To say that the venue was outstanding would, in my opinion, be an understatement. Opened last autumn, the building has to be the best designed school I have ever stepped foot in - it's open-plan, it's bright, it's clean and I would imagine that it would be a great place to work in (they've even thought of the 'little' things that make a massive difference like ensuring all classrooms look out onto a green space and building dividers between rooms out of a whiteboard surface so that they can be wrote on when shut). The way that they have embraced modern technology is also phenomenal - they have an enormous 4D theatre, every pupil is given their own iPod Touch (with their contribution just being £15 for insurance, managed by the school) and every teacher has their own iPad which can link up to any one of the 80 Apple TV enabled screens on the site, with staff being encouraged to publish their own course books using iBooks. Looking at their website you'll get a glimpse of how impressive the academy is and you'll be able to read about how they hope to extend their facilities to accommodate children aged 3-16 in future years.
Moving onto the presentations, these offered the usual mix of teachers enthusiastically sharing their practice in the hopes that others would be inspired. Time constraints limited people to 5 minutes each but I actually think that this worked extremely well, keeping the pace and excitement going right up until the very end.
- Tim Rylands did a Skype call from Spain to share a collaborative drawing tool named Cacoo (as well as the sunny weather there).
- Andy Green-Howard talked about how working in a free school offers you the opportunity to be given a blank sheet of paper to completely re-write how you approach teaching and learning.
- Jasmine Renold praised Edmodo for offering the facility to send out online assignments to her students. (You can read my blog posts on Edmodo by clicking here.)
- Julia Skinner promoted the 100 Word Challenge she sets children across the world, in which children are asks them to write a 100-word paragraph online based on a prompt she sets (such as a picture of a check-list of words to include), from which they will receive comments and feedback on how to improve it. You can find out more information about it at: http://100wc.net/?page_id=6
- Cherise Duxbury gave a real-time demonstration of Cover it Live and promoted http://livewriting.net/ - a place where all the live writes are collated together.
- David Mitchell explained about the success of his 'Well Done' blog that he runs at his school to quickly share children's achievements with the school community online ('capturing the magic' as he termed it) - see more details here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIwCQ0TKP64
- JC Sheffield did a musical presentation via Skype from Plymouth University to share how useful playing a ukulele is in school as a class management tool.
- Dughall McCormick managed to make some hoops out of piping bought from a DIY store in exactly two minutes (!) - useful for letting children make dens with as it is cheap and reusable. Scroll down on this page for a picture of it in action.
- Peter Raffety recounted the 'technology takeover day' that he ran with his Year 4 class in which they all brought their own devices in to share and learn with for one day. He also showed some pictures of boxes his class designed as part of 'World Box Day' (as he named it).
- Paul Hutson shared the benefits of holding whole-school theme weeks in which creativity and cross-curricular work are promoted - an example being the Night Zoo Keeper project.
- Chris Cox and Jo Harwood demonstrated Symbaloo as an online tool for bookmarking favourite websites as tiles.
- Ben Gristwood talked about creating a Twitter account for his high school computing department on which he: poses questions to pupils asking them their opinions on topics, shares interesting news articles and broadcasts homework reminders.
I gave my presentation on using 'quiz-quiz-trade' as a co-operative Internet research activity - see this blog post for details.
Although it was a very wet evening, thanks must go to Dughall and David who organised yet another marvellous TeachMeet, along with all the staff at the Essa Academy who stayed to provide us with the room facilities and nice meal to eat too! Special mention to Abdul Chohan as well for his fantastic guided tour of the school.
What inspirational idea/tool will you try in your classroom after tonight's TeachMeet?