#BrewEd was devised as a format for pubs and cafes. For flesh and blood people in authentic social spaces.
Since lockdown we haven’t been able to get together in that way. Some events have been cancelled. Without clarity about when pubs and cafes will be able to open again, and when it will be safe for us to meet in large groups, it’s really hard to plan #BrewEd events for the autumn. For the foreseeable future that side of #BrewEd has to be on hold.
Fortunately, technological solutions mean we don’t have to give up. We can still get together, share ideas, share experiences, make connections and have some laughs together even if we can’t do it in bricks and mortar pubs. The days of the virtual #BrewEd are upon us and we want to encourage you to take ownership – just as you did with the non-virtual model, and to make events that work for you.
Last weekend, on Saturday 25th April, #BrewEdIsolation organised by @GrahamAndre went live on a Periscope stream on twitter. More than thirty people spoke on an amazing array of subjects. Hundreds of people watched through the day and thousands have looked at the stream since. Due to the great generosity of Ben Brown (@edroundtables) the presentations are now hosted on a dedicated YouTube channel and hundreds more teachers have seen them there. More importantly, during the day that #BrewEdIsolation was streaming hundreds of people were discussing, participating and making connections in the comments bar alongside the stream and on Twitter on the hashtag and in DM groups. Friend of #BrewEd Ruth Swailes blogged about the day here.
#BrewEdIsolation might not have been a #BrewEd in the way that Daryn and I first imagined it but it really felt like one and it filled a lot of the same purposes.
In another couple of weeks Daryn is taking up the reins and hosting another kind of virtual model, this time a ticketed event on zoom limited to just fifty people. #BrewEdHomebrew will have four speakers and plenty of time for chat – we will move into break out rooms for some of the discussion just as we chat around our tables at a bricks and mortar #BrewEd, and we will end with a cracking quiz from Alan Brown. Maybe this smaller model will give speakers and participants the safety and permission we get at a #BrewEd in a pub or cafe to speak more honestly and openly than is possible in big conferences and ones where work week hierarchies are in place.
We think that both these models are great – they are both different from what happens when a few of us get together over a pint or a coffee in a ‘real’ place but they do what we wanted to do – bring people together, make connections across positionings and sectors, help support colleagues who might be feeling isolated, empower the community and the profession. We don’t mind if an online #BrewEd is huge and open to anyone in the world who chooses to tune in, or small and protected – both models have real benefits. One thing we realised from the feedback to #BrewEdIsolation is that there are many, many people who would love to be coming along to #BrewEd events but for whom geographical distance, family commitments, lack of money for travel, anxiety or other barriers effectively prevent them from attending. The number of people who commented with genuine excitement that they were coming to their first #BrewEd was humbling. We can imagine the appetite for virtual #BrewEds continuing long after lockdown ends.
So – it’s over to you good people. Scores of people have already been involved in running #BrewEd events in their home towns and cities and there is nothing at all to stop you from organising your own #BrewEdHomebrew to meet your own needs and communities. There’s a few things to think about here:
In the original #BrewEd format we thought geographically a lot – events were organised mostly in terms of local clusters – people thought about optimising morale, connections and practice for their town, county, city. Online it may be that people find it more useful to think about other kinds of links. I imagine that with this new model we might see more #BrewEds arranged around subject areas for example or addressing particular issues. Who knows what the clever hashtags and names might be but a day of talks and discussions around rebuilding our school communities when Lockdown ends would be of interest to lots of us, practical discussions around child bereavement might be important, looking at ways of engaging colleagues with the job of co-creating curriculum, effective home learning… You get the point, a #BrewEd might be a great way to explore around some of the thorny issues we are all looking at currently.
Almost in opposition to the thoughts I have outlined in the above paragraph there’s a few things to bear in mind when you are curating a #BrewEd if it is not to slip into being some other sort of conference. I’m going to bullet point these for clarity and if you attend an event that doesn’t follow this blueprint then know that it’s not really a #BrewEd – at least so far as Ed and Daryn are concerned.
- #BrewEd cuts across sectors – we want Primary, Secondary, EY, PRU, Special Ed, ITT, governors, all in the room.
- #BrewEd cuts across positionings – lets mix up the pedagogical and political cliques to challenge and support.
- #BrewEd is non-hierarchical – the CEO and the NQT sit at the same table and their voices are equal, sometimes a listener might not know which is which.
- #BrewEd is fun – it’s our social time so let’s not be boring. Let’s have fun together.
- #BrewEd is welcoming, actively so. We go out of our way to encourage people to have a voice, to take part we strive to represent the diversity of the teaching community. We are proactive to represent sector, class, cultural and disability.
- #BrewEd is not sponsored so, no, we won’t take money from business and we won’t put goody bags on seats. However well meant, allowing sponsorship to creep into the model would mean someone somewhere feeling that they couldn’t be openly critical or questioning about this academy chain, that publisher, that magazine, this resource company.
- #BrewEd is rarely about practical minutiae of teaching or school leadership. You are unlikely to go home with a handy tip for teaching your Year Four Spanish lesson – that would likely be of little use to many of the people in the room – instead you might come away with a new way of thinkng about yourself as a professional or about the relationship between what you do and the profession as a whole. To make sure talks are of interest to the wide range of people in the room they have to address bigger questions or have very wide application.
Hope that wasn’t too blunt. There’s a lot of us love #BrewEd and we want to protect its DNA from being warped out of shape. Do get in touch if you have any queries about what I mean by any of those points – I’m more than happy to debate and to clarify. Even to change my mind – it has been known!
So, what would I like to see happen? I would LOVE to see lots of messages coming into Daryn and my inboxes saying ‘We have an idea for a #BrewEd – can we make it happen please?” The answer to these queries will almost certainly be yes.
I would love to see people getting together in twos and threes to make these events happen, and – now that I can’t meet with my pal who lives three streets away – those twos and threes might well be from different regions within the UK, beyond the UK even.
I’d like to see people exploring different models – between the huge and entirely open #BrewEdIsolation and the much smaller more protected #BrewEdHomebrew there are probably an infinite number of models of varying size and privacy.
I’d love to see someone work out how to do the world famous rucksack of shite virtually – come at me with your suggestions.
I’d love to see people actively curating an exciting, provocative, diverse day – reach out and invote the people you want. don’t timidly hang back and only ask the people who were pushy enough to offer – by reaching out you make a better day for your participants. The worst than can happen is people say no.
I’d love to collect some stories, feedback and testimonies about how taking #Brew#BrewEd online has worked out for you.
Last bit from me – lots of people wanted to know what technology @GrahamAndre used to host #BrewEdIsolation – it was a web based interface called StreamYard. It’s free, very very simple to use and hugely effective. I had my first go at it last night to host my cheery and chaotic Friday Night #PandemicMusicChallenge singalong and I couldn’t believe how easy and user friendly it was. Have a little play – you’ll be amazed.
Please do comment with queries, criticisms, clarifications – this is very much a first draft.