Neil Winton offered a great comment on my preceding post on Who will take TeachMeet to Capitol Hill?. I’m grateful to Neil for giving me the chance to make some important points, and I have chosen to promote the comment to a post in its own right so that it might reach a wider audience.
Please read the preceding post and Neil’s comment (as well as a perceptive comment from Ewan McIntosh) before you read the rest of this post:
You know I have much sympathy for your argument here, Neil, but I’m not sure I would agree wholeheartedly with all your points. Let me explain why.
I, like so many from the educational community here in Scotland and across the UK, and in growing numbers, am a strong supporter of the TeachMeet concept — it is entirely consistent with the open, interconnected, democratic and collaborative nature of what education should be seeking to become today. I have said so more than once, and I will reiterate (since some seem not to be listening when I say this) that TeachMeet is currently unrivalled as a format that enables classroom practitioners, and others, to share great ideas and to learn from each other.
I think, though, that you point up the very limitations of TeachMeet (which are not mere concerns as some might argue) when you say that I’ve learned more useful and practical skills and tools at Teachmeets than I have from any course. I can believe that. But I also believe that the Connectivism course currently being repeated by George and Stephen is an equally important example of the kind of course that offers an immensely powerful antidote to the sort of sterile, top-down, accredited courses that we both dislike and that have, for far too long, been imposed by administrators on teachers for no better purpose than to demonstrate that a policy is being implemented.
TeachMeet, without any shadow of a doubt, is a wonderful model for the viral growth and dissemination of great classroom-based practices and ideas. But the Connectivism course — and I hope there will be many others like it in time — offers something that TeachMeet would find difficult to achieve: a collaborative and networked space in which the deeper questions and the critical educational, social and philosophical issues underlying the shifts we are seeking in education today can be discussed and debated (alongside the deeply practical issues of classroom practice and pedagogy, of course).
Some have said they are “….not looking for TeachMeet to revolutionise education…”. That is fine, I respect that view even if it not one I share. But I would hope that those who do hold that view will accept that TeachMeet cannot be the only tool in the box for those seeking change at a broader level than simply in the classroom. The strength of TeachMeet is that it is founded on a spirit of harmony, cooperation and rapport — but deep-seated change comes, whether some like it or not, through conflict, debate and divergence.
No one, therefore, need be defensive on TeachMeet’s behalf — it’s current mushrooming demonstrates clearly just how much it meets a real and growing need out there. But neither should anyone seek to argue that TeachMeet meets every need. It does not.