MappingUnconferencesA3 … this post is only about four months late (the thought-to-action time lag is getting greater all the time). I’ve wanted to thank Tom Farrelly since late May for curating a Gasta session at #edconTCD on May 18th, and it struck me that there were so many other role models of the unconference world to whom I owe a debt of gratitude for all I have learned from each of them. As well as marvelling at Tom the Gasta guru, I have watched Shelli Ann Garland inject Pecha Kucha style to the Trinity College Dublin School of Education last year; collaborated with Richard Millwood introducing Open Space Technology in both CESIcon and at ScratchEdMeetups; admired Eoin Kennedy herding huddles at CONGregation each November; twice been ‘lobbed’ by John Davitt at Learning On A Beach; watched with deep admiration how Frank Sabaté from Catalunya combined cheeerleader and MC roles at many many Ignite sessions at three successive Scratch conferences in Europe (BCN, AMS, BDX); I have been V-connected to many conferences now thanks to Kate Molloy of CESI; and as for TeachMeet, there have been so so many many who have inspired me over the last decade however the epiphany ‘big bang’ moment for me was watching founder Ewan McIntosh unconferencing the Scottish Learning Festival way back in 2008,. Thank you all …

… I include three things in this post – the slides I used at the edconTCD Gasta session in which I tried to explain the evolution of unconference world in 5 mins; an explanatory overview of the broad unconference world that I have been delving into since I began PhD research into TeachMeet [cross-posted as a #cong19 blog entry]; and an updated version of my MappingUnconferencesA3 I have come across, summarised origins, evolution, governance, and philosophies of each …

MappingUnconferences

MappingUnconferences

Researching the origins and evolution of TeachMeet brought me into the hall of mirrors that is the world of a recent global phenomenon – the unconference. Although the name comes from the tech community, coined for an XML developers conference in 1988, the idea is attributed to Harrison Owen and the Open Space Technology method he introduced in 1984, turning the traditional menu-driven conference format on its head and introducing more of the primeval conversational formats that attendees obviously appreciated, because it has flourished, replicated, and evolved ever since.

The main characteristics of the unconference, inherited from Owen’s Open Space, are high levels of complexity and diversity, potential for critical discussion, being driven by passion and responsibility, and the deployment of “the one law – if at any time you discover you are neither learning or contributing, use you two feet and move on”. Most people who use it refer to it now as the Law Of Two Feet. It is a very powerful permission to grant to participants, running counterintuitive to the ‘sit and suffer’ tendency when one it stuck in the ‘stand and deliver’ conference situation. Switching the brain and the body to unconference mode may take a while – timetables and agendas are built by assent and by participant choice – some patience is needed, and confidence, and there may be bite marks on the teeth of a control freak for the first while. It can demand a leap of faith, and provide a giddy sense of freedom. Perhaps the best descriptor for the complex-but-simple atmosphere of an unconference is the Dee Hock coined adjective chaordic. Dave Winer’s “What Is An Unconference” blog post from 2006 probably sums up why folk flip from conference to unconference when he says “This observation may turn out to be the Fundamental Law of Conventional Conferences … The sum of the expertise of the people in the audience is greater than the sum of expertise of the people on stage.” 

Looking across and down the history of modern unconference formats, I find they fall into three structures
(i) broad discursive unconferences with long time slots devoted to community conversations in an agenda agreed at the start of the day (Open Space, World Café, BarCamp, EdCamp, CampEd);
(ii) narrower hi-octane sessions with very short time frames and strict rules for each speaker (Pecha Kucha, Ignite, Gasta); and
(iii) hybrids with elements of both (TeachMeet, Pedagoo, BrewEd, ScratchEdMeetUp, ConGregation, Vconnect).

In terms of organisers’ deploying these unconference formats, at least five methods have crossed my horizon since I began to observe, each with varying degrees of openness and inclusion.
1 – Independent unconference events:
As in the annual event in Cong, most MeetUp, BarCamp, EdCamp, Pedagoo, BrewEd, World Café, and Open Space Technology gatherings are organised as stand-alone events, independent entities with open access for all interested parties to attend
2, 3, & 4 – Unconference events attached to conferences:
> many unconferences are doing what their names suggests and getting attached to an established conference as a fringe event outside the published timetable – some TeachMeets and MeetUp are organised this way; these may or may not be restricted to those attending the parent conference.
> other formats have evolved within the conference setting: using an unconference format for some activities during the conference schedule – one way is to include a TeachMeet, Gasta, Pecha Kucha, or Ignite session to vary the pace, inject energy, and open the floor to voices and ideas that might not other be included.
> another emerging idea is to offer a Vconnect session so that those not at a conference in person can digitally/virtually connect and join a conversation with those at the conference.
5 – In-house unconference events:
Many educational, community, business or special interest groups are adopting the unconference ‘caucus’ approach for team meetings and professional learning events. Access is limited to the relevant community, but speakers and presentation come from within the working group.

There is of course way way more to unconferences than what I have written here, which is a potted history account from my own experience and research. If you know something I should include, feel free contact me. [ amondm@tcd.ie ]

audacityA spoken version of this post is here, a 7m 30s listening at 1x.
[Thanks as ever to my hero James Crook for the beautiful software that is Audacity. It gives me delight each time I use it.]


Owen, Harrison. Expanding Our Now: The Story of Open Space Technology. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 1997.

 

 

My knowledge of the geography of some English cities improved greatly this summer …

Turtle trip 1 – Curry On in London

It was a real treat to be present at the keynote by Cynthia Solomon at the Curry On conference in London, and watch her tell the Logo story, from its origins and through its development, to the programmers of today, many of whom are waaay younger than Logo.

After the keynote, Cynthia joined some UK  Computing At School [CAS] teachers hosted by Simon Peyton Jones of the National Centre for Computing Education for a round table discussion about computer science in schools. Good move – great conversation and exchange of views, it was a treat to be the representative of the CESI tribe at this table.

Turtle trip 2 – TurtleStitch atelier in Warwick University

Thanks to the hospitality and leadership of Prof Margaret Low who hosted a three day TurtleStitch atelier in the Warwick Manufacturing Group centre at Warwick University in Coventry. It was a chance to have space and time – in the lab and over meals – to develop ideas with each other, catch up and compare experiences, and plan for the near future (forthcoming Scratch conference) and the future future (SnapCon, Constructionism 2020). Working as a face to face group led by TurtleStitch developer Andrea Mayr Stalder, the group comprised Margaret Low, Robert Low, Joek de Montfort, Rebecca de Montfort, Richard Millwood; we were joined online by Susan Ettenheim in NYC and Michael Aschauer in Banff.

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My two take away tasks were – update the embroidery machine information page of the website set up by Susan to connect the growing global community of practice, and then chase up and invite users to add their details to same. Haven’t done it yet – heigh ho, heigh ho …

Turtle trip 3 – Turtlestitch at #Scratch Europe in Cambridge

One of the best features of a Scratch conference is that it is not at all uppity or exclusive, it welcomes all block-based programming projects. And so there was a welcome for Turtlestitch as a both a discrete workshop and an ongoing hands-on poster session. Both attracted serious interest and active participation by attendees.

The workshop in the Sixties Building: We had a packed house as Andrea introduced TurtleStitch to participants from all over the world, Joek did a short demonstration, and everyone set off on their programming and stitching challenge. My favourite was watching Jadga Hugle wrangle with the code so she could stitch out Alonzo, the logo of her own working life with SNAP:

The Italian delegates were there in force and enjoyed themselves – thank you for your enthusiasm, Angelasofia Lombardo and colleagues:

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Rob and Sandy in Hale and Pace ready-to-bounce stance

Rob and Sandy in Hale and Pace ready-to-bounce stance

The conversations among the educators present were really interesting and provocative; setting up a workshop like this is a huge collective effort, but when the result is what is was here, it is worth every effort. I think the ‘roadies’ might agree – looking at you, Robert Low and James Johnston, pictured here in ‘Hale & Pace’ ready-to-bounce stance (albeit at their other Scratch conference workshop gig, Tales for Tiles). Specially when folk describe it as a “wow” moment, as Neil Rickus did in his reflective Computing Champions blog post here.

 

The interactive ‘unposter’ session, ongoing in the foyer (close to the bar!): This proved to be a very busy and very worthwhile activity over Saturday and Sunday. Compared to the classic rather staid academic poster session, this was more like an unposter session. The machine – computer and embroidery – were both in constant use as visitor coded and stitched their designs. People wanted to know everything about the software, the machine, and logistics, the cost – it was non-stop. The final top moment for me was when Mutsa, a second level student from London, asked to make a design, and spend a long time concentrating on getting it exactly as she wanted it, and was so very pleased with the result of her work when she stitched it out on her conference bag – a perfect storm of learning !!
MutsaScratch

Andrea Mayr-Stalder, founder of TurtleStitch

Andrea Mayr-Stalder, founder of TurtleStitch, welcomes workshop participants to join the global community of practice

And so now, back to Cavan after turtling around  London, Coventry, and Cambridge, it is about time for me to do some of my assigned TurtleStitch homework on the community website … check in there soon for updates. I will leave the last and most important image to be of Andrea, from whose brain all this came, introducing the workshop …

The first session of the recent Scratch Europe Conference in Churchill College, Cambridge (UK) was a ScratchEdMeetup hosted Richard Millwood and Mags Amond of the Ireland chapter. It was an indoor-outdoor affair with participants from many countries. It was a bit meta, as much about introducing the ScratchEdMeetup format itself as it was about discussing Scratch; an idea we shamelessly stole from the ScratchEd team at the MIT 2018 conference. Much praise is due to Karen Brennan and her ScratchEd team for putting huge thought into developing this idea, with impressive attention to detail, to foster discussion and sharing within the community of educators which has evolved around Scratch.

ScratchEdMeetup is popular in Europe but this was the first outing in the UK (hopefully not the last). The Meetup format is adapted from Open Space Technology unconference ideals, as is the Edcamp model more familiar to educators – participants with a similar interest or quest gather in an opening circle, questions are posed and shared on a bulletin area, the agenda is agreed from those suggestions, interests groups form and go away to discuss their chosen area, and eventually everyone returns to the open forum to share their ideas and findings. The only rule is The Law Of Two Feet – if you find yourself in the wrong place, move yourself to the right place. The time frame depends on context – in this case we had two hours allocated; it was just right – half hour getting sorted, hour discussion, half hour dissemination. [If there is a real-world decision making need in the air, way more time would be needed]. Numbers need not be a problem – this time we had 15 sign up, over 50 turn up, people came and went throughout the afternoon, but a core of about 40 got ‘stuck-in’ for the duration.

ScratchEdMeetup - Introductory open space discussion

ScratchEdMeetup – Introductory open space discussion – in this case, ‘open space’ has been taken literally by Richard Millwood

 

In this ScratchEdMeetup, after the initial whole group introduction, the agenda emerged around six possible themes – Scratch in formal education, Scratch in informal setting, physical computing with Scratch, Scratch for Art and Creativity, Building the Scratch Community, and a mixture of singular topics we dubbed “The Rest”. Four groups formed, each led by a volunteer chair, each adopting one the the first four themes for discussion. There was enough overlap with the other two themes to ensure they were not neglected.

After an hour of group discussion, the large group reconvened and each chair reported their group’s findings. The largest groups were the physical computing and formal teaching, and their report back in each case articulated needs of participants very strongly. All four groups report reflected passionate interest in developing skills and raising standards of the entire community. Eavesdropping on all four groups, it was clear there was huge sharing or ideas going on within the hour of discussion, and the general discussion bore this out – each suggestion or idea reported back was answered with offers of information, resources location, solutions. Most tellingly, we had to call time on the final conversation and ask folk to continue talking together in the interstitial spaces of the rest of the conference weekend. Which they did.

The strongest calls at the end were for more training for formal educators, more support and ‘know how’ connections for informal educators, more ease of inter-platform connection and agility in physical computing, and more recognition and support for those taking a creative and innovative artistic path. Close up of the notes on the questions posed are on agenda boards at the end …

So it is over to you now, lovely Scratch friends, to organise more ScratchEdMeetups – the initial administration route is a little circuitous but for me the joyful atmosphere of the meetings is well worth the effort. If you are using Scratch in any way, this is a good format to call on others and share what you are up to. Details of how to do this are at the shiny new website here:   https://meetups.gse.harvard.edu/

And sincere thanks to Helen Drury of Raspberry Pi and her organising team, for taking the decision to include this unconference element in this year’s Scratch Europe Conference.

ScratchEdMeetup6

ScratchEdMeetup – agenda setting no.1 – Scratch in formal education

ScratchEdMeetup7

ScratchEdMeetup – agenda setting no.2 – Scratch in informal settings

ScratchEdMeetup8

ScratchEdMeetup – agenda setting no.3 – physical computing with Scratch

ScratchEdMeetup9

ScratchEdMeetup - detailed notes from the physical computing discussion

… cross posting as a “meet the makers” profile blog post written by invitation from Laura Tobin of Dublin Maker …

Cesaro Star design by Jens Monig

Cesaro Star design by Jens Mönig

On Saturday July 20th, Richard Millwood is hosting a TurtleStitch booth at Dublin Maker. He will be ably assisted by John Hegarty and Mags Amond. All three are active members of CESI. TurtleStitch, the brainchild of Austrian Andrea Stalder-Mayer, allows users to direct a modern embroidery machine to output designs which have been coded on a computer. Programmed designs can be shared and remixed among the worldwide TurtleStitch community. John is network manager and Computer Science teacher at Clongowes Wood College, Richard is a CS researcher at Trinity College Dublin, and Mags is a retired teacher currently doing PhD research on TeachMeet. Here’s what each says about their involvement with TurtleStitch …

 

Richard :: I first started learning about the Turtle Graphics microworld and the Logo language in the eighties. I found it a powerful way to introduce the key elements of programming in a way that could lean on the imagination and experience of student’s own bodily movement to debug their attempts to program. Bugs (errors) in the program you made were opportunities for review, improvement and above all learning. Turtlestitch has been a revelation in refreshing interest in this approach. Providing such delightful outcomes has been an enormous asset, but also reviving an interest in art, embroidery and mathematics. Much of the work I have made is a re-implementation of artists such as  Vera Molnár and computer scientists / mathematicians such as Harold Abelson, Andrea A. DiSessa, but some is the fulfilment of youthful artistic tendencies revisited in later life! Learning about the crafts of embroidery and programming, whilst engaging with these powerful creative drivers is hard to beat! Examples shown here are from the TurtleStitch screen, showing thread in black, stitch points in blue and jump stitches in red.

Screenshot 2019-07-17 at 13.46.27Screenshot 2019-07-17 at 13.46.36

John :: I can’t remember my first encounter with Logo, a programming language designed in 1967 by Wally Feurzeig, Seymour Papert, and Cynthia Solomon but safe to say it was a long long time ago. I suspect it was at a session with Dr. Elizabeth Oldham of TCD back in the 80’s. Over the decades, yes unfortunately I can measure in decades, my encounters with teaching/learning programming regularly tap that original wellspring. Logo begat Scratch which begat Snap! which in turn, among other gems like Snap4Arduino, BeetleBlocks and NetsBlox, begat TurtleStitch. 

I’m always on the lookout for ways to engage my students with programming and in recent years the area of physical computing has become so much more accessible with the development of low-cost sensors, the availability of cheaper more powerful microprocessors like the Arduino range and more recently the very low-floor / high-ceiling opportunities facilitated by the BBC micro:bit. 

TurtleStitch, the result of an ongoing collaboration between Andrea Mayr-Stalder and Michael Aschauer, offers a very different entry point to the world of programming and physical computing, one that appeals to the artist/maker in us. With a few blocks of Logo Turtle Graphics style code outputted to an embroidery machine, it enables the production of something beautiful and meaningful to the creator. Smiling students leaving the class holding the piece of embroidery created by them using their code is something that might be hard to put an objective measure on but any teacher will tell you it is priceless in their world. 

In my school we are at the early stages of developing a maker space and the investment in an embroidery machine at the tail end of last term will I hope be the first of a number of tools we will make available to students. A maker space will be an inspiring resource for the Junior Certificate coding and Leaving Certificate Computer Science classes without a doubt but it should also facilitate crossover curriculum activities with other subjects, particularly in the areas of Art and Science and hopefully others as well – time will tell.

Mags :: My delight in being part of the TurtleStitch world is that it marries two things I like – textiles and computers. The extra variables – fabric, threads, stitch types – allow one design to have more than one output. Watching the reactions of families who see it for the first time is an extra treat. The opportunities offered for cross-curricular work are exciting – there is mathematics, art, graphic design, textiles and more in this. On top of that, this new generation of sewing machines are beautifully engineered and a treat to use. And on top of that, the worldwide TurtleStitch community is filled with generous supportive creative folk who are joy to be with. And on top of that again it makes me smile, after decades spent among women (my mother, my aunties, my friends – fiendish seamstresses all) with sewing machines, to see the ‘bro’s buying and deploying sewing machines  🙂

Richard, John, and Mags look forward to meeting with all and sundry at Dublin Maker.

various samplers of TurtleStitch (apsrt from the butterfly and the text which are from the machines own patterns)

various samplers of TurtleStitch designs from members of the community (apart from the butterfly and the text which are from the machines own patterns)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Only a week late writing this – took a while to recover from a great day at Lough Boora Discovery Park on June 8th. I never knew it was there, it is quite the hidden treasure. Anyway, this is how the story goes …

Vanessa Greene sent a direct order suggestion/question out to her mob – when can we have a ‘play date’ please? It was received as a very timely idea – we are always meeting at places and events where we are so busy we never have time to talk to each other.

Roisin Markham stepped up, referee’ed the settling of a date, and found this ideal geographically central spot, as we’d be coming from all four provinces.

And so we turned up, a baker’s dozen motley crew of makers. We had a long and rambling walk through the Lough Boora Discovery Park, followed by a long and rambling talk on the café terrace, and spent a very long and very rambling afternoon at a nearby indoor space (which had a kitchen so we could graze at will on our picnic rations).

We shared ideas, tried out each other’s current projects, and just played about with stuff. There was no timetable – we had the Law of Two Feet combined with the light touch  curation by Bean a’ Tí Roisin who gently wove our ideas together as the afternoon progressed. As for me, I got ideas for developing a Grace Hopper nanosecond activity thanks to a soldering adventure by Kathryn Parkes and Katie Chapman; I may have seen Richard Millwood swoon when during his discussion with Mary Loftus she produced Papert’s Mindstorms from her bag; I watched Pamela O’Brien showcase some of her latest intricate origami designs to the delight of all present; I was introduced to a teeny python microprocessor called Pew Pew by Vicky Twomey-Lee (delicate soldering award for which goes to Michael Twomey); I played around to good effect with adding a diode component to Chris Reina’s cardboard circuits (during which it was also discovered that Vanessa’s super brownies, although delicious, are non-conductive); I had ‘hard fun’ integrating new ideas for sloped marble runs with Hassan Dabbagh, Kathryn, Pamela, and Mary Carty. But most importantly, I got to the blessing of a time and space to chatter and receive the wisdom of friends. As a group we had a moment where we marked the fact it was just after B-day, the fourth anniversary of our unforgotten inspirational, Bianca Ní Ghrógáin. It was lovely, and I can’t wait to do it again. Thank you all.

Discovery Makers at Lough Boora 08.06.2019

Discovery Makers at Lough Boora 08.06.2019 – l to r = Róisín, Kathryn, Michael, Mags, Hassan, Vicky, Katie, Mary C, Mary L, Vanessa, Chris, Richard, Pamela.

 

Look up at the calendar, and there are February and March both flown past, and here it is two hours to midnight. Better get this done before the computer turns into a pumpkin. Apart from one manic week at the end of Feb into March, it has been mostly an at-home or in-the-library time, reading, writing, walking, thinking, preparing PhD stuff.

The manic week mentioned above began with the Grace Hopper celebration in Dublin on the last Tuesday and Wednesday of Feb, and ended with a visit to Combilift in Monaghan. Sandwiched in between was one of the highlights of the year, the annual CESI AGM weekend.

1 Grace Hopper Local – I couldn’t describe it any better than Laura Tobin does here in her post on LinkedIn  – I would say “all of the above” goes for me too Laura, and I echo your thanks to Stephen Howell and Ellen O’Neill of Microsoft for bringing us all together, and bringing the AnitaB.org team to Dublin. It was an absolute pleasure to be in the company of Genevieve Smith-Nunes, Pamela O’Brien, Laura Tobin, Niamh Stockil, Mary Carty, Kate Delaney, Vicky Twomey-Lee, Amanda Joliffe, (not to mention a few hundred other women) over the two days. To Laura’s shout outs I would add two stand out moments for me – our own Marty Carty rockin’ the room and suggesting that as each of us reaches ‘the room where it happens’ (my Hamilton-obsessed interpretation of what I think you mean, Mary), that we leave the door open no matter how cold it may be; and the entire Human Computer Interface panel discussion on design for inclusion. What a treat for me to have both Genevieve Smith-Nunes and Kathryn Parkes from that panel join in at my maker table with the TY students from Scoil Iosagain afterwards!

 

2 CESI weekend: #tmCESI and CESIcon Thanks to Sarah Jayne Carey, Tony Riley and the motley crew  from the Computers In Education Society of Ireland (www.cesi.ie), aided and abetted by the team from MakerMeetIE, we celebrated TEN YEARS of TeachMeet in Ireland at the Sheraton Hotel in Athlone. As ever, it was lovely to greet old friends and make new friends, in between hearing a variety of ideas and stories from presenters kind enough to give up their Friday night. And as ever, there was much to take away, but this time me absolute favourite was a gem from fellow biology wonk Declan Cathcart, an immersive Tree Of Life website called onezoom.org – has to be said I have spent a lot of time there since. Cara McDermott took some deadly pictures over the weekend – see them here document Pat Seavers and his team attempt at the paper tower challenge:

There was fun fun fun also with the geodesic dome building challenge led by Pamela O’Brien:

I was happy to do a nanopresentation wish us all a Happy Tenth Birthday, with many folk from that first CESImeet evening still going strong!! 150 TeachMeets and 70 volunteer organisers across the island since Feb 2009.

 

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Next morning at #CESIcon proper in Athlone IT it was my pleasure and privilege to give the opening keynote address, and speak on behalf of the tribe on the conference theme “Creativity, Computers, Collaboration – Practitioners’ Perspectives”. Thank you to the National Executive for this invitation, and for placing me in the good company of a co-speaker I admire very much, Sean Gallagher.

 

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Being keynotes speakers also allowed Sean and me, with Cornelia Connolly of NUIG, the chance to partake in a V-connect session, remotely connecting with people tuning in from the USA, Scotland, and Ireland – this was a refreshing experience for me, and one I would like to see in other conferences. Thanks to conference lead Katie Molloy, and host Louise Drumm in Edinburgh for bringing this to #cesicon 2019.

The rest of the conference day flew past; the only workshop I got to was chock-a-block with folk busy building / hacking (it is another tomato / tomahto thing, choose your own verb!) floor bots under John Hegarty’s instruction, using MicroBlocks code. It has always been easy to tell at #cesicon that CESI is the TPN (teacher professional network) for computer science teachers in Ireland – each discussion, forum, lecture, and workshop is full of teachers sharing their expertise; this year the new Leaving Cert course definitely has everyone in a “how are you doing it?” tizz, and John is more than generous and patient in sharing his ideas with the rest of us. I loved the diversity of the people who took part – I spied a professor of computer science at the same bench as a primary school teacher. Where else but CESI? There were as many questions about procedural and pedagogical matters as there were about the coding itself; if the bell for the end of class had not gone, they might still all be there.

Having missed last year’s conference due to the snowmageddon #sneachta date change, it was extra special this year to meet with all the people  who don’t see enough of each other, but who are happy to know each other are out there. And it has to be said, my favourite conference meetup has to be with the teens of the Youth Media Team; I had an interview this time with Amy and Cara, onc Hube the promise I could work with them next time and learn all the mojo skills they have built up over the past few years.

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obligatory post- interview pic with Cara & Amy of Youth Media Team

The loveliest part of the weekend was the post conference exhausted-but-relaxed chats with the conference committee, and a long overdue catch up with chair, Adrienne Webb.
Big thanks to Katie Molloy and her conference team – already looking forward to returning to Athlone for #cesicon 2010.

3 Visit to Combilift, Monaghan Thanks to Catherine Fox I got to visit Combilift along with Richard Millwood of CESI, as a guest of CEO Martin McVicar. This was on the occasion was the exhibition of project work carried out by 5th and 6th class students of Scoil Mhuire Clontibret and their teacher, Principal Elizabeth Moorhead. They had designed and built space stations using LegoWeDo technology. They were presenting this work to the student teachers of St Patrick’s College, DCU, who were visiting with Professor Deirdre Butler, who leads the project. The circle of learning here was significant – primary school students showing future primary school teachers what they had done and telling what they had learned and how they had learned it. My compliments to all involved in this work, and to Combilift for the active support it is giving to those integrating technology in education.

 

And of course geek in all of us, old and young, was happy to go touring the factory – this was an eye-opener, following the Combilift process of designing and building the various models of “forklift” truck has to be seen to be believed. I could have stayed there all day. Already planning a return visit …

This time last week my head was full of the many positive takeaways of the (now an annual highlight of winter) trip to the BETT show in the east end of London. It actually takes a full week for the city / exhibition hall induced tinnitus to subside. Visiting the BETT Show itself is like a giant circus showground with crowded booths full of everything to do with technology in educational. My interest in it is all about being with “BETTers” – people I meet, spend time with, travel with. (Reading others’ reactions, I am not alone in this: Ben Hall, Steve Wheeler).

 

This year’s trip had four stages, each different and memorable.

No.1 avant-BETT – Although I got there late and missed much (sob, missed our own expat rock star @lmcunderwood) of the event, the teachmeet style Creative Tech in Education meet organised by @HelenLeigh, was a heartwarmingly good start to the weekend. The suggestion to expand it next year was enthusiastically applauded by all present. One delight was meeting again with Josh Lowe, the 14 year old creator of EduBlocks (for the first of three encounters with him and his Dad of the weekend).

No.2 the BETT Show – The show itself was the huge assault on the senses that it always has been, but disappointingly was missing the Steam Village of recent times. But as ever, there were areas with pockets of brilliance and fun, mostly made such by the people involved in creating and curating them …

  • the loveliest idea highlighting that tech will only ever as good as the creativity that leads its use was at the Atomwide booth, next door to my hero @dawnhallybone at the London Grid for Learning booth.

    I’d seen Dawn show off a caricature she’d had drawn there the day before (above left), so I made a point of getting in line early in the day. Watching the artist Luisa Calvo from wickedcaricatures.com was a singular treat, as was chatting with her as she sketched us all (that’s Lisa Stevens above right, and Pamela O’Brien below left and centre) with her digital pen and palette:

  • the bright yellow Fab Lib bus (from Flanders, Belgium) full of maker equipment caught our collective Irish eyes, but my favourite moment was the delight of discovering they were using familiar Turtlestitch designs with their embroidery machine:IMG_20190125_111107
  • the “escape room” booth was good fun to try out, we were genially hosted by the lovely Simon Johnson – in room 1 we had to use minecraft in @breakoutEDU style, in room 2 we had to program and drive floorbots thru a maze, and in room 3 we worked with a mixture of AR and VR to answer questions and break a code. Most importantly, we had to work in pairs or teams, and with timely interventions from the ‘teacher’ in order to succeed.  There was much food for thought and discussion here, congratulations to those who conceived, built, and presented this challenge

  • finding the micro:bit booth allowed time to stand and watching the genial genius David Whale at work, meet the happy loons from Pimoroni, and meet up again with EduBlocks Josh and his Dad again – and best of all persuading them to sign up to participate in the TeachMeet. It felt good to be there, in a space where the most creative ideas were using probably the cheapest piece of tech on show at BETT
    https://twitter.com/pablisch/status/1088780976807923712
  • a chance encounter meeting the @digiladies young students from Newcastle with their amazing teachers – AND getting a badge – as well as seeing them win the Pi-top competition using the truest hashtag as far as they are concerned: #wearethefutureIMG_20190126_010913
  • the pitstops at the Acer booth were most welcome, thanks to Eugene McDonough introducing us to Adam Gibbs, who gave us time, space, and caffeine enough to allow us the luxury of moving in and making ourselves at home sitting for a while comparing notes and discussing what we’d seen so far. It was typical teacher talk – how would we adapt / amend / exploit / enhance the various ideas when we got home to our various classroom, conferences, community meets?

No.3 unBETT The main focus of a trip to BETT for me has to be the TeachMeet. This year there was a change of venue to outside BETT, across the way in Tapa Tapa – an inspired choice. We all owe  huge gratitude to Drew Buddie, Ian Usher and Dawn Hallybone for spending untold hours and using their combined strategic and persuasive superpowers to overcome huge challenges on our behalf and succeeding in making this event massively enjoyable and wonderful for all of us there. Their combined capacity is astonishing, and all delivered gracefully with good humour.
{Teachers – they get the job done!}
It is worth reminding that THIS IS ALL DONE VOLUNTARILY, pardon me using my rusty teacher voice there for a moment.
For details, go to ian usher’s thread logging all the speakers, topics, and links to their presentation begins at that there link – in itself this showcases a very neat way to archive what was shared at #tmBETT19, and I am totally adopting this idea, thank you Ian. As well as the chance for an annual hello with the fantastic teachers of the UK, an added treat was meeting some US folk I have long admired: Kyle Calderwood, Richard Byrne.
And I was proud as punch of the three Irish presenters (we claim Richard now) from Richard Millwood, Pamela O’Brien and Stephen Howell – maith sibhse go léir!! And the end of the evening we had a lovely moment when the house stood to applaud Josh Lowe presenting his EduBlocks software:

No.4 après-BETT As ever, this trip has a social aspect. This year’s “Fellowship” sharing food, chats and fun was comprised of me, Richard, Pamela, two Stephens (Howell and Eustace), two Johns (Hegarty and Heffernan), Gloria Enrique and Eugene and Dee McDonough. Thank you all for your conversation, company, and care.
This year’s theatre outing was to Hamilton. It is no exaggeration to say that all three of us – Pamela, John, and me – were very very happy with the decision to go. If it is still there next year, I’d happily go again.

Collage 2019-01-28 22_25_02

 

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