Try something different. If it turns out to be a mistake then you’ve learned something, so it isn’t really a mistake.
The TeachMeet community tried something different this year at BETT. We mobilised, we tookover vendors’ stands and talked about free ideas teachers could use on Monday. We made an attempt to pass on the inspiring ideas that are regularly presented at the face to face TeachMeet events, to those who may have never attended one. Teachmeet Takeover made a small step out of the echo chamber that the community often gets caught speaking to.
Yes we made mistakes, we stumbled, but the idea I think is sound enough – here are a few things I have learned, observed and thought about from the last few days of TeachMeet Takeover
- Teachers get very excited about free tools.
- The majority of free web based tools that are familiar to some are completely unknown to others.
- Some companies understand the need for teachers to be talking directly to other teachers about real practice.
- There are so many passionate and inspiring teachers willing to stand up and present about their ideas.
- A handful of companies genuinely believe in the same things as we do.
- It can be hard to make the FREE message authentic amongst all of the SELL, SELL, SELL. But what started as a whisper…
- Many, many more vendors want their stands involved at BETT 2011.
- Next year we will stipulate requirements for the stands. Internet access, big projection facilities and a PA system.
- A simple competition gives people who are unsure a clear direction and encourages them to see multiple TeachMeet Takeover talks.
- Publicity is important, so people know about it before arriving.
- Maybe Takeover should only take place on Thursday and Friday.
- It exceeded all of my expectations.
- I now know the idea works in reality, with more planning for 2011 we can be more ambitious – perhaps.
- We could try a mass Takeover, four stands all close together in much more of a flash mob style.
- Certain companies are happy to volunteer time, money and resources (including their stands) to support TeachMeet Takeover.
- Keeping talks under 15 minutes is best.
- Having two people on a stand talking consecutively works really well.
- It has never been more important for teachers to be sharing free resources, tools and ideas with other teachers.
I have been thinking deeply over the last 3 days about the relationship between sales driven companies and the teachers sharing free ideas. For some of the talks there were 30-40 people on the stands – we were bringing them in. That is obviously good for the vendor but it also good for teachers sharing ideas with other teachers. Maybe 3 or 4 people stop and look at some of the vendor’s fliers or products, similarly maybe 15-20 people go away and find out about the free idea they heard from a presentation.
Perhaps we need to bridge the often gaping chasm between these two communities if we are to properly amplify some of the messages, ideas and ideologies to the majority of teachers which are so intrinsic to the TeachMeet community. There has been plenty of reference to the disconnect between teachers and those who sell products, but I am more convinced that we need to build partnerships to effect large scale change in schools. The interesting thing is that companies at BETT are desperate to find ways to engage with their users on a more authentic level. I think TeachMeet Takeover has provided a viable option and it works. Importantly the teacher community has acted first on this, it is on our terms, we have defined how this engagement happens and so can keep the right intentions at the heart of what happens in the future.
None of the vendors involved deliberately hijacked an audience to peddle their own wares – they really did just let us takeover. I think that turning people on their stands into real sales is harder then encouraging teachers to look further into a free idea that is presented. Also a person’s subsequent research into how they might use a free tool will inevitably lead to teachers’ blogs and maybe the domino effect is that they start to find out more and more free tools and ideas. We must be aware of the knock on effect a single 10 minute Takeover talk could have in the weeks ahead.
I heard about one teacher attending TeachMeet Takeover who had never heard of Twitter or any of the online tools that were being presented. After his first talk he spent his day at BETT attending most of the other Takeover talks collecting the 8 ideas he needed to win the goody bag prize. Hopefully his head is buzzing with that bunch of new, free ideas and is thinking about how he can best use them to support learning with his class.
A BIG thankyou to all of the vendors and teachers who contributed to TeachMeet Takeover this year.
We were able to apply some of the feedback from Thursday to improve things for the following days – I would be grateful to hear more of your thoughts and reactions from the Takeover events. What should we consider changing or improving for next year? What stories from Takeover have you to tell?