Thursday, April 16, 2009

Something To Chew On...

I've written before about the difference between tools/resources and that they should supplement content/skills in a classroom.  If what a teacher is doing always revolves around content and skills, then the tools and resources can be more ephemeral.

When I explain this to teachers, most understand what I mean, but sometimes there is such a reliance on a tool or resource, that it becomes the content. 

I was thinking about this last night in terms of a local gathering I'm helping to plan.  A group of educators in the area are planning what's called a "Teachmeet" where educators come together for what amounts to the best parts of going to a Staff Development Conference, just without the regular conference constraints.  The main focus is--surprise! CONTENT!  It's not about big names, it's not about big fees (in fact, the TeachMeet is free for participants!), it's not about corporate sponsorship and marketing, it's not about gadgets or the newest must-have text.  It's just about sharing what works in an informal setting where everyone has a chance to bring something to table, learning from each other--sharing "content" and "skills" without the extras.

I'm not saying the extras aren't nice.  Tools/Resources/Gadgets, any peripheral really, are cool to help engage students and teachers alike, but you boil learning and achievement down to its core and you're left with the content.  It was as true in 1950 as it is 2009.  Resources come and go.

On a much more shallow note--I was also thinking about this in terms of the restaurant we went to after our planning meeting.  I was thinking about how the restaurant didn't really matter all that was good, but it wasn't about the restaurant--it was about our conversation.  A conversation we could have had anywhere--at any restaurant, in the car, over Skype, sitting in a ditch in the front yard.  The PLACE might have made the conversation easier or the participants more involved and engaged, but it was the conversation that was important.

That's why I think the TeachMeet is such an awesome idea.  It's professional development that focuses on the core, the content, the conversations--the stuff that teachers care about the most.  Which, in turn, will have a great affect on student learning and achievement as we share what works.

Interested in the TeachMeet?  Here are some resources:

WNY TeachMeet Wiki
Another TeachMeet Wiki from the UK

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