is the professional responsibility of the organisers of TeachMeets to decide on how they want to run their event, and up to the community/attendees to decide if that approach is effective or not and feed that back. I definitely think there is room for a greater variety of formats and there’s no need for one set formula.

    I always have to walk a bit of a tight rope on sponsorship. I dislike sponsorship, but I like nice venues! I’ve come to the point now where I try and have enough sponsorship for the event to run in a nice venue, but no more. For SLFringe the participants paid an optional £10 for lunch and refreshments to avoid having to source another £1000 of sponsorship.

    As TeachMeets have grown out of their smaller, pub-based, origins we’ve found that other things have come along to refill that gap that was left. These include TeachMeet365, BeerMeets and now PedagooLocal events. Again, I think this is all fine as it’s ultimately up to the community to organise what it thinks is needed and this will be judged by whether folk turn up and learn or not.

  • Both ASE (West of England) and ChemLabs charge for their half-day CPD events for teachers, £10. The ASE west of England subcommittee we allow members in for free, but charge non-members. The majority that attend our November event are non-members and the money helps to pay for the running of the event and region for the rest of the year. The only thing with money is collecting it and the tax issues around it.

    I do like your events and with 200 people the event has to be professional feeling. It reflects poorly on your school otherwise. Not everyone coming to the event will know about the nature of teachmeets.

  • Dave Stacey says:

    Interesting and thought provoking post Mark.

    The value of TeachMeets as a concept is that they are so customisable. The week after I was with you at TMClevedon last I was in a school library with 15 other teachers sharing ideas. Still a Teachmeet, but very different in tone.

    I guess the question is, when is a Teachmeet not a Teachmeet? What is the point at which you say – This is something else now? Having struggled massively with the financing of them myself, I’m still inclined to say the moment it has a price on it, it isn’t a Teachmeet any more.

    I completely agree with everything you and Glen have said with the problem of sponsorship, and I dread to think the cost both financial and in time it takes you to run TMClevedon, and so on the one hand direct cost almost seems the obvious solution. And yet, something about it just doesn’t feel right.

    I’m not sure about Glen TMMiles idea (sorry Glen!), simply because it implies some kind of central administrative system that seems to be the antithesis of what Teachmeet is, and why it’s grown so big so fast. There more ‘professional’ organisations out there organising events than we can shake a stick out. I don’t see the need for another one. I do see the need for a free, flexible, roll-your-own approach to CPD which empowers teachers to do it for themselves.

    A couple of thoughts.

    Is TM Clevedon now so big (and so professionally organised) as to have earned itself a new name, and the right to charge (as Nick is doing with #TLAB13)? I can understand some reluctance to leave the name behind, but it IS different to any other TM I’ve been to!

    One alternative funding model would be to charge for things like the food. People can sign up for free, but can also opt to pay £10(?) for access to the buffet! I’m sure most people would be willing to chip in, but it preserves the free (and more informal?) nature of the event


    • Thanks for commenting Dave – appreciate it. It’s all food for thought. I’m still not quite sure what to do, but really welcome your thoughts.

    • Dave – don’t appologise 😉

      Yea, central administration is not what I had in mind….., so scrap that.

      Back in the day I used to frequent: – they organised monthly business “meet ups”, very similar to TM’s. Free to attend / listen to speakers, free buffett.

      Every month there was a “sponsor” company that paid for the buffet – this allowed them to have a 15 minute slot and an exhibition table.

      To be part of ecademy and attend the events though, you had to pay a monthly fee (£5 I seem to remember).

      I never minded paying the £5 as the event was well worth it, even if the sponsor talks where sometimes extra dull and meaningless.

      A 2 tier TM – free / buffet pass gets my vote theirfore.


  • Some interesting thoughts Mark. You have run quite a few successful events that people have got a lot out of now. The first thought people have when such things happen is that they have to grow them. Without doing down your brilliant work so far, I would ask why it has to continue to grow when it is already doing such good? With growth comes more overheads and the need for more sponsorship or contributions. Could it not just stay at the stage it is at? I think it is very important to dig deep into the motivations that cause one to want to grow such an event.

    Peter Yeomans shared an interesting way of framing this on twitter that you could conceptualise growth as your event becoming a hub for other, more local meetings. This may have more impact than simply growing your event which although successful must be quite an unwieldy task to manage.

    As to whether it is a ‘Real TeachMeet’, although I am one for defining terms clearly usually… in this case, who cares? Such questions seem to cause an awful lot of navel gazing, of which I have been guilty in the past as well. Thing move on, and TM was always an organic thing. No one owns it, and you can call anything you like a TeachMeet. If calling your event a TeachMeet causes disgruntled mutterings from anyone then it is they who have forgotten the spirit of the thing- striking out and making something worthwhile happen.

    If it works then it works, doesn’t matter what you call it. Your event obviously works, but maybe that’s a reason to stick to the blueprint you have so successfully defined rather than having to grow for growth’s sake.

    Just a thought =).

    • Thanks Oliver. I guess to a certain extent, the planting of seeds has happened in some ways already. Teachmeets in Newport, Bristol, Cardiff, Essex and the recent ones in London organised by Ross McGill have been influenced by the success of the Teachmeets at Clevedon. Local growth has happened in Bristol and Cardiff too. I wouldn’t be so arrogant as to just write this. People have said this, which is very flattering, but it still leaves me with the original questions. Part of the growth thing comes from demand too. That was the reason why we got rid of the Twitter wall, just to make space for 20 more chairs. It’s all good food for thought though and appreciate the feedback.

  • Mr D says:

    Hi Mark,

    I really hoped to come to the last event but life and a difficult cross country route meant I missed it. It would have been my first time so I speak with zero experience or knowledge of previous events.

    Have you considered contacting UWE? I attended their CAS event in the summer and they were keen to develop links with schools. I think Bath Uni are trying to do something similar with CAS computing excellence teachers. You might be able to take advantage of their infrastructure, contacts and gain some sponsorship. Of course they would have their own agenda which you’d need to find agreement with.

    Rob Williams is the contact at UWE. I think they are running some CAS events this month.

    Hope that helps. I’d happily pay a nominal amount to help with the cost of food.



    • Hi Chris

      Cheers for the heads up. My colleague in my dept is heavily involved on that front. He’s been to a number of events with Rob too, plus one the other night in Street too. The TMs at Clevedon don’t tend to be a technology based thing, more teaching and learning. We have held our own local cluster events for dept heads to discuss CS and ICT though and I know about Bath too, although not been involved as the sessions have never fitted in with my diary. Would be great to see you wherever our paths cross as I’m sure they will!



  • Having read the blog and the comments I’m torn, you see I think teachmeet is about winning hearts and minds. It’s about encouraging teachers to tell stories. The original idea was that everyone coming to the event should have something to share, the events were about giving and sharing, not taking. They changed teachers because they had to do something to be involved.

    A paid event reduces that involvement to a paying a fiver to be entertained.

    I about fours years ago, a group of people ( me included) discussed the idea of setting up a charity to support and preserve teachmeet. This was rejected by the original organiser and the view was very much as Oliver said. Nobody owns teachmeet, it is growing and organic, it is whatever it becomes.

    My queries are not about the rights and wrongs of calling the Clevedon events a teachmeet, but rather whether the continued hype and glitz will infect undermine the growth you are actually committed to.

    My questions:

    There’s no way 200 people should be asked to take their chances on presenting, so maybe break up into rooms of 20 people?
    Should supporting others in planting their own teachmeets should be part of the mission?
    Can you function with an agape shared meal?
    Do you need a keynote? That really is conference stuff.
    If each person does prepare something to share, is that very act enabling them to grow & think?

    Anyway, keep the faith – u are doing great

  • I can’t help but feel you’re just a couple of steps away from running a teachers conference in Clevedon. That way you can charge a small fee if required and get ‘bigger names’ in to draw those that like that sort of thing.

  • Sally Thorne says:

    There’s no doubt that TMClevedon has become a roaring success but I’d argue that what you have on your hands now isn’t really a TM anymore – it’s not the format that has changed, it’s your event! It has outgrown its original label and evolved into a bigger and different animal. It needs a grander name!

    As others have said, I’ve attended lots of different types of TM, the smallest of which was only six of us; all extremely valuable in terms of CPD. I worry sometimes that people who have only been to the huge events like TMClevedon and TMBETT then think that that’s how they all should be, and therefore don’t have the confidence to organise their own or volunteer to speak, and I think that is a shame. I agree that time to network is vital and I think that is easier to do at the smaller events; but at Clevedon you have been able to get some awesome speakers and run workshops, which wouldn’t be possible with a smaller one. So it’s give and take, I guess.

    For myself, having attended as many TMClevedons as I have been able, I would not attend if I was paying – not as an after-school event. I would willingly forego the food, delicious as it is, for a free event. Or I would pay if it was on a Saturday or a day in the holidays, when I can come to it fresh without a day at school behind me, and hang around for hours afterwards in the pub having those meaningful conversations. But that’s just me – I’m only one in 200 😉

    Best of luck with organising the next one!

  • What are the goals of TeachMeet?
    TeachMeet was originally designed to:
    Take thinking away from the formal, often commercialised conference floor, and provide a safe place for anyone to pitch their practice
    Provide a forum for more teachers to talk about real learning happening in real places, than one-hour conference seminar slots allow
    Showcase emerging practice that we could all aim to undertake; sales pitches not allowed
    Be all about the Teach, with only a nod towards tech that paved the way for new practice.
    Provoke new ways of sharing our stories: PowerPoint was banned. We wanted people to tell stories in ways that challenged them, and the audience
    Empower the audience to critique, ask questions and probe, all online, through SMS or, later, Twitter.

    Over the years, these ‘rules’ have altered, leading to some great innovations, others less so. The answer to “What is a TeachMeet?” has become a myriad of meanings, some pretty far off the original goals. We need to help and support people to organise, run and contribute to events that build on previous ones. We need to make TeachMeet as accessible to newbies as it was in 2005. We need TeachMeet to once more find its focus.

    From two years back…

  • David Rogers says:

    An interesting post Mark. For me, the most enjoyable and useful TeachMeets are those that are small scale and informal. I’ve organised a few, some with a subject specific focus (mainly Geography) that have simply been passing a laptop around and talking. What I lie about those is that they aren’t about technology.

    With TMPompey, we are still small scale but working in partnership with Actions Stations, the Navy and the Historic Dockyard. This provides some space, tech back up and a few other bits. Here, the education officers of those places give a talk and I don’t think that anyone minds that.

    In terms of the larger ‘TeachMeets’, personally the ones I’ve been to have not really met my needs. As you mention, the most useful part is often the networking and informal chat during / afterwards. I’m not going to TMBett for example as it’s quite some effort to put a presentation together to potentially not have the chance to share, and the presentations last year didn’t really meet my needs. That’s not saying that the event wasn’t well run and useful to others.

    The other think that I wonder is whether many TeachMeets become a selection of the same people talking to the already converted / aware. There are some who will speak about similar topics where sometimes new faces would be welcome.

    I’ve toyed with the idea of giving some sort of priority to those that have never spoken before.

    I’ve got no problem in paying for a high quality teacher centered CPD. Northern Grid and Nick Dennis’ TLA Conference spring to mind :

    However for me, a TeachMeet is free, informal and small scale. At the end of the day though, it’s CPD that meets the needs of teachers and encourgaging more people to share their stories that is more important than what you call the event.

  • Mat Pullen says:

    Think a nominal charge would be acceptable due to the level of CPD you receive, an equivalent course would cost over £100. After the last tmclevedon I gained so much, paying to go back is a no brainer

  • Tony Parkin says:

    As a regular attender to Teachmeets, either physically or virtually, since their inception, I have been fascinated to watch their evolution, and the philosophical debates well laid out here and in the comments. It is by its very nature a political animal, maybe even quasi-religious in fervour and opinion, and at the moment I am torn between following The People’s Popular Front of Judea, or the Judean Popular People’s Front approach, both argued cogently above.

    What’s in a name? Well, quite a lot actually. The point about a Teachmeet is that it is an UNconference. We have always had teachers’ conferences, and I love them too, indeed I have helped organise or spoken at many over the years. But the charm and essential nature of a Teachmeet is an UNconference, deliberately evolved north of the border to be a different beast. Organised by and for teachers, with only a random collection teachers allowed to share their real classroom experiences.

    So by all means have an event with invited speakers, sponsored sessions and mini-exhibitions, and even an admission fee… but just call it a conference, not a Teachmeet? Or come up with another name… the Collaborate4change events were also highly successful, shared many of the characteristics of a Teachmeet, but with a different format that the name change allowed without causing anyone any problems?

    One final thought from me… if the problems that are getting in the way of any event are simply logistical or financial, the answer could be that it probably isn’t really a Teachmeet?

  • Hi all,
    Thanks for continuing the discussion Mark. I thought I’d just chip in a few thoughts from down under. This in no way reflects the thoughts of all TeachMeet followers down here, but I know many of us share some or all of the thoughts I’ll outline below.
    For me, one of the key features that distinguish a TeachMeet from any other kind of professional learning is that it is organised by teachers, for teachers, to share practice in an open and informal (but planned) manner. Since March 2010 we’ve had TeachMeets as small as a dozen people through to a huge one organised by a whole team of us that had 300 people attend. In the case of the huge teachmeet, we had multiple rooms going so that each one was like a teachmeet in itself, including a ‘chat by the bar’ and an ‘app-swap’ room. Regardless of size, all teachmeets (as far as I know, in Sydney at least) have been free except for TeachEat at a local resteraunt/pub afterwards.
    We’ve also had everything in between. Some have been hosted by schools (the majority), some at pubs, some at other locations such as university campuses. Some have been simple jump-up-and-present and others have been more complex. We’ve actively encouraged all sectors (government, Catholic and independent schools) all to be involved. We’ve had subject-specific teachmeets and generic ones.
    There’s a national website (paid for by a few of us) that anyone can advertise an event on via one of several organisers who have admin rights. There’s a wiki for each region e.g. for organisers/hosts to easily whip up a web page with a Google doc sign up sheet etc.
    So far, it’s worked well in Sydney in this structure to give hosts the support they need, even if they aren’t “techie” but want to join people together in a conversation. For us it’s still about building a sense of community and momentum.
    My main concern is how to let ANY teacher host a teachmeet with the minimum amount of fuss and hassle, but getting the most out of the event.
    Keeping teachmeets free is important to me, but I do accept that for larger events (that aren’t lucky enough to latch on to a venue already paid for as in our huge teachmeet in March last year) a low cost ticket would be useful to lock in attendees and cover running costs. I think any teacher would understand things like this don’t happen out of thin air. Something for us to think about.
    As mentioned by others above, I think teachmeets have, are and will be evolving and changing, fluctuating in popularity and form to suit the hosts and the audience. One of the best aspects of teachmeets is that people are able to vote with their feet – a lot of decisions are made by that measure! If people are made aware of a sponsorship arrangement and don’t like it, noone’s making them go! Equally, if people aren’t discouraged but happy to cop a bit of advertising if it means they get free/low cost (and valuable) PD then they’ll still go.
    We can’t be too precious with form or shape of teachmeets so long as they don’t go too far down the road of conferences/corporate events. I’d say any teachmeet that asks more cash than is necessary for refreshments or basic costs is no longer a teachmeet. Or an event organised by a provider/group who are using the format for profit (ie not TEACHERS organising for teachers) shouldn’t use the name teachmeet. We recently had an issue with this, but the providers were happy to change the name as they support our mission.
    Having met a great bunch of UK Educators on a recent trip there in June, I can attest to the fact that you guys are providing fantastic PD for teachers. I attended a tiny teachmeet in Cirencester, an impromptu teachmeet at the Learning Festival in Crowthorne, a teachmeet at Education Scotland HQ, a student-led TeachMeet in York (which we replicated with excellent results in North Sydney last year). They all had learning and sharing at the beating heart of the conversation. That’s what a teachmeet fosters. Not sitting in rows listening to a guru (for too long anyway), but a series of brief talks that begin conversations. If you walk away from a teachmeet inspired, or with a new colleague, or with a new idea (or with all three!) the event has achieved its goal.
    Until we reach all teachers, and all of them are sitting bored at the events, we have work to do.
    Sorry to clog up the message board… but one last thing:
    Who’s up for a rolling teachmeet starting NZ or Pacific and rolling around the timezones via video so we can all feel part of a truly global network of professionals? The local connecting to the global…
    Keep up the great work!

  • Fiona Thomas says:

    I am a relative newbie to Teachmeets, TMClevedon, TMNewport and helping to organise TMCardiffASE, and have to say that I found TMClevedon amazing and I learned lots, not only at the event, but was inspired to read and look up more after the event. I believe this is the main aim, to inspire and inform and however big you get I hope you don’t lose that. I have watched some of Ian Addison’s Hampshire TM videos and have learned lots from them (infact only found out about Teachmeets through him). TMNewport was much smaller than Clevedon but informative and uplifting as well. I have attempted to watch a Teachmeet live and found it didn’t work. A video to watch later is a much better idea.
    What I also came away with was a desire to share the idea of Teachmeets. I was the first in my school to discover them and I found myself telling the rest of the staff what a brilliant idea they were. However only 2 came with me to TMNewport. Child care issues or a desire to get home after a long day stopped some of the others. When organising TMCardiff, I began by advertising it on Twitter, where I quickly got a response from people who had been to a Teachmeet before. However, we began giving leaflets to friends at other schools and quickly discovered that there were still hundreds out there who had no idea what a Teachmeet was. (Good to know I wasn’t the last!)
    I would probably pay to come to Clevedon again but I don’t know if I would have the first time. I do think we still need to spread the word and encourage new attendees, but at the same time understand the difficulties with people signing up and not turning up… Perhaps this is why it shouldn’t get too big?
    One thing, which was mentioned at TMCardiff, was about having just a primary or secondary TM. Has this happened before? Personally where someone was talking about something that was too advanced for my class, I have either found it interesting to know what was happening higher up the system or had a mind rest! Do all the Teachmeets try to make sure there is something for everyone if they know they have a mixed audience? Or do you find if it is organised by one school or the other there is a natural bias?
    As for what to call TMClevedon – CPD in the form of a show! Or CPD spectacular! 🙂

  • Audrey Nay says:

    I love the informality of TeachMeets. I have attended a few via twitter feed etc and 1 live one in our local area!
    I love the chance that teachers have to share with other INTERESTED teachers.
    TeachMeets to my way of thinking are MOSTsimilar to the Teacher Librarian network meetings that I have been attending for more than 12 years. Teacher Librarian network meetings were held once per term at a different school library each time for more than 12 years. We had the opportunity to explore and hear about various innovative ideas employed in other school libraries.
    They were always run on sharing lines.
    They were very inclusive: HS, Primary , local public librarians and independent, Catholic, Government teachers were all invited and attended when they were able to. NO PRESSURE. Simple organising. Same day,
    same week each term.
    When special events such as BookWeek were coming up we would encourage the sharing of ideas, resources including digital, lesson plans etc based around that theme/topic
    We had an agenda which included who was happy to share and any visitors that were attending. It was sent with the reminder to all the teachers a week or two before by the person who had agreed to host the next meeting. The host provided afternoon tea. We sometimes followed by going out to tea together.
    There are times we need big gatherings and fancy speakers but I see TeachMeets as more of a local, easy to get to, sharing session for teachers of ALL varieties!! Cheers 🙂

  • KISS – Keep it SMALL, stupid…

    For me, TeachMeets were getting the small number of like minded teachers together that thought it was important to do so. That number has obviously grown, so don’t make the top level bigger. push it down to grass roots where it belongs, and that’s within schools themselves.

    Like you limit the timing of presentations, just limit the size of the meets.

    And have more of them.


    • Perhaps, although I am but one person and unfortunately, in my experience, getting teachers to attend is, believe it or not, not that simple a job. I think maybe it’s more about striking a balance. Certainly agree with idea of internal Teachmeets with staff.

  • Interesting discussion. Despite running a commercial business, I agree with Oliver and Tony in that I think Teachmeets should stick to their already successful formula of being an UNconference for teachers. Over the last year alone I have noticed new Teachmeets cropping up all over the place, which, without any funding for marketing, can only be down to positive feedback via word of mouth and Twitter. As it stands, I think the future looks extremely bright for the continued growth of Teachmeets.

    For particularly large Teachmeets that are already full to bursting and require some sort of commercial input – like your TMClevedon – I would consider hosting them under a different name in order to preserve the Teachmeet name and reputation.

    As the owner of Innovate My School, I’d love IMS to get more involved in Teachmeets as everything we do is about sharing and promoting innovative proactive in schools. However, I’m conscious not to annoy regularly Teachmeet goers, so it’s been tricky to find the best way of going about things. Personally, I’d rather do something more creative than paying a flat sponsorship fee, but I know lots of companies that would happily to do this. Here’s a couple of ideas off the top of my head that might be worth considering:

    – Innovate My School assists Teachmeet organisors in securing sponsorship money from local/national education suppliers per event. We have good relationships with over 1300 education suppliers who we contact regularly – all are looking for innovative ways to reach proactive teachers.

    – Secure a year long deal with one particular company (RM, Pearson, etc) who would sponsor all events and cover the costs of catering and venue. Once secured, you will not have the ball ache of having to find new sponsors every time. IMS can also assist with this.

    – Allow IMS to run our speed dating event for one hour. We would happily cover all Teachmeet costs if this was possible. To give you a flavour, here’s a quick video of the event we ran for Liverpool Association of Headteachers:

    – Some form of crowdsourced funding per event. For a start, I’d upgrade the current Teachmeet website so that it is easier to find old presentations, etc. Everything seems a bit scatty (sorry!), so it would be good to have some sort of cohesion. With the new site up and running, I’d have a feature that allowed visitors/registrants to donate money. Those who have been before, and therefore know the quality of CPD they will receive, might be more inclined to donate. Those who are going for the first time might donate next time. Innovate My School is built using Joomla – a free open source platform. This could be ideal as there are loads of plugins (all free of charge) that could facility the above.

    Sorry, this is a bit of a brain dump, so please don’t lambast me if some of these ideas seem outrageous/too commercial.

    Great work, Mark – keep it up!

  • Rob Harrison says:

    Great (updated) post Mark.

    I think the charging issue is very difficult, without sponsorship, maybe…! The issue would be those staff that love how TM is free and delivers fantastic CPD, start charging would that interest go away?

    I think someone mentioned this, but maybe if it was a conference style TM, yes charge away!

  • This has been an interested blog and debate to read this past week, and as someone who has attended, presented and organised a few TeachMeets, feel that I can join in!

    They have been incredibly influential in my thinking over the past couple of years, and my one wish would be that more teachers attend them, discovering a little more about their profession and perhaps themselves. I think that we are becoming better at promoting these events now, and they are getting more attention, but wouldn’t want them to take the role of a conference – that has a different remit for a very specific reason.

    To that end, I’m not sure that charging for entry is a particularly good thing, but can see no reason why you can’t have a plate cost for refreshments.

    I also worry that the concept of having a Keynote speaker immediately devalues everyone else’s talks to ‘and this is what the other little people have done’ – Teachmeet should be about all of us tearing down divisions professionally, not building them up.

    Lastly, I do think we should really examine the professional ‘worth’ of Teachmeet as CPD. That is not to belittle it at all – I think it can be worth ten times an expensive course, but if we can address the value they give as CPD, we will gradually get more buy-in. I’m speaking as primitively as a Certificate. This may seem a backward step in a technological age, but I think that a Teachmeet CPD Certificate put on the Head’s desk will have real value!

    • Great comments, thank you. I particularly like the idea of attendance being recognised but how would you standardise that? Have accredited Teachmeets too?

    • Mags Amond says:

      Arriving late to this party, but something you said caught my eye Stephen. Could/would a Certificate debase the currency of TM, with folk attending just to collect it?
      The digital badge might catch on though, we tried it recently in Dublin, recipients reactions ranged from bemused through confused to totally delighted. It seem to match the spirit of Teachmeet.

  • Leon Cych says:

    I disagree about the streaming – but then I would wouldn’t I 🙂

    It usually works for me. But filmmaking distributed and uploaded sounds great but where are the archives and the curation around that – there needs to be a hashtag? I think the creators of content should also create the media wherever possible and locally. But sometimes production values are important and I’d like to see someone do transcription of talks as well so that they could be “searchable” on the web for research. Using storify to create is useful and I have written a blog abput how to capture TeachMeets in a more strategic way:

    I used Storify to capture what was going on because I could see the stream of the event going on in real time remotely so I could curate that event. The video stream was extremely useful. Just because something is hard for some people doesn’t mean it’s impossible or not to be tried – I think there’s value in streaming out if it can be done and even if it is only for a handful of viewers. Because no matter how few people it may be for, it may be one more person who gains access to that community and is able to feel less isolated surely?

    Google Hangouts enables you to do this pretty seamlessly these days (but it would useful if you understood what Mix Minus is with the sound).

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