Coolest Projects is exactly what it says – a showcase of cool projects from Coderdojos all over Ireland and all over the world. A huge volunteer force works to get it together – people who believe strongly in empowering youngsters, and celebrating their creativity. The atmosphere is full of energy, and the noise is, well, – it’s loud!

To get an idea of the age group presenting their work – I was visiting some projects when I heard a shriek, and a young girl ran past looking for her teacher and her mom, holding out her hand to show the tooth that had just fallen out. Later, when it all settled, she calmly went on stage to collect her award:

I had good fun helping Eugene McDonough, of CoderDojo Ireland and Coderdojo Limerick, as he led a short class on Scratch for beginners. I’m delighted that Eugene is now an Ireland Ambassador for Code Week EU; I won’t be the only one visible from space in the luminous orange Code Week EU tee!

One thing I loved as I wandered about was the number of students who could present their work in a confident manner, fielding questions like professionals. The students from Lacken NS at the Microsoft Minecraft booth, and the students of Confey College at the Mechatrons booth.

I couldn’t help pondering on the day…

Confey College students present their Mechatrons machine


It was a treat to travel to Newcastle with CESI’s Adrienne Webb and Leanne Lynch to take part in Talk On the Tyne, and attend Tech On the Tyne in early June. Both events are organised each year by Martin Bailey of Animate to Educate. Martin is the absolute king of hospitality, and everything was organised to the nth degree. Meeting the UK teachers was great, swapping ideas and comparing notes with them. (And with the day that was in it, discussing general election outcomes and politics in general).
We had a very entertaining TeachMeet style evening on the Thursday night, in the beautiful setting of the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, over looking over some of the bridges on Tyne river. Presentations on classroom practice came flying at us, with Martin’s spilt second timing keeping it flowing.
Highlight of the evening had to be watching our CESI chair, Adrienne, totally absorbed in the NowPressPlay “do what you hear” writing prompt activity while the rest of us kinked with laughter – it was easy to see how a classroom of youngsters would get absorbed in this. (If you’re wondering, they were listening to writing prompts about The Stone Age, a topic in UK primary schools. But you’d figured that out, hadn’t you?).

My three other favourites were the “DIY” ones we got to try out with the presenter…

  • Julian Woods‘s lesson on the yard game Chopsticks (spent half the night, and lots of time since, trying to get my head round that one)

  • Paul Tullock literally giving it socks – and tutu and headband – in a lively Go Noodle interlude which had us hopping and laughing together, dignity totally abandoned:

  • Chris Wilde‘s maker bag containing the fixings, sans instruction, to make a bristlebot. Cue discussion, cooperative learning, the buzz of vibro motors and the buzz of learning:

Our bristlebot at #talkonthetyne thanks to @chriswilde78 @tyncanlearning #makerbreak

A post shared by magsamond (@magsamond) on

The next day, the main event called Tech On The Tyne, was full to the brim with top-notch personal and professional development. What’s still in the ponder zone in my mind… Ken Corish‘s clear no-nonsense overview of where we should be going with policy and practice on internet safety; the fierce passion of Simon Finch; Joe Dale‘s masterclass in “keep calm and carry on teaching” while every possible tech fail happens during your allotted time; Julian Wood again, this time overtly presenting on using dance move instructions to teach about algorithms, but really it was about using your teacher superpowers to get your students to enjoy learning with you, no matter what the subject; Lee Parkinson‘s lovely finalé to the day reminding me very much of our late friend Bianca Ní Ghrógáin, in both style and substance.

One surprise of the visit was Newcastle itself. Short flight, small user friendly airport, cheap efficient public transport, city full of history, culture and a seemingly  endless supply of lovely restaurants  – definitely worth a return visit.

The last TeachMeet at a Scratch Conference was a cracker, curated and MC’d by the inimitable Drew Buddie in Der Waag building as part of the unconference for #Scratch2015AMD. Following on the warm reception TeachMeet got from Scratch conference goers, there will be a second TeachMeet Scratch as part of the Bordeaux unconference in July.


This time the venue is as lovely – the Marché Des Douves is a converted market hall, used by the community for social and educational events.

TeachMeet is an open, free, informal and social event, organised by volunteers who wish to share ideas with each other. To get a feel for what goes on, have a look and a listen here.

If you are going to the Scratch Conference in Bordeaux this July, do not miss the TeachMeet – see you there.



“Pimp My Badge”

TeachMeet Froebel took place last evening in the gorgeous new Education Building at Maynooth University. The best thing about TeachMeet Froebel is the two way stream between student teachers and practicing teachers – both sets learn from each other.
Great work by final year student Laura O’Donoghue and her team, they were a shining credit to Seamie O’Neill and the Froebel Dept. It was a fantastic evening of ideas, chatter, action, challenges and showcase. The energy and action is well visible in the Twitter timeline for #tmFroebel 

Details of speakers and topics is at the TeachMeet Froebel wiki pages, and the shared presentations have been made available here.


Great venue, great hostess with the mostess Laura


The Twinkl Bouncers!


Playworks living up to its name


Just some electronics to pass the time Waiting for Godot


Seesaw in stereo from Denis

I’m reading a lot of TeachMeet ‘stuff’ these days. This is one my favourite bits, and I’m keeping it close by to keep me grounded. I don’t receive the TESS magazine, so belated thanks to journalist Adi Bloom for putting this snippet from Ewan McIntosh into a ‘TeachMeet 10th birthday’ page last June, and thanks to Ian Stuart from tweeting a pic of p14 of that issue.

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I couldn’t resist ‘slidifying’ it to use myself (didn’t use PowerPoint, I promise!):


About 10 years ago, I went to the Association of Science Educators annual conference with my colleague Majella Dempsey. (We were at the time working together as Development Officers with the Science Support Service. One of the topics we were focussing on was electricity – how to evolve the teaching of this concept, and deepen the understanding of both students and teachers. We’d settled on a model devised by the School of Education at York University, The Big Circuit, bundled with some pre- and post- diagnostic questions.) When the ASE programme showed a workshop on electricity, off we went. Good move. Move of a lifetime, to be honest!

The workshop was being given by a Swede called Hans Perrson. To my shame it has taken me way too long a time to check out his details and learn more. He needs to be as well known as his compatriot, the late Hans Rosling. (What is it with Swedes called Hans who are amazing at explaining complicated concepts in simple ways? Up with this sort of thing, I say).

Hans Perrson is a gifted teacher. Being in the room with him just that once is still sharp in my memory. He ran us through a ‘human circuit’ method of engaging students in thinking about conduction in a circuit. His golden idea was to use a small chirpy chicken toy as the focus. Everyone in the room was charmed. When the workshop was over, we all got a yellow fluffy chirping chicken to take away.

It has become one of my favourite teaching aids. I have used it a lot in a lesson that has been named “chicken and chips”. It is a starter activity for both physics and computer science lessons, and at coderdojo camp. (We even made the wall of honour at the Scratch Conference in Amsterdam 2015.) Over the years with ideas suggested by colleagues and students I have added in coal, pencil graphite in ever decreasing layers (thanks Bianca Ní Ghrógáin), silicon (thanks Diarmuid O’Leary), water, thermo-sensitive pawpid-img_20150815_120247.jpgper (thanks Majella Dempsey), and diodes (thanks Michelle Rogan) to the circuit trials. I have yet to find one human who has not been intrigued and charmed by the exercise, or a student too young or too experienced to learn in this fashion. And even tough the talk is of conductors and semiconductors, the most frequent question asked is “where did you get the chicken?”. That’s when I always tell them about the fabulous Swedish teacher Hans Perrson. I hope his ears have burned each time!

So, ten years on, it is time to say thank you in public, Hans. Your idea of us all holding hands with the chirpy little Kycklingen has helped a lot of teachers and students with their understanding, and more importantly, made them smile. If anyone knows anyone who knows Hans, please pass this message along.

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Thank you very much, Carl Wieman, for all the PhET materials designed and shared over the years. It has made a big difference to teaching and learning difficult-to-understand science concepts. Top of my list, often declared in my “if the internet goes on fire what will I save?” list, is the current electricity interactive widget. Priceless.

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