I’ve had ethics on the brain for a while – building and submitting the ethics submission for my PhD research has been done and delivered. Awaiting approval is providing a short period of slacking off relative calm and a chance to catch up with the real world.

So when on November 12 I read a tweet (which quickly grew to be a long thread) from someone I really admire, the banlaoch* that is UK researcher and senior academic Trisha Greenhalgh, both the content and the context stopped me in my tracks. I had time to react and reflect on the fact that this had happened, that it had happened to someone at the top of her profession, and that it had been done before her professional peers. Ugh.
[*banlaoch = the Irish term for a female warrior or heroine]

Screenshot 2019-11-26 at 15.16.58

A couple of weeks later, this subject of ‘conduct unbecoming’ during post-presentation discussions arose again for me, as it became part of the exit conversation among researchers attending an IPA (Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis) colloqium at the Technological University of Dublin. I recounted the recent experience of Prof. Dr. Greenhalgh, and my dismay at the unethical behaviour towards her of the Chair who should have been steering everyone’s behaviour by example. It also brought to my mind the times the exact opposite was in place, and and the rules of engagement are declared openly at the beginning of a meeting, conference, or seminar. I am now thinking that declaring the rules of engagement should be the formal opening action of every meeting, providing a point of reference to anyone at the meeting who may need to to call out inappropriate behaviour by anyone (including the Chair!). Hopefully it would be like one of those ‘break glass in case of emergency’ things, never needed but unambiguously available if necessary.

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

Reflecting on all of this, here is my personal appreciation of the upfront declaration of expected ethical behaviour … an important part of my research journey is being in the company of others working in the same sphere as me – my supervisors, my fellow PhDs, and special interest groups – formal and informal – that form around a topic of interest to me. One such SIG is the Network for Educational Action Research in Ireland. I attend meetings of this group several times a year. Each meeting starts with display of the same slide – a summary of the ethical stance of the group and the agreed standards for procedures and protocols. These are also openly declared on the NEARI website, and combine the particular values of the group with the universal values espoused in the Teaching Council of Ireland. I find this practice offers a professional reminder to all present of the expectations we have of each other, and infuses the meeting from the start with a collegiate atmosphere. The ritual aspect of the practice acts as a subtle personal safety blanket for me – I am assured that the meeting will be steered by a Chair guided by a moral compass visible to all. It is a practice I would like to see more widely adopted at the meeting of other special interest groups in academia and education.


The NEARI statement that is displayed at the beginning of each NEARImeet is online at
http://www.eari.ie/neari-network-for-educational-action-research-in-ireland/neari-ethical-statement/

Screenshot 2019-11-26 at 21.28.53


mags amond holding and looking into a bevelled mirrored framed by a mosaic of white, silver and coloured tiles

here’s looking at me looking at me at 60!

It is a busy time, turning 60 – that happened on October 17th, and probably will continue as an excuse to celebrate for a whole year! Lots of cake and cards and gifts, and special times with friends and family – lots to be thankful for.

In the learning world, lots of people to be thankful to this autumn – Mean Fómhair, Deireadh Fómhair, September and October in Galway, Dublin and Cavan – people moving each other, and me, ever onwards …

Rang Bianca – On September 28th, all the meets (Teach-, Research-, Lead-, Student-, Breakfast-) were on the programme at Féilte in NUIG; special mention for the annual inclusion of Rang Bianca, it is momentarily startling but lovely to see it each time:

NeariMeet – Also in NUIG that day was the latest NeariMeet hosted by Cornelia Connolly and curated by Mairin Glenn and Bernie Sullivan of the EARI group.

nearimeet2019

NEARImeet hosts, presenters, and discussants, NUIG, Sept 2019.

I presented an update of my research plan to use IPA (interpretive phenomenological analysis) to make sense of data generated during imminent field work among TeachMeet participants (slides are at link above). The feedback was very helpful to me, as was hearing the progress being made by other researchers Jean McGowan, Jane O’Connell and Ciara O’Donoghue. The cycle of reflection and sharing with peers, fostered by Mairin Glenn, Mary Roche, Catriona McDonagh and Bernie Sullivan has been a terrific motivational and developmental scaffold for me moving onwards on the doctoral research journey.

Féilte TeachMeet – I was yoyo-ing (yo-yoing? yo-yo-ing?) back and forth across the newer sections of my alma mater campus to also attend the Féilte TeachMeet – thank to Phil Fox and Sinéad Kelly this was a vibrant affair – an attentive and curious audience, seven short sharp smart presenters – not much more one could ask for. Phil made a remark about her observation of TeachMeets to date…there is quite a lot of emotion involved among presenters…food for thought, that!

Learnovation – October began in Croke Park, representing CESI, with chair Adrienne Webb, at the Learnovation summit (thank you Peter Hamilton for the invitation). I really enjoyed learning from Gavin Henrick – so much to learn about accessibility and inclusion in presentations – and from Martyn Farrows of Soap Box labs who gave a terrific overview of AI (the artificial intelligence AI). It was good to add CESI’s voice to the dynamic discussion on CS in education that took place in the afternoon.

Index Survey launch – An academic launch on a Monday morning, in a cinema, with film, music, memoirs, and even dancing – who could say no? I was chuffed to represent the university students of the 70s, especially when I found myself between Martin Downes of the 50/60s and John Hurley of the 80s! Thank to Catherine Cronin and Terry Maguire for this imaginative kickstart to a very important piece of work. My nano stream of consciousness contribution pointed to my just-in-time first meeting with a computer at the very end of the very analog 70s ….

I spent the years 1976-1980 in UCG, entering the year when Elvis died and punk was born, the youngest member of a student body with a leader called Speedie who mustered us higgledly piggledly into a socially conscious army in support of the presidential poet prophet you may know as Miggledy. Lucky me.
I studied for a BSc and HDip in E, the subjects low tech mathematics, analogue biochemistry then a year of lectures on education history – trying to decipher projected notes handwritten in yellow marker – TP in The Jes interspersed with hours and hours of projects making amazing admirable acetate audiovisual aids for the overhead projector.
Look a’ me!
But then
approaching the last stroke of midnight before it was time to head out into the The Real World – a nun, who’s name to my shame I don’t know – asked if we would like to try out the new COMPUTER … and in the beating blink of the phosphorescent green/yellow eye of an Apple 2e (BASIC, drive A, drive B, floppy disks that were proper floppy), came the life changing tech turning point for me.
The end became the beginning.
History. Epiphany.

Lucky me.

MathsMeetIE – for Maths week 2019, a Maths TeachMeet hosted at Microsoft by Stephen Howell and Caoilinn Tighe and curated by Pamela O’Brien and Neil Butler (who’s workshop on Japanese maths games has me now addicted do SkyScrapers). My nanopresentation was a shout out for a crossover between Maths and Art citing Turtlestitch and the fabulous visualisations of Joachim Wedekind using SNAP! The deepest satisfaction of this event for me (apart from yet another birthday cake) was seeing The Next Generation take up the TeachMeet mantle; to put it diplomatically, Caoilinn and myself “were in school together”.
The variety of ideas and activities in this rollercoaster TeachMeet were a joy to watch unfold – teachers from primary, secondary, third level and informal education all learning together. Has to be said, the Dreamspace is a wonderful venue for a TeachMeet, thank you Microsoft Ireland for such warm hospitality from Stephen, Caoilinn and Corey..

SCoTENS – This year I didn’t have to go far to attend SCoTENS (standing committee for teacher education north and south, born of the good Friday agreement), it came to Cavan. And thanks to Conor Galvin, Noel Purdy and Maria Campbell for continued inclusion of a doctoral round table at the annual gathering of SCoTENS. To present your work in progress, and see the work of others at various stages of progress from other researchers, is a most formative part of the doctoral journey for me. Both keynote speakers, Prof Marilyn Cochran-Smith, [Cawthorne Professor of Teacher Education for Urban Schools, Boston College] and Prof Paul Miller [Head of the School of Education and Professor of Educational Leadership and Social Justice, University of Greenwich] spoke on matters of equity in education (or its lack thereof) and left us with many questions to ponder. Hopefully the funding of SCoTENS will be fully restored – for teacher educators across Ireland this is a really important body, and it needs to continue the ongoing collaborations between north and south from which we all benefit.

I wrote  and posted a thread of Twitter posts this evening but didn’t stitch them together carefully enough so got a gap between no. 4 and no. 5. I am clearly better with embroidery thread than with digital thread. But I do enjoy darning, so here is the thread as it should read …

Good threads of conversation on here recently, prompted by reactions to a conference hosted at St Columba’s College by the generous @humpreyjones and @sccEnglish and attended by over 300 teachers. Focussed by title on research in education, with a vibrant program … 01/16
… have jogged some thoughts here. I wasn’t there, but the program looked great, some fabulous presentations listed that I’d love to have attended. My disquiet is about the way this franchise suggests it is somehow all shiny and new.
It is not new in Ireland  … 02/16
… From my perspective and experience we have been, and continue to be, busying ourselves  weaving sound research through primary and secondary classroom practice for quite some time – here is a list of some examples that jumped to my mind (to be sure there are many more) … 03/16
… A superb day long seminar / workshop on AfL led by Dylan Wiliam TEN YEARS AGO attended by over 200 teachers, ( organised by the Science section SLSS, predecessor of the current @PDSTie ) and funded by @SFI and  … 04/16
… Many day conference / workshops with legendary David Johnson and Roger Johnson over a three year period in which hundreds of teachers were introduced to the practice of Cooperative Learning (many of whom have gone on to study for a Masters degree in the area) … 05/16 
… A week-long summer course in Peer Mediation for primary teachers offered at Education Centres (the particular one I refer to was in Enniscorthy, and I know the positive behaviour management and negotiation skills we learned are still informing practice in schools)  … 06/16 
… At least 2 #EdCamps I know of organised in Norn Ireland – the one I attended was superb, offering a day long programme of presentations and workshops by teachers for teachers (think of a #teachmeet with more time for depth of treatment of each topic… 07/16
cc @bcripps078
… for some time now there has been really vibrant classroom action research by educators of all levels being shared via the @infoneari network curated online by @marygtroche and @mairinglenn see http://www.eari.ie/neari-network-for-educational-action-research-in-ireland/ … 08/16
… all of the @bridge21learn professional development taken by teachers (mostly in Dublin schools) is both research driven and is itself driving research, see http://bridge21.ie/about-us/about-bridge-21/ … 09/16
cc @kevinsullivan79 @ciaranbauer @jakerowanbyrne @lawlorgr
… everything I know of developed by the @ncca in the past decade has been research informed and developed in cooperation with classroom teachers and students across the country … 10/16
cc @tonyrileynz @snicreamoinn @fboss @MajellaDempsey @annelooney
… the annual education conference that has been curated by @pamelaaobrien at the Thurles campus of @LimerickIT brings the most research informed keynotes, who remain in ongoing contact with attendees; recently the most notable @irasocol and @pammoran of @TimelessLrng … 11/16
… *all* the Meets – [of course I declare a bias towards] the #teachmeets but there is also ResearchMeet hosted by @TeachingCouncil @Feilte as well as @MathsMeetIE…12/16
cc @teachmeetIRL @teachmeetsouth @makermeetIE @Dek0h @mrNeilButler @saorog
#NEARImeet
…the range of top notch science education researchers introduced to practitioners at subject association AGMs eg @irishsciteach over the years would fill a book; thinking of a memorable AfL workshop with Chris Harrison which had effect in classrooms …13/16
cc @@chrisharriKings
… other subject association AGMs are packed with workshops that offer teachers the latest thinking in research, as I found out when working with @RichardMillwood addressing 200+ ART teachers in the National Gallery a couple of years ago …14/16
…and last but not least in my world has been www.cesi.ie – the @cesitweets that has (being an unusual mix of computer education enthusiasts from all levels and sectors) been a research-informed community of practice for 45 years …15/16
cc @_conorgalvin @donenda @eoldham @jhegarty
… So: it is all good, it is all welcome, but is is not all new, and one way may not necessarily be superior to another. Keep on sharing, keep on discussing, keep on researching, keep on practicing, keep on keeping’ on … 16/16
Art teachers AGM in the National Galllery of Ireland 2017

Art teachers AGM in the National Galllery of Ireland 2017

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.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

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)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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