Storming the Castle at ExcitEd 2014

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One of the best bits about aprés-meet is reading what others’ reflective blogs post, and (increasingly) fermenting and reporting my own musings. Takes me longer to think when I have to write / edit / delete / double check / rewrite the mental scribbles and jots that keep popping into the mind in the aftermath of a good conference. After ExcitEd at Dublin Castle last weekend the brain was whirling a bit, and I am about to try and make sense of what I met there. 

Faster thinkers have got there before me, and have each reflected and refracted their two days with different lenses – have a good 6 reads here: Evelyn O’ConnorTricia KelleherDamien QuinnJohn HeeneyHelen Bullock and Philip O’Callaghan.

So what did I like? Bearing in mind the last time I went to a conference which was dubbed a ‘Learning Festival’ it was the Scottish LF in Glascow 2009 – where thanks to @johnmayo I met, fell in love with, kidnapped and adopted Ewan McIntosh’s TeachMeet – so I had high expectations of this one. I wasn’t disappointed. I left with plenty of food for thought and action, or as Sarah Jayne Carey put it “hope with intent”.

I liked the democratic atmosphere of the event – everyone from Infant students to Lordly Keynote speakers mingled, selfied, chattered and shared from beginning to end. We had the voices of industry, practitioners, of students all sharing the same mic. We had a Minister of State who not only conceived the idea of the conference, but ran it hands-on all weekend with quiet grace and determination. Since he made the initial announcement about ExcitEd at #cesicon, we have watched @ciarancannon work with @kirkber and @franktullamore to get everyone in the pool. Speaking as an educator for 34 years, and a confessed political agnostic / sceptic, I haven’t seen this ground level engagement from a politician before – maith thú a Chíarán! Long may it last, and may you (and all of us) reap what you are sowing.

I liked the passion with which the students explained their project to all and sundry who visited their displays; the poise and professionalism of Jack and Caitlin of the Youth Media Team who “audioboo’d” myself and @dublinwebb about our experiences of tech in ed; the session where Deirdre Butler and Enda Donlon modelled a cracking analog-digital classroom experience where we were informed, challenged and questioned – I wanted the discussion at Table 9 with Anne Marie, Brian, Anne, Bianca, Pat, Tom and mise to go on; the entire room together playing with LEGO! (thanks you @RenTLydiksen); the Cinderella “you shall go to the ball” feeling when my off-the-cuff remark about the Castle being an ideal TeachMeet venue became a reality overnight; the time, often overlooked, for audience engagement at the end of each panel discussion. 

table9 - Editedexcited-panel

I liked the total mix ‘n match make up of the Friday night panels, chaired by @aoibhinn_ni_s. CESI Chair Adrienne spoke well on behalf of the teaching cohort who need confidence in the technical infrastructure in order to get on with fostering Creativity in the classroom – an argument returned to often over the weekend. Our panel was called “Can Irish teachers and tech entrepreneurs share expertise to build the perfect digital learning ecosystem?”. Teresa Hagan and I listened to the presentation by Mike Feerick, Peter Hamilton and Martin Farrows, then joined them on stage for the discussion. @mikefeerick, CEO of Alison definitely stirred the pot with his ideas on 24/7 education, and a lot of discussion was generated by his remarks. @symphysid of Learnovate in Trinity struck a chord with the argument that ‘content in context is king’ – definitely a place for techies and teachers to start collaboration. (ps – It was a very scary place to be – the lights made it looked like we were in front of a vampire conference.)

And to prove the point of one of the remarks made in panel discussion – I really liked the breaks. The food was good and very efficiently organised, giving us lots of chatter time – it was great to speak with friends new (Hi @stephenperse, Hi @symphonysid) and long term (note to self,  NEVER say old) – *waves* to all the tribe.

I LOVED LOVED LOVED the inclusion of students as presenters, not just as exhibitors or attendees….my two eureka moments came from these:

1 Listening live to the thesis from the trio of Young Scientists, Ciara Judge, Sophie Healy-Thow and Emer Hickey, about what students want, was measured in pitch and presented with grace. For me, it was the pivotal moment of the conference – we had been called together to discuss what direction to take with regards to integrating technology into a quality system to produce well educated students – and here we had three well educated students presenting their ideas on exactly that! Given that the opening pitch of David Puttnam’s keynote stressed the importance of educating girls, it was great to see three wonderful women of the future in action. 

2 Listening to the short video of students from Kinvara listing what they want in education – interactive, group work, “don’t teach me to the test, assess me on what I have learned”. All three are imperative for a good classroom, whether technology is involved or not.

Other random thoughts….

Wonder – what is in the air in Galway these days?…it seems to have turned into STEM Central. If it is not @catherinecronin and @marloft in NUIG, or @speediecelt literally all about the county, it is @kirkber with either Mathletes, Medtronic or Lego in tow. Seems CESI has timed our recent move to GMIT for #cesicon well!

Regret – there was a bit of a beating handed out to pre-service, for a lack of inclusion of tech in ed, in one of the Friday night panel discussions – I am still kicking myself for not countering with a list of those doing amazing work in Ireland: @ButlerDee in St Pats, @donenda in Mater Dei, @annemmcm in Marino, @bnighrogain at Froebel, NUIM’s @rosedolan, @arickard and @majella dempsey. And the Daddy of them all, @_conorgalvin out at the square lake in UCD. Better late than never shout out now folks!!

Education allsorts – it was great to see the variety of educators present – not all the best Irish educators are in formal classrooms. Microsoft evangelist @saorog, Bridge 21’s @ciaranbauer, and the country’s most patient Oculus Rift educator, @MissionVHQ, always bring serious educational values to their use of tech in learning. At each EdTech conference now we see @topgold, @pamelaaobrien and @_conorgalvin allowing the Youth Media Team to find their feet in the world. Add to those all the @coderdojo volunteer mentors across the country…

Best Question (and Reminder) was from Marie-Therese Kilmartin (sorry I called you by your school’s name and not your own) who reminded us to keep the digital divide in mind, and develop strategies to flatten it.

Curious Fact – we taught David Puttnam our courageous word Misneach on Friday evening, and next day in the lunchtime chill out in the sun he countered with the Yiddish word Mishanna – madness. They are close enough eh?

 

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4 comments
  1. Could have sworn I was there too… 🙂
    A super post.

    • Forgive. Thought of it about 4am. Used to think your work was real adults only Conor!! The vagaries of typing in a hospital. That and other 4am amendments en route!!!! When I find my picture of my duck…

  2. I missed this and would have loved to have been there but this was a briliant account which made me realise even more how much I missed. Came upon this via YMT.fm’s blog and saw them in action at #great14 the other day. They were fantastic and what experience for them.

    • Glad you liked the post. It was a pretty powerful weekend. Let’s hope the change of Minister does not dull the momentum…

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