• 13 Dec
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    We sponsor many TeachMeet style events up and down the UK but there had never been one in our home town of Oxford. Until last week.

    James Bird introduces TeachMeet Oxon

    James Bird at TeachMeet Oxon

    One of the organisers, an Oxford teacher called Matt Lovegrove, kindly asked us to sponsor. We didn’t hesitate to sign up and created one of our special Tim & Moby movies to help him promote the event and support those who have never been to a TeachMeet before understand more about its purpose.

    We’re based in Oxford and, as this was also Oxfordshire’s first official TeachMeet, I decided to contribute. I gave a 2 min nano-presentation about a personal idea I have been brewing with Doug Belshaw called ” #positiveparent ” which, though not ready for full release, was clear enough to share in an unconference setting. Thanks especially to Nicki Wise and Sheenagh Broadbent who were full of ideas and constructive support for ways forward on this afterwards.

    Doug Belshaw, unable to make it from the North East to Oxford, instead created an awesome video for the night called “Models of Learning” which discusses the Puentedura’s SAMR model (Substitution – Augmentation – Modification – Redefinition) and Boyer’s model of scholarship. This fascinating presentation captures why he is one of the most authentic, valuable and challenging voices in my learning network. It’s really worth a watch and I’ve embedded it below:

    We’ve posted our pictures from the night on Flickr, you can see a listing and some thoughts from the BrainPOP UK subscription prize winner in Brian Sharland’s “Reflection on TeachMeet Oxon” post and, for those that wished they were there, and you can see a complete recording of the whole night.

    Brian Sharland winning a BrainPOP UK subscription

    Brian Sharland winning a BrainPOP UK subscription

    We look forward to more local TeachMeets!

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  • 26 Feb
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    Last night, something rather special happened. Teachers came together from all over Oxfordshire to transform the way that they plan at the first ever TeachMeet Fishbowl.

    This all began in a meeting between James Bird (Oxfordshire Primary LA Advisor) and me (BrainPOPper), at the Rusty Bicycle, where we talked for a long lunchtime (over soft drinks!) about the joys of being inspired by innovation, at events like TeachMeet, and the challenge of making that transferable to the schools and teachers we worked with.

    James had the idea to use an adult training method (andragogy) called Fishbowling, where a small group take on the role of ‘experts’, and engage with a real life problem, whilst a wider group watch and contribute. This is how it was set out (see the annotated version on Flickr courtesy of Leon Cynch for more detail):

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/learn4life/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

    This event needed to focus on the one aspect that all the TeachMeets, conferences, and workshops we had been to sometimes lacked: practical steps to improve planning.

    How could we change that moment when a teacher sits with a blank sheet of paper – and turns it into a plan!

    We hoped for three outcomes:

    1 – That participants would be able to get engaged with planning in a way that they could take away ideas to apply to their schools immediately

    2 – That we would inspire each other and share new ideas, tools, resources

    3 – That we would create a local and powerful learning network which would have life after the event.

    James has written more about what we planned and hoped for in a blog post:  TeachMeet Fishbowling

    I set up a Ning space, we invited folk in, most of whom had not really used online spaces in this sort of way. Fishbowls are not about ICT or technology led. We made the event invite only and kept the proceedings closed (not streamed) because we wanted to test this model and allow people to be open and honest, without fear of colleagues, parents or looking daft!

    I invited Tom Barrett and Dawn Hallybone to help us, as great friends of BrainPOP UK (they are both VIBs!) and experienced TeachMeeters (Tom was so inspired that he filmed himself at the beginning of his planning process for his Superheroes topic last term) and Leon Cych, of Learn 4 Life offered to come and video the event.

    We were also lucky to be joined by Mark Berthelemy who has years of experience making CPD work, both on and offline.

    The hardest thing to do in any walk of life, is to bring about behaviour change. Even in those who want to change, or believe in it, acknowledge that making change happen is difficult and rare.

    Last night we got some talented and skilled practitioners to share, think, and do in a slightly different way. We set in motion something that was unique in all our experiences of CPD.  Questions of how we sustain this, and the ways this fits with policy and in practice are hard. But I have no doubt in the abilities of the people in that room to find the answers – together!

    Is this way ‘better‘? Can I make a value judgement of the efficacy of this model, just because people did something different from normal? I know that we captured the ‘Aha!’ moments that make traditional TeachMeets so inspiring, but also grounded them in practice. We demonstrated the power of social learning – something we all believe in with children – and established network based on trust.

    BrainPOP UK was involved because we believe in local CPD networks. Which is why we support TeachMeets.

    There are lots of great posts already, talking about last night, if you want to read more about it, try these starting points:

    Finally, can I thank:

    • Oxfordshire County Council who supplied the the venue
    • Tim & Moby for providing the food, drink and nibbles.
    • Joe, Victoria W. ,  Lizzie, Rebecca (who came despite being in the middle of an Ofsted inspection), Mike, Row, Joan, Dawn, Mark, Tom, Nick, Matt, Leon, Carol, Carolyne, Victoria S. , Amy, and James (did I miss anyone?).

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  • 10 Jul
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    On Wednesday 8th July 2009 we attended our first local Oxfordshire LA event – the Harnessing Technology across the Curriculum conference at the impressive Frank Williams F1 conference center.



    “This free event will showcase the exciting ways that teachers and pupils are using technology to enhance learning and teaching across the curriculum in Oxfordshire primary, secondary and special schools.

    The programme includes seminar sessions presented by teachers using the Oxfordshire Learning Platform and other technologies in schools, and exhibition stands from major educational ICT suppliers.

    Attendees also are able to visit Frank Williams’ famous museum of over 40 Formula 1 racing cars at the Centre. “

    Smaller events like these couldn’t be further from the giant BETT type shows. We think it’s important to try to do both.

    At BETT you get lots and lots of visitors. It’s hard to catch your breath if you’re running a stand. It’s rare a stand attendee doesn’t go home without strained vocal cords and blisters. Teachers tend to hunt in packs at the big trade shows so often you’ll be demoing to 3 or 4 people, sometimes even a crowd, and be up against the noise all around you.

    At local events like this you get much more opportunity to do one on one time with teachers. As there are only a handful of suppliers to go round they can take their time.

    Oddly enough we found that teachers who came to see us and fell a little in love with BrainPOP UK didn’t tend to sign up for free trial on the spot like they do at larger trade shows. But we’re fairly confident they will when they next sit down at a PC.

    Potentially this was simply because it was nearly the summer break. We also think a local show is simply less focused on selling (at BETT it’s expected behaviour to be scanned for evaluations or entered into competitions etc) so there’s no pressure to sign up to anything. As the conversations are more in depth there’s much less chance of forgetting.

    Events of this type are less explicitly commercial (there were a number of local schools displaying their ICT adventures in amongst the suppliers). The stands weren’t shouty and glossy. All the stands were very similar – they simply implied “Pop over and have a chat”.


    Which suited us just fine. The feedback we got was fantastic and I dare say we’ll soon be welcoming some Oxfordshire schools to the BrainPOP UK family in September. Some highlights:

    • Meeting Nick Speller and James Bird from the Oxfordshire ICT Advisory team – thanks for looking after us and making us feel so welcome, guys!
    • The whole BrainPOP UK team got a chance to see Dawn Hallybone do her thing in her “Game based learning in the Classroom” seminar, using Nintendo DS consoles to deliver real demonstrable value in the classroom. Talk about hyper engaging teaching tools. If you ever get a chance to see her present on this topic we highly recommend it.
    • The Sonning Common School radio seminar (their kids went home with lots of Tim and Moby stickers – are there any kids who don’t want stickers?) and have uploaded a blog post here with some great photos: SCPS Radio @ the ICT Conference .
    • Katie from 2Simple was there and she’s always a pleasure to hang out with.
    • The dozens of pupils who ravaged our stand for free goodies and a chance to watch Tim and Moby movies. My personal highlight was when a teacher gathered her pupils and asked them to venture forth and visit every stand and report back to her what they’d seen and what they’d like to use in school. Immediately, and almost in synchronisation, they shouted “BRAINPOP!“. Brilliant.
    • The F1 Museum – not my cup of tea but others on the team couldn’t believe their luck. There was even talk of a Tim and Moby F1 movie!

    Louise gets all a-flutter at being so close to a real F1 car

    PS: You can see an overview of the event by checking out the Twitter search on the conference hash tag “#oxict09“. If you are not sure what a hash tag is it’s worth reading this article on hash tags.

    Nick Speller told me over a coffee that the Oxfordshire ICT team are trying to popularise #oxteach to create a living, breathing way of highlighting all interesting conversations around what’s happening with ICT in Oxfordshire. Even though it’s still very early days with this we say bravo! As we are based on Oxford we will also use this tag where we can.

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